Solo camping. I am sitting on a log, my dinner finished, after a long walk through a fir forest in the wilderness area of our oceanside national park. The sweet smell of Ceanothis and willow. Pacific fog hanging thick in the big fir trees—the branches raking the fog for moisture feeding the constant drips, watering the roots and old-man’s-beard moss. Early summer. I have been alone for three days. Out from under the firs, I find a nice place to lie down to sleep where I won’t get dripped on. Cool and green above, dusty brown under. It hasn’t rained for six weeks and likely won’t for another four months.
Past first dusk, I better get my food hung away from critters—salami, cheese, trail mix and prunes; compact food for 5 days. I throw the rope, a tough nylon line, and sling it up over the biceps of a big branch. My bag is safe 10 feet off the ground.
Roused from sleep I hear a grunting more like pig than anything. I shine my light and see into the masked face of a raccoon, hauling my bag up hand over hand. I shout and the bag is dropped, the cheese and salami bounce out to the accomplice waiting below. Like they planned it. In the cone of the flashlight I see them in a noisy fangs-bared fight. They are tough. They mean everything they say. They want that food. Black nose, black hands, black mask, white teeth white claws. They are not a theory. Ferocious and implacable the two disappear into the dark woods. My salami and cheese gone into the darkness. It’s clear this woods, this night, this drama is not there for my personal delight. So stark and vital they were, as if they had willed themselves into existence.