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Above All Else

Updated: Feb 15, 2022

A story of territorial wildlife.

It was the winter of 2008 and there I was, on a whim finding myself trudging uphill with a 50lbs+ pack on. Starting from the distant valley far down below, snowshoeing up past Mirror Lake seen in the mid ground, and finally making the push through thigh-deep snow up to this ridge overlooking it all. It was my 7th time backpacking this small mountain that winter and I was getting pretty damn sick of the exhausting trudge through the snow. I arrived an hour before sunset. Cloudy skies and lightly falling snow allowed me to not worry about shooting sunset that night, so I shifted focus to setting camp before the dark fell. As always when camping at this spot, I opted to not camp directly upon the ridge, as the wind is often violent up there. I set camp just below the ridge in a stand of trees, digging into the snow and packing a nice base for my tent. I set the tent, boiled some snow to refill my water supply, and cooked up some Chili Mac for dinner… which is by far the best freeze dried meal on the market despite the heart burn it induces. By this point the hike, camp building, and full belly had me pretty tuckered out. I crawled in to my little solo tent and read by candle light until I fell asleep. DO NOT FALL ASLEEP WITHOUT BLOWING OUT A CANDLE. I normally had no issue with blowing out my little REI candle lantern, but had a lapse in judgement (a daily occurrence in my life) and allowed myself to fall asleep with it still burning. I must have knocked it over in my slumber, as I was awoken to the smell of burning tent. I put out the small smolder fairly quickly but ended up with a baseball sized hole in my tent on one of the walls near the floor. Fortunately I was able to just cover it with snow to seal the hole. By this time, it was only 9pm. I had a lot of sleeping still to do. Back to sleep I went, only waking to my alarm the next morning. Wow, I felt well rested! I crawled out of my tent in the faint pre-dawn light to discover one of the most odd things I had ever woken up to (and I've woken up in some pretty crazy situations in my past). There were Coyote tracks all over my camp. One had come in the middle of the night, probably smelling me and my food, and had uh... marked it's territory. Yeah, ok fine, I'll say it... it pissed all over my tent. I would have been upset about it if I didn't find the idea of Coyotes peeing on me in my sleep oddly hilarious. There were little yellow craters at the foot and head of my tent where it had peed on the rainfly, then the warm coyote bladder-water had dripped down and melted the snow. Luckily being peed on didn’t awaken any weird fetishes in me... I think. It was easily one of the funniest moments I had ever spent alone in the backcountry. Then I went and shot this photo.


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