You Almost Certainly Won’t Discover A Body During Your Hike Today, But Just In Case, by Juliana Gray

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You’re all set, folks!  You’ve got your map of the trails, a guide to the various blazes…I think you’re ready to go! Enjoy your hike at beautiful Murphy Park, and– wait. You know what? Let me give you this pamphlet, “A Hikers’ Guide to Discovering a Body,” just in case.

Of course, the trails in this park are completely safe. We have hundreds of visitors per month this time of year, and except for a few close encounters with bears, they’ve all had a safe, wonderful time. Just don’t get between the mothers and cubs, ha ha!

But should you stumble across a body, you need to follow the proper procedure.

Oh, it’s more common than you’d think. Seems like every other week I get a call from Ranger Dave about hikers stumbling across a suspicious pile of bones, or bloody clothing, or a shoe with what appears to be a toe still inside. And when Frannie from the local forensics lab gets up here, sure enough, there’s another body. I’ll say one thing for hikers at this park: They really are great at discovering human remains!

You look upset. But really, folks, it’s no problem. Remember I showed you on the map, the area of the Black Falls Trail that’s off-limits? That’s because it’s still an active crime scene, lots of detectives and corpse-sniffing dogs in the area. But if you take that fork toward Indian Princess Rock, you should be fine. Just steer clear of the police tape at the abandoned campsite; no one’s working that area anymore, but we still need to preserve the scene.

You don’t have a dog with you on this hike, do you? Because that would increase your chances of making a grisly discovery.

Okay, good question. First, don’t touch anything. Seriously. A family last week did a little poking around— they said they thought the body was a mannequin, yeah right, with that smell?—and may have destroyed some crucial evidence. Frannie was livid. You should have seen the way her cheeks flared up, the fire in her eyes. She was angry, but so beautiful…

Right, don’t touch anything. Just use the B-whistle I gave you to alert a ranger. You thought the “B” stood for “bear”? Sure, you can use it for that, too.

Anyway, just use the B-whistle and then sit tight. While you wait, take a look at that pamphlet I gave you. It contains more detailed instructions, explains the differences between human and animal bones and such; you’ll probably find it interesting. But with all the cops and FBI agents working different crime scenes on the trails right now, someone with a badge should be interviewing you before you can say “Murder Park.”

No no, that’s just a nickname that the media have unfortunately seized upon. Yeah, alliteration, I get it. I went to college, unlike Ranger Dave.  But it’s unfair, since three-fourths of these murders weren’t even committed in Murphy Park. We’re just the dump site. Usually.

I can’t say it has hurt our reputation. In fact, some hikers come here hoping to discover a body. Like I was saying to Frannie the other day—she’s up here so often, we’ve gotten pretty close—everybody thinks they’re going to be famous, be interviewed on Dateline, or land a true-crime book deal. As if that many hikers who go off-trail to take a leak and stumble upon what appears to be a human jawbone could land bestselling book deals! I mean, sure, a couple have—you should check out the selection in our gift shop on your way out.

You’re right, the daylight is a-wasting! I’ll let you folks get going on your hike. Tell you what, I’ll walk you out; I want to check in with Frannie at the new scene by Sunset Point. Quite a romantic spot. I bet Ranger Dave is down there with her right now, getting in her way while she’s trying to do such meticulous, detailed work. He’s the kind of guy who seems nice enough—all smiles and jokes and perfect teeth—but he never really listens, you know? Not like she deserves. I hope she can see that.

That Ranger Dave. Someone should take care of that guy.

Have a beautiful hike, folks! Watch out for poison ivy, and keep that B-whistle handy.

Juliana Gray is a poet and professor at Alfred University in western New York. Her humor writing has appeared at McSweeney’s, The Toast, Defenestration, and elsewhere.

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