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Jared Kennedy | 09.06.2016

How often do you wake up and think to yourself that it's a great day to do something stupid? Maybe something really stupid. Ideally something that'll get you caught breaking the law, have a lasting and irreparable impact, piss off as many people as possible, and confirm for your own sense of self purpose that your best quality in the world is your ability to swear at grandmothers and trash the homes of people who invite you to there as a guest.

In general we take great pride in being good stewards and hoping everyone else gets to enjoy the same places we love. But reading accounts of vandalism on public lands on what feels like a daily basis, you'd think we are on the verge of a new era of assholery. We're not even close to being the first ones to write about this or to scratch our heads and wonder what makes certain people do the things they do. Maybe thinking like them will help us understand...

How to be a dumbass, step 1: Make sure to get video evidence.

Some people decided to take their vengeance out on a rock at Cape Kiwanda. To these idiot vandals, who were recorded on video, the rock was magically an active participant in an accident that broke their friend's leg. So they hopped a fence that warns people to keep out, a fence that was there when their idiot friend broke his leg, and they destroyed the rock as a "favor" and for "safety" reasons. That rock, called the "duckbill," shown in the lower left corner of Shane Kucera's beautiful photograph of Cape Kiwanda above, now lies in a collapsed heap. Initially Oregon State Parks thought it had collapsed on its own; thankfully, these idiots used the light of day and had a person record their destructive actions.

And it's hard to forget the story of Casey Nocket and her effort to document her childlike art skills by defacing prominent areas in our national parks and sharing it with her friends on Instagram. Casey liked her paintings, and she liked them so much that she put them onto landscapes in Crater Lake, Yosemite, and Rocky Mountain national parks, to name a few. Her efforts to put her mark on these already stunning areas adds yet another chapter to the ever-expanding tome. She takes celebrating "America's best idea" to a whole new level!

While Instragram, along with its FOMO-inducing social following, is becoming an incredible tool for introducing people to new places and new experiences, the total lack of information and the ease with which people can demonstrate the exact wrong thing to do when exploring a sensitive or dangerous area is causing no shortage of handwringing for those of us who love the outdoors. At least it's making it easy to show what not to do and to catch who is doing it.

So if you want to be the next Casey Nocket and make sure your face and name are permanently etched in the annals of how to be a dumbass, take as many photos of your vandalism as possible, or have someone else help out, and then share it with the world. How to be a dumbass step one complete.

How to be a dumbass step 2: Brand it.

A Canadian trio calling themselves High on Life SundayFundayz pioneered a new era of stoke, replete with corporate sponsorship and a healthy Facebook following, for their adventure travels through America's natural places including Yellowstone and Bonneville Salt Flats. Even better, their actions damaged highly sensitive ecosystems, because nothing says fun quite like sticking out your tongue and extending a middle finger at nature. Show her who's the boss! Now, as authorities look to punish the group for so blatantly doing dumb things, their sponsors are dropping out and they've begun to issue apologies for their actions. Makes that Monday hangover for being a bit too high on life hurt just a little bit more, but luckily they'll have more fun Sundays in their future, something a little less likely for the sensitive and federally protected ecosystems they used for their idiotic internet meme.

Luckily the trio also brought along drones, video gear, selfie sticks and plenty of opportunities to follow step one as well as step two. Way to go guys, you're winning!

How to be a dumbass step 3: Tarnish the name of your favorite institution.

Like many universities across the country, the University of Oregon lends out camping gear for students wishing to experience the great outdoors. Now, this gear usually isn't as well cared for as personal property, a small tragedy of the commons that can be stomached because the pros outweigh the cons. That is until recently, when a fraternity, Lamda Chi Alpha, decided to reserve an island on Shasta Lake and throw a blowout party. And blowout it was, unless the cooler left at the scene and emblazoned with magic marker reading "Do you wanna do some blow man?" was just meant to be ironic. When the party was over, everyone just ditched their gear, including over 100 tents, clothes, sandals, loads of garbage, and oh-so-much human waste. Even better, these idiots made sure that University of Oregon logos and gear was a major part of the leave-behinds. Nothing says "Go Ducks" quite like a huge load of trash.

Needless to say, these dumbasses achieved their goal, and the blowback on the University of Oregon was instantaneous. The fraternity was suspended by the university, but the damage was so bad that the Forest Service had to bring in 25 rangers to clean up the mess. 

How to be a dumbass step 4: Pretend to be dumber than you actually are.

Can you read? Yes? Just say you can't instead. Your actions have already demonstrated your low IQ, so you may as well claim it's even lower. According to investigators, this summer's devastating fire in Big Sur that has burned 67 square miles of Monterey County was caused by a person ignoring the current fire restrictions and then walking away from the fire while it was still smoldering. Even with its shrinking budget, the Forest Service does a fantastic job posting fire restrictions at all trailheads. Even without those postings, news of the ongoing drought in California has been unavoidable. Even then, Smokey the Bear is so enmeshed in our cultural narrative that if Wheel of Fortune wanted to do a prize puzzle with "Only you can prevent ____," it'd be considered too easy.

Putting common sense aside and killing endangered species seemed to be a theme of the dumbasses this summer. In Death Valley, three men climbed over a fence into Devil's Hole and managed to kill a critically endangered pup fish, one of the rarest species on earth with the only remaining members found in a single deep pool. Likewise, in Yellowstone a family thought a bison calf was cold and needed saving, causing them to bring it in their minivan to a ranger (and yes, they took photos). Tragically and maddeningly, by separating the calf from its mother, the damage was done and rangers had to euthanize the bison calf. In this well-publicized instance of stupidity, park rangers consistently said people don't read the signs or pay attention to posted notices, and they seem to go bonkers as soon as they get a close-up encounter with a wild animal.

So there you have it. Follow these four steps, or mix and choose which ones you want to follow, and you'll have a recipe to be a dumbass yourself.

All of this begs the question, is it possible to be a dumbass and not get caught? Absolutely! But rather than becoming an example for The Sneaky Asshole's Guide to Being a Dumbass, how about just not being a dumbass? You may even look up, enjoy the view, see someone else trying to take their place in the annals of idiocy, and decide that it's a good time for an assertively stated "I wouldn't do that if I were you."


If you can't cry, you might as well laugh. ✌️
May I add the following to the realm of dumbassisity:
[1] Show up at National Park public campsites in the middle of the night. Hammer stakes on your twelve-person tent. Giggle incessantly at a loud, high-pitched tone. Unpack your two u-haul trailers containing your stereo gear and other seemingly unnecessary stuff. Play guitar.
I'm talking to you, zagnuts from last Saturday night at Bryce North Campgrounds.
[2] Do not supervise your children on steep multi-pitched switchbacks, allowing them to kick rocks from above, onto the persons of hikers on switchbacks below.
I'm talking to you, null-and-voids who let their kids do this on Navajo Loop Trail, Bryce, last Friday.
Thanks for the article, Jared. These people have me constantly shaking my head. It's bad enough that when I go out on trails now, I tend to find more garbage and dog poop bags lying on the side of the trails than I see on sidewalks in the city. Sadly, I don't think it has quite reached critical mass. We need more focus on ethics, than gear and experiences.
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