A while ago I posted Me and the Muskrat, in which I tell you about the time my brother and I went on a walk through the woods and a ferocious brown furry animal attempted to eat me (or so I thought at the time, in my panic-stricken state). This past Memorial Day weekend while I was camping with friends, I was reminded of my harrowing ordeal years ago, in which I met the masked creature of the night–the raccoon.
It all started one Sunday when my church announced that there would be a three-day tent camping trip in July. Awesome! I’d never been tent camping before–or camping in general as it’s not really my “thing”–so I was ready and even excited for the trip. It was going to be a lot of fun; we were going to be in the woods, eat s’more upon s’more, learn about God, and get eaten up by bugs.
When the day of departure arrived, 33-ish people met at the church to divvy into car pools and begin the three-hour drive to the campground. In order to save time, everyone had agreed to pack their own lunch so that we didn’t have to stop at a McDonald’s or Burger King on the way up. My lunch was mostly left uneaten in my bag, because not too long into the car ride, I began to feel a little car sick. Iiiggh.
So, understandably so, I was exceptionally happy to finally make it to the campground. Once there I began to feel better, and helped the others set up the large tents and carry the supplies to the little patch of dirt we’d call home for the next three days.
To make our trip go as smoothly as possible, the leader spelled out a few rules. One of those rules was “no food in the tents”. The reason for this, of course, was so that no wild animals would smell it and try to get it. Somehow that rule went in one ear and out the other, because along with the bag that contained my swimsuit and sleeping clothes, was the bag that also contained the uneaten PB&J and potato chips. Both went into the tent. I never even remembered.
The first day of camping went awesomely. We hiked through extremely hot sand and swam in extremely cold and clear water. We had s’mores around a campfire and when midnight came around and it was time to go to bed, I was exhausted.
I should’ve been all ready for bed–and I was, decked out in my pajamas with my teeth freshly brushed–except for one little, itsy bitsy, teeny tiny thing. I had to go to the bathroom.
This, my friends, is why camping isn’t my first choice of vacation. You have to walk a half mile to use the campground-shared bathroom.
I remembered and followed the buddy-system rule and asked my mother to accompany me, since she was like the only one who hadn’t fallen asleep in our tent yet. She agreed, only after telling me “You should’ve already!” Yeah…sorry!
We joined hands and set off down the trail, the only light coming from our flashlights. I played my flashlight along the edge of the trail, keeping it just ahead of my feet.
Everything happened so quickly. My light shone on something oblong-ish and furry. Before my mind could tell my feet to stop, I kicked it! Oblong and Furry squealed when it got kicked and I screamed. I yanked my hand free of Mom’s and darted down the path, not stopping until I heard my name being called. “Emma!”
I was gasping for breath after having ran most the trail, and I shook while I waited for my mother to catch up, whom I’d left in the dust.
“I heard a shriek and a squeal and then you were gone!” she gasped. “What happened?”
At the time, I swore that what I had kicked into was a skunk. But I wasn’t sprayed (thank goodness!) and Mom remembered some of the guys in our group spotting a raccoon earlier that day. It must have been a raccoon!
We made it to the bathroom and back without further incident, but we huddled together and swung our flashlights around at every little noise, in case we should quite literally “run into” the Masked Mammal again. But that one 3.734 second encounter was enough for me, so I didn’t feel too badly. I doubt the coon did either.
Two awesome and fun days later I still hadn’t seen, heard, or kicked the lil creature again, and now it was time to go. While I was stuffing my things back into one of my bags, I found my lunch. The barely touched peanut butter and jelly sandwich and the mostly-filled baggy of potato chips. My eyes bugged when I found it, and I showed it to Mom.
“I forgot I had this in here!”
Her mouth dropped into an O. “Emma! At least no bears came to get that!”
While there hadn’t been any bears, looking back now, perhaps, just perhaps, that raccoon smelled the peanut butter through the plastic baggy, through the fabric bag, through the tent, through the woods, through its little nostrils and thought to himself, Mmmm, that smells like a nice supper. I think he probably stalked me out.
He probably was following his nose at the time I kicked him, intent on breaking into the tent and stealing my sandwich. Bandits do wear masks, after all! He is probably a relative to this guy:
If that were the case, maybe, just maybe, it was a blessing-in-disguise that I kicked the little guy by mistake. Dealing with a tent full of screaming and if my reaction was any indication, kicking girls, a sandwich (half eaten at that) just wasn’t worth it and he decided to scamper on home. I may have single-footedly saved my tent from a raccoon encounter by my midnight trip to the facilities.
Although, if I had remembered the rule in the first place, there would be no lunch in the tent and none of it would’ve happened in the first place…
But we’ll just ignore that little tidbit.