After all that fuss and talk about groundhogs and ‘Groundhog’s Day’ (in the previous blog), I suppose some of you are wondering ‘Well, Hey! Why don’t the raccoons have their own holiday?’ Raccoons are rather clever, but not clever enough, apparently, and have thus far been shut out in the holiday department. Somewhat nocturnal, but not necessarily so, raccoons like to haunt the creek banks and hunt crawdads, but will eat just about anything, which can be annoying to gardeners. A raccoon can wipe out a tomato patch in only one night, seemingly, taking a bite or two out of one tomato, then discarding it before taking a couple of bites out of another.
I have had a few incidents with the raccoons while I was living in the ol’ shack by the Little Cherokee Creek–more than I care to remember, actually. The one that seems to stand out in my mind above the others was in the spring of 2003. I was sitting sedately on the porch in the late afternoon, when a raccoon appeared, walked up on the porch beside me. Standing about 2 1/2 feet tall on his back legs, he extended his paw for me to shake, while he (perhaps she–I wasn’t curious enough to notice) politely introduced himself. Somewhat fascinated by the gesture, I shook the courteous raccoon’s paw. It seemed as though he were about to try and sell me a vacuum cleaner.
I have, at times, wondered just what was going on in the crafty raccoon’s mind, and what he was trying to communicate to me, but suppose it must have been something like, ‘Hello, Mr. Boulderman, I am ‘Bandit’, your neighborhood raccoon…I see you have some pesky birds over there…I could get rid of them for you, if you want, and it won’t even cost you a dime.’ Indeed, at the time, there was a nest of birds just below the downspout of the porch gutter. At first they seemed sort of cute and unoffensive; but that changed when the eggs were hatched, and the adult birds became rather territorial and combative, which annoyed me since they were nesting on my porch. Anyway, the raccoon demonstrated his climbing skills, dangling around on the roof supports, and such. The birds, were not impressed. After awhile of hanging out on the porch with the birds and the raccoon, I finally decided to go inside. The raccoon seemed to want to come in, too. ‘Perhaps he wants a snack,’ I figured, as he looked at me through the screen-door…but raccoons must find there own food. A day or two later, the birds nest was scattered about, and I am quite sure a couple of nestlings that were too young to fly made for a good meal for ‘Bandit’.
If you have read this far into the story, you are probably wondering, ‘Well, Hey! Were there any drugs involved?’ Actually, yes, there were–I was taking a loritab every 4 to 6 hours while I was recuperating from the shingles, nevertheless this episode with the raccoon was quite real. I kind of felt bad for the birds, but they should have found a better place to build a nest, was the bottom line. Surely they were aware of the risks.
As for hiking some trails…I decided to walk up to the ‘Longarm Falls’ in the Sampson Mountain Wilderness one nice afternoon. They always bring back memories for me, because I am pretty sure that was one of the places my family and I would go and picnic when I was just a child playing with toy trucks, and stuff (among other adventures). The waterfalls are considerably attractive when the creek is flowing vigorously, and the sound of the water is positively soothing to the ears.
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I had some more time, and ascended ‘Longarm Ridge’ to see what kind of views I could get from the top. The sharp ‘Chigger Ridge’ was rather prevalent, but the trail (which must have been a road some 40 years ago) deteriorated rapidly, engulfed in fallen trees and briers. The wind was clattering the bare tree limbs, rushing over the ridge. Not only was I tattooed by the mountain briers, but somewhere on that ridge, either in ascending or descending back to the falls, I strained my left hamstring. All those leg muscles felt as though they had been tied up in knots, and was rather uncomfortable trekking the two miles back to the trail-head.
A few days later, I went out on a ‘rehab’ walk through ‘Basil Gap’, mostly just to get some fresh air and clear my head of all the bullshit I had to contend with recently. It felt good to stretch my legs a bit.
There were a couple of red-tail hawks circling in the sky above me–one of them was quite large. One of them was ‘singing’. I decided to take the ‘old trail’, partly because now that the A.T. employs a series of long switchbacks to access ‘High Rocks’ from ‘Spivey Gap’, the ‘old trail’ has become like a ‘private trail’ for me now. Also, the Appalachian Trail was very muddy, having just thawed out, and I would have felt like a coward, as well. Although the ‘old trail’ is a lot steeper in inclination, it does save quite a bit of time, and almost a mile of walking to get to ‘High Rocks’. The weather was warm, but the wind picked up a bit while I was at ‘Whistling Gap’ and became cooler. Walking back up to ‘High Rocks’ warmed me back up in a hurry, though, and I descended the ‘old trail’ back to ‘Spivey Gap’, because it was starting to get dark. Walking through the moss-covered boulder garden in the twilight on the way back down the mountain was pretty cool.
Driving back, I couldn’t help but notice the stunning astrological alignment of Venus positioned directly above the New Moon–it was fascinating. Perhaps that is what is known as the ‘raccoon moon’–but then again…