Thursday, September 5, 2013

I Hate Camping

Our overnight spot at Jones Falls
Sure, setting up a tent along a lockstation is fine: you have running, potable water, and you're right next to where you want to be. There may not be any shower facilities, but You can get clean. At some locks, you can even swim.

But I don't like camping in the woods. The ground is harder (packed sand or gravel) and less even, and you're essentially squatting in the home of wild animals. Which means that they are generally in charge.

One night on our canoe trip, we paddled into Murphy's Point Provincial Park and set up out camp site a few hundred metres from our canoe, which meant that all night, I worried that our only mode of transportation would disappear. It also meant that we had to carry all of our gear at once: something I wanted to avoid at all costs because we had so much.

As evening drew near, the resident wildlife came out. I saw a white-tailed deer and the biggest porcupine I've ever seen. I swear it was as big as a St.Bernard. But the one animal I encountered as I was finishing up the previous night's journal entry was one that I had hoped I wouldn't see.

The girls had just headed to the comfort station, while I waited in the tent, when I heard a slight movement from our picnic table. At first, I though one of the kids had stayed behind, but when I heard paws on the food barrel, I knew we had unwanted company.

The last thing I said before the girls left was to make sure that the ring was sealed on the barrel.

I emerged from the tent in pajamas and bare feet. Because I had been writing on the iPad, it was my only source of light. I knew I had a headlamp but I couldn't find it and I knew I didn't have much time. Racoons are fast little buggers.

I've taken on racoons before, but that's another story.

In the dim light, I could make the outline of the raccoon. He was about the size of a six-month infant. He was at sitting on the end of the picnic table, poised over the barrel. I yelled and hissed, but he was determined. He grabbed one end of the barrel top and flipped it off, sending it toward me, where it landed with a dull thud close to my feet.

I moved closer to the table, emitting deep grunts and roars, but the raccoon wasn't fooled. His hands delved into the bin but it was too dark for me to see if he had actually grabbed anything. I knew that our cooler bag was wrapped in a garbage bag and placed at the top of the barrel, and that it would take time for him to rip through the bag before reaching the actual cooler, which was soft-sided and would take little effort to access. The only other item was the bag of marshmallows, but I didn't know if it was under the cooler bag or along side it. But with his hands in the barrel and his fearlessness, I had to move fast.

No raccoon gets MY food!

I bent over, scooped up the lid, and came at him. Still, he held his ground. I was at my last resort, hoping he wasn't up for a fight, but the beastie was giving no quarter.

So I moved in, swinging the lid with all my force and hitting the raccoon square in the face. He whimpered, more like chattered, and scampered to the far end of the table, but did not leave.

The lid made for an effective weapon, but I couldn't keep it in my hands. I had to put it back on the barrel and secure the sealing ring. My roars grew louder, more aggressive. The raccoon jumped off the table, and by shining the iPad under the table I saw that there were two of the critters. I was outnumbered and now armed only with an electronic tablet.

Staying bent, I kept the light on the racoons while I fumbled with the ring. The ring could be pried into position with one hand, but it took two hands to pull it tight around the lid. By that point, the raccoons seemed to know that the battle was over, and they skulked off into the darkness.

The next morning, as we set up for breakfast and the kids went to photograph baby deer, we learned that the little bugger had torn open the marshmallows and had swiped a few, but everything else was intact.

I hate camping.

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