Two years ago, I pitched a tent off the Appalachian Trail at the base of Mt. Garfield, after hiking almost twenty miles from Ethan Pond. I had peaked five summits on that hot and muggy Independence Day, with only a few small bottles of murky water to drink from Zealand Falls — and a few semi-frozen PBRs. I dozed off in the pitch black, enjoying the mild hallucinatory, dehydrated state I was in. At some point, I crawled out of the little scout tent to relieve myself, and within seconds of slipping back in feet-first, I felt a presence. It was standing right above me. My tent was suddenly very hot and still; I felt and smelled its musty breath on my face. Its paw pressed against my head through the screen of the tent – the soft leathery pad of a living animal on my head. I slinked into a tight ball of terrified human and waited in the stagnant dark.
Time passed as it pawed around the edges of the tent. I shook things, tried to make soft noises. Finally, against all my reasoning, I screamed and shined my flashlight on and off – too fearful to look while doing it. I felt the cool air creep back through the screen and listened to my visitor’s lazy thump-thump, softer and fainter as it wandered away. At some point, I fell back asleep. I woke up a few times, but by then the sun was peeling back the shadows.
The next morning I found footprints and plenty of rocks up in the hills that provide housing for Ursa.