Thursday, March 22, 2012

Worst Tour Guides Ever

Is there an award for Worst Tour Guides Ever? If so, I'd like to nominate Peggy Billingsley and Darrell Harpham, who according to our local columnist Tim Mowry, whom I trust implicitly, took a pair of tourists from Georgia on a supposedly guided mushing tour in the White Mountains. Believe it or not, the following ensued:

1) They asked the clients to help wrestle the dogs into harnesses and hook up the team. I have done this, and it's no job for people who have no familiarity with mushing dogs! My non-Alaskan readers may have been misled by photos of my two girls calmly chillin' in the house, but in a dog yard, when it's evident that the team is going out, dogs are crazy excited, and not easy to wrangle!

2) They let the clients go out with inadequate clothing. It's typical for mushing outfits to provide clothing to their clients for mushing tours, especially if the clients are from a warm area (such as, ahem, Georgia) and wouldn't want to purchase warm clothes just for one trip. In fact, this warm clothing is often Native fur coats and parkas, for added fun for the clients. But, bare minimum, these two jerks should have looked at their clients' clothing and said, "Honey, no. Go back into town and buy yourself some warm clothes, and then come back."

3) They had their clients each drive his or her own dog team, when neither had any experience whatsoever in doing so. As if that isn't appalling enough, they apparently didn't even teach them the basic commands!

4) They went out without two-way radios.

5) They took all of the food, water, and emergency gear on their own sleds and left their clients to fend for themselves. Even backpacking on foot, I would never go anywhere without carrying my own adequate provisions for spending a night alone if I have to. You just never know!

6) They got separated from their clients by up to seven miles!

7) They took out of shape dogs, who clearly don't get regular exercise. Hell, my 12-year-old girls would have been capable of the five miles that winded their poor team!

8) They blatantly lied to clients (They told them they'd take them over the Continental Divide? In the White Mountains?!? Here is a map, see?

Source: Wikipedia

Our local Continental Divide just happens to be, oh, the Brooks Range! It's not in the White Mountains, forty miles North of Fairbanks!

These people make me so angry! They could have killed that couple! I'm so thankful that not only are they alive, they hadn't paid their "guides" yet and don't intend to! They should also demand that the "guides" pay for their hospital fees, and for another vacation entirely!

And to add literal insult to literal injury, apparently, after it was all over, the "guides" blamed the tourists! Ain't that the best!

Let this also be a lesson to tourists. Always Be Prepared and carry your own emergency supplies. I would never go out into the backcountry without at least my trusty, stocked daypack with extra clothes, water, Clif Bars, and a first aid kit. Of course, this poor lady was not an outdoorswoman (she was wearing mascara for this trip, for Heaven's sake!) and trusted her husband and her tour guides to take care of her. And they threw her onto the runners of her own sled! Jerks! That woman had no business anywhere outside of the BAG on the sled!

3 April 2012 edit: Here is another article that is more sympathetic to the guides. However, it does not refute the statements made in Mowry's column.


bt said...

I just couldn't believe the number of things that are unacceptable in that story.

mdr said...

Ralf said he ALWAYS packed his own parachute, although it was a service included in the fee. I hardly remember things he said, but I remember this one.

JF ALWAYS cursed up a storm behind the wheel, but he hardly changed lanes for a faster drive.

Rena said...

That was a horrendous story. And fools on both ends - not sure what the guides OR the tourists were thinking!

mdr said...

I agree with Rena. Fools on both ends. The tourists were overly confident in themselves and too trusting in others, a bad combo

Anonymous said...

Talk about ignorance! Peggy Billingsley and Darrell Harpham, these so-called "guides," have no permit to run a commercial guiding operation on federal land - and claimed they didn't know they needed one. How pathetic!

These two frauds are reckless and very, very dangerous. The tourists are lucky to be alive. The ultimate irony? Billingsley works as a "School Safety Assistant" at North Pole High. What a joke! She should be fired. Immediately!

I, for one, will definitely be writing the high school to let its administrators know what an irresponsible and ignorant person they have on their hands.

Terry said...

And are you going to sign your name "Anonymous"? Billingsley was recently honored for performing CPR on a student, helping to save her life. Nice to know that first, you all take Mowry's "journalism" as gospel. Even nicer to know that none of you has ever made a mistake. Sad.

Arvay said...

Terry: Thank you for your comments.

I'm sure that Billingsly does a fine job at her regular job, but she was certainly negligent at this one.

Neither any of my other readers nor I have claimed that we have never made mistakes. But I certainly have never caused another human being's life to be in danger. I don't think you need to be a perfect person to be appalled at that.

Terry said...

Avary there is much more to this story than Mowry wrote. In time the real story will be told, by Peg herself so that there will accountability yes, and definitely no misquotes and half-truths.
Are you absolutely certain you have never put another person's life in danger? Never cut anyone off while driving? Have you ever seen a pedestrian or cyclist at the last moment?
My point is that first you should never ever believe everything that is written in any paper as the absolute gospel truth. And second, arm chair critics are usually misinformed folks who delight in pointing fingers and that is really sad.

Arvay said...

I am absolutely certain that I have never caused another person to be hospitalized.

And if, heaven forbid, I ever do, you can count on me to be the first person to condemn myself. I would fully expect the community to condemn me as well. That's what happens when we make mistakes that hurt other people.

Terry said...

Arvay: I spelled your name wrong in the last bad.
Ah but you said you were quite certain you have never put anyone's life in danger. You can't be certain though can you? Just cutting someone off can put them in danger. Lord knows I've had to some fancy driving to avoid being in an accident that may or may not have hurt me.
I am sorry that you believe that mistakes deserve condemnation. I think that mistakes need review and lessons need to be learned which Billingsley and Harpham are now going through. They were interviewed when everyone was still recovering and Mowry was hostile and argumentative. He pushed buttons to get the responses he needed to fill in his already written story. I heard the interviews because they were recorded by Peg and Darrel.
I know you implicitly believe Mowry but his story was bent and for some reason vindictive.
Peg will tell her story - with all details good and bad - in her own words sometime in the future.

Arvay said...

Terry, thank you again for commenting, and for remaining civil. Yes, I suppose I am harsher with both self-condemnation and condemnation of others when what I feel to be avoidable mistakes are made. Perhaps it's the Chinese + Catholic upbringing. Guilt is our trademark. :)

Earlier this winter, I slid my car off the highway on an icy day. A human friend, and both of my dogs, were with me. Obviously, the dogs had no seatbelts. No one was hurt in any way, but I do feel that I should have been driving more slowly.

Beating myself up may not be quite the healthiest thing to do, but the sting of guilt does keep me driving much more slowly and cautiously nowadays. But you are right, also; lessons can be learned without condemnation.