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Campfire Tales: Mr. Raccoon Has His Day

Campfire Tales: Mr. Raccoon Has His Day

Hey Gang!

I decided to go with some friends to this beautiful campground close by last year. We drove the 30 minutes or so to the lake where our campsite was. The trek to the location was somewhat far in, about a quarter of a mile. This made it quite difficult to lug all of the equipment to the campsite. I am very much a minimalist. I enjoy having a tent, a sleeping bag, matches, a hatchet, and gumption. All of which failed me, but I will get there later.

My friend brings a multi-tool furniture contraption that is a sink, a stove, a wrack for dishes, and a waste disposal. This, as you can imagine, weighed a ton. It took us around 30 minutes to get everything set up. I put my tent together in no time, situating it near the clearing facing the water. It was beautiful and blue, shimmering with the setting sun. I wanted to watch it each morning as the yellow rays crept over the gentle ebb and flow of the water’s motion.

Chad puts his tent up rather quickly. It is a one-man tent. He has all the bells and whistles: sleeping bag, inflatable mattress, in-tent warmer, three fleece blankets, and three pillows.

“Nice hotel,” I scoffed.

I am man! I went to the woods to chop wood and fish. To scour the land and rough it. The thought of having “amenities” was deplorable. Plus, why the heck would someone need three blankets when it is 80 degrees out?

Juan was unfortunate enough to not have a tent. Chad gave Juan his spare tent, which turned out to look more like a coffin. It was only suitable for lying down. Seven feet long by 2 feet wide by 2 feet high. Perfect for sleeping or practicing being dead, your decision. He put his up with some help and we decided to wander. The day was filled with amazingly uneventfulness. The wood gathered was from a bin near the front for 10 dollars a cord. Most of the time was passed by sitting in silence as the trees swayed and the sounds of nature surrounded us. Nature is beautiful and I love being in it, however, being in a hot forest while bored is not conducive. I walked down some trails, which led to other people’s campsite. We saw each other and the immediate response was, “What the hell are you doing in my woods?” I have no idea why but it feels instinctual to stake claim in wooded areas. “This is my area, that is yours. Keep it that way!”

I eventually find some downed trees and take a stick. You guessed it! Carved wood. I tried to make a spear for fishing. It just sounded right. In the woods, I could only imagine a bigfoot coming out and killing me. Irrational, I know. I admit, I have a flair for looking into paranormal stuff and cryptozoology. Urban legends, folklore, and cyberlore are my favorites as well! (Maybe I should post a few of my favorites…) So, I became obsessed with the fear of possibly seeing a mythical beast. I mean there have been sightings in the area…in the 70s. On top of that, Chad would give little quips about “creepers.” Those people who surprise you or you catch watching you. Basically, a boogeyman in real life. I already have an overactive imagination and had just started reading stuff about the dark net. Not conducive to being in a tent alone.

Night comes and I have freaked myself out. We look up at the stars and they are amazing. Massive out in the woods. I enjoy it but I hear those sounds of the night. Wood creaking and people at campsites in the distance. Guitar carries across the water where a lantern glows. A sound cracks from behind us and we walk over to investigate. Nothing. We go back to the table and talk about nothingness. Another pop followed by thrashing of paper. We shine a light and see a raccoon as big as a medium-sized dog shredding through Juan’s tortilla chips bag. Its eyes glistened a greenish white.

“Hey! Get the hell outta there!” Chad screamed into the night and the little booger ran away. We laughed about it for a while and made sure to secure our food before heading to sleep.

(To be concluded…)

 

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Campfire Tales Part 2: Creepy-Crawlies and The Scream That Ended The Trip

Campfire Tales Part 2: Creepy-Crawlies and The Scream That Ended The Trip

This was the first time I had ever camped, except in my ninja turtle tent in my bedroom floor as a tot. I feel like that doesn’t count.

I know one thing, the dark is pretty terrifying. Let me clarify, what is in the dark, or the possibility thereof, is terrifying. I use this preface to go on about when our noses started to run. We had no toilet paper, tissues, or paper towels. However, in the darkened exterior of the camp, about 50 yards away, was the public restroom. Ben essentially made fun of me when I proposed we both go look for toilet paper. It didn’t bother me. At least this way, when the three-eyed beast came to eat me, I wouldn’t be alone in its stomach!

I carried my gas lantern as Ben led the way to the outhouse. It was impossibly dark only three feet away from the lantern. This made my mind go to places I didn’t know possible, which is kind of impressive for me, no?

We get to the bathroom and he opens the door. I peek around inside, slowly lifting the lantern up to illuminate the small, dark space, and notice cockroaches all over the bathroom. Ceiling, floor, and walls were covered by long, dark insects. I was blown away from disgust.

“Got it,” Ben says as he takes a roll from the bathroom.

He passes in front of me. Now, the entire time he was in there, all I saw was the left side of his body. As he passes, I see the right side of him…which is now home to about four massive cockroaches. I try to emote but it comes out in stumbles.

