PAT NEAL: Answering tourists’ questions

Springtime must be my favorite time of year on the Olympic Peninsula. When uncounted millions of birds fly north along our coast to their remote arctic nesting grounds. All of which signals the start of another migration to our shores, the American tourist.

Don’t panic. Please remember but for the grace of God we could all be tourists, too.

These people have suffered through hundreds, if not thousands, of miles of travel through an aging infrastructure, braving long lines waiting for airplanes, ferries and road construction while enduring seasonally adjusted fuel prices as they flood our area in a never-ending pursuit of solitude.

Inevitably, our tourists will have many questions.

This can provide all of us an opportunity to act as ambassadors of good will for the tourist industry by providing our visitors with accurate, up-to-the-minute information on the recreational opportunities available in this emerald green paradise we call home.

How you do this is anyone’s guess. I charge the tourists $5 per question, but then again, I am a professional.

Here is a sampling of some real-life questions posed by real-life tourists.

The most popular one seems to be:

• “Where are the restrooms?” This is a sensitive subject.

One person’s comfort station is another’s toxic waste dump. Given the infrequency with which our public toilets are maintained, it’s sometimes best to just hand the tourist a shovel and tell them our restrooms are as big as all outdoors.

• “Do I need a permit?” Yes. Here in Washington, it’s legal to get married if you’re gay or smoke marijuana, but chances are you cannot get out of your car to use the restroom without one of the many permits required to be on public land.

• “Is the weather always like this?” Another popular question that gives the locals the opportunity to reassure the tourists that they are always right.

Of course, our weather never changes. It’s like this all the time except when it’s not.

• “When is the tide?” A particularly confusing question from confused individuals who obviously have no idea that the tide goes in and out twice a day.

Tides are confusing to many tourists because they have never seen an ocean, and they have no idea that it is constantly changing like that other mystery, the weather.

Knowing the tides is particularly important when hiking along the beach.

Two tourists figured that out just last week when they were stranded by a high tide and had to have the Coast Guard pluck them off a cliff north of the Hoh River.

They had neglected to pick up the free tide chart provided by the Olympic National Park at the trailhead. Duh.

• “What kind of clothes should I wear?” This question is a cry for help.

Fluorescent orange fashions are a good choice for tourists. It makes it easier for search and rescue to find them once they get lost.

The downside is that the innumerable nests of hornets and yellow jackets that swarm our recreational wonderland every summer seem drawn to bright colors — making it wise to choose a more muted fashion statement. You were warned.

• “Are the bears and cougars dangerous?” Yes. Extremely. But your chances of being attacked by bears and cougars are about the same as being hit by chunks of space junk. Be very afraid.

• “When is the fishing good?” Hard to say, but generally the best fishing occurs the week before you get here and the week after you leave.

Then there is my favorite tourist question of all time:

“Why do the loggers wear suspenders?”

This mystery has never been solved.

_________

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

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via [email protected].

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