When I was a kid, I wanted a pet raccoon.
I was enamored with the creatures. I thought they lookedcool, with their ringed tails and masked faces. We did a lot of camping while growing up, and I would always see them strolling through the campground after dark, their eyes glowing when you shined a flashlight in their faces, and I’d think, I want to bring one home!
In the 4th grade I discovered a book called Rascal by Sterling North. It chronicled the true-life tale of a boy growing up in Wisconsin who had a pet raccoon named Rascal. The author raised him from a baby until he finally had to set him free after Rascal grew up and became too wild. Some people claim that Old Yeller brings them to tears. Man, Rascal nearly had that effect on me.
As I grew older and wiser, I realized raccoons wouldn’t really make ideal pets – yet my fascination remained. So, when Tara and I went camping over the weekend and raccoons came out after the sun went down, I got all sorts of excited.
When they started rummaging around our campsite in the middle of the night, my enthusiasm dimmed just a tad. And when we woke up the next morning and discovered that they’d gotten into our booze and had, in fact, chewed through a can of beer, I’d had enough.
“Damn thieving bandits,” I swore. “I’ll have my revenge!”
Later that day, I did.
Notice to all wilderness creatures: do not mess with Mark. (Or more specifically, do not mess with Mark’s alcohol).
OK, that photo was actually taken in a gift shop in Long Beach, Washington. No raccoons were harmed during the course of our camping trip. Which was, by the way, about a hundred times better than our June getaway, due to the simple fact that it didn’t rain. Not a single drop. What a difference that makes! In fact, the weather was perfect the entire weekend, mostly clear and on the cool side. It certainly felt like autumn.
I changed my schedule around on Friday and went to work early so I could get off early. The campground at Cape Disappointment is two hours away, and with the sun setting much earlier this time of year we wanted to make sure we weren’t trying to pitch a tent in the dark. Things worked out great; we got there at 6:30, and there was still plenty of light left to set up camp. Once the tent was up and the air mattress inflated, we got down to the important business.
Just so we’re clear, Tara had posted to Facebook on Friday, camping is really just all about the awesome food to be cooked and consumed around a campfire. And the booze. Lots of booze.And I couldn’t agree more. Here’s a woman after my heart, for sure. So she popped open a beer, I made a gin and tonic, and we cooked up some bratwursts in a pan filled with beer, sliced onions, and peppers.
Damn good stuff. Tara’s been cooking quite a few things with beer lately, and they always turn out delicious. Guess you can’t really blame the raccoons. They also devoured the beer-soaked onions and peppers left over in the pan we had forgotten to throw away. I’m curious how inebriated the furry little bandits wound up that night, and whether the raccoon wives gave their raccoon husbands hell when they stumbled in at four in the morning after a drunken night out with the fellas.
What? That doesn’t happen in the animal kingdom?
We talked about stuff – mainly how much happier we both are these days – and drank and enjoyed the fire, before going to bed. We both slept pretty well, despite the drunken raccoon racket around 3 AM, and woke up Saturday morning refreshed. We built another fire and Tara made us some Bloody Marys while cooking biscuits and gravy. I’m tellin’ you, we camp in style. Afterwards we strolled down to the beach, which was just a few hundred yards from our campsite. (That was the best part about this place; the sound of the crashing surf was a constant, filling our ears night and day).
After holding hands and walking for a bit, we returned to camp, changed, and headed out for the day. Our first stop was the Port of Ilwaco, a quaint little fishing village with a Saturday market set up along the waterfront. It was all very picturesque, browsing the various food and arts and crafts vendors with charter boats and pleasure craft docked in the harbor. We hit Long Beach next, visiting Jake The Alligator Man at Marsh’s Free Museum and exploring the shops lining downtown’s main street. We grabbed lunch at the local tavern and then drove on the beach (fun!) to fly kites and breathe in the salt air. Afterwards we drove into Oysterville, a small town on the shores of Willapa Bay that specializes in…well, oysters, not surprisingly. Everywhere you turn there are oyster shells, some stacked as high as a two-story building. We then walked around an old cemetery before driving back, stopping at a seafood market along the way for some fresh steamer clams.
Back at camp we cooked the clams over the campfire for a nice little appetizer. Granted, we didn’t have the ingredients necessary to really flavor them (I would have killed for sherry, garlic, and shallots), but a little lime juice and butter livened them up just fine. We then listened to music and talked (and drank some more) before walking down to the beach to catch what turned out to be a magnificent sunset. It was a very romantic moment. We returned to camp, made a delicious dinner of smoked sausages marinated in a mandarin orange sauce with mushrooms, jalapeno and onions, and corn on the cob, and again enjoyed the fire and each other’s company before hitting the sack. There were no drunken raccoons the second night, mainly because the beer was all gone by then.
Sunday morning we reluctantly bid adieu to Cape Disappointment, vowing to return again next summer for sure. “I love how much you’ve taken to camping,” Tara said, and it’s true. I really enjoy the whole experience. Especially when it’s dry. No doubt that’s key.
Next time we’ll just lock the booze up in the car when we go to bed. Take that, you thieving little critters, you!
(But you know what? I’d still like one as a pet).