It was a winter and the Blue Ridge Parkway was coated with ice and snow. Most of the roads within the park were closed with snow gates. At mid morning a call came into my office reporting that a car was off the road near mile post 16. This was within a three mile section of road that was not closed off by gates. The report through our dispatcher included the information that the car had a gorilla in it. My first thought was that this was quite an unusual situation since for those of you who are not zoologists; gorillas are not native to the Southern Appalachians.
Ranger Allan Morris and I both responded and searched up and down the Parkway for several miles north and south of mile post 16 with no sign of a vehicle or gorilla. Dispatch called back and said a second call had come in reporting the vehicle still stuck on the icy road and that the gorilla was in the driver’s seat of the car.
We decided to start checking the several side roads that intersected with the Parkway in the Love, Virginia area. At the bottom of a steep ice covered hill on a dirt surfaced road we could see a small sedan sitting off to the side of the narrow road. We eased our four wheel drive SUV down the slope keeping the driver’s side wheels in the right hand ditch to give us some traction. As we got closer to the car we could see that the rear seat was filled with shiny anemic helium filled balloons. We both had to look twice as we noted a gorilla behind the wheel.
As we turned our vehicle around the driver took off the head of a gorilla costume and stepped out of the vehicle. The woman worked for a florist shop in Waynesboro and was trying to find the Wintergreen Resort to deliver birthday greetings for a resident. She had gotten lost and ended up in her present predicament. She had donned her gorilla costume to keep warm.
We were able to push her car out of the ditch and Allan was able to drive it back up the hill to the Parkway. I am sure that the two vehicles that she said passed her while she was stuck did not stop due to the gorilla costume. I admit it did look at bit odd if not dangerous.
This is just one more example of how National Park Rangers never know what they will run into even during the winter on the Blue Ridge Parkway.