PAT NEAL: Tourist questions asked by real tourists

THIS MUST BE one of the busiest tourist seasons ever.

It had the locals hoping that school would hurry up and start so everyone would go back where they came from. Then it seemed like even the beginning of school wouldn’t slow the tourist invasion.

That’s because the beginning of school can cause a whole new wave of tourists to hatch out of somewhere and hit the road. Those are the people who waited for school to start so they could go on vacation without being stuck somewhere with a bunch of kids.

In a continuing effort to provide accurate information about the tourist hordes, allow me to take this opportunity to share some of the actual questions asked by real tourists about the Olympic Peninsula this past summer.

As a fishing guide, I’ve had the opportunity to act as an ambassador to the tourist industry by providing helpful, accurate information to visitors to our area in a manner that helps them enjoy this recreational wonderland.

To be fair, it should be noted that many of the tourists asking these questions were suffering the combined effects of jet lag, dehydration, sleep deprivation, mixed medications, self-medication and a diet of potato chips and energy drinks.

There could be any number of reasons for the lady asking me while we were floating down the Hoh River, “Does this river come from Alaska?”

Of course it does! I assured her.

Then I explained how the Hoh River flows underground thousands of miles from the Arctic Circle to bubble out of the Earth’s crust way up on Mount Olympus. Efforts to trace the actual path the river takes from Alaska to the Olympic Peninsula have been unsuccessful due to a lack of funding and the resistance by modern science to the theory that the Earth is actually hollow.

“Why is the water blue?” This is a common question that tourists often ask about the Hoh River — one that should be answered with the knowledge gained from the best available science. Which can be pretty boring.

The fact is, there is no law in the state of Washington against baiting the tourists. Let your conscience be your guide. There’s no reason we can’t have a little fun with tourists.

I like to tell the tourists that the color of the water can be blue, green, brown or gray or any combination of them all. The color of the water is determined by what type of dye the park rangers dump in the river each morning when they get to work.

Water by itself is boringly clear. Dyeing the river makes it more colorful. It’s a real aid to the photographer trying to shoot a dramatic nature scene that captures the mood of the river and the surrounding rain forest.

“Is the weather always like this?” Tourists ask this question all the time, whether it’s raining cats and pitchforks or hot and dry as a bone — as if they assume there is a place on Earth where the weather never changes.

It’s best to reassure the tourist that yes, the weather is always like this here, just perfect.

“Is there any gold to be found in the Olympics?” With the increasing price of this precious metal, inquiries on where to find it are becoming more frequent.

Of course there’s tons of gold here, I tell the tourists; the government just doesn’t want you to find it.

Good thing I’ve got a secret map to a gold mine for $5.

“How can I find Bigfoot?” You can’t, I tell the tourists. Bigfoot has to find you.

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Pat Neal is a fishing guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patneal wildlife@gmail.com.