23 March 2011

Camping is scary

Whenever I go camping, all I can think about is cougars and gun-toting hill people.

By cougars I don’t mean older women.  That kind of cougar would probably be pretty enjoyable – you can see it now: some hot, busty older woman sashaying up the trail of an evening in a taut cocktail dress and ridiculous red pumps, catching sight of a lonely little tent pitched off in a little clearing… 

Okay, I’m getting off topic.  I mean our local mountains are crawling with… well, all of probably two very territorial mountain lions and they scare me. 

Cougars are scary big cats and sometimes they eat people.  I believe I have catalogued every single incident in which people have been mauled or killed by cougars in the U.S. in the last decade, and it may not be a lot but it is also not zero.  Getting my spine cracked open from behind is probably one of my least favorite ideas of a surprise.

Also, it’s a well-established fact but bears really are scary too.  And we don’t even have grizzlies in this neck of the woods, but back when I was a little girl scout there was this other girl scout troop what went up the mountain for a camping trip and one girl had food in her tent – don’t ever do that! – and a black bear literally mauled her to death.  It was tragic and horrifying and I think about it every time I zip up a tent at night. 

And now I keep every shred of scented anything in a sealed bag at least fifty yards from the tent whenever I go to sleep and I’m still pretty sure this is useless because someday soon someone’s going to discover bears and cougars are actually attracted to the smell of sleeping bag stuffing.  I lie awake for hours magnifying every snap and creak out there beyond the pathetically diaphanous walls of my tent.  I was once mind-numbingly terrorized by an oblivious snuffling skunk.

(Can I digress for a second?  This is something I’ve never understood about the geography and ecology of my region.  There have to be more than two mountain lions, right?  And more than just a bear or two?  Here’s my concern: these critters are living on sky islands – a few dozen square miles of cool, forested mountains surrounded by vast quantities of inhospitable desert.  So needless to say their ranges are pretty damn limited.  But I can’t see these guys deciding to go wandering across miles and miles of intractable wasteland chasing new and exciting tail.  So they’ve got to be getting with their sisters and stuff, right?  It has always completely baffled me how on Earth these big predators can keep up a steady population with so little real space to roam.  I mean how the hell do they even eat?  It’s no wonder they go searching for granola bars.  And that’s why sky island cougars are even scarier than you thought.)

And then there’s the hill people.  I don’t know that we really have hill people here.  I guess what I mean by ‘hill people’ is ‘people who think secluded mountain trails no one ever walks on are good places to murder other people whose screams won’t be heard.’  So serial killers, let’s go with serial killers.  I am really freaking terrified of outdoorsy serial killers.

Yes, I am only blowing out of proportion every single horror movie and ghost story I’ve ever seen and heard.  But you know what?  That stuff is real.  I mean not like The Ring or 28 Days Later or anything like that, but don’t Wikipedia ‘Phantom Killer’ if you ever want to park your car in a secluded spot ever again.  That happened.  And people died.

So I think I’m perfectly justified for wondering just who the hell thinks they can fool me by pretending to be out for a bit of a run through the mountains at six in the AM.  (This has actually happened to me.  Took us four hours to hike in, but people are already out jogging past our tent just as dawn’s breaking.  Kind of makes you just want to claim defeat and head back down in time to catch the Saturday afternoon matinee.) 

If I was out jogging at six in the morning a good couple miles out of earshot of the rest of humanity, I’m not going to lie – I might be feeling a little homicidal.  In fact the only likely way this turn of events could transpire is if I was coming off a really bad, dark kind of bender and my day had really started many Earth rotations ago.  I’d probably be mountain-bound in an attempt to flee the rest of humanity and find just one place – any place – that wasn’t inhabited…

And then I’d see your tent.

And you still think camping is safe.


  1. Set up a decoy tent with food in it. Then the bears will maul stuff in there, and leave you alone. 1/3 fears alleviated!

    Also: what about the black widows and brown recluses? And the rattlesnakes? Ooh, and scorpions. Can't forget those.

  2. Oh, man, I haven't even gotten to the creepy crawlies!

    You know what, though, I pretty much stopped being scared of venom after I learned how easy it is to get antivenin at hospitals in my city. My ex used to get stung by scorpions pretty regularly and he didn't even lose fingers or anything. I mean how can you be scared of something that can't even take off your finger?

    But I remember this one time I almost peed on a rattlesnake. *That* was scary.

    Also, don't ever get dental work done after getting bit by a rattlesnake. You can bleed to death.

    P.S. What kind of decoy bear food should I have? Do you think bears like Reese's pieces? Or is that just aliens?

  3. The last time I went camping, a bear followed me and my dad back to our campsite in broad daylight, hopped on the table and ate my sisters homework while we cowered in the car and waited for park rangers.. Strangely I haven't had the desire to camp since...