This outdoor hour is brought to you by the letter “C”. “C”, as in, “Coyotes”. You know, the somewhat cute, cuddly, and crafty little canine that’s no bigger than a collie.
And So It Begins…
We started our hike from the parking lot thinking we’d make the 3-mile trek to the closest backpacker campsite. “We”, being my girlfriend and I, just in case you aren’t intimately familiar with every detail of my life for the past 15 months. If you are, I’d like to send you a hotdog in return for being a great fan. That got derailed quickly…
We made it approximately 1.5 miles, and I started to realize the sun was setting pretty quickly and still needed to make camp. It was March in Northern MN so everything was in the thaw/freeze cycle and still very wet. We chose a spot in the middle of the woods, high on a ridge that overlooked the rest of the forest and a small creek with a decent sized pond. It was quite nice, actually.
We set the tent and built a fire. Since this wasn’t “real” backpacking, we brought real food to cook over the flames. MN is black bear country (and I recently realized just how big our grey wolf population is, which I had no idea even existed on this fateful night), but I guess I wasn’t concerned about cooking away from our tent. I got the marinated venison (deer) steak out of my pack, lanced it on a stick, and started cooking. We like our meat rare (but warmed), so it was done in about 6 minutes.
After eating the bloody meat like savages, Anh (my gf, pronounced most closely to “On” but not exactly) began dancing around the fire in a way that resembled what I would imagine an orangutan’s mating dance to look like. I don’t think it was working like that for me, but I found it quite amusing.
Death All Around Us
We were both laughing and carrying on, having a grand ‘ol time, and all of a sudden, the most gut-wrenching sound I have ever heard erupted and broke the otherwise silence of the woods around us. I knew what it was immediately. Anh had no idea.
It was two packs of coyotes on opposite sides of us yipping, growling, snarling, barking, and bitching.
I know. Coyotes, right? They’re little scavengers. The annoying toy breed of wilderness “predators”. If it were just one or two, no problem. Middle of summer with plenty of food for them, not a big deal. However, it was spring; they were likely hungry, and I just cooked marinated, fresh, bloody meat; and from the sound of it, there were no less than eleventy hundred (but probably closer to 10-20). I had never experienced this before, and I wasn’t sure that two of us could fight off 15 of them….if that’s what it came to.
I told Anh what was going….on….and the smiling face turned to major concern. I quickly threw more wood on the fire and grabbed my knife. The continued screaming was almost deafening. I didn’t know if they were getting ready to pounce or just letting us know that they would be at some point. So with that in mind, the quickest defense was to climb some trees. Just our luck. Extremely tall poplar trees with diameters too big to get our arms around. Climbing wouldn’t be easy, especially for 5’1″ Anh.
Next up on the wilderness self-defense list: spears. I grabbed some mid-sized branches we already had down, sharpened their ends, and then hardened them in the fire. Knife in one hand, spear in the other, we stood around awaiting our certain demise, all the while, this group of cantankerous coyotes kept on.
They eventually died down. We thought it was over. And then they erupted again. It went on like that for the next 30 minutes. I wish I was wearing a heart rate monitor. The data would have been hilarious (afterwards).
Ultimately, we took our weapons and walked the scariest 20 yards of my life to the tent. The crowd slowly started to die out, and by the end of this whole thing, an “eruption” was no more than 1 or 2 chatting back and forth, probably about tea and crumpets. (Sometimes I envision coyotes being of English descent.)
The Dust Settles
We drifted off, into an uneasy sleep. The next morning, we skipped our usual coffee and breakfast burritos and headed straight for the car. We didn’t see a trace of the massive herd of coyotes from the night before, but I wasn’t risking it. I left our campsite, spear in hand.
And that, my new found friends, is the scariest hour of my life….and it just so happens to be, an “Outdoor Hour”.