Trust Us – We’re Professional Campers!

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I went on a cabin trip over the weekend, and on the first night, we got to meet our friend Dave’s new girlfriend Susan. My husband and I strolled over to their cabin site, which was right next to ours, and trotted out our stainless steel pint “glasses,” our libations, chair pads, and other assorted accoutrements. I could tell she was kind of eyeballing us a bit, so I said casually, “We’re professional campers.”

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I love these “glasses.” And the “spiked seltzer” drinks, though a bit “hipster,” were quite refreshing…and produced absolutely NO hangover the next day! And unlike beer, they won’t aggravate gout issues, either. And for inquiring minds, they don’t taste a damn thing like Zima.

I should know better than to ever, ever say things like this.  Brag too much about anything, and the universe will unfold itself to prove you wrong and make you eat your words. Which it did…later that night. And speaking of eating…

I had turned in for the night, but my husband Mike was still out at Dave’s site hanging out. I heard some clunking around outside the cabin, and I thought maybe it was Mike rummaging for drinks in the cooler. I yelled, “Mike…Mike…got no response. Then the clunking around stopped. I figured everything was OK.

Around the wee hours of the morning, Mike woke me up, and was doing “inventory” on our food cooler. “What did we have in here?” Once his story unfolded, I learned that our plastic container of chicken salad that Mike had made and a brick of Gouda cheese were gone. Every ounce of the chicken salad had been devoured, and some bites were taken out of the Gouda and then discarded. A half portion of a Subway wrap had also been gobbled up.

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Yes, a raccoon was probably the most likely culprit, though it was probably not clothed…

Mike was incensed. When it comes to protecting our camp/food, he puts a typical junkyard dog to shame! A few years ago when we were camping at the hike-in sites at Ludington State Park (a mile hike from the parking area), he did a wee-hours (two mile round trip) walk to and from our car with our food cooler after he caught raccoons using a tag-team approach (no joke…they were TEAMING up) to molest our cooler. Not on HIS watch, baby! He was drunk after drinking vodka/Crystal light (we had to carry everything in), the night was foggy…but our food was safe! When he brought the cooler back the next day, he stuck it in a hole and placed a bunch of logs around it. No more problems.

We’re no strangers to this stuff. We’ve used bear poles in backpacking campgrounds to keep our food/scented items out of reach of bears. We suspended our food in a U.P. cabin that had was inhabited by one of Mickey’s kin to keep the little bastard out of it. We always tend to keep our food and beverages locked up in the car at night. We even tend to use the Playmate cooler for our food instead of the white one with the removable lid because we learned critters can’t work the little button to open it.

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This is not our cooler, but it is similar – animals have not figured out how to work that little button, though our cooler does have claw marks on it to prove that they’ve tried to open it anyway!

Yup, a critter took the lid right off the cooler and helped him/herself to the goodies. That was probably close to a pound of chicken salad in that container, so that poor thing was probably starved! The next day, we surveyed the “scene of the crime,” and found the chicken salad container (which thankfully was not destroyed), and remnants of the Subway wrapper.

“Nice to know I gave a f—ing raccoon a $10 meal,” Mike said during his wee-hours rant. He even uttered something about wanting to set out poison for the little beast(s). That’s when I knew he’d gone off the deep end…(he was not serious, by the way).

 

“No,” I said. “We’re not going to be poisoning the wildlife. We’re on their turf, and it was our fault this happened. We should know better.” We were drunk, were hanging out away from our cabin site, and the raccoons found an opportunity and seized it. They exploited our weakness (well played…you win THIS round)!

We wound up buying a small amount of grilled chicken salad from the nearby Kroger deli the next day to have with lunch. Though I’m sure it wasn’t as good as the salad Mike had made!

Finding new ways to keep animals (especially bears) from f—ing around with trash cans and humans’ food is a cottage industry in and of itself. If you’re ever in a picnic area, take a look at the trash containers. If they look like this, there’s a good chance you’re in bear country.

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You need an advanced degree in mechanical engineering to figure out how to open one of these, lol…

When I was cruising web sites years ago for backpacking gear, I stumbled upon an item that boasted it could not be opened by bears unless they had a nickel and a screwdriver. Its completely flush design also meant that it had nothing for bears to grab onto. This 10-liter container is called the Garcia Bear Resistant Canister and retails for about $75 at REI. Want a bag designed to hold this thing? That’ll be another $16.95!

We did not buy this item, but we did invest in a sturdy bag designed to be used with bear poles and didn’t have any problems.

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Bear pole at a Pictured Rocks campsite. Our setup was not nearly as elaborate! Not only do you have to keep your food in these things, but ANYTHING that gives a scent – toothpaste, deodorant, soap, etc.

I don’t hate the animals for doing what they do. They’re all just trying to survive.  It’s up to us humans to figure out how to successfully navigate THEIR turf, after all. In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, campers can get fined for improperly storing their food. I have a deep respect for animals like bears, who are known for their intelligence, cunning and adaptability. I’ve seen trash containers get much more complex over the years because of bears being able to, eventually, put one over on us.

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We’ll always find a way to get into your trash and steal your picnic baskets!

Plus, bears are cute and terrifying all at once. Mike jokes that they’re the biggest dick teases of the animal world because baby bears are SO cute…and friendly! They love coming up to humans and want to be friends with humans! But if you ever see a baby bear, Mama Bear can’t be too far off and she’ll certainly kick your ass!

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If you ever see one of these, do not approach!

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