I always bring earplugs when I backpack, partly to keep my brain from misinterpreting noises outside the tent (see The Bear Who Wasn’t There) and partly to block out the inevitable snoring.
Thus while camping at Thirteen Falls in New Hampshire one July, I was pissed to realize I’d left my earplugs with my toiletries—now hanging 20 feet in the air in the bear bag rather than in the tent where they might actually help me block out the second loudest snoring I’d heard in my life. (The loudest was in a shelter at Sawyer Pond. I’m sure the USGS got a seismic reading from that dude.)
I ignored the noise for a bit and managed to get some sleep, but when I woke needing to pee at 2:30 in the morning, I decided I might just as well lower the bear bag and get my earplugs. At the time, Thirteen Falls was equipped with cables for bear bags so it would be a relatively simple proposition.
As I fumbled to find the correct cable, I heard a noise and looked up. The blueish light of my head lantern revealed a squirrel frozen on someone’s food bag. I’d better scare it down, I thought, since a squirrel could go through a nylon bag like a hot knife through butter. (This was based on experience: the fattest squirrel I ever saw was in the Grand Canyon where it chewed the grips off my hiking poles and went through the side of my backpack.) I picked up a rock, figuring I’d toss it in the squirrel’s general direction and that’d be enough to scare it away.
Now understand: I can’t hit the broad side of a barn. I was the last kid picked for the baseball team. They called me “Stone Hands” when I played rugby. So imagine my surprise when the rock hit the squirrel RIGHT IN THE HEAD!
The squirrel dropped as though shot and lay on the ground not moving. I stood there, hands pressed against my head, thinking, “I just killed an innocent squirrel. And there’s a pack of Cub Scouts staying here so I’d better move it so their young minds aren’t traumatized by the sight of Sammy Squirrel tits up on the ground when they come out for breakfast.”
At that moment, the squirrel stirred, rolled over and slowly moved off into the underbrush. I would not have to become an animal disposal expert. And as I walked back to my tent, I had a chuckle imagining the squirrel trying to explain the lump on his head to his partner: “It was an accident, honey, honest!” “That’s crap! I know you were messing around with that hussy in the oak tree by the river.”