“Get out of here! Go away. GO. AWAY.”
Headlamps flicked on sporadically, and bobbed out of their tents. A handful of strained voices, containing equal parts anger and exhaustion, pierced through the quiet of the cool evening.
“Oh my God. Is it a- he was in my rainfly!”
“Are you alright!?”
“It’s the skunk. He’s back. It’s him,” called one voice, arriving at the point. “GO AWAY,” the voice continued, sternly. This command was followed moments later by the clattering of rocks.
We had been haunted for several nights by this foul specter, grim and pale-faced and terrible. It was bold and crafty, and carried with it the menacing payload of stank. This malevolent being would sneak into tent vestibules with the cool assurance of a seasoned scavenger. Lurking was its business. And business was good.
This well-honed dagger of the night was the product of months, perhaps years of poor Leave No Trace ethics, and it paid us nightly visits. And yet, through some bizarre twist of circumstances, it adhered to the very doctrine whose poor execution had made it so bold. Never did it take food (In truth, we left little for the taking), nor did it leave behind any hint of its presence after it was gone. It just… stared.
And now, after many sleepless nights spent in suspense, under the veil of creeping, lingering, fear, the crew had had enough. Rocks cascaded blindly towards the empty creekbed into which our intruder had slipped. Accompanied by vulgar challenges and primal cries, the stones rained for what felt like hours but could have only been seconds, each of which was pregnant with the threat of smelly counter-fire.
We never did see that skunk again, after that night. Perhaps our retaliation scared it off. Maybe the devil found a new campsite upon which to inflict his unique brand of terror. Or, could be he found himself on the wrong side of (that’d be underneath) a passing semi on dusty TX-118.
But I don’t think any of those things. I think he just got smarter. I think he stopped getting caught. I think he’ll keep staring until he finds whatever it is he’s looking for and, sated, will slip quietly, unseen, back into the darkness.
Matt Lore, Trails Across Texas Crew Member