A Creature I Wouldn't Want to Kiss - Jefferson, NH
Updated: Feb 21
Today marks two weeks since leaving Boston. While the next part of our journey has us mainly tent based, navigating