Sunday, January 23, 2011

If You Paid Attention to What Was Around You, You Wouldn't Be Thinking Someone Was Trying to Get into Your Tent

Musings on Noise #5

Related to "Reading the Woods" -
When you arrive at your campsite, you should take a few minutes to observe your environment and figure out how things got there. For example, some clues to notice:
-- an amazing overabundance of twigs and small branches that have fallen to the ground
-- the ground is carpeted with leaves (along with those twigs and branches mentioned above)
-- when leaves fall to the ground - in a few days - they die. Dead leaves are noisy leaves

Some other useful things about nature to remember:
-- Branches don't fall to the ground just during the daylight hours of, say 9-5. They fall to the ground All. The. Time. Including during the middle of the night.
-- Leaves fall from the trees all during the night too.
-- If the weather forecast calls for a front to come through, that means a breeze. A breeze that will blow dead (aka noisy) leaves around.

Knowing all that -
When you hear strange unknown noises during the night, likely your campsite is not being invaded by a small army of unknown animals/creatures. The logical assessment is that the noise is dead leaves skittering across the gravel tent pad; the snapping sound is a branch breaking and falling; the "thud" on your tent are leaves and twigs; and no one is trying to get into your tent -- that's the wind rustling the tent fly.

Just Too Exhausted to Care

Musings on Noise #4

This is how you know you are friggin' exhaused and/or just on the edge of falling asleep:

You hear a Noise.

The other 22 hours of the day, your reaction is: WHAT WAS THAT ???

The remaining 2 hours -- when you are begging for sleep -- your reaction is: i. just. don't. care.

Do I Really Need Pots & Pans in my Tent??

Musings on Noise #3

Reading last night, I studied a chapter on what to do if you're in your tent and a bear enters your campsite.

Handy Tip: Do not read about bears at bedtime while solo in the woods.

Anyway - the guidance is to make a lot of noise. Such as: bang pots and pans. As I'm reading this, I realize all my pots and pans are ... home ... in my kitchen .. about 30 miles away. Uh-oh. But wait a minute, do I really want pots & pans in my tent ??? What about the other chapter that says not to put food-related items in your tent so that you don't have food odors in your tent???

I need to learn more about this whole bear / odor / food situation ...


OK, but say I do need to have noise-generating stuff in my tent. (Is a whistle sufficient?) Then, thank goodness that I have a 3-person tent, as it's starting to get a bit crowded in here.

Besides "me" in my tent, there's:
-- the sleeping bag / quilt / 2 pillows / air pad
-- books /Kindle / journal / glitter pens to write with
-- assortment of flashlights / lantern / headlamp
-- improvised 'pee-during-the-night' supplies
-- essentials of blackberry / keys / glasses / whistle
-- water, in case of I don't know what
-- clothes I've taken off
-- clothes I may want to put on
-- my whimsical mini LED tea-lights [for ambiance, of course!].
Just think if I add pots & pans to that!

Musing on Noise, #2: People

At BOW, I took a course called "Reading the Woods", where you observe everything around you in a particular spot to assess what is going on or what has happened. It carries over to human behavior as well.

From just a few nights out camping solo in the woods, I have assessed that if you hear -- at 2:00am -- faint, muffled human shouts, it means either:
1) They are drunk
2) There is a problem
3) They are drunk and they have caused a problem.
(For an example, you can read my post about the idiots who knocked over their lit lantern, and set their tent on fire.)

I have modified my campsite/sleeping behavior to adjust for that. For instance, the easy-out end of my tent now faces my car, so I can make a quick dash if I need to.

And in my tent, in order of closest accessibility, are:
-- my glasses
-- car keys
-- whistle
-- headlamp & flashlight
-- cellphone

WHAT WAS THAT ?!?!?!?!

So ... I've recently returned from three days of outdoor skills training. And what I've learned from camping this past week-end is that the instruction I really need is: "If You Hear This Noise in the Woods, It Means ___________."

Unbelievably, this past week-end was only the second time I actually heard "animal" noises at night. (The first time being at Codorus State Park, when a bird screeched so loudly I was convinced that it was a giant dinosaur pterodactyl 10 feet tall, sitting right in my campsite. I doubt if that was the case, but that's what it sounded like.)

So, I've composed a few musings on noises based on my experiences this late October week-end.

After dark, but fairly early in the night, for several minutes, I kept hearing a "thud" sound. I thought maybe campers were walking through the woods, in search of firewood. But there were no campers in that direction. (And wouldn't I hear leaves crunching if people were walking through the woods??) THEN, I heard: "thud [pause] thud [pause] thud, thud [pause], snort!". WTF???

I unzipped my tent and peered out with my headlamp. Of course, with the sound of the unzipping and then the bright flashlight, any creature in its right mind would not make itself known. I didn't see anything. Fortunately, though, subsequent noises indicated that the "creature" ambled away from my tent.

To this day, I have no idea what it was.

My Quest to Sleep Outdoors As Long As Possible / Camping #5: Elk Neck

October, 2010

The week-end after BOW, I was full of motivation and eagerness to see how long I could continue camping/sleeping outdoors, as the cold weather moved in. I headed to Elk Neck SP, as I had a lot to do over the week-end and that park is close.

On the way in, I stopped in the tiny little town of North East to browse through antique stores, bought a beautiful hand-embellished bedspread, and fueled up with fresh coffee and homemade chocolate. Yes, this camping business is not exactly roughing it.

Early Saturday afternoon, the weather was delightful! Sunny. A bit cool, but warm enough if you stayed active. And breezy. The forest floor was carpeted with colorful autumn leaves. Very few folks at the campground (yaay!). They seemed to be more experienced and more mindful of the whole get-back-to-nature concept, and therefore, more quiet. (double yaay!)

My site was one of the few that aren't on the water, yet has a good deal of privacy. There are no sites on either side, and the back faces the woods -- with no site behind me. So, sitting at my tent, in the shelter of the vestibule, I see nothing but autumn woods. Very nice. (triple yaay!)

Some Good Learning Experiences

1) Lousy Packing
As the afternoon drew on, and it got chillier & windier, I realized a packing list is only as good as what you have on it. I learned that I've left a few essentials off, such as: Water. A coat. Towel for the shower. Luckily, none of this caused an emergency situation, because ... my car is right there. I can always Get.In.My.Car. And in worst case scenarios, I can always Just.Go.Home.  :)

2) Finally - Night Time Noises
This was the first time I heard an abundance of nature noises during the night. Kept me awake, both from the amount of noise as well as the nervousness over it.  [More about this in later posts.] But, likely it was only the wind rustling the leaves, twigs falling, and dead leaves skittering across the gravel tent pad.

3) Camp Fire
Someone had been at the site the day I arrived. They had not completely doused their campfire. When I arrived, there were some tendrils of smoke, and glimpses of red embers. I was able to get a fire going just from that !! I was pretty pleased with myself - lol!

4) Powers of Observation
Every outing I realize how lousy my powers of observation are. I just don't notice the details. On Sunday, while packing up, I noticed these tidbits. What are they?? How long were they there?? Where they there Saturday when I set up?? It's a shame that I don't really know - they could've been. And if they weren't there when I set up, how and when did they get there?

What I Did While I Was There
Ha! Practically nothing. I succumbed to the draw of R&R that comes over me each visit to this park. I did try working on some BOW skills, like tree identification. [More on that in a later post.] But the cold and wind, coupled with my lack of success, ended that idea.