In The Greenwood: Part 2

May first means it’s warm enough to go around in a t-shirt, so I figured I’d take a sleeping bag into the Endowment Lands and see if I could find a place to camp. It was a good gamble. I figured I could poke around there and find someplace inconspicuous to hide. After all, what’s a little experimentation in the face of free rent?

About five, I grabbed my sleeping bag and some sandwiches for dinner and hopped off the 25 at Imperial St. I’d spent the last couple of days researching how to make a shelter in the woods. I figured I was ready.

I have never been more wrong. You know how they say a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing? It’s also a stupid, damp, foolhardy and embarassing thing.

I found a place in some four-foot-tall bracken and erected a kind of lean-to in a low spot under a cedar tree. The air smelled fresh and green. I pulled out my 17th Century Poetry textbook and read until it was too dark to. Then I ate one of my sandwiches, thining I’d save the other till morning. My watch said it was ony 9:00, but I was tired, so I took off my shoes and crawled into my sleeping bag.

I was woken by something sniffing around outside my shelter. I listened closer, reminding myself that there were no bears here. Were there two animals out there? Oh God. I hadn’t even brought a flashlight to see or scare them off, and the darkness was stygian. I’m serious.

“Hey!” I called, in what I hoped was a threatening manner. The snuffling stopped, then started again.

“Hey, fuck off!” I called louder. Snuffling stopped. Started. All of a sudden it sounded like even more snufflers.

And then they started yipping. Of course it was coyotes, but that didn’t stop me from nearly peeing my pants in fear. Would they come in? My knowledge of coyotes was limited to knowing they ate cats.

Then I remembered: My sandwich. They’re like dogs, right? They have keen senses of smell. They can probably smell my cheese sandwich. What should I do? Throw it to them? Would they go away or come looking for more? I was paralyzed in indecision.
They yipped and snuffled for a long, long time while I huddled inside a drecky, dripping shelter made of cedar boughs. Eventually they wandered away.

Dripping? Yes. In my panic over the coyotes I hadn’t noticed that it had rained. My sleeping bag was getting wetter and wetter, and water was actually coming in and pooling in the little hollow I had thought so cozy only hours before.

At first light, I rolled up my wet sleeping bag and walked to the bus stop, my bones stiff and my pride bruised.

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