This story happened when I was much older...around 22 or 23. We decided to go on a camping/paintball extravaganza. It was going to be epic and in many ways it was. We gathered a decent amount of interest, gassed up our paintball tanks, loaded up on paint, food, supplies, and headed off into the wilderness. We drove up into the mountains to Kolob reservoir which sits above Zion National Park and shares borders with this most beautiful area in the universe.
|Yes, I took this pic. The hike up there just about killed me, but so worth it.|
My mom and a few siblings took the tent. Mark, my older brother, and I thought it would be a good idea to sleep outside. It was a beautiful warm summer night. We unrolled our sleeping bags and crawled deep into them, still one of my favorite sensations as the crisp air washes over my face, cooled by the lake, while the bag warms up to a toasty level.
Why did we sleep outside? Anyone who has looked up at the night sky from Southern Utah doesn't need to ask this question. The stars are so bright and numerous, it would be a shame to ignore them. I also like to see one or two falling stars before I drift off to sleep. Camping tradition.
Kolob sits over a thousand feet above Zion. The air is thinner and the stars even closer. You can practically taste the milky way in the air and almost hear the stars sing their lonely songs as they spin and dance in the emptiness of space. The stardust in your blood from ancient supernovas picks up the song and hums back to distant relatives. You feel connected to the universe for a few moments before sleep folds you down into oblivion and dreams.
I don't remember my dreams while camping. I sleep too deeply and well. I awoke with a pressure on my chest. For a fraction of a second I thought of my little brother's dog, Puppy (Real original name, I know), and I thought of pushing him off.
I have always been a spacial person. I have never been one of those people who wakes up unsure where they are, forgetting where they fell asleep for minutes until the memories flow back. The reality of my location in a sleeping bag on top of a mountain spiraled back into my mind before I even opened my eyes. I was NOT home! That was NOT Puppy on my chest!
I had a creeping suspicion what I would find as I cracked open one eyelid, carefully controlling my breathing and movement.
Yep...just what I had expected...a skunk lay curled up on my chest, sleeping.
I know, right? How do they find me? Is there some skunk social network with little black and white posts? "Hey, my skunk peeps. If you run into Charlie, he's cool. Totally hang with that guy! Feel free to let him scratch your head, give you some gum, or just take a nap on his chest."
Whatever the reason, they know! I had to lay there frozen as the little guy snoozed soundly on my chest, like the family cat on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Then Mark started to snore...loudly. It is the only way he knows how.
The skunk started awake and gave my brother the dirtiest look I have ever seen a skunk give.
It stood up and paced back and forth on my chest, raising its tail at my brother. I could do nothing. I just watched as it puffed out its fur and kept making angry faces at the noise emanating from my brother. This is it, I thought. This is the time I'm going to get sprayed. Thank you Mark.
But then the skunk turned, looked me in the eyes, and waddled off into the woods. I breathed a sigh of relief and then started laughing. I woke up my brother and told him how lucky he really was to have my silent communion with skunks save him. Then my mom started snoring.
My mom's snores put my brother's to shame. Her snores rolled across the lake, echoed off the hills, woke up slumbering chipmunks miles away. A bull on the other side of the lake must have thought the deep thrumming sound was a mating call of some wild cow, sorry mom. He took to answering her snores with deep lowing. This went back and forth for several minutes as we giggled outside the tent.
When the bull, bulky black hide and long pointed horns, started making its way around the lake to us, we woke my mom up. Didn't want to find out what a lonely bull would do when it found out it had been duped.
We then played paintball. Mark plays like Terminator. He walks through the forest, paintballs bouncing off him left and right. If you spot him first, you better not miss or you are dead.
This was the first time I remember getting him out. I was cowered in a bush waiting. I heard him take out four or five people, their screams as paint tore into them...or at the injustice of paint bouncing off my brother. I knew he headed my way. I breathed slowly. He came over the rise, making his way toward me. I resisted the urge to just shoot. I had made that mistake before. I waited. I breathed. He walked closer. I waited. He looked toward my hiding spot and I knew he saw me. My finger reacted. POP! He could no longer see me, pink paint blocking all view as my first shot splattered across his mask. One of my happiest moments...ever!
This is my last skunk post...until my next skunk encounter. I am going to build a teardrop camper though so, hopefully, I can keep the things from sleeping on me again. Love them, but enough is enough.