Monday, July 16, 2012

The Terror and Eventual Downfall of Rocky Raccoon

A number of years ago, before we lived together, my partner decided it would be a good idea for us to go camping. It is an activity we have only engaged in once. Which leaves to question how good an idea it was in the first place. We had a cozy, two person sleeping tent which we pitched at the base of  a small hill in a national forest in Michigan.

Our spot provided a place to park the rental car,a picnic table and was close to the campground's water spigot and restrooms. Trees shaded the tent so that it did not get too hot in the midday sun. Chipmunks frolicked around the campsite. A short walk away was a small patch of beach along the shore of the river which flowed through the area.

We retired our first night zipping ourselves into the tiny confines of our tent. Our plastic ice chest sat on the ground outside, securely latched. Early in the morning, 1 o'clock or so, while it was still dark, my partner heard a fierce growling outside the tent. Although it was just a few feet from my head, I somehow slept through it. Waking up that morning we left the tent to find the ice chest overturned and our food, or rather the packages our food had been in, scattered all over the campsite. We had failed to take into account the dexterous nature of a racoon's paws.

We headed into the small town nearby to replenish our food stores. The next night, somewhat wiser in the ways of the woods, we stowed the ice chest in the car before going to bed. Shortly after we slipped into our sleeping bags we heard a rustling sound outside the tent. Grabbing our flashlight, we kept it close by for night trips to the restrooms, we unzipped the tent flap and peered out. Gazing back at us were the glowing eyes of a small snarling beast. It was obviously upset with us for depriving it of the feast it had enjoyed the night before. Screaming like little girls we zipped the tent back up and sat cringing in the darkness until we heard the intruder take it's leave.

The following morning, enjoying my coffee brewed on our campstove, an idea came to me. When my partner got up I suggested to him that we "mark" the campsite. I recalled in the book "Never Cry Wolf" how well this had worked for the author in keeping himself safe from the wolves he was studying in the wild. We decided it was worth a try. He starting on one end, I on the other, we peed our way around the entire outer edge of our campsite.

That night we zipped ourselves into the tent. Shortly we heard the, by now, familiar rustling noise. It  descended the hill and stopped at the bottom, where we had created our liquid raccoon barrier. A yellow Maginot Line if you will. We heard it move along the line trying to find a safe entrance. Eventually we heard the animal shuffle off, apparently defeated. Our pee plan worked like a charm. We had no further encounters for the duration of our stay.

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