It seemed simple enough. Take a couple days and go camping. Get away and clear my head. When I return the upcoming busy schedule will be a piece of cake. I will feel refreshed and balanced. Excellent. What could possibly go wrong with that idea?
Raccoons. That’s what. Oh yea, and the gale force wind.
I live near San Francisco. Finding a place to camp is usually effortless, since the area abounds with spots to pitch a tent. Even though it was the middle of summer, I managed to get one of the last camping sites in Point Reyes National Seashore. This is a majestic national park north of the city that holds miles of grand California coastline. My location at the Coast Campground, the reservation website informed me, would be steps away from a sandy beach in a quiet part of the park. I joyfully packed my tent, clothes and basic supplies – ready for a little adventure. The two-hour drive sailed by without traffic or worry, leaving little warning of the approaching craziness. So much for those helpful foreboding omens I hear so much about.
To get to the site, I needed to walk a couple of miles over foothills to a small grassy valley nestled right by the ocean. As I neared the campground my excitement grew because it felt the spot would be perfect. There were 14 other sites in the campground, yet it felt spacious. My site was off in a corner and it seemed that I would have few neighbors. Given the lateness of the hour, I whisked out my tent and set it up in record time. The light began to dim as sunset neared and I sat at my little picnic table surveying the scene. I breathed a sigh, enjoying the peace.
Then the attack started.
It was slow at first, just some quiet rustling in the stubby bushes that lined the valley. I caught a glimpse of something, unsure of what it was. Then in the distance I saw a raccoon lumbering about, poking around another campsite. As long as it kept its distance I felt all would be well. I went to my little food storage locker that was part of my site and pulled out a bag of trail mix. Sitting back at the picnic table I gazed at the beautiful colors in the sky, munching on tasty nuts and raisins. Perfect.
Have you ever had one of those moments when you know someone is watching you? Well, it was then I had one of those moments. I felt something on my leg. I looked down to see a raccoon, paws gripping my pants, gazing longingly at the handful of nuts in my hand.
Thirteen year-old girls could not have screamed as loud as I did in that moment.
I leapt up, running frantically from my seat. The raccoon, a bit traumatized by my reaction, scampered away as well. After a few heart-thumping moments, I regained my composure, putting away any notion of food back into the storage locker. I stood dazed for a moment. Then I heard what sounded like a zipper opening. I turned to see a raccoon half way into my tent. No way, I thought. Is nothing sacred?
It was almost dark before I managed to fend off the remaining attacks. Fitfully I slept, nightmares of pouncing raccoons tormenting me. When I awoke next morning, all was still. Perhaps now I would be able to enjoy the quiet. I walked down to the beach, taking in the surf and the sky. Hope began to come back to me. The scene was beautiful. I ate a little breakfast without incident, planning to go back to the ocean for a long calming walk.
By then the wind had picked up a little. It did this in a subtle fashion, so as not to draw attention to itself. I put on some shorts and made my way to the ocean. I walked, wind at my back, for some time. Then I decided it was time to turn back. The wind was stronger then. As it blew it took the grains of sand and blasted them down the beach in gusts. The combination of this and my naked legs quickly ended my peaceful calm. The sand stung my legs, burning them, and it was then I wished that I had not been so zealous in the first part of the walk.
I must say that the rest of the trip comes to me as a blur. I made it back to my tent windblown and stunned. The force of the breeze exposed the grassy valley for what it truly was – a wind tunnel. My tent happened to be right at its sweet spot. The whole structure was rattling. I got into the tent to make sure the gusts did not steal it away to some distant land, or the middle of the ocean.
No wonder the camping site was available.
After that, I packed up and went home. I figured it was better to cut my losses, before I was descended upon by locusts. Or larger pre-historic raccoons. I am practical that way.
I still do love camping, despite the raccoons and the wind.
I found that my tent fits perfectly in my living room. The ground is not as rocky. There is a great view of the TV through the screen door. Plus I can order takeout. So, in the end, it worked out well, except for the raccoons.