Thursday, May 24, 2007

The botched steak robbery

Have you ever been to Itasca State Park? Have you ever seen red or white pine trees so tall that you could barely see the top? Have you ever stepped foot in the birth waters of the Mighty Mississippi River or better known, the 'headwaters of the Mississippi'? According to this website, this park is full of 100 lakes and is 32,000 acres. And this website boasts of 157 lakes.

Years ago, when we only had 3 kids, we ventured to this park. Wow! What a place. Covering it by foot would take forever. If memory serves correctly, the road around this park is 17-miles. In doing a search, I couldn't find the actual length of just the drive around this place.

It's been some time since we visisted this park but it has to be one of my favorites. Not much occurred when we took the kids there though, it was just a typical family visit, stopping at all of the sites the park has to offer and there are too many to count.

However, Pat and I did camp there for a night a few years after that initial visit. We got there after 10:00pm, tired, and very hungry. We had been on the road for quite a while, working our way home from North Dakota. In fact we had to pull some strings in order to get a site that night because that park fills up like a glass of water under a water spout!

On this particular night, we set up camp in the dark. Frustrated because we were in a hurry to get situated so we could relax and eat, it seemed to take forever to get the tent up. But we managed. It's what was occurring while we were setting up the tent that was the fondest memory though.

We had planned on eating steaks for dinner. Between struggling to see anything and getting things out of the vehicle, setting up the tent, getting a fire started and getting food out while being eaten alive by the Minnesota Birds--mosquitoes--it went unnoticed that there was a little rustling going on around where the picnic table was. Basically, we had 10 things going on at one time, stopping one task to help the other with that task only to begin a new task and forgetting about this task....chaos.

If any of you have ever pulled into a campground at night in the condition that we were in, you can relate to our urgency and desparation to complete these daunting tasks with virtually no light. We did use the headlights to situate the tent and all but because the campsites are practically on top of each other, we tried to use them as little as possible. We find it rude to blast our camping neighbors with blaring headlights. Camping is about firelight and the sounds of nature.

So anyway, that rustling we heard when we were finally able to sit a spell and rest after rushing to get things set up and out of the coolers, etc. Because we were rugged type campers, cooking over the open fire was thee way to go...but we had a few moments to rest before the fire was hot enough.

There was a picnic table just off to the side well out of the range of the fire and the headlights. I had set that up with the tablecloth, plates, silverware, and various other things for dinner. Included in that were the steaks which I had absent mindedly left sitting on the bench. OOPS!!!

We were enjoying the fire and the down time when we heard the noise coming from around the picnic table. Like a bag rattling or something. Me being a scaredy cat, well I was running towards the vehicle even before we flashed the light on whatever that noise was. I was thinking, "BEAR"! and Pat trying to find a flashlight was struggling to get me to just sit tight finally found the beam.

Upon turning the light on there was a raccoon sitting on the bench. That masked face with the beady little eyes looked at us but then proceeded to attack the steaks that I, yes, I admit it, I left sitting there for the world to steal.

UhUh! No way was that 'coon gonna take our steaks!!! Pat thinking that walking and kicking the gravel at this masked thief would scare him off was wishful thinking. What seemed to take 10 minutes probably only took about 3 but we could not do anything to scare that little guy away. He was growling at us, glaring at us all the while frantically trying to remove these lucious steaks from the bag they were in. He was a persistent and bold little bugger but finally, Pat managed to get him down from the table...only this smart thing stood underneath the table. Kind of like he was the armed guard or something.

Finally, somehow Pat managed to get this nasty little cuss to run far enough away so we could conquer the table and protect what was ours...our steaks, our only food besides hotdogs that was left. I ran to the table and stood on top of it like a fool while hugging those steaks next to my chest. What a sight I must have been.

That raccoon was defiant and determined, I tell ya. He ran towards our tent around the side. This whole time Pat had that light honed in on him. At some point I believe the lantern surfaced so it was quite a bit brighter. Thinking that we had finally lost our visitor, lo and behold, he marched back out from the side of the tent and stared us down. He knew he was defeated.

Nope, not over yet. Well then he decided he was going to go after the tent. He tottered up to the door of the tent like he was a camper and began to scratch at the zipper. Oh, he was trying anything to get us back for our victory. He scratched at that zipper like crazy and actually made some progress, enough to get his nose and eyes in to look inside. It was as if he was going to haunt us all night and hold our tent hostage.

Meanwhile, I'm still on top of this table, Pat is chuckling at me, and our fire is burning low...not good since we needed the heat for our dinner but we just didn't know what to do about this intruder. He wouldn't leave....but suddenly, I think he swallowed what pride he had left and waddled away.

Out went our lantern and we were all chattery about this great adventure. I finally dared to step foot on the ground again but it was a wary foot and every little noise I heard I shined my flashlight I've said before, I'm a whimp out in the wild. I was a little shakey and whiney thinking that in the middle of the night that 'coon was gonna come in and eat the steak out of our bellies.

So, sitting next to the fire, preparing the steaks, we suddenly hear car doors slamming shut, the backs of trucks closing, headlights shining between tents, flashlights shining all over the seems our little friend was on to his next attempt to claim victory.

This story I found in our local paper tonight reminded me of this particular moment in history and I had to chuckle a little thinking about how intimidating a raccoon can be. And it made me wonder just how this critter got into this guys tent...could it have been the expertise of the masked steak thief?

But I do recommend a trip to Itasca regardless of the quirky things that might occur, you won't regret it!

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