You are here

Reader Participation Day: Have You Had a "Close Call" in a National Park?



Most national parks are not inherently dangerous, but park visitors can expect to encounter serious hazards to life and limb at various places and times in our National Park System.  If you've narrowly escaped from a life threatening situation in a national park, tell us about it. Is there a takeaway lesson?


So this barely qualifies as a narrow escape, but it's a category of hazard that hasn't really come up in this thread yet.  My last childhood visit to Yellowstone took place in the summer of 1990.  This was two years after the the forest fires of 1988 and there were still a ton of standing snags.  My family was hiking the Fountain Paint Pot trail.  My brother and I were moving a bit faster than our parents and drew just out of sight from each other at a bend around a slope.  Suddenly there was a crashing noise and I spun around to see a pine falling across the trail maybe 20 feet behind us.  It had fallen between us and my parents, much to their alarm as they didn't know how far ahead my brother and I had gotten.
What was weird, as we reunited and tried to piece together what had happened, was that both parties had seen a live tree falling to the right, even though we were viewing it from opposite sides.  Moreover there was a saw-cut snag atop the tree now lying across the trail.  Nearest we could figure, a dead snag chainsawed down by a trail crew had wedged between two live trees growing close together.  Somehow their stressed rooting gave way at just that moment, sending the two live pines falling in opposite directions.  My brother and I had watched the tree fall downslope across the trail and our parents saw the other tree falling upslope.

2 years ago a friend and I were at Josephine Lk (Glacier np) taking flower pictures. Made lots of noise and watched carefully, due to the reputation it has for grizzlies. When finished, we rejoiced at not having seen any bears and made it out safely.  We headed back to the boat dock, on the way towards Swift Current Lk and the hotel. We headed up the paved path, talking and still noticing flowers, etc, only to glance up and see a large grizzly ambling down the paved path towards us.  Grabbing the bear spray, we turned and "slowly" walked non-chalantly back towards the boat dock. Several times I glanced behind, and then updated my friend with "Keep going, he's still coming!".   At the boat dock I said "head for the boat".  Then thinking, "If we can get on, so can he".  Didnt think that was a good thing, so (for whatever reason) I had the spray and my wimpy aluminum hiking pole and went back to the trail. Off on the side, the bear and I met about 7 feet apart:  then waving my pole at him, and with finger on the bear spray, I politely asked him to "go that way", on up the trail.  After repeating 3-4 times, HE DID!!!   :)

This is one of the best reader participation forums we've ever had. Talk about sharing! These are great stories! In all truth—a lot more fun than the political fireworks sparked by some stories!

  I have a real fear of heights and made the mistake of allowing my four sons to talk me into attempting Angel's landing in Zion. I got to the first 'rest" spot up past Scouts landing( I can't recall the name of it-- that part of my brain refuses to remember). As I was trying to attach myself to the rock a guy came up behind us doing what we now refer to as the "crab- suck". I've never seen a person with such a terrified look on his face.Flat on his belly-- all limbs flat on the ground crawling like a crab. All the while his wife standing over him calling him a whoosie. After seeing that poor soul I just could not will myself on another step and had to adopt the crab-suck myself on the way down. My wife and kids continued to the summit. I had to join the crowd of whoosies back at Scouts rest waiting for their families to come back down .Very humiliating. Worse my sons have me on video tape and love to show it at all our family get togethers. If you are afraid of heights don't even think about Angel's landing.

I would label this a close call fueled by ignorance.  A friend and I were concluding a weeklong visit to the Canadian Rockies.  After a few days in Banff National Park we headed to Jasper National Park.  We had already seen lots of elk and a coyote, but the whole trip we kept saying how we’d like to see a moose.  On our last day in Jasper we were driving by a lake after breakfast when we came across about 10 cars pulled over on the side of the road.  Not one moose, but 3, in the lake – a mother, a baby and a bull.    Picture here -\Images\banf25.jpg 


A dirt road circled the lake and so we went down and sat on some boulders near water’s edge, about 10 feet from the water.  The 3 moose were probably 150 feet away from shore.  The water was about up to their waist.  They were moving slowly, dunking their heads in the water for 30 seconds at a time, eating I presume.  Wow, what an experience. 


Well, they kept moving in our general direction, getting closer and closer.  I said to my friend “how close do you think they will get before they turn around?”.   Turns out the answer is they’re not turning around.  The mother was the first one out.  She stopped as she came out of the water and looked at us for a few second, only a few feet away.  We sat as still and quietly as possible.  She continued, followed by the baby, then the bull.  I took a picture of the bull – film camera back then (1995) and the whizzing sound of the zoom lens sounded really loud at that moment.  Picture here -\Images\jasp01.jpg


 They just kept on walking into a patch of tress where they started eating the leaves.


A group of about 20 people followed to watch.  A guy came up to us and said you don’t know how lucky you are.  In hindsight, really stupid and very lucky.  At the time I remember having no fear, feeling no danger, just being amazed by the whole thing.  Pretty sure I would not put myself in that position again.


I first visited Organ Pipe Cactus during warm weather.  A ranger suggested I try a night hike: it would be cooler, and there was more likely to be some animals out.  He was right on both counts, as it turned out.  After a half hour, the batteries in my one flashlight [dumb!] were dying, so I was hurrying back towards the trailhead.  I came within about six inches of stepping on a large rattlesnake coiled up in the middle of the trail.  Luckily it didn't strike at my bare lower legs.

I was hiking around the Bailey tract of the J.W. "Ding" Darling NWR on Sanibel Island, off Florida's southern Gulf Coast. I heard a rustling behind a large bush and as I passed it, saw a smaller gator clamboring up the bank of a nearby canal, less than 10 feet from me. We both froze about the same time. I considered using the 4 or 5 feet of path to skirt around him, but thought better of it, and snapped his photo before turning back and going back in the direction from where I'd come.

I'm so full of close calls....
I was hiking Angel's Landing in Zion and slipped. Luckily I fell to the left. If I had fallen to the right, I would have gone straight down.
Another day, in Shenandoah, I was unloading groceries from my vehicle when I heard a bear "woofing" at me. I turned and not 10ft away was a momma with 3 cubs. Some visitors were chasing her and I had stepped right into her escape path. I guess I seemed like the easiest one to scare because she rolled her head and started in my direction. Luckily I wasn't too far from my truck so I jumped behind that and she gathered her cubs and continued on her way. Lesson of the day: don't chase the wildlife. You never know when you'll end up chasing them right towards an innocent ranger.

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide

Recent Forum Comments