Our camp site this week is one of those kind they call “remote”… really it’s a walk in site. Well when we stayed here about a year ago a raccoon paid us a visit. My wife and I were sitting at the campfire talking and he just came walking right into our site, despite our flashlights in his eyes and getting up out of our chairs. I didn’t like that very much and so I ran him off. This happened three times because he kept coming back.
Well, last night was the first night of this week that we’ve attempted sleeping at the campsite because there has been some bad heat and storms. It was really dark at about 10PM and I hadn’t met my old friend yet (the raccoon if I’ve lost you), but I decided I better take the garbage up to the dumpster and fill our water jug in the camp for the night. I was biking out of our remote site, garbage bag in hand, when the bag hit one of my wheels and exploded everywhere (smooth move Kneeland!). Knowing about the raccoon, I knew I couldn’t just leave it there. So, after taking some time with a flashlight in my mouth I picked up mostly everything including some glass from a Worcester sauce bottle which had busted and gone everywhere when the bag hit my bike tire. I was a little shook up over the surprise of my garbage bag explosion, yet now driving my van with piles (not a bag anymore) of the garbage to the camp dumpster, and I was then off to fill the water jug at the entrance to the camp.
Being a little on edge (because of my previous raccoon experiences and already a little shook up) I left the engine running in the car and pulled the vehicle right up so the water pump was next to my door. I grabbed the water jug opened my door and heard the worst sound I’ve heard in my life. A coyote howl… and it was loud. Now this is probably no big deal for some people, but it sounded like the next door neighbor’s dog does when you sleep with your window open at night… it was loud… continuous… and worst of all, close. The next sound was maybe just as bad as the first… several responding howls… and they all sounded like the next door neighbor’s dog would too.
Still, my family needed water. So I quickly twirled the lid off the water jug, pulled the pump to start the water flow and kept listening as the howls continued. Once the jug was full (well what seemed full to me at the moment), I shut the pump off, and with the lid in hand jumped in my car and replaced the lid. Our camp site was an extremely short distance away, so when I got there I wasn’t interested in taking my time and hearing if the coyote’s followed me. So, I threw the jug of water in my bike trailer, jumped on my bike and started down the path. That’s when I realized I couldn’t see anything! So… I switched on my flashlight (which was in my mouth) and then I saw them… four reflective animal eyes staring at me from the trail… probably enjoying my Worcester sauce mess in the middle of the path. I was flying down the path so fast I thought I would hit them… so I did what anyone would do, I yelled. ”HAY!” and the eyes took off into the woods. I didn’t get a good enough look at them at my speed and it all happened so fast that I don’t know what they were, but I was really shook up when I got back to camp. My wife calmly sitting by the fire was gave me a look and said “Who are you yelling at?” I told her the story as quick as possible, because I only had one thing on my mind at this point… get inside the tent… away from the animals. BUT! She had something else on her mind, she was about to eat dinner by the campfire.
Then I heard it, a “crack crack” of the underbrush in the woods. I knew it was probably the raccoon, but I was more agitated with wild animals at this point than normal. I got a tent pool in one hand (the kind with the sharp end for a canopy) and a flashlight in the other and sat by the fire and waited. Sure enough the raccoon walked right into the campsite while she was eating. He had probably snuck up to only about 15 feet from us when I finally saw him, he looked at me… I looked at him… and after a number of seconds I decided I better scare him off, just like good old times. He backed up into the woods, only to come back out again on the other side of the screen tent. I had enough; I ran at him and hissed (Hey, I had 7 kids sleeping in the tent right next to me at this point, I wasn’t about to yell). He backed off, only to return once we were comfortably in our tent and find my campsite locked down like Fort Knox.
Now, my wife said she just wanted to pet the raccoon… she thought he was cute. I said I just wanted to wound it badly, so it would never return. I realized that night that I might have a slight wild animal phobia, especially at night. My wife thinks perhaps it originated from my childhood, when a raccoon came into our house and was crawling around on the bunk bed my brother and I were sleeping on… but that’s a whole different story.
Either way, tonight we left the campsite before it got dark. My wife and kids were disappointed when our 9 month old baby wouldn’t go to sleep in the tent. Personally, I’m deeply thankful that he spared me from another night time camping experience.
Good night raccoons and coyote’s, I’m glad you are out there and I’m in here. You will find my campsite still locked down like Fort Knox… and hey, maybe on our next meeting I’ll be more ready. Now where did I put my old sling shot?