The Weirdest Animal Story Ever!!

I have had a lot of weird run-ins with wild animals during my hiking trips. Many just in the last year. As many weird stories as I could tell you, none match the one I’m about to share.

There was the time on the PCT when I was nursing a foot infection at South Lake Tahoe and I was walking around, or should I say limping, right alongside a brown black bear…who was also limping. We were two products of nature… buddies if you will, going for a stroll. But still, this one beats that. Or the time I was coiled up on from a Western Diamondback. He yelled at me for a couple seconds then scurried into the desert bushes. Only to run into another one as I continued on. Yes, two rattlers hanging out together. One rattles and takes off, the other doesn’t rattle and starts coming towards me. He keeps coming… closer and closer. I’m pouring sweat, being bitten and bloodied by black flies, but this rattler is intrigued and wants to know my name and purpose for being there. After backing me up about 20 feet he takes off. Rattlers don’t chase… what the heck. Didn’t he read the book? It wouldn’t seem possible or believable if I wouldn’t have caught it on video. In fact, most of these stories are on video on my YouTube channel. .

It’s not the fox that ran up to my tent in the morning. Or the deer who waited for me outside my tent as I drank my coffee. Or the deer who wanted to hike down the trail with me. It wasn’t the three wild ponies who hung out at a shelter with me… literally at my feet like they were my puppies. Or the gang of goats who met me on a summit then tried to follow me down the trail, pushing each other out of the way as their ears flopped as to say… “Get out of my way, I want to be first behind Fortune” Lol!!

This story is a unique one. Unlike any other I have witnessed. I woke about 2:00 a.m. this day excited to start my four-day challenge. I would start at the VA/WV border on the AT and continue through WV and MD up to the PA border. Forty-four-plus miles in one day. I had been averaging about 20-25 and up to 30 most days. So it would be tough. It was going smoothly except for a couple mistakes on getting off trail onto a different one a couple times. Maryland was definitely rockier than I thought it would be. But onward I went. Around noon I had surpassed 20+ miles and was in good shape. I had stopped to eat a few times and drank plenty of water. However, I began to get extremely tired. Almost falling asleep while hiking. So I decided to stop at the next shelter and take a nap and eat some more food. Little did I know what was about to happen. I didn’t wake up for FOUR HOURS!!!!! WHAAAAT!!!!!!!????? Apparently getting up at 2:00 a.m. with little sleep and following another 20-mile day pooped me, lol. So my plans changed. I decided to eat as much as I could and go to bed early there at the shelter and continue the rest the next day. Four state challenge= fail!!! But!!!! Everything happens for a reason. Everything!!!

I go to bed around 7:00-ish. Before this, two section hikers show up. We talk for a few moments before I turn in. They assure me they will keep it down as they were not going to crash that early. It was a double decker shelter. I was set up on the bottom and they took the top. In the very early morning hours. Around 2:00 a.m., if I remember correctly, I awaken to a horrible, painfully loud obnoxious sound. With drool in my beard and half asleep, I can’t figure out what it is. I just keep lying there. Then it continues and I’m getting annoyed. I’m not sure if it’s the two hikers up above or what. Well finally my eyes open a bit and I can see the silhouette from the moonlight of a bushy tail. It’s right in front of me. I look for my headlamp… can’t find it. So I grab my phone and shine it to my left side. And there it was…those little devils. Four huge raccoons. They were gathered around me just watching me. Watching me sleep, I guess. Not trying to get to me or do anything. I move the phone’s light around to see them all and one starts to reach out to grab the phone, like I was giving him a gift. The nerve lol. At this moment in a stern but gentle voice, like you would talk to your dog, I said “you guys can’t be in here, you need to go.” Immediately they turned around in almost a single file line and left!!! Whaaaat?? Am I the raccoon whisperer now?? Lol. I stayed awake for another 30 minutes or so, thinking they would come back. They never did. Those two hikers later found my YouTube channel and stated on there that it happened just as Fortune said. They rolled over and went back to sleep cuz apparently the raccoons listen to me haha. The next morning, I found that the awful noise was them pushing my bear can into a tree. Sooooo maybe they were trying to wake me to ask how to open it. Who knows. I think it was deeper than that myself.

But wait……there’s more. I finish 28 days that next day and enter PA. There I go to Waynesboro, PA for a zero. While there, I go to a pizza shop for some lunch. I look around after ordering and at the front is one of those vending crane games where you can get stuffed animals. Guess what was on top in this collection of stuffed animals? FOUR RACCOONS!!!! You got to be kidding me. So I think now that destiny is calling me to play this game. I’ve never won in 47 years… never once did I get a stuffed animal in one of these……….. Until now. First try… one raccoon. I decide this is fate. This guy is coming with from here on out. I name him Dewd and he has been with me ever since. I always thought a Bear was my spirit animal… but maybe Raccoons wanted to be involved too. Or maybe they were just hungry that night. Or maybe they were just admiring my beard. But because of them… Dewd is now free and hiking mountains. 🦝

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