Listen like thieves

The wife and I actually got out camping this weekend. We couldn't have asked for better weather. Beautiful blue skies all three days.

The trip wasn't without its minor speed bumps, however. We paddled out to the site and proceeded to set up camp. When we got to the part that involves "setting up the two-man bivy," (a small tent, for you non-camping folk) I discovered we had packed the single-man bivy instead. Unless we planned on sleeping directly on top of each other for two days, that meant one of us was sleeping outside.

Let me rephrase that. That meant I was sleeping outside.

We only had a single ground cloth, so rather than sleep directly on the ground, I decided I was going to try to sleep in my backpacking hammock. If you've never seen a backpacking hammock, it is made to be extremely light and pack up very small. It is made of very fine nylon netting, gathered to a ring at both ends, which you tie to trees with the rope hanging off the ring. Because of the way it's made, it's incredibly hard to get in and out of even when you're not trying to do it while stuffed into a mummy bag. I tried putting the bag in first, then climbing in after it, and the bag immediately fell out. I tried various brilliant yet flawed techniques to no avail, and finally had to get in the bag, hop over to the hammock, hold it open with one hand and jump in, all the while trying not to go over the other side.

I finally made it. I could barely move, but for the most part I was settled. I didn't immediately notice there was a problem.

About an hour later, I noticed there was a problem. That problem was that I was freezing my ass off. With my weight on it, the goosedown bag compressed between my body and the netting of the hammock, which meant that essentially, there was nothing but my shirt and a thin layer of flat feathers between my skinny ass and the chilly 37 degree air. I resigned myself to a long sleepless night.

My wife, god bless her, hit the bivy tent, crawled into her sleeping bag and instantly started snoring so loudly I could practically feel the ground vibrations through the trees my hammock was tied to. (Normally when she starts up, I'm close enough to jab an elbow or knee and get her to stop for a bit. I realized I couldn't do this from my frozen perch, so I had to resort to yelling "HEY!" and hoping she woke up enough to roll to a different position. )

One of the reasons we like this particular lake is because there's generally a lot of loons calling to each other throughout the night. It's a hauntingly lonely, yet beautiful sound, and probably one of my all-time favorites.

Unfortunately, we didn't get much in the way of soothing loons.

Just as I had drifted off to sleep, I was jolted awake by this sound, which seemed to be about 2.5 inches from my left ear, but was probably, in reality, about 500 yards away.

I instantly knew what it was, but still -- waking up like that takes a year off your life.

Both of us now Fully Awake, the next thing we heard was this, and it was coming our way at a slightly disconcerting pace.

Normally, the sound of a coyote pack tearing into a deer or rabbit doesn't really faze me. I've heard it dozens of times.

I have to add this caveat, however: Normally, the sound of a coyote pack tearing into a deer or rabbit doesn't really faze me because normally, they are not running directly AT me, and normally, I am NOT hanging helplessly between two trees like some kind of savory, pre-packaged meat snack.

Needless to say, I was very awake for quite a while after the symphony. Not out of any real fear, but only because...OK, I was afraid they would tear me to pieces. They skirted around us, and although we heard them a few more times during the night, it was from a more comfortable distance. I finally drifted off again about 2 am, with the coyotes fading into the distance.

I woke up again at three to the sound of something big and snuffling flopping around in the water down by the canoe. I didn't investigate. I was so tired I was beyond caring. I just buried my head in my bag, hoped for the best and went back to sleep.

Still, that sound echoing across the water is one of the coolest things I've ever heard.

I have some pics that I'll bore you with when I get them transferred to the pc.

Back to work tomorrow, dammit.


  1. Anonymous5:45 AM

    I also love the sound of loons.

  2. This story makes me just want to run right out and go camping. Actually I think I'm okay indoors listening to the sounds of my television. Thanks.

  3. Yeah, I don't get people like you.

  4. Hearing that echoing off the lake and mountains is one of the coolest sounds I've ever heard. About the only thing with the potential to hurt you in the Adirondacks is a black bear, and I've only seen one once.

  5. I like the sounds of the loons too(how ironic huh? go ahead, get it out of your system)

    - I get up early when we go to my sister in law's camp, and I usually see them swimming with a baby nearby, while I'm out in the canoe

  6. i heard my mountain coyotes tonight, from the safety of my desk and trusty computer monitor. i felt safe. i like living near my mountains.

  7. Just last night, and I swear this is the troof, I said to Ed while we were standing down on the dock at the pond's edge "Damn, I wish we were further north where the loons hang out." Swear.

    Anyway, tried to comment on a couple of your previous posts and couldn't, so I'll sum it up here.

    Great picture of wifey - she's adorable. Great picture of your fine six pack and blurry face. Love the stories - love the imagery in your writing.

    And finally, this post makes me want to watch people camping out - on TV - from the warmth and safety of my couch, with some popcorn.

  8. i heard a pack of coyotes last night and thought of you in your swinging snack pack. :)

  9. Anonymous2:16 AM

    I have listened intently to almost the same thing in Caprock Canyon State park in Texas. I was camping in the early part of May in the South Prong camping area. About 30 tent sites but I had it all to myself. A pack gathered along the canyon wall about 100 yards away and proceeded to move up the canyon away from my camp. I was so wraped up in it I didn't even think to fire up the camcorder to record the sound. I go back year after year in hopes of recording that, but so far no luck, and yes it was one of the coolest things I've ever experienced.

  10. Anonymous3:15 PM

    your sound file of coyote/pack are not found. Please reset files.