PAT NEAL: Safety first on vacation

There’s no doubt about it. I’ve got to stop picking up women at the bar. It’s not safe.

The last one put a lump on my head and almost broke my back. I knew it was going to be one of those days, rafting large, cranky, overweight old people down the river until it was time to get back into the van.

As her husband and son stood by, big mama stepped up into the van and collapsed backwards where I caught her. We both collapsed on the rocks. It knocked the air right out of me. I should have known better, but what could I do?

It has been a summer of tourist mobs intent on hurting themselves and others.

Such as the folks who ran out of gas on the Upper Hoh Road, causing a traffic jam that had people swerving into the oncoming lane around a blind corner. I drug them up to a wide spot, where the pilgrims explained how they were the victims of too many construction zones where they sat in the car with the engine idling and the air conditioning on as the fuel gauge bottomed out.

“We’ll just call Triple-A and get more gas,” they assured, leaving their four-way flashers on until their battery died. Triple-A didn’t come.

We gave them some gas just to get rid of them.

If only it was that easy.

The Hoh Rainforest is so crowded there is, at times, a three- hour wait to get in.

Once you’re in, look out!

Last Friday saw a demo derby with a motor home plunging into the pond at the end of the road for no apparent reason.

It was a feat only outdone by the truck stuck in a tree at the intersection of State Highway 112 and Graul-Ramapo Road that the Clallam Fire District 4 Chief called “quite the interesting rescue.”

Rialto Beach is so crowded people are parking in the road, blocking traffic — until the Park Service tows their vehicle.

The Lake Crescent boat launch is so crowded with picnickers you almost can’t launch a boat.

The road around Lake Crescent has seen the usual accidents, where people just drive off the road and out into the woods.

You’d think you could get away from the drama and the chaos by going into the backcountry, but you would be wrong.

This summer has seen a number of tragedies and rescues.

The body of a solo mountain climber had to be airlifted out of the rugged back country of the upper Dungeness River near Mount Mystery — the real mystery being why someone would go mountain climbing by themselves.

A dramatic air rescue was performed by the awesome crew of the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station Search and Rescue helicopter up in the Hoh Lake country, where a 13-year-old girl fell out of, or was dropped out of, a hammock — the details were sketchy, the injury severe. We hope she gets better soon.

These crews specialize in high-altitude mountain rescues where few other helicopters dare to go.

They have already done 19 search and rescue missions this year and they really don’t need any more, thank you very much.

Another tragedy was narrowly averted by some observant campers on Allen Bar along the Hoh River, where a 79-year-old lady was wading. She was swept off her feet and around the bend into a log jam.

A handy Samaritan jumped in my raft and we picked her up and put her ashore, re-tweaking my back.

No doubt about it, I have to stop picking up women at the bar.


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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