Greetings! So I went camping again – same place, same site, different story. We (Ben and I) didn’t arrive at the park until about 9:15, so it was already getting dark when we started walking. Then, of course, we spent about an hour being lost in the campground (largely my fault, I’ll admit). After wandering semi-aimlessly amidst the mega-RVs and ten-person-tents, we finally came across the trail we needed. By this point, it was Dark with a capital D, but we decided to head out into the woods anyway.
We didn’t make it far. About 100m in, we heard a Noise (definitely a bear! definitely!)(it was a squirrel, we knew, but still) and decided that hiking through unfamiliar woods at night in a known Bear Area probably wasn’t the wisest of choices… so instead, we opted for the straightforward, fail-proof option: head for and follow the shore until we reached the lighthouse, then carry on from there. Which we did, and which worked quite well. It took a bit longer than the correct way, but it was also easier to follow and was devoid of bears and other nighttime animals (except for some cool sand frog-type things). We finally reached our site and pitched the tent around 11:30.
The other story worth telling is The Bear Story from this trip. It was on Friday night, after we had gotten the fire burning steadily and eaten dinner (including turkey sausage, with its potent smell), and were on one of the dunes behind our site surveying the dusky lands beyond when we heard a Noise. Not a squirrel-type noise, not this time. A very distinct – and very close – low snuffling noise, seemingly coming from right below then dune. We looked at each other, then back out over the dunes – then heard it again, twice, and sounding closer. Wordlessly, we began to back away slowly; after checking to make sure there wasn’t any Wildlife around our fire, we went back down and got some water and shoes and a blanket and started to make for the lighthouse. We didn’t have a clear plan beyond Make For The Lighthouse, but it was at least a plan.
Twenty-odd minutes later, we reached the lighthouse and sat at a picnic table in a semi-lit clearing just outside the building… and then what? Our options, as far as we could tell: just sit here, hearing all kinds of Noises; knock on the door and say… what? “Uh, we heard a bear and ran away, is there a ranger on duty we can call?”; or attempt to walk back to the main campground, which would involve walking on a dirt road through the woods. None of the options seemed particularly good.
As we sat in the dim yellow light outside the lighthouse, nerves on edge and imaginations in overdrive, every noise – every rustling reed, every creak of wood, every snap or flap of the flags – immediately made us twitch or flick our eyes over to investigate, to ensure that it wasn’t a coyote or (unlikely as it would be, here by the lighthouse) a bear. So when there was a rustling and quiet crunching of something walking in the undergrowth just a few meters away from the table, we tensed up. Peering through the dark bushes, we could just make out some legs… a brown body… a coyote? We aimed a flashlight at where we thought its body was and clicked it on.
A deer. Whew.
Our relief was tangible. Just a deer. We were being ridiculous and we knew it, but still. Then the deer noticed us; stared for a few seconds and turned to leave. And as it did so, just before its posterior disappeared into the trees, it made The Sound. The one we’d heard after dinner, the one we’d been so sure was and could ONLY be a bear, the one we’d run from.
We’d run away from a deer.
So after regathering our wits about us, we steeled our nerves and headed back to camp, which we found bear-free upon our return. The fire was still barely spluttering, the embers glowing white and red. We fed the fire til it was burning nice and bright again, then tucked in for a long night of WHAT WAS THAT NOISE.
In other news, I got a good dune run in. Running in sand sucks, yes, but it sucks less if (a) you’re running in dunes as opposed to on a beach – it’s more interesting and fun! – and (b) if you’re mentally prepared for the suckiness of it. You will not be fast and you will not get far, but it will be fun. And running down the steep dunes with unrestrained whoops of delight makes it worth the effort. Downside: my ankles were pretty sore afterward, and today (Sunday) when I ran, my left ankle was giving me woes from when I rolled it, still. Boo. But hey, picture time!
So yeah. Camping is good! (Although next time, we’re camping somewhere with dirt instead of insidious sand… it gets everywhere.)
peace love and running!
PS. I’m officially signed up for the Run Woodstock Peace Love and 50 Miles on September 8!