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by Abigail Van Buren

Hey, All You Park Visitors: No Flowers, Fires or Dogs!

DEAR ABBY: My recent vacation trip has compelled me to pass along some tips to those who visit our precious national parks -- particularly Yellowstone.

1. Don't bring your dog a1ong -- at least not to Yellowstone; pets are not allowed past one-quarter of a mile on any trail there. I couldn't believe all the dogs I saw locked in cars in 80-degree temperatures! Better check the pet regulations of the park you plan to visit before deciding to bring your dog. (Bears dislike dogs, so you'd be asking for trouble.)

2. Extinguish your camp fires when you leave your site.

3. If an animal wants to cross the road -- let it! You're only a visitor -- the animal lives there, so be polite. (I couldn't believe how many people I saw impatiently blowing their horns to force a buffalo or deer back to the side of the road.)

4. Those lovely wildflowers are not yours -- they belong to everyone; so please leave them there for the next person to admire. Leave the rocks and stones in place, too.

5. If you want a close-up shot of an animal, invest in a camera with a zoom lens. I actually saw 25 or 30 people bounding across a meadow, surrounding a giant elk and snapping away within 50 feet of the beast. (Do they think those animals are stuffed? If they ever get gored, they'll find out.)

6. Believe in signs. If you see a sign that says "Danger" or "Stay on Trail" -- believe it. Everyone acts like he's working for National Geographic. The best picture does not necessarily lie beyond the "No Farther" warning. You're better off settling for an OK shot than not living to see the shot of a lifetime. -- MARY WIESEMAN, INDIANAPOLIS

DEAR MARY: Thanks for the travel tips. Do you mind if I add a tip or two of my own?

1. Don't litter. Carry a folded bag in which to stash your trash.

2. Wear comfortable shoes, sunglasses and sunscreen, and a whistle on a flexible cord around your neck. Be sure your children are outfitted the same way.

3. Keep an eagle eye on your kids at all times.

4. And if you smoke, douse the butt with water to be sure it's out.

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