Vampire-spotting at Olympic National Park

Park rangers say 30 percent of visitors are wide-eyed Twilight fans.
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Park rangers say 30 percent of visitors are wide-eyed Twilight fans.

Taking literature a little too literally? The New York Times reported yesterday that national park visitation is up—way up—this summer (some parks have seen a 30 percent jump in campground bookings). But don't assume that frugal families looking for cheap vacations in these tough times are the only ones responsible. Nope—in Washington's Olympic National Park, rangers estimate that 30 percent of hikers are there to immerse themselves in the Twilight landscape (and, presumably, to catch a glimpse of a vampire of their very own).

Yes, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight, the melodramatic, four-volume love story between regular 'ole teenager Bella and a supersexy vampire Edward, is making hikers out of teen romance fans. The plot is set in nearby Forks, but there's plenty of deep-forest action, too. Which explains why

"These 'Twihards' wander, wide-eyed, down trails in the misty Hoh rain forest under giant trees festooned with moss, 'trying to see what Bella saw,' said a park ranger, Jon Preston."

Hoo boy. I'm of two minds about this development. I loooove Olympic NP—and the more people who get out and enjoy it, the more people likely to care about protecting it. That's good. But the thought of losing my favorite campsite to covens of black-clad, pasty campers on the lookout for wildlife of the velvet-voiced, alabaster-skinned variety? That sorta kills me. Just think: Three out of every 10 people you pass on the trail could very well be packing a 768-page copy of Breaking Dawn. (Hey, I read all 768. I've earned the right to mock.)

All in all, though, I can't complain too much. More people enjoying the wilderness is always a great thing. And who knows? Maybe one of the Twihards will fall in love with the mountains, trade her black eyeliner for some Gore-Tex, and try another trail. At the very least, it's giving rangers some great ideas for new campfire programs.

"[Ranger Jon Preston] said that he was contemplating putting together a nature program on bloodsuckers (mosquitoes, flies and lampreys)."

—Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan

The Last-Minute Guide to Summer Camping (The New York Times)

Image credit: Summit Entertainment