by Anura Guruge
One of the many ailments that afflicts me is my inability to turn off my brain. I can’t stop thinking. I even think in my sleep. If I am driving, which I am doing much, much more recently, my brain is craving thinks to crunch. So I have to pay heed to this need. So while in Acadia last week I got thinking, while driving the 27-mile “Park Loop Road”, for the ‘umteenth’ time, about some of the more obscure things about the park. I shared my thoughts. The kids thought that it was typical Dad and that they were hilarious. I told them that I was going to stop at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center and ask the Park Rangers about them. Of that they had no doubts. They are used to me asking questions of people in my never ending quest for knowledge. So we eventually made it to the Visitor Center, I beat them up the long flight of steps (still hanging on to the family tradition that I have yet to be beaten by any of my kids when it comes to running up stairs), and I stood in line to ask the two female Park Rangers my three questions.
1. How many people die in Acadia National Park, on average, a year?
They looked at each other and nervously giggled. I guess they don’t get that question every day — though they should because this park has some REAL dangerous parts, like cliffs that fall into the ocean. After much looking at each other, and I helping them along by saying that I thought about ’11 died a year at the Grand Canyon’ they reluctantly volunteered that it was ‘couple’. They were not sure! I will research this further. Their was a pause and much smiling. Then they felt obliged to share that this ‘couple’ number did NOT include those that might get washed out into the ocean! Oh! I understand. The ocean is not part of the Park. So if you fell into the Ocean then that is technically not a death that happened within the Park. Hey, come on. They are Government employees and as such are entitled to be precise. We left it at that, with more smiles all around. The kids loved it. To them this is Dad — their very strange Dad.
2. How many accidents do they have a year, on average, with people accidently going the wrong-way on the ONE-WAY segment of the 27-mile Park Loop Road?
They were quicker to respond to this than to my first question. First take was that: “it wasn’t many” — and that the one-way system is very well marked. I, politely, disagreed BECAUSE I had been taking mental notes the last time I was on the one-way system — just a couple of hours earlier. The one-way system, which is very odd (in that you are also allowed to arbitrarily park on the right lane where ever you want), is indeed very well marked at its two ends and at junctions. BUT there are no reminder signs, enforcement signs or any special markings on the road surface WITHIN the system. So if you stop, go for a hike and come back — it would be possible to forget that you are on the one-way part SINCE other parts of the Loop are two-way. That was my point. Accidental ‘U-turns’ with people forgetting that they were on the one-way system. Eventually they agreed that there were some but not as many as you would expect. I can buy that. People typically don’t drive too fast within the Park. So that will definitely help. People are unlikely to report every instance of wrong way driving they see. The Park is patrolled — but not that much. Something to keep an eye on.
3. How many people get lost, on average, a month.
They were prepared for this and actually laughed (I guess in relief) since this was probably an easy question. Appears quite a few. The Park does have a search and rescue unit and it appears that they do get called into action fairly regularly. That was what I expected to hear.
I thanked them profusely. There were two folks standing behind me — probably thinking “this brown guy must be mental”. But, I needed to know. The kids were happy and impressed. They had learned something. Plus, who knows, I might write a book about Acadia National Park.