Polar bears, snakes and motorcyclists – oh my!

We went camping this weekend and I was almost eaten by a large, ravenous snake. But I’ll get to that in a bit. This was our first of many camping trips this year and it was one to be remembered.

We’d camped at this park before, it’s in the hills not far from our home but still feels remote and isolated. I forgot which exit to take to the park, so I consulted my GPS for directions. The GPS proceeded to take us up a windy backroad I had never been on in the 35 years of living in this area. It was much faster but narrow, steep, curvy and terrifying. A group of motorcyclists were slowly riding ahead of us and on a particularly steep curve one of them slipped and fell off her bike. I stopped the car so my husband could help and was seized by panic about moving forward.

When he returned to the car I cried, “I want to go back! I don’t like this road!”

My husband was calm and rational about the situation. “We don’t have a choice, there’s no way to turn around here. Just keep going forward.”

I pulled myself together, put the car in the lowest gear and moved forward with screeching tires. Fortunately, the road became easier after that and we soon made it to the park. I got out of the car and had an anxiety attack where my daughter couldn’t see me.

Upon pulling into our campsite a bobcat ran in front of us and off into the wilderness. All signs were pointing toward this trip being epic.

The bobcat (Lynx rufus) is a North American mammal of the cat family Felidae. There are 12 subspecies. Weights range from 8 to 40 lbs.

We set up our tents, hammock and chairs, started a fire and cooked up a dinner of hamburgers and baked potatoes. I forgot all the condiments and the potatoes weren’t ready until an hour after we finished dessert, but it was all good. My only complaint that night was that it was too cold for my liking. I slept in a fetal position to try to keep warm but it made my hips hurt to lay on my side on the hard ground (despite four layers of padding under me). My daughter just burrowed herself into her sleeping bag and slept for the next twelve hours.

The next morning, after breakfast we had a visit from some deer while we were all quietly reading around the campfire. It was a nice day. Still cold though.

White-tailed deer buck and doe in rut;  Minnesota in wild. By Nathan Lovas

In the afternoon I took my daughter to the restroom and we saw a snake by the side of the road. I couldn’t identify what kind of snake it was, but I knew it was not a rattler because there were no rattles and it’s head was too small. It was greenish and brownish and, although it was probably close to four or five feet, it was barely visible in the grass and leaves. I felt very sharp for having spotted it and stopped in order to point it out to my daughter.

“This is why you have to be careful about walking in the grass,” I told her. She threw a bunch of pine needles at it and it took off with a frightening speed I didn’t know snakes were capable of.

There were about a dozen bat boxes near our campsite and at dusk we joined a group of junior rangers to watch them emerge. Just as the sun set, dozens of bats came shooting out of the boxes. We watched as they became a cloud of flittering dots in the distance.

Mother nature's 100% toxin-free, graceful, harmless to humans, beautiful mosquito eliminators. No side harmful side effects.

That night was also freezing. I woke up in the middle of the night with the urgent need to pee. The bathrooms were about a quarter mile away and down a steep hill. I tried to be the master of my bladder but it wasn’t working. I got up and peed somewhere that was not the bathroom.

The next morning we ate breakfast and disassembled our campsite. When we were almost packed up I decide to visit the loo one last time. I sauntered down the hill, lost in my own thoughts and not watching where I was stepping. Suddenly, I heard a snarling, and I swear to god – barking sound. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something lash out lightening fast. I felt something brush against my leg and I jumped and ran as fast as I could go while screaming my head off. I stopped a good distance away and turned around to see the snake in the road. It gave me the stink eye and then moved into the dried grass. It was almost exactly where I had seen the snake the day before and it had the same coloring.

Titanoboa returns! Smithsonia recreates world's biggest snake - a 48-foot monster which ruled Earth after the dinosaurs
Yup, that’s about what it looked like.

I hadn’t lost control of my bladder, so I decided to continue to the bathroom where I did my business and splashed some water on my face. I was proud of how calm I was. On the way back I carefully approached the spot where the snake was. He was still there. His body was in the grass but his head was on the curb. He looked like he really wanted to go back to laying down on the nice warm spot where some stupid human almost stepped on him. I took the long way back to our campsite.

