You folks don’t have a pet chipmunk, do you?
That’s the question a neighbor asked us upon returning to camp after a long day away in town. Imagine our confusion. Because well, no, in fact we don’t.
We’d exited early that morning to drive the 70 miles to the nearest sizable town. We needed better cell service to participate in a virtual meeting, visit the laundromat, resupply groceries quite unexpectedly, and run to the hardware store for some unfortunate trailer supplies. We were ambitious enough to think we’d be able to get in a shower too. Silly us. Something had to give.
But let’s back up a bit.
We’re camping at Great Basin National Park at the moment. A couple of days ago we ventured into the small town of Baker, Nevada to mail a Sierra Mountain Passes order. We arrived back “home” to a little surprise. An uninvited visitor had clearly been partaking of our hospitality.
Our chipmunk friend saw fit to chew through a window screen and make itself at home. Finding no buffet waiting, it decided not to stick around for our return. Or so we thought.
Over happy hour, I joked with my dear man that with the exception of a small screen hole to repair, our unexpected visitor left only footprints. How very Leave No Trace of it.
We have to joke, you see, because it’s one of the only things keeping us sane lately.
If at first you don’t succeed
Our little friend decided to visit again the next day while we were gone handling all of the above-mentioned, tiresome tasks. Try, try again it did after not succeeding in a feast the previous day. We anticipated another visit from it, though, knowing they’re persistent little buggers. So we made sure all the windows were closed before we left.
Our camp neighbor walked up to us after we pulled in that afternoon and asked us that question. He said the chipmunk was sitting in the window for a long time chewing on the screen. We looked at the window and saw the shredded carcass of what was once our bedroom screen. He showed us cell phone pictures of the critter sitting in our bedroom window. We were flabbergasted.
It took some time to process and comprehend. We still had so much more to wrap up before we could relax for the evening—perishable groceries in the truck as well as not-entirely-dry laundry. And now this. We almost didn’t know where to begin dealing with it.
We cautiously opened the trailer door expecting a panicked chipmunk to lunge out at us, likely going for our jugulars. Nothing. We inspected around the bedroom and obvious areas. No chipmunk.
It left more than footprints this time, of course. Droppings, urine puddles, and the destroyed screen were part of the offerings. Along with a ravaged cabinet face that we deluded ourselves was its exit point.
We were wrong
We tended to the tasks of putting away groceries and laundry, eagerly anticipating a well-deserved happy hour. But first I swapped the destroyed screen for the only other matching one in the trailer so we didn’t have to choose between having the bedroom window open with no critter barrier overnight—if even a flimsy one—or sleeping in the equivalent of a sauna.
Feeling like we had averted the crisis, we set our sights on happy hour. First I strolled to the pit toilet, though. Walking back towards the trailer I noticed the bedroom screen looked funny. It was probably the 20th are-you-fucking-kidding-me moment of the day. The screen was chewed through. Again. In less than an hour.
If I were a cartoon character, I’d be the one with the exploding head. That’s what it felt like when the realization hit me.
Happy hour would have to be delayed. We desperately went through another round of digging through the trailer looking for the intruder. Tearing apart the bedding and mattress, looking through cabinets, and so on. No chipmunk. Well, surely it left this time. We convinced ourselves that the new hole was its gateway to freedom and the saga was over.
We were wrong again
The next morning we awoke to the Adventure Dog being unusually animated. We assumed he just needed to go out for a relief session but his behavior was a bit off. My dear man took him out and came back to bed. Moments later we heard a commotion in the kitchen. Our stainless steel cocktail glasses make a distinct sound. We knew something was in the sink. We thought it was a mouse. (More on that in a bit.)
We jumped out of bed and saw the chipmunk scrambling towards the rear window of the trailer, looking for an exit. It had none and, startled by our arrival, dove beneath the bench. We hastily threw on some clothes and I raced out the door to the back of the trailer to open the toy hauler ramp.
We yanked up the rear screen to give it a clear exit, pulled off the bench cushions and lifted one bench. It ran under the other bench. We lifted that one. The frightened animal was cowering between my riding boots and my camera-gear backpack. We swished it out with the broom and it frantically ran to freedom.
It was not exactly a relaxing morning. We were so baffled how it kept getting in. In reality it never left. It’s just an expert at hide-and-seek.
At happy hour that evening, my dear man said “I think now I understand why some people don’t like camping.”
Are we living the dream yet?
Eight months on the road so far. You’d think we’d be settled in by now. We are decidedly not. I summarized some of our struggles a few months ago.
But guess what? It gets worse.
Because the prologue to the chipmunk drama is that we’ve been battling a mouse invasion for over a week now. That was the driving force behind the need to make the big trip to town to resupply compromised food and buy more mouse traps and other deterrents.
We’ve spent hours and hours every day cleaning up after them, reconfiguring our food storage, emptying traps (the body count is at nine so far), and figuring out how to defeat them. Our 200-square-foot home has been a battleground.
We know we need to get under the trailer and start sealing up entry points. Yet another big job to do and there are only so many hours in the day. And we’re worn out.
So no, definitely not living the dream yet. Send more whiskey, please. This was definitely not in the brochure.
Adventure on, friends! One way or another…
Nancy Foote says
Maybe you need an Adventure Cat…
Val Weston says
Hahaha! I tried to talk my friend’s cat into giving Toby lessons over Zoom. Of course, being a cat, was not at all interested. 😀
That is hilarious. Thanks for the heads up…I’m considering a visit to Great Basin at the end of September. I’m working on my “rolling bubble” (i.e., 4Runner) so I can live in splendid isolation on the road for a month. No fair letting you have all the fun. Maybe our paths will cross!
Val Weston says
Yeah, the chipmunks are SUPER habituated. They know where the good food is — in camp! Best cell signal is at Baker Creek Campground, lower loop. But 3 miles of washboards to get there. It’s got AT&T 4G. Verizon is extended 3G there and practically useless. But Upper Lehman camp has been renovated and is absolutely wonderful now if you don’t mind being off-grid.
Keep me posted on your plans. We’re planning on being back on the ranch by the end of September after things start cooling down so we can make some progress on the homestead. We promised ourselves a do-over at Great Basin though. What a wonderful park and we didn’t get to enjoy it much at all. Try, try again… 😉