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Boulder Raccoon Adventures: Navigating Waneka’s Loop and Close Encounters

A back yard visitor raccoon. This parent was keeping on eye on me, knowing that at least three of the youngsters were also there, frolicking under a parental watchful eye.

I am quite comfortable having a glass door between me and this denizen of the night! Even with the glass as a shield, having the parent racoon three feet away is unnerving.

I told the youngsters to hold still and smile, and they ignored me.

Imagine a quiet night in your backyard, the sun having set, with the steps from the glass door lit only by a lamp in the living room. A curious visitor emerges and the movement catches my eye. All other thoughts including wondering what movie I’m going to roll vanish from my mind. My only thought is “can I grab my phone/camera fast enough. A raccoon appears. The movement that caught my eye was a youngster dashing across the patio, parent in tow.  This nocturnal explorer sniffs around, checking out any bird food that might be there. The raccoon, with its distinctive black mask and ringed tail, cautiously approaches, its eyes gleaming with curiosity and mischief. My eyes gleam with a touch of nervousness while I zoom my phone. Once again, the phone/camera works great! I am not a fan of the shape of the phone as camera, yet somehow I make do! My favorite camera, as always, is the closest one at hand.

As always, I am enchanted by yet another unexpected guest.  It’s a magical moment of connection with nature, reminding everyone of the wild world just beyond the garden fence and just outside the dim circle of light cast by the indoor lamp. As the raccoon scampers back into the shadows, I feel a sense of wonder and a renewed appreciation for these fleeting encounters with the natural world, adding a touch of wonder to my evening.

Suburban wildlife is plentiful. It is there for the viewing if we take a moment to look. Keeping odd hours helps me, since I am often up and writing in the middle of the night. My original idea for a blog goes out the door with the appearance of the raccoon’s visiting family.

Confessions of a distracted walker! How do I know for a fact that being on the phone is distracting? Waneka Lake is 1.2 miles around. Thursday was HOT! I was walking around Waneka, and decided that it was simply too hot to continue. I checked my phone and saw 1700 steps. My goal was a mere 3000 steps. Turning around after 1/3 of the loop meant that I’d have at least 3400 steps under my belt. I turned around. I was half way back to my car when I got on the phone with my blue tooth ears. Standing in one place as I settled into the call was fine. Once I was connected and chatting, I started walking again. After a while, I saw that the path curved to the left in front of me. That was wrong! Since I was headed back to the car, ALL of the turns should have been to the right. I took out a compass, graph paper, a sextant, dividers, and a calculator. I did the math. I stood on my head. I scoured the horizon. I asked passing strangers.

I found it easy to get turned around, even on the closed loop around Waneka Lake!

My conclusion was simple. I had taken the phone call, and had begun walking back the way I was going when I first turned around. I was headed towards continuing around the lake in the same direction I’d started in. I was too far around to turn back, so I continued around. This took me full circle, plus the doubling-back and the duplicated walking. Instead of under 1.2 miles in the heat, I walked about 2.0 miles plus. Happily the phone distracted me, and the extra walk was great! I’m glad I was not driving while on the phone. If I was unable to keep forwards and backwards straight while walking, why would I expect to do better driving? I was “hands-free” while walking and the distraction of the call was undiminished.  Glad I was not behind the wheel, hands-free or not.

The moral of the story is easy. “Do not stare at raccoons while walking around Waneka Lake, in spite of the path being a closed loop around the lake!”

Lenny Lensworth Frieling

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