PAT NEAL: Wilderness crime fighters

IT WAS ANOTHER tough week in the news.

As spring blossoms into summer, the residents of the Olympic Peninsula are able to observe the seasonal arrival of many species of wildlife that grace the wilderness areas of our emerald green paradise. These include but are not limited to the band-tailed pigeon, the turkey buzzard and the trailhead burglar.

The appearance of the last critter is an indication that summer is here.

Trailhead burglars are a wilderness pest that has evolved this means of survival in a hostile environment where everyone wants them arrested.

Despite the haters, trailhead burglars are able to thrive on a diet of wallets and purses left by unsuspecting vacationers in the fictional security of their locked vehicles. No matter how many times they are warned, some people leave their stuff in the car while they hike on our trails.

With the miracle of modern technology, today’s trailhead burglars are not only able to gather cash and consumer goods from unattended vehicles, they can now assume your identity with a simple swipe of your credit cards.

A recent Peninsula Daily News article (“Two charged in Peninsula trailhead burglaries,” PDN, May 9) described a pair of suspected trailhead burglars whose activities carried them across the length and breadth of the Peninsula until they allegedly tried to buy $1,000 gift cards with stolen credit cards. Oops.

This should serve as a reminder to all wilderness enthusiasts about the dangers inherent in any outdoor activity.

Tourists often worry about being attacked by bears and cougars in the wilderness while ignoring the most dangerous critter in the woods, the trailhead burglar.

Perhaps it’s time to remind our readers of three simple and easy steps to reduce your risk of exposure to these predators. The first rule of defensive tactics in dealing with trailhead burglars is to take all valuables, wallets, purses, electronics, firearms and any gold bullion you carry on your vacation out of your car before leaving it at a trailhead.

The second rule would be to never lock your vehicle at the trailhead. The trailhead burglars have a bad habit of breaking into vehicles through windows which are really expensive to replace.

If your vehicle is unlocked and there is nothing in it, the trailhead burglar will soon move on to greener pastures.

The third and possibly most important rule in dealing with trailhead burglars is to create a force-field that is so powerful, it will remove any motivation for someone to open the door in the first place.

This is done through the creation of a chemical deterrent that is so toxic it will strongly encourage even the most desperate drug-ravaged trailhead burglar to move along and break into someone else’s vehicle.

I first discovered this important defensive strategy after someone left a dozen sand shrimp, a popular salmon and steelhead bait, under the seat of my truck for safekeeping.

At first, it was just an unpleasant aroma. After three days I was convinced there was a dead body somewhere in the vehicle.

No, just a tiny cup of rotting crustaceans that told me I had discovered a crimefighting tool more effective than any car alarm.

If a car alarm goes off in the woods can anyone hear it? Probably not.

But rotting sand shrimp are a silent weapon that is so much more effective.

Remember, when dealing with trailhead burglars, garbage is your friend. Sprinkle the interior of your car with garbage. Leave some dirty underwear (men’s) on the dash. Add some well-aged sand shrimp or herring to the mix and hit the trail secure in the knowledge that no one will break into your car.

You’re welcome.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River 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

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