My husband and sister were chatting when I returned. “I’m so done with this fucking place!” I said and climbed into the car where I broke into hysterical sobbing. Guess I wasn’t so calm after all.

My hubby and sister got me to calm down enough to tell my story of survival. Mostly I just felt stupid about not seeing a giant snake laying in the middle of the road. It wasn’t actively trying to get me, it was just trying to defend itself from my carelessness.

My husband said what was probably the nicest thing you could possibly say in that situation: “What was it thinking -laying in the middle of the road on a busy path to the bathroom?” He was genuinely outraged that the snake hadn’t thought more carefully about his choice of napping spot. So sweet.

We shoved everything into our car and got the hell out of there with much haste. I insisted on driving and we agreed to take the slower but safer road back to town. Shortly after exiting the park something enormous and white lumbered across the road in front of us and I slammed on the brakes. Despite not having a bear in our area for at least a century, it’s size and my recent trauma made me think that was exactly what it was. And because it was white, I naturally assumed – POLAR BEAR! Because that would make so much fucking sense at this point.

We laughed for a while and then moved on, the cow had safely moved to the other side of the road.

old bathtub as a water trough
Well, hello there.



The Privileged Optimist

I’m not watching the news right now. Nor am I listening to talk radio, reading the newspaper or checking news sites on the interwebs. I don’t even want to look at social media. It’s too much for me. I can’t stand to see another riot following the death of another person of color at the hands of the police and then hear people on both sides of the argument scream and call each other  names.

Lucky for me, I’m privileged so if I just turn off the television. I won’t be bothered by the problems that plague others. I’m white, middle class, educated, and I live in a country with truly limitless opportunities. Well, at least for me there are limitless opportunities (unless, of course, I want to make the same amount of money for the same job as a man, but whatevs).

I wish that my willful ignorance could make me feel better, but I have this voice inside me that screams: “DO SOMETHING! FIX IT! FIX IT! FIX IT!” But I don’t know how to make the world stop imploding. What I do know is this: If a black man puts stuffed animals in the back window of his car he is less likely to be pulled over. It’s like having to choose between being victimized and emasculated (no offense to my buddies Mr. Frog, Sharknado, Giraffe and Big Giraffe). Oh wait, I guess it’s victimization either way. Damn, it’s like Sophie’s Choice.

I understand that just because I haven’t personally experienced something doesn’t mean it isn’t real. I’m always shocked at how many people refuse to see there is still racism, police brutality and injustice in our own country. Then I remember how difficult it is to imagine something you haven’t experienced for yourself. It’s especially hard if you don’t want to believe it. We all want to believe we live in the best country on earth where opportunities are endless if you just work hard enough. But reality isn’t that simple. Sometimes the cards are stacked against you from birth.

Not every cop is racist and brutal but there is a fringe group of those who are and there are cops who are basically reasonable but could be nudged in that direction under certain circumstances. Likewise, protesters are by and large peaceful, but many times the violent fringe comes in and chaos ensues. These fringe groups are the ones that destroy reason and compromise and make it easy to ignore the reasonable folks.

Fuck extremists and the horse they came in on. I’m tired of them getting all the attention. Let’s stop falling for their tactics. It makes it too easy for us to  dismiss others with opinions that differ from our own. It makes it easy to say, “Racism isn’t real… I don’t see the cops being violent, only the black community” or “Maybe there is some injustice, but you have it so easy compared to other countries, you shouldn’t complain!” I hear the latter argument a lot. It surprises me that people will so willingly accept injustice here because it’s worse somewhere else.

But there is always someone less privileged than someone else. “Oh, someone is starving to death in a locked basement? Pffft, I know someone starving to death in a locked basement AND they are missing their legs.” It’s a screwy kind of anti-logic that Bugs Bunny might use on Elmer Fudd to confuse him. I’m guessing there is a name for that kind of fallacious  argument (Straw Man, perhaps?).

I wish I could get everyone to just talk about their lives, their hopes, their plans, their families, etc. We should all strive to listen to those with different life experiences. Maybe then we could start seeing each other as reasonable human beings with differing experiences and opinions. Or maybe we would dig in our heels even more and refuse to budge. I don’t think so though. Despite my willful ignorance right now, I do hold out some hope for the human race as capable of being rational under calm circumstances.