“Shh, do you hear that?” Carol, my best friend from first grade on, and I were in our mid-30s and her daughter Meg about 7 when we were on one of our frequent camping trips.

We were camping in Acadia. One night, it seemed we had just drifted off to sleep when we heard a vicious snarling outside our tent. Snarling, and the sound of something running back and forth just a few feet from us. It was terrifying.

My heart was beating so fast it seemed there was no space between beats. “What do you think it is?” whispered Carol. Earlier that day we had visited the College of the Atlantic and heard there were bears in the park. As I am wont to do I leaped to the worst thing I could think of. “Do you think it’s a bear?” I whispered back. “Well,” answered Carol, “either that or a wild dog.”

In my mind I searched for an escape plan. In the pack next to me I had my “essentials” all together on a keyring: a key to the car, my eyeglasses and my Swiss army knife. When I reached for it, Carol, sounding a little panicky, asked what I was doing. When I told her I was getting my knife, she asked somewhat incredulously, “You’re going to kill a bear?” Carol always seemed to think me smarter and stronger than I was in reality.

“No,” I told her, “I’m going to slit the tent so we can get the hell out of here.” I outlined my plan. I would slit the tent and open the car door. She would get her daughter to the car and we’d drive off. In the wee hours of the morning it sounded doable to us.

Suddenly a new sound arose: whimpering. Carol and I surmised that our bear/dog had attacked a small animal. There was no sleeping for us that night. After what seemed like hours, in the dark, in a small tent, it eventually became quiet. “As soon as it gets light out,” I told my friend, “I’m going out. If there’s some small animal carcass out there, I want to clean it up before Meg sees it or she might never go camping again.”

“I’m never going camping again,” said Carol. We emerged from the tent to find all calm and neat. We looked at each other in surprise. But then we noticed it: our cooler.

We two experienced campers (I had even taught outdoor skills for my local Girl Scout Council) had made a rookie mistake. Opening the cooler we found empty eggshells instead of intact eggs. I had to go to the ranger station to make a check-in phone call to my employer and Carol said she would look toward the neighboring campsite and talk to them when she saw them. When I returned, she related the following conversation.

Carol: Did you hear some snarling last night?

Neighbor: You mean the raccoons?

Carol: No, bigger, more vicious.

Neighbor: There were raccoons.

We decided we should tell her daughter what happened. We just started our story about hearing the terrible snarling when Meg asked derisively, “And what did you two think it was, a bear?”

We’ve camped many times since, never again forgetting to secure our cooler inside the car. Shortly after our trip to Acadia, I happened upon and purchased a realistic raccoon puppet. It made a surprise appearance on a subsequent camping trip. For some years later Carol would find, in her Christmas stocking, a raccoon tree ornament.

Visitors at Christmastime would usually ask what the raccoon ornaments were about. And it gave us a chance to spread the story, which we now thought was funny, of our Night of Terror in the Maine Woods.

Read more stories from Maine at www.pressherald.com/meetinghouse

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