Coming out of hibernation in the Canadian Rockies

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Spring cleaning in Banff

The guys in the office here asked me if I’d plug their Canadian Rockies restaurant guide this week. Normally I’d be on it, since Banff, Jasper and Canmore have got some of the finest victuals this side of the Arctic Circle. But I’ve got to say, since I did my ritual spring cleaning this week, I haven’t been all that hungry.

The Mountain Man will not be eating this week.

The Mountain Man will not be eating this week, but there's still plenty for you to choose from.

Every other spring, or sometimes every third spring, or occasionally every fifth spring, I gather up my backpacking gear, drag it out onto the back porch, and scrub it good. As usual, it took me a little while to remember what I did with my old aluminum frame pack when backpacking season had ended.

After about five days, I was seriously considering giving up and hiking with one of those hobo bindles this year like my paw used to, and then a snow bank in front of my house melted off a little bit, and a little piece of aluminium glinted at me.

I remembered then this past fall, when we got our first snow. I had run around searching for my ski gear, found it behind the outhouse, grabbed my backpack out of the Volkswagen, tossed it in the front yard, chucked my skis in and headed out to Norquay.

Must have forgotten to bring the pack inside when I got home.

Anyway, I figured at least it had gotten aired out, which is about half the work of cleaning it. I dug my pack out of the snow, brought it inside, and set it next to the wood stove to dry off while I heated up a can of beans and bacon. Now, at first I thought the beans had gone bad when a strong smell, like a truckload of ferrets, socked me square in the nose. But I tasted a spoonful of the beans, and they were fine. Better than usual even.

I sniffed around the cabin for the source of the smell, but it finally got so strong I had to go outside to finish my breakfast. Of course it hit me as soon as I stepped outside. The smell of my pack must have been locked in from the snow, and sat percolating all winter long. The heat from the stove must have thawed it and let it loose in the house. I set the half-eaten can of beans on the porch and went in to get the pack before it ruined the finely cultivated smell of pine trees and feet in my cabin.

When I walked in, the smell almost knocked me right out. I ran over, hoisted the pack, and ran out the back door with it. By the time I’d set it against the outhouse, I knew the smell was inhuman. Never had it ever smelled this rotten. Without really thinking too much about it, I unbuckled the top flap and flipped it open.

Spring normally brings out the beauty in the Canadian Rockies.

Spring normally brings out the beauty in the Canadian Rockies.

At first, I thought I’d finally found the old coon skin cap that my grand pappy had given me years ago. But I knew there was no way in heck it could have gotten up and crawled from where ever it had been hiding and gotten into my bag. Then a pair of eyes met mine from inside the pack. It was a big old mama raccoon, madder than a hornet. I jumped back, but she had already leaped out and attached herself firmly to my scalp. I grabbed hold and tried to yank her off, but she held firm.

Now, normally the mountain man is one cool customer, but for some reason, maybe because I had an angry raccoon stuck to my head, I started running around, screaming for someone to get this dang raccoon off my head. Apparently, none of my neighbors were home, as my calls for help went unheeded, so I finally slowed down, and sat on the porch. After a few minutes, she relaxed her grip to the point where I was able to blink my eyes again. I noticed the can of beans sitting next to me then, and started working on them while I pondered how to get rid of this raccoon.

I’d run through a few ideas when the raccoon whipped her tail right in my mouth just as I was biting down on the last spoonful of beans. She jumped up and dragged me about halfway across the porch before I got the sense to let go, and then I watched as she scampered across the lawn and crawled right back into my pack.

Since then, I’ve been spending a lot of time sitting on the back porch, gargling with moonshine to try to get taste of hibernated raccoon tail out of my mouth, and pondering how to get a raccoon out of my backpack. If anyone’s got any ideas, feel free to let me in.

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