Two experienced backpackers from Seattle hiked 8 miles into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, planning to spend the night at 6,200 feet. What followed was a horrific night perched on an uncomfortable rock, hoping that a stalker would go away. If the women so much as rustled a plastic bag, reports the Spokane Spokesman-Review, their persistent follower moved in, and though they pelted him with rocks, “he just kept coming back closer.” Yes, it was a mountain goat, one that was so thoroughly habituated to human beings — and their attractive odors of snacks, urine and sweat — that nothing would dissuade it. As the goat ominously circled ever nearer to Allyson Kempt, 41, and Sara Esrick, 44, they recalled that a mountain goat fatally gored a hiker in Olympic National Park only three years ago. Finally, they called 911. Chris Anderson, who works for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in Ephrata, advised them to “wrap up in their sleeping bags and stay on the rock” until help could get there. As it happened, the aggressive billy gave up his pursuit and left at about 4:30 a.m., followed by the women, who called the incident the most unsettling they’d experienced in years of wilderness backpacking. Esrick, who has hiked solo on most of the Pacific Crest Trail, said she’d never experienced anything that scary. “‘Why don’t you leave us alone?’ I kept asking. He was totally stalking us. It was a long night.”
L.J. Faith resides near the Wind River Mountains in the remote town of Shoshoni, population 649, and because he lives alone and is legally blind, he appreciates the companionship of cats — an untold number of cats — some of which are dropped off at his house and allowed to roam free. A neighbor, however, no fan of the wandering animals, complained to the police, who attempted to take Faith into custody to discuss the problem. Faith, who has since filed a civil rights complaint in U.S. District Court, was definitely not interested in going quietly. He yelled and cursed at his would-be captors, then wrapped his arms around a pole on his porch and held on tight. Thereupon followed a comedy of errors as one of the two frustrated policemen managed to shoot his fellow officer in the head with a Taser stun gun and then, using a second Taser, shoot himself in the hand. Though wounded, the cop with the two Tasers didn’t give up. Faith said that interim Police Chief Andy Rodriguez stunned him “multiple times,” blinding him totally. Faith’s complaint, which includes a claim for $1 million, says that he suffered pain, mental anguish and humiliation from the botched arrest and continues to suffer from the same today. As for the two police officers, reports the Casper Star-Tribune, neither one now works for the town.
THE FAUX WEST
Perhaps you’ve heard the word “glamping,” short for glamorously camping out in some high-altitude aerie. All of the amenities of a high-end hotel are made available with none of the downsides of actual wilderness, such as potty breaks in the woods or pushy mountain goats. Now, says the Denver Post, glamping has gone urban, with some hotels in New York offering visitors the chance to spend a night outside on a high-rise patio. “It’s basically being able to sleep under the stars in a luxury setting,” says Jeffrey Poirot, general manager at AKA Central Park, which offers outdoor accommodations on its 17th floor penthouse, about 170 feet above sea level. One couple even roasted marshmallows during their open-air adventure. Still, the cost — $2,000 a night — seems a bit steep compared to spending nothing at all for the real thing in a national forest. But bargains in the Big Apple are available: The Affinia Gardens hotel on the East Side has a patio suite starting at only $300 per night. Options include a bed outside or “an actual tent.”
Many people fall in love with particular national parks, returning summer after summer to places they’ve camped and hiked. At Glacier National Park, some people return just to reconnect with 93-year-old Lyle Ruterbories, who’s been a seasonal park ranger at the remote Kintla Lake Campground for 20 years. And for a few decades before that, he served as a volunteer campground host at Kintla Lake with his late wife, Marge. Says North Fork District Ranger Scott Emmerich, “Lyle has high expectations for running a first-rate campground. ... (He’s) a positive role model for those who complain about getting old.” Ruterbories served in World War II before settling in Wheat Ridge, Colo., with his wife and six children; then he worked at the nearby Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant for 30 years. After he and his wife first visited Glacier National Park back in 1962, they were hooked, returning every year afterward. These days, however, reports the Missoulian, Ruterbories is “contemplating retirement.” Emmerich doesn’t believe it. He expects Ruterbories to bring his “zest for living” back to the job for at least another year.
Betsy Marston is the editor of Writers on the Range, an op ed service of High Country News (hcn.org). Tips of Western oddities are always appreciated and often shared (email@example.com).