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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A series of colorful, eerie faces painted on rocks in some of the West's most famously picturesque landscapes has sparked an investigation by the National Park Service and a furor online.
Agents so far have confirmed the images in Yosemite and four other national parks in California, Utah and Oregon. Park Service spokesman Jeffrey Olson said the vandalism could lead to felony charges for the person responsible.
The images appear to come from a New York state woman traveling across the West this summer and documenting her work on Instagram and Tumblr, said Casey Schreiner of modernhiker.com, whose blog post tipped off authorities.
The investigation is the subject of well-trafficked threads on the website Reddit, where people railed against the drawings as the defacing of irreplaceable natural landscapes.
"You're seeing this emotional response of people who feel like they've been kicked in the gut," Schreiner said.
It's not the first time vandalism in parks has been documented on social media. Last year in Utah, two Boy Scout leaders caused an online uproar when they recorded themselves toppling an ancient rock formation at Goblin Valley State Park and posted it on YouTube.
But in this case, the woman appears to consider the work an artistic expression, Schreiner said.
One photograph online showed a painting of a woman's face on a rock outcropping against the panoramic sweep of Oregon's Crater Lake National Park. In another, a backpack-size line drawing of a woman smoking a cigarette appears on red rock in Utah's Zion.
The images appear to have been painted with acrylic paint or drawn with marker, Schreiner said.
He took screen shots Tuesday of seven images that appeared on Instagram and Tumblr accounts under the handle "creepytings." The accounts later were made private or taken down.
The Associated Press is not naming the woman associated with the accounts because she hasn't been charged with a crime. Efforts to reach her Thursday were not successful.
Artists who work in natural environments typically consider who owns the land and get permission to work there, said Monty Paret, an associate professor of art history at the University of Utah. The earthwork "Spiral Jetty" sculpture on the shore of the Great Salt Lake, for example, is on land leased from the state.
The images that surfaced this week look more like graffiti, Paret said.
"As opposed to tagging in a back alley, it's like tagging an iconic building," he said. "It's going to get a lot more attention."
National parks agents have confirmed the vandalism in Yosemite and Death Valley National Parks in California, Canyonlands and Zion in Utah, and Crater Lake in Oregon.
Investigators also are looking for vandalism in other places the woman's social media trail indicates she visited: Joshua Tree, Sequoia and Kings Canyon in California; Rocky Mountain in Colorado; Bryce Canyon in Utah; and Grand Canyon in Arizona.
Crater Lake superintendent Craig Ackerman said bad weather has kept staff from going to the painting there, which is at an elevation of about 9,000 feet. Though rangers typically remove graffiti to discourage others, sometimes cleaning it causes even more damage, he said.
Vandalism is a small but persistent problem for the Park Service, which welcomes about 280 million visitors a year, Olson said.
It typically is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and a year in prison. But vandalism in national parks can be a felony if the damage is extensive or in specially protected places, he said.
Associated Press writer Jeff Barnard in Grants Pass, Oregon, contributed to this report.
APACHE JUNCTION, Ariz. (AP) — Storms dropped heavy rain in parts of southern and central Arizona, flooding roadways in some low-lying areas and leading firefighters to rescue a man whose van got stuck.
The National Weather Service says up to 2 inches of rain fell early Thursday in Apache Junction, a city on the eastern fringe of the Phoenix area.
That's where the man's van got stuck in high water in a low spot on a street. Helicopter news video shows firefighters helping him climb from his van into a fire truck amid rushing water. Other footage shows intersections and parts of neighborhood roads underwater.
Storm runoff also briefly closed one lane on the U.S. 60 freeway in the same area.
The weather service said motorists shouldn't drive into areas where water covers the roadway.
Storms dropped heavy rain in parts of southern and south-central Arizona, producing standing water in some low-lying areas and resulting in the rescue of a man whose van got stuck.
Money may or may not be able to buy happiness, but a new WalletHub report shows that, on average, Arizonans are somewhat less happy with their lives than much of the rest of the nation. And part of the state's ranking at No. 31 is because income is below the national average and is not growing.
A new report appears to confirm what Tucsonans have always thought: They're smarter than Phoenicians. Or at least better educated.
Chandler Fire crews have been out by the Andersen Springs Community off Pennington Drive since 9 p.m. Monday, trying to pump out water from a lake in front of the community that overflowed Monday.
Flash flood watches are in effect for most of Arizona Tuesday as moisture from Tropical Storm Odile begins moving its way northward across the desert Southwest.
It's official. Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport has received more rain today than on any day in recorded history.
If good weather, lots of seniors and a host of recreation options are important for you, then Arizona communities are a good place to retire. At least that's according to a matrix of indicators built by WalletHub, a personal finance web site that looks at such things.
When East Valley residents are looking for a brief getaway to decompress and escape the sweltering summer heat, they usually turn their eyes northward to the cooler climes of Prescott, Flagstaff or the Mogollon Rim. However, they’re doing themselves a disservice if they chose to ignore our neighbor to the south.
Lush lawns are the suburban ideal and may provide some curb appeal and jealous glances from neighbors, but killing the grass may save homeowners a lot of water and green.
An excessive heat warning has been issued Monday for metropolitan Phoenix and several communities in southern Arizona.
A Tucson firm is hoping to launch Arizonans toward the edge of space – or maybe somewhere close to that – from Southern Arizona.
High pressure is in control and temperatures are soaring!
BOSTON — The city of Boston is known for its "wicked" rich history, to use a term the locals love, going back to the Boston Tea Party and roots of the American Revolution. But pride is not limited to the past: The city is also home to the World Series champion Red Sox team.
WASHINGTON — Despite the long, snowy winter in the Mid-Atlantic region, Washington's famous cherry blossom trees are expected to bring the first sure sign of spring between April 8-12, when they're predicted to reach peak bloom, the National Park Service said Tuesday.
A large storm system made its way eastward into Arizona bringing rainy conditions across much of the state.
Tempe Police Department’s Mounted Unit will conduct training of new mounted officers on Feb. 25 and 26.
Thin, high clouds continue to drift across the Valley and state as a disturbance pushes through today.
CENTRAL LAKE, Mich. — This year's Michigan apple crop is expected to be 10 times as plentiful as last year's puny output.
It’s the heart of a budding ecosystem of innovation, air travel, higher education and well-paying jobs.
Arizona needs to step up and take its rightful role as a leader in the energy technology industry.
The trains are rolling in, tour buses are pulling up and vehicles are moving steadily through the entrance gates of Grand Canyon National Park after Arizona struck a deal with the federal government to reopen the landmark tourist area.