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If you’re a Bay Area outdoors enthusiast of any kind, you’ve seen the horrific news about the three Yosemite hikers who were swept away at Vernal Falls. The entire account by the Associated Press can be read here, but the gist is that the three hikers ignored warning signs and crossed over a railing to pose for photos while other hikers warned them to return to safety.

One of our sports columnists, Bob Padecky, is a veteran northern California hiker who knows Yosemite well – he proudly wears a Mount Shasta hat around the office, offered this guest blog post: (Remember, Bob’s job is to be opinionated. See his 49ers blog for sporting examples.)

From Bob:

“I have hiked up to Vernal Falls in Yosemite at least a dozen times and every time I have stood at the railing, looking down at the waterfall, this never, EVER crossed my mind: “Gosh, I just took my stupid pills so I think I’ll climb over this railing to get a better look. Let’s see how close to the edge I can get before I fall to my death.”

Yes, the recent accident at Vernal where three people lost their lives is tragic. But why it happened isn’t tragic. Tragic is hiking somewhere and an errant, falling boulder finds your head. What is so troubling about these deaths at Vernal is that it didn’t have to happen. It was totally avoidable. I don’t know if the people thought they were bulletproof or trying to impress someone or were just soft in the head.

Whatever the reason what they did trumped common sense. It trumped the basic human instinct of survival. It trumped the most obvious assumption that could be made: If I fall, I die.

Nature is a thrill ride but there are rules. Hike with a buddy. Carry water. Don’t drink or drug up. Don’t climb over a railing to inch up on a raging torrent. I hope the Vernal tragedy gets a lot of play, so those that somehow could be tempted to test common sense don’t.

You don’t walk up to a brown bear and wave a hamburger patty in his face anymore than you should climb over a guard rail at Vernal Falls.”

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