If everyone seems happy in Yosemite National Park, it ought to be and probably is in most cases because of the spectacular beauty of a pristine wilderness.
But some visitors to the iconic California park are high on more than nature. They're on drugs.
According to an NBC Bay Area investigation, Yosemite boasts the highest number of drug arrests and citations per 100,000 visitors compared to other large national parks.
Malcolm Morgan, a camper from Larkspur, California, is quoted as saying: "We were comparing it to Disneyland. We see a lot more happy faces here in Yosemite than we did at Disneyland."
Yosemite receives about 3 million visitors per year. NBC reports that drug busts have increased 18% since 2007 and that last year park rangers arrested or cited 855 visitors for possession of drugs.
Most of those arrests occurred within the seven square miles of Yosemite Valley.
For the sake of comparison, there were 2,393 drug possession arrests in Yosemite in from 2010 through 2012. There were 500 in Yellowstone National Park; and only 365 in Grand Canyon National Park.
Yosemite Deputy Chief Ranger Julie Byerly said she thinks most of the drug users are "largely folks that are coming and going," and not serious nature lovers. She does not believe Yosemite has a drug problem.
Said United States Magistrate Judge Michael J. Seng, who tries federal drug cases in a courthouse in Yosemite Valley: "It’s been primarily marijuana, mushrooms, hallucinogenic mushrooms, and then the party drug--ecstasy."
Seng implied that the problem stems from a drug culture existing among certain groups that visit the park from nearby communities. Yosemite Valley is easily accessible and receives most of the park's visitor traffic.
It should be stressed that visitors are not likely to experience shady dealings or drug-related problems. It's also worth noting that this iconic park is much bigger than Yosemite Valley; it boasts nearly 1,200 square miles of scenic valleys, meadows, great trees, rivers and waterfalls.
But if you happen to be in Yosemite Valley and that crisp scent of pine is temporarily interrupted by something far more pungent, well, you'll have a pretty good idea what you're smelling.
--Image of Yosemite's fabled El Capitan is via the park's Facebook page