One of my most memorable camping experiences occurred about 10 years ago at a popular campground in Northern California. I recall that after my friends and I drove around for miles through a remote redwood forest, we finally found the perfect spot. We parked the car at the campsite and proceeded to unload all of our gear and food.
After a few trips to the car to unload our supplies, I noticed a seatbelt twitching back and forth in the car. When I got closer, I realized that there was a raccoon sitting in the driver’s seat. Luckily, his legs were too short to reach the gas pedal; otherwise, that could have made for quite an interesting 911 call…
Frantic Caller (Me): “Oh my God, our car was just stolen!”
911 Dispatch: “Ma’am, please calm down. Did you get a look at the person who stole it?”
Me: “Yes, but it wasn’t so much a person per se. The culprit was really fluffy and stood about a foot tall. I know this sounds crazy, but it was actually a raccoon.”
911 Dispatch: “Ma’am, let me get this straight: you’re calling to report that a raccoon stole your vehicle?”
Me: “Yes, that’s correct sir. A raccoon just sped out of here with our car and our camping supplies!”
911 Dispatch: “Ma’am, have you been drinking?”
Anyway, so there sat a raccoon in the driver’s seat of our car. My friend rushed over to the car, swung the door open, and out jumped this raccoon, running like a raccoon out of hell into the forest with half a loaf of our bread. The most mind-blowing part was that the raccoon (we’ll call him Mr. Belvedere) seemed to be civilized and have manners. Mr. Belvedere hadn’t just ripped open the bag of bread as I envisioned a savage, rabies-ridden vermin would: he actually took the time to take the twisty tie off the bag and take out individual slices of bread one by one while killing time in the car.
Later that evening, as I struggled through one of the most uncomfortable nights of sleep imaginable amongst rocks, pinecones, and creatures of the dark, I heard a rustling noise outside my tent. Heart racing, I pointed my flashlight in the direction of the noise and laid eyes on what appeared to be rascally little Mr. Belvedere. Only this time, he was sitting on top of my cooler, meticulously unwrapping slices of Kraft singles with his tiny, oddly human-like hands and fingers.
Well, at least he didn’t get the Cracker Jack’s! Um… hey, wait a minute… where are the Cracker Jack’s?! He’s lucky he’s cute, or there’d be hell to pay!
My friend tried to make the best of the situation and get me re-energized about camping, so he started telling me things like:
“You don’t see that in the city.”
“That raccoon was awesome.”
“There’s some amazing wildlife out here.”
“I like how it’s so rustic.”
Riiight. Rustic. A fancy way of saying that we voluntarily gave up wonderful modern conveniences like electricity, hot water, and toilets in order to suffocate each other with our own smells in a tiny microcosm of re-circulated air (commonly referred to as a “tent”). Also a fancy way of saying that if we didn’t slather ourselves in toxic insect repellant and lock up all our food, we would be violated and pillaged in the night by mosquitoes and the aforementioned “amazing wildlife.”
A couple years later, I must have suffered some type of brain injury, because I actually agreed to go camping again. This time, we ended up near a scenic lake infested with mosquitoes. It was so horrible, I couldn’t even pull my pants down to go to the bathroom in peace. As soon as I did, hoards of mosquitoes swarmed my butt cheeks, covering them like sprinkles on a donut. This forced me to have to multi-task (and by “multi-task,” I mean that I had to go to the bathroom and swat mosquitoes on my rear end simultaneously while trying not to pee in my shoe). It was awesome.
How nice. But, I don’t miss YOU.
If you haven’t already, y’all should try camping sometime. If you are fond of the idea of being homeless and out of your element, it’s definitely a fun way to spend a weekend… for those of you who are clearly insane.