So, this coming weekend I will be going on my 10th outdoor climbing trip this year. I’m heading to Ontario, Canada to do some bouldering. It should be a lot of fun and hopefully there will be some stories to bring back. This reminds me of a funny story from my first outdoor bouldering trip earlier this summer.
We had traveled to Southern Illinois to do some bouldering and deepwater soloing. My story isn’t even about the climbing itself, which was fun, but relatively uneventful (except that I did almost drown when our pontoon pulled up to the rock because I was so excited to climb that I jumped in the water and started swimming, only to remember that I don’t swim all that well and there were some small waves, so by the time I got to the rock I was choking on water and clutching at the wall trying to grab anything to pull me up so I could breathe, but I digress). No, the story I want to tell happened on the second night at the campground.
We had finally had gone to bed in my friend Dave’s city sized tent, when I awoke to the sound of scratching noises outside. I lay still for a while trying to figure out what it was. I tried to go back to sleep after I convinced myself it was just nature being nature, but I couldn’t fall asleep. Finally I got out my headlamp and shined it outside the tent and there in the tent vestibule were the shiny eyes of a raccoon. And those shiny eyes were attached to it’s shiny claws that were digging around in my food bag that I had left in the vestibule next to the cooler.
I quietly whispered to my friend Dave, “Hey Dave, wake up. There’s a raccoon outside eating my grub.” He woke up and shined his flashlight outside the tent (which apparently did not frighten this animal one bit). I asked, “what should we do?” He fumbled in his bag next to his sleeping bag and pulled out a very large pocket knife (and by pocket I mean like those that were on JNCO pants from the late 90s). He flipped up the blade and handed it to me. I unzipped the tent door and stepped outside in only my underwear and headlamp, wielding this giant knife at the raccoon only a few feet away. It started to back up, but as it did, it clawed at the bag of trail mix it was munching on, dragging it along as he scooted backwards. I inched forward, waving the knife (which was most likely was normally used to spread peanut butter on a bagel, rather than being a lethal animal deterrent). The raccoon eventually backed up about 15 feet and then scurried off into the forest.
At this point, Dave got up and helped me move the rest of the food into the car and I picked up the wrappers and half eaten items scattered around the camp site. I cursed one last time into the woods and went back to sleep.
The next morning at the picnic table I was relaying the story of the previous night’s encounter, when my friend Spencer came out of the tent and said, “hey, has anyone seen my small cooler?” I didn’t remember putting that in the car last night so we started looking around the campsite. About 40 feet away from the tent, down an embankment and half submerged in mud, we found his cooler. He carried it back to the picnic table and opened it up. He found a few energy bar wrappers, some other scraps and bite marks on his raman noodle packages. We joked that apparently the thief didn’t like uncooked raman noodles and probably closed up the cooler in disgust.
So, the moral of the story is: Always make sure to keep Dave around, because he has the big knife, and he’s not afraid to hand it over to you so you can scare off wild animals. Alone.