Boy, it's going to be a long summer in the national park system for those search-and-rescue teams. We're not even a week into the summer season and already rangers are being called out to respond to tragedies and lost visitors.
I covered the tragedies yesterday, so now let me share some search-and-rescue stories that ended happily. Although, I'm sure some of the rangers involved in these searchers are scratching their heads.
In what very likely is the most bizarre story so far -- and I realize it's early in the season -- a 20-year-old Washington State man spent the night in Yellowstone National Park getting up close to bison. Yep, that's right. The man, who, fortunately for his own sake was not identified by name, walked away from his group at Fishing Bridge about 9 p.m. last night and vanished.
This morning he reappeared shortly after 8 and told rangers that he walked down the Howard Eaton Trail along the east bank of the Yellowstone River and spent the night among bison grazing in the area. Oh yeah, he was barefoot, wearing shorts and a lightweight sweater, and had a blanket.
Thirteen rangers and two dog teams spent the night searching for him. I wonder what that cost?
Meanwhile, several hundred miles down the spine of the Rocky Mountains to the south, a 48-year-old Louisiana man who had been missing since Monday was found shortly after noon today in Rocky Mountain National Park near the headwaters of the Colorado River.
Details are still pretty sketchy on this case, but Terry Harlon was spotted by a helicopter crew that then dropped him food, water and a radio so he could help ground crews locate him. He was taken out of the area this afternoon.
No word on how he managed to get lost or how long he had been roaming around in the woods. Apparently he last talked to his wife via cell phone on May 24th, made an ATM transaction in the Grand Lake area the next day, and was reported missing on the 28th.
Now, both of these guys probably have pretty good explanations for their wanderings. But still, you have to wonder what exactly they were thinking.