“Er.. You..On your back…Cockroach! Dude! Dude!”

Now, there are two versions on what happened next. Ben’s recounting and then the real story.

Ben said it freaked him out that I was yelling. That’s why he jumped.

What really happened:

He had a look of shear horror as he ran into the darkness swatting cockroaches off his back. I was dying laughing at this point. Grossed out and laughing.

He skulks as he is visibly embarrassed. We go back to the fire and blow our running, cold noses as the fire dies out. It is then the cold sets in but above us are stars; billions of stars unlike anything I had ever seen. We stood there looking upwards in the cold for quite a while.

Ben then decided he needed to go back to the truck for something. I thought, “Oh god…I have to be by myself in the dark with a broken lantern (lantern broke, I guess a breeze blew by and knocked it over. I blame karma).”

He went off and I became hyper-aware of my surroundings. My ears perked up and I could hear every insect landing on a leaf from 10 meters away. It was terrifying for no real reason. I felt like I was being watched the entire evening and now, by myself, it was amplified. He finally skulked back but the feeling never left me. We stood there growing colder but still in awe of the heavens above us for a while longer.

That was when we heard the lack of frogs croaking. It was silent. I remarked something to him for a moment, I can’t recall right now, and that is when we heard this blood-curdling scream coming from where we fished not but a few hours ago. We looked at each other in shock. The scream continued and moved up towards us as if it was coming up the hill. We were immobile. It then sounded like it went through the woods, which Ben’s back was to, and then flew over head and away. Its scream drowned out as it flew into the distance.

“So, go to sleep?” I said.

“Umm, yeah,” he quickly retorted.

We dove into the tent and set up the partition between us. We joked about the sound for a bit, calling it a witch, and then went to sleep. The next day, the boredom and monsters finally got to us. We decided to fish one last time in the main river and head home.

I guess that’s how most people camp, right? Fear and boredom?

Stay tuned for my next campfire tale: Mr. Raccoon has his day!

-Chris

 
 

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Campfire Tales Part 1: Chris, Ben and the Infinite Boredom

Campfire Tales Part 1: Chris, Ben and the Infinite Boredom

Hey Gang!

So, it is getting that time of year where being outdoors becomes a life-goal. I have decided to tell a few stories of literally the only times I have been camping. It is funny, my best friend Ben and I have this saying: We can never be normal. It does not matter how boring the activity we do is, we never have a genuine normal experience. There was one time where we hung out, went to best buy, scoped out chicks with our 17-year-old eyes at the mall, grabbed lunch, and started our way home. Nothing abnormal happened. It was a beautiful sunny day with the windows rolled down and the breeze coming in through the small s10’s windows. Once again, it was completely normal, until a huge yellow jacket flew into the cab at about 55 miles per hour. We swerved and screamed as it landed on us and around us. After what seemed like an hour, the bug flew away and we breathed a sigh of relief, laughed, and yelled “Why?!”

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These are some more (s’more, get it?!) of our stories that should have been a relaxing or uneventful tale, but took a sharp right. I think it makes for a better story anyway.

We found this great little place off a major lake a few years back. It was great and we wanted to spend the entire weekend camping in my massive tent that is bigger than my dorm room in undergrad. We get there and it is probably a hike of about an eighth of a mile in to where we camp. The walk way is beautiful and green. The path laid flat by lawnmowers. It had a natural elegance to it that I couldn’t put my finger on.

We put the tent up and went for a short hike along a path. We wound around and found a small two-person boat someone had repurposed as a bridge. The earth showed signs of recent flooding. The trees bent over the river in towering ways. It was quite beautiful. Until we got lost. I am not sure how it happened. Maybe it was the boat that threw us off or maybe our imaginations that ran wild when we saw cigarette butts and old, empty beer cans. Whatever it was, we got lost. I guess “lost” is a harsh word. We could see houses about a mile away and we could hear traffic but we could not find a way out of the wooded area or where our campground was. We felt crazy and slightly embarrassed.

“What if this is how we die?” I remember joking but not.

We found our way out as the sun began to set. We went fishing at a little pond about 100 feet downhill from where our tent was. We caught small sunfish most of the day and finally gave up on catching the big ones. We walked back to our tent as the sun set. I don’t really remember what we ate for dinner or anything like that. I do remember one thing….

We were so bored. I mean the bored that sent you into crazy fits. I remember at one point we were gathered around the fire as the pink sky faded into night. It was quiet except for the buzzing of insects and the croaking of frogs. Orange and black alternated around the foliage near the fire. I remember looking up at Ben, as he carved something out of a large branch, and thinking about how much he looks primal. It was all so very primal. I too was carving wood; a wooden shiv because what do you do with empty time.

We grunted and laughed every once in a while. We eventually found out that we each had been creating shivs; his more brilliantly crafted than mine, I admit.

END OF PART 1

 

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