PAT NEAL: ‘Lord of the Flies,’ in a raft

IT WAS WRONG to assert in last week’s column that, “Stereotyping and profiling have no place on a nature float. Unless you are talking about the American teenager.”

That was an unfair generalization of today’s youth who grudgingly go on vacation with their families when they would just as soon be back home in the basement with a frozen pizza, an energy drink and video games.

It was wrong to be that judgmental. I know that now after taking a large group of Girl Scouts rafting. These are young people that any country would be proud of. They sold cookies to finance their vacation all the way from Minnesota to the Olympic Peninsula.

“How did you find this place?” I asked.

“On the internet,” they said.

No wonder this place is swamped with tourists. There are lines waiting to get into Olympic National Park, the ferries and the gas stations. That would not be a problem if they were all like those Minnesota Girl Scouts.

They were courteous, humorous, scholar-athlete types that were into lining up their educational choices and sports.

They liked team sports, individual sports and, coming from Minnesota, snow and water sports.

These girls could paddle a raft like banshees backwards or forward — whatever you asked. It was like they were trying out for the Olympic paddling team or something and I guess they were.

Altogether they were a good example of kids having fun without being hooked to a device. It was actually possible to have a conversation with them.

Device dependency is a serious addiction in this country.

Recently there have been concerted efforts to wean young people off their devices by taking them into the wilderness and taking away their electronics, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

There are special device-free summer camps for children who just can’t put their phones down. Sometimes these kids can’t go a day without their phones.

In the resulting panic attacks, threats and violence the parents are forced to return the phones to the kids or face dire consequences.

We saw a good example of this on the river last week when we agreed to take a large group of boys rafting.

They had been camping without their phones for a week. The stress was beginning to show on the unlucky adults leading the group. Things were not going well. But we figured boys will be boys even if they are a little rambunctious so the other guides and I agreed to take them rafting.

What started as a blissful float down a rainforest river soon deteriorated into a shocking example of the dangers of feral children. They refused to listen to the guides. They refused to paddle.

It was like “Lord of the Flies” in a raft.

The children threatened to crush the skull of a guide, kill him to get his phone then sink the raft.

Just what these city boys would do after stranding themselves in the middle of a wilderness did not seem to be a concern. They wanted that phone.

I’ve always said that to a guide death threats are the sincerest form of flattery. Olympic Peninsula guides are a collection of woodsmen and women with a tenacious ability to think on their feet in a tight situation.

Let’s just say our guides handled these boys with tact, courtesy and a solemn promise to never take them again.

At the end of the day, the boys went back home to the big city and their data plans.

One of the guides spoke for all of us when he said:

“I sure liked those Girl Scouts better.”


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

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