PAT NEAL: Real tourists with real questions

Every tourist season brings a new crop of tourists.

They have a lot of questions. Where is the bathroom? Where can I dump my garbage?

That is when each and every one of us has an opportunity to act as ambassadors of the tourist industry and help our visitors experience the magic of the emerald green playground we call home by responding to these inquiries no matter how deranged they might seem to those of us who live here.

Answering tourist questions may require a large dose of empathy to make us realize that but for a cruel twist of fate we could be tourists struggling to find answers to age-old questions such as when do the deer turn into elk or what is the elevation at the beach?

Here are the top 10 tourist questions from this season that might help to explain why we put a season on them in the first place.

1. Is the weather always like this? Of course. Nothing ever changes here.

2. How deep is the river? River rafters ask this question, assuming the river is a uniform depth. However, the depth of the river depends on time, location and conditions that are too involved to explain so just tell them the river is deep.

3. Did we just float in a circle? Another great rafting question tourists ask when observing the same vehicle at the beginning and end of their float. Unaware that the vehicle was shuttled downstream, they assume the river flows in circles. Which of course it does, proving the Earth is flat.

4. Does the river come from Alaska? All of our Olympic Peninsula rivers come from Alaska through a very large tunnel that the Canadians are unaware of and we hope they never find out. It could strain relations with our neighbor to the north.

5. Where can I camp and not be around other people? Forget it. The internet has crowded every camping spot on the Olympic Peninsula, so the only way to camp in solitude would be time travel.

6. Where can I see a bear? This is the number one animal on the tourist wish list. Unfortunately, when they see a bear, they start screaming, “Bear! Bear!” which scares the bears, so probably the best place for them to see a bear is at the zoo.

7. Where can I see an otter? Next door to the bear at the zoo.

8. Where can I find Bigfoot? You can’t. Bigfoot has to find you.

9. What are the fishing laws? When you figure out the fishing laws, please, let the locals know. A lot of us don’t have a clue. Figuring out the fishing laws in Washington is a full-time job. If and when you ever do figure them out, we get hit with an “emergency closure.” That shuts fishing season down at any time, for any reason.

10. The all-time best tourist question though happened to be queried just this season. The nice lady was inquiring about river rafting when she asked, “Do you raft on water?” Of course, rafting on water is the most popular way to enjoy a river rafting trip. However, there are other options.

We aim to please and are ready to offer more adventurous recreational opportunities for the thrill seeker in us all.

So, strap on some body armor and a helmet, get in the raft and hold on for some real redneck fun when we drag you down a logging road behind a truck, hitting speeds pushing 50 mph. Rafting isn’t just for water anymore.


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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