Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Canis Unexpectedus or The Many Uses for a Water Bottle
Stover Creek Shelter 12/9/10
The bracing bite of winter’s darkness settled in on our first night in a shelter after an unsuccessful hour of tending a fire that preferred to smoke uncontrollably rather than give off any serviceable heat. As newbies, Pete and I tossed in our bags uncomfortably, disturbingly aware of the lack of a fourth wall and our exposure to the night.
In silence the minutes ticked away as we waited in the loft of the shelter for absent sleep to pay us a visit.
Crunch, crunch, crunch…the crisp dead leaves alerted us to the presence of someone or something else at our camp.
“What is that?”
“It sounds too big to be a raccoon.”
“I don’t think it’s a bear.”
“It sounds like a dog.”
“We’re in the middle of nowhere. It can’t be a dog.”
Thump, click, click, thump…
“It’s in the shelter now!”
Our mystery four legged companion weathered a windy and restless night with us, and as morning broke, we debated what do to.
“I really have to pee.” I whisper to Pete.
“I can’t. It’s still down there. I hate you. You can pee out the window.”
But, as we heard the animal begin to move for the day, I timidly peeked over the edge of the loft to see a brown and white speckled fox hound trot away from the shelter with a bounce to his step that seemed to taunt me and my needless fear.
“It was a dog, an freaking actual dog!”
How unusual. How unexpected.
As I climbed down the ladder to gratefully relieve myself just outside of the perimeter of our bear free campsite, I pondered some of the trail’s lessons: there is no usual, there is no expectation. Anything can and will happen. It was a dog today. For many other campers, it has been a bear snooping about the tree cables to see if he can get an easy meal. It might be a bear for us next time. All you can do is be prepared, be aware, and be willing to laugh at yourself and your fear the next morning.
That, and now I have one less Nalgene for water and one new container for those annoying night time pee breaks.