There are some websites and documentaries that are concerned with the disappearances of people in national parks.  The gist of this seems to be that an unusually high number of people vanish mysteriously, never to be seen again.  Sometimes later on their remains are discovered.  Sometimes some of their possessions are found, but no body.  No one knows what happens.

It is common for the description to state that these people were experienced hikers or hunters who knew the area well and could take care of themselves.  They had the right equipment and were not doing anything unusual.  Yet, they vanished.

I have seen some areas of these parks described as “triangles.”  Now we all know that in triangles, people disappear.  That’s why they used that word.  So if people disappear, there must be a triangle.

I believe that a good deal of these disappearances are easily explained without making a mystery about it – and certainly without invoking the “triangle” idea.

National parks are relatively wild places.  Because they’ve been set aside to be preserved, they bring you closer to Nature, closer to dangerous animals and difficult terrain.  Unlike your suburban forest preserve, national parks may have unexpected dangers lurking close by, unnoticed by the casual hiker; possibly missed even by an experienced one.  In a word, they’re dangerous places.

Of course, if they were extremely dangerous they wouldn’t be open to the public.  Walking into the wilderness isn’t a death sentence.  Still, it’s easy to get lost, easy to miss a trail and perhaps fall from a ledge or encounter a large predator.  And it may be that there are other people out there who are also predators.

The thing is, you don’t really need a mystery when considering what happens.  It seems that most of these disappearances can be explained as simple human error or misfortune.

For one thing, the fact that someone is an experienced hiker doesn’t hold much weight with me.  It is common for people to become casual towards dangers that never happen.  An experienced woodsman might not focus on what he’s doing, and wander off a trail.  He might miss the signs that there’s a predator nearby.  He might simply fall off a ledge.

The absence of remains doesn’t present a serious difficulty.  In these places, a body would be set on by scavengers, just like any other dead animal.  Larger scavengers might drag the remains to a den.  Smaller ones could reduce the body to a skeleton in a few hours, or days at the most.  The clothing wouldn’t stop them.

In my experience – which is not wide, I admit – you rarely find anything dead in the woods.  Whatever animals have died are quickly taken care of.  You don’t find their fur or bones, most of the time.  What happens to an animal can happen to a human.

There are often reports that remains or property are found in an area that had been thoroughly searched previously.  This is presented as a deep mystery.  Could it not be, though, that they just missed it the first time?

Of course, there are conspiracy theories and claims that Bigfoot did it, aliens, or people cooking meth who kill those who blunder into their area.  These are probably false.

So while it’s sad that people do go missing and often aren’t found, it’s not a great mystery to me.  It’s just a sad fact of going into the wilderness.  Some people are going to die.

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