WHERE DID SMOKEY THE BEAR GO?
FIRE IS NICE is my newest novel, out in early 2018. Its setting is the glorious Sequoia/Kings National Park, all 461,901 acres of forest, half of those acres brimming with old growth forest. If you haven’t been awed by the size of a 2,000 year-old Sequoia, then you need go stand beside one of those redwoods soon!
My novel is peopled with Interpretive Rangers (the friendly folk who take you on tours and help you in the National Park Visitors Centers), and Law Enforcement Rangers, trained intensely alongside FBI agents. From what I’ve learned these men and women are a far cry from our vision of Smokey the Bear. And I have two personal experiences to prove my assertion.
Sad to say, some people aren’t interested in leaving our parks pristine for the next generations. Some want to make their homes in the parks, hunt animals for sport, start fires, hide from the law, or poach treasures out of the park. My novel focuses on truffle and fossil poachers, a growing problem in several parks across the country.
Law Enforcement Rangers, called L.E. Rangers, for short, take on illegal activity in our National Parks, and as you can see from their uniforms, they wear Kevlar and carry weapons. Their hats soften the look, but be assured, they mean business.
One day when my husband and I drove along the main road in Sequoia, we were stopped by two L.E. Rangers, in full battle dress, carrying automatic weapons. Since I was driving, I rolled down my window after I’d stopped the car and asked, “What’s up?”
“Who is in your car?”
“My husband and I.”
“Anyone else?” he asked as he peered in the back portion of our SUV.
Expression grim, he gestured with his gun to move along. NOT Smokey the Bear.
We headed down Kings Canyon Scenic Byway to our lodgings at Cedar Grove, close to the end of the road. On our way, we saw dozens of law enforcement vehicles lined up on the side of the road, displaying both local and National emblems; fifteen or twenty officers stood in small groups near their big Tahoes. A helicopter perched on the side of the road; search and rescue teams were laying out their equipment; a small mobile canteen was serving lunch, and a couple civilians leaned over the guardrail, pointing down. I was stunned by the display of force; amazed by the chaotic mix of vehicles and officers. NOT a Smokey the Bear experience.
We never found out why our car was searched by the machine-gun toting L.E.’s, but we did learn that the rescue team was retrieving four bodies from two cars that had left the road and plummeted to the river-bottom.
A sobering day, to learn that crime and death visit the Parks, requiring defenders who are very much NOT Smokey the Bear.
Was I right to set my suspense novel in Sequoia/Kings National Park. Oh, yes!