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[pct-l] Embarrassing question

Brian Davis wrote:

> <snip> When I was around 12, I was on an outing with my boyscout troop and during the middle of the night something kept slowly walking around my tent with a slow heavy breathing for about 1/2 hour

I had the same sort of experience as an adult, on the northwest side of San Jacinto in southern California.  Three of us were sharing a tent, had been settled down for about 15 minutes, when the "thing" walked up.  The steps were as heavy as if they belonged to a person, much heavier than a coyote, but it had the rythym of a slow moving quadraped. It's breathing was quite audible, also slow and easy, not the rapid panting of a dog, but at the frequency of a sleeping adult. The footstep sounds were solid, and dull as if they were padded, not hoofed. As we whispered to one another in the tent, and flashed our lights around the tent walls, we heard nothing skittish about the foot sounds of the "thing".  When I finally got the nerve to peek outside, (with my wife hissing "don't do it"...<g>) whatever had been there was gone.  My best guess would be that it was a mountain lion, but who knows, it might have been Sasquatch or the local patrolling Ranger.  (probably not the ranger, we were
out of jelly doughnuts)  The earth around the campsite was loose duff and in the morning I couldn't spot any prints that made sense. It's never happened to me again.

I'd like to think, and have fooled myself into believing, that if and when it does happen, I'll haul myself out of my sleeping bag in a timely fashion and try to lay eyes on the critter.  But since then, I too flinch at nght when I hear the pop of a twig or a rock rattle in a stream. And yet, I've found that if I get my thoughts off my immediate self, and think beyond the small space of my campsite, I can calm down and drift off to sleep. I'll stare into the night sky and look for satellites or contellations or I'll mentally retrace a hike in my mind in as much detail as I can, or I'll pull out my paperback and flashlight and read a while. After a while my nerves will settle down.

Over the years, my perspective has changed.  I'm a lot less twitchy than I used to be.  I know that I've learned to make a more comfortable bed, and a little vitamin I at bedtime keeps minor aches and stiffness from disturbing my slumber.  My attitude in the outdoors has changed as well.  As a young feller, I packed what I needed to "survive the wild" and lugged a bunch of weight.  Now I pack what I need to "be in the wild" and lug less weight.  Somewhere in this change of hiking process came a change in thought process.  And I noticed that I started trading fear of the unknown for the enjoyment of the known.