You have a plan right? If you were off the beaten path and heard a loud “bump” just beyond the firelight…a BIG noise…what would you do? We all think about it right? From time to time we go through the scenario and plan it out.
Well I always leave my sleeping bag half unzipped so I can leap from my Kelty, put an axe in each hand, Buck Knife in my teeth, and check it out.
It’s happened to me a couple of times, and I can tell you, it has not gone as planned.
The First Time
The first time I was with my wife and kids, and we were all just about asleep, apparently me more so than my wife because the first thing I remember was her hand wrapping around my arm and a tight squeeze.
There’s something out there.
Now on this occasion, we had our big German Shepherd, Lobo (RIP), just outside the tent. Now this dog has traveled with me down through Baja and kept the coyotes at bay all night long. The whole night was a chorus of him, barking off in the distance, and fast footfalls as he ran through camp silently to push back the opposite border. He was about 110 lbs, so I was never afraid the coyotes would carry him off. He was a watchdog bad-ass.
Its fine. If there were something out there, Lobo would tell us about it.
Just then, loud footfalls outside the tent in the dirt, and a loud sound I can only describe as a bear blowing through a seashell horn.
WTF? My heart lept into my throat, but I totally kept my cool. I don’t think I gave away my eminent concern, maybe except for the high pitch of my voice.
Theres something out there! OK. I’ll check it out.
It was close. With my heart pounding, and the sound of footsteps outside, i inched toward the tent door and sloooooowly unzipped the tent. I peered out, and sure enough, Lobo was SLEEPING right outside the tent door. I whispered.
Lobo. Loooobo! Hey, Lobo!
THe steps got closer, and the brush…the brush next to the tent started to move! I shined the flashlight toward the brush and spotted the moving branches. It was getting closer!
The branches parted, and I could see wide set enormous EYES moving forward. Then – it poked its head through the brush just four feet away from Lobo and I.
My breath let out. At that moment, my old dog lifted his head, looked at the deer, then collapsed again into a deep sleep. The deer darted off, never to be seen.
I figure the loud sounds were probably the buck, snorting warning and keeping watch.
The Second Time
Just recently I was on a solo trip. I do that once a year. I was deep in the woods off road, sleeping on a bluff that gives a great 180 degree view of the valley. It’s epic.
This was one of those nights when I went through “The scenario”. I was sleeping in the back of the rig this time with the tailgate and back door open, my head on the gate. It was dark, the fire burning a few feet away. All I could see was the edge of the treeline, and complete darkness beyond.
After running though the camp invader plan, I had put my axe against the truck, and I had my Buck Knife laying on the tailgate within reach…just in case. I knew the plan. If something approached the camp, I would grab my knife as I lept out of my sleeping bag and stand like a cat ready to pounce. If it were a Grizzly, I’d throw the knife, piercing it’s tough hide under the neck as it charged, slowing it down, then grab my axe, and swing it overhead, coming down on its head just before its charging jaws reached me.
No problem, until.
It sounded like a 50′ storage container had been dropped from the sky into the woods about 10′ from camp, then, LOUD footsteps running…CRASH CRASH CRASH! I froze. After about ten seconds, slowly, ever so slowly, I reached out to grab my knife, careful not to make a sound. There it was, the knife. I rested my hand on top of it listening. Yup. A sound. What is that? It sounds like, like, a heartbeat. Apparently I had grown ears like a rabbit. I could hear my own heartbeat. Listening. Maybe a sound. Wait. What’s that pain? A couple minutes had gone by. It hurts. My chest. At the moment of the crashing sound, I had stopped breathing, and it hurt. Slowly, I took in a breath, and further tightened my grip around the knife. I stayed that way for about 10 minutes. My next move was quickly pull the tailgate closed and the lid of the rig shut to sleep in the closed truck…
All according to plan.