Tuesday, January 17, 2006

My First Nights At The Outfitters

I remember when I first started working at the outfitters, the first night I ever stayed there was very interesting. That was when I met the "locals".

The outfitters consisted of a rather large piece of property that consisted of a parking lot in front along with and office building, lunch building, and shower rooms. Then in the back, there was an employee parking lot, the raft barn, equipment barns, platforms, and the three-sided adirondack shack.

It was all pretty cool, but the coolest was the platforms. They were roughly 10x10 or 12x12 platforms built back into the woods a bit for the guides to set up tents on and live in throughout the season. The only guides that didn't live on the platforms were some of the local people who only lived a few miles away. I only lived 30 minutes from the outfitters at the time, but I still used it as an excuse to live there just because it was something new and cool. Who wouldn't want to live in a tent for the summer whilst guiding rafts everyday?

My first night I discovered that it isn't a good idea to use a $2 styrofoam cooler to store your food in, because a racoon will literally punch holes in it until they finally get what's inside....which was on that particular night, hot dogs. What started out that first night as mysterious noises in the woods which quickly led to pattering of little feet on my platform, ended with my styrofoam cooler being shredded to bits and hot dog wrappers and cans being strewn all around my platform as if a party had been thrown and someone forgot to clean up afterwards.

I quickly got used to the routine of securing food in a lockable cooler which would occasionally tumble off of my platform (which was roughly 6 feet off the ground at the highest point...it was built on a steep hill) in an illfated wrestling match with a hungry racoon. The cooler would always win, never failing to give up it's treasure of sandwich meat and the occasional can of beer. Although from time to time, until I got smart and tied it down, I would have to chase down my poor battered cooler after it tumbled under my platform.

What I never could get used to was the sporadic episodes of yelling and whistle blowing when a curious racoon would crawl into the open side of the three sided adirondack shack and scare the bejesus out of Timmy. On several occasions I would wake up to a Fox 40 whistle (one of the loudest in the world) being blown in a thwarted attempt to run off an overly bold racoon. Most of the time though, the yelling and the whistle never worked and the last noise I would hear is the heavy grunt of a racoon being punted off of a platform. God help Timmy if he ever missed a punt though.

I can't imagine the horror of a racoon realizing that it's object of curiostiy has suddenly become hostile and their defense mechanisms begin kicking in. I would however imagine, if that happened, there would be a human jumping out of the open side of that shack...attempting to get away from its intruder.

I never had the problems that Timmy had, although I still had my share of visitors having parties on my platform as I slept. It's almost creepy, the first time you notice a little ball of fur moving along the side of your tent as it tiptoes around the edge of your platform looking for goodies. There is however, nothing quite as satisfying as hearing that famous grunt of a racoon being catapulted into the woods after you whack the aforementioned ball of fur with your fist.

I miss those nights. I miss all of us gathering around the campfire and drinking. I miss hearing the spontaneous coon' fights that would erupt on or under my platform at night. I miss walking Dayna to her tent at night because even though she elected to live on a platform in the middle of the woods, she was still literally terrified of the dark. I miss throwing whatever available objects into the trees in futile attempts to shut up the whipporwill that always had an annoying tendency to roost right above my tent and call all night. I miss throwing random objects at Dayna's tent in the wee hours of the morning attempting to scare the piss out of her. I miss the death threats we would receive the next day from Dayna.

Those nights were just a few reasons why I loved that job so much. More to come soon!

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Beauty of a Full Moon

Today I went hiking at the pinnacles in Berea. I went by myself to kind of clear my head or whatever. I didn't go until later on in the day, which resulted in me having to hike back down in the dark from the summit of the east pinnacle. I didn't mind it or anything since I carry a very bright flashlight in my pack for times such as tonight. However, I found out rather quickly that I didn't need the flashlight.

As the moon began rising higher and higher, it kept getting brighter....ahh, the beauty of a full moon. I found that even though it was night and the sun had completely set, I had no trouble negotiating my way back down to the trailhead. I could even see my shadow from time to time.

It was amazing how the woods took on a funky glow in the bright moonlight. As I got to the bottom of Indian Fort Mountain, the moon was just beginning to come overhead. The further I went, the shadows of the trees and I became more defined. It wasn't a dull yellow light either, it was an eerie milky white kind of light. It's kind of like the difference between a normal halogen flashlight and a LED flashlight. The LED is whiter, brighter, and sharper. Anyhow, it created an almost surreal hike back to the car.

It's funny how things suddenly happen like that. Now I just wish it would happen more often and in other parts of my life.

On a funny little sidenote, anyone that knows me or my Dad, also knows that we have this strange infatuation (one could out on a limb and call it an obsession) with flashlights. We kind of bought into the new LED light technology because they're brighter and they use only a fraction of the battery power that a halogen light uses.

I take the whole flashlight thing pretty serious especially when it comes to having one for hiking and backpacking. Anyone who might laugh at that comment obviously hasn't had the need for a good flashlight at night in the middle of the woods, otherwise they would have known that they are priceless when you need them. The LED's skimpy battery consumption really helps lessen the strain on having to worry about batteries running out all the time, especially in the woods. Whereas a typical 2AA Mag Lite might last 4-6 hours, a 2AA LED will (depending on the LED bulb configuration, whether it is a single or a triple bulb setup) carry well over 20-30 hours.

The only real caveat is that LED's are more expensive. It might seem ridiculous to spend $20 on a little LED flashlight, but that same light is waterproof and will last a very long time on one set of batteries. Did I mention it makes an excellent tool to tap on the foreheads of people asking for a light?

That's all for now, a new "old" story will be coming soon!