The camera pans across a rugged landscape—sparkling white mountain tops far off, sage stirring close up, and a trail winding through pines. A rider on a horse appears, seemingly from the very earth itself: the hero, at one with the wilderness yet separate. And watching this on a crisp, high-def flat screen, we are one with nature too, at least until we need to get some more of that excellent guacamole and another Corona.
Back in the sixties people projected themselves into westerns; now it could be the slam-bang, mood-fest Red Dead Redemption. Whatever—any visual medium will help us project ourselves into adventure, without worry of icky stuff like death, blood, pain, weariness. (And chiggers. Did I mention chiggers?)
The Man vs. Nature quiz yesterday was based on the New York Times article “Technology Leads More Park Visitors Into Trouble,” from August 21, 2010, in which it describes a few dangerous issues with the romantic perception of the wilderness as theme park/video game/movie.
The answers below are both true and incorrect. Meaning real-life people have actually done these ridiculous and sometimes tragic things. The answers reveal the dis-orientation of modern-day Americans in the wilderness. See for yourself:
1. You and your partner walk swiftly toward a one-ton buffalo bull grazing in a national park. The buffalo lifts its massive head and looks straight at you. You:
c.) stop, lift your camcorder to your eye and yell, “Watch [partner’s name] get gored!”
Result? Actual, true story, and imagine! The buffalo did not ignore her like a stuffed buffalo would do. It charged her, not her partner, because she was yelling probably. The woman in question told her exploits on YouTube. She was lucky to have just bruises.
2. You and a friend have no rafting or camping experience, and you have only several cans of Dinty Moore beef stew and a liter of vodka, and no overnight gear. Yet you are drawn to build your own log raft and float down the Virgin River in Zion National Park. As the raft drifts into the first set of Class IV rapids and begins to break apart, you:
c. Pull out your camcorder to film your exploits for YouTube and Man vs. Wild fame.
Result? Unfortunately, death. The two weekend rafters had more enthusiasm than sense. They didn’t wear flotation devices or get a permit, and yes, they did try to build their own raft. Sad.
3. You decide to go off-trail in the Grand Canyon National Park because
c. you have a bottle of water and a cell phone, so you’re sure if you get into any trouble, you can call for help.
Result? Hard to freaking believe, but park rangers have now had to add “inattention to surroundings” as a factor in park accidents. Forget about worrying about animal attacks or dehydration—national park visitors have very strong faith in that a trail will keep them safe, a deli sells bottles of water right past that bend, and cell phone coverage is multi-bar, even if you are in the mountains. I’ve seen these people and their little sandals and teeny little bottles heading down the Bright Angel trail. And been very, very afraid.
4. You and two friends, one with limited backpacking experience, are hiking the backcountry of a national park. The sun is dipping below the horizon and you begin to set up camp but notice that your water in the water bottles tastes salty. You:
c.) use the emergency signal on your SPOT GPS locater device.
Result? You get search-and-rescue teams beating the bushes to find you. Helicopters will wing in rescuers at $3,400 an hour (thanks, taxpayers!) to pluck you from the terrible danger you are in. In this case, the three men pushed that button THREE TIMES, each time bringing in the helicopter and the team to get them some fresh water or something. The third time, the rescuers made them leave the park with them, probably kicking those fools’ butts the whole way home.
Folks, please: Bring plenty of water, wear hike-worthy clothes, bring proper equipment like maps, tell someone where you are going, and PAY ATTENTION.
Just a little real-life vs. reel-life amazeballs craziness from the earth’s most dangerous animal—humans.*
* This a shout out to the Pittsburgh Zoo, which always made a fool out of me with a sign “See the World’s Most Dangerous Animal.” Without fail I would memory dump ever seeing it before, creep up breathlessly to the dark window and see…myself. Humans are the most dangerous animal. Oh, okay. Get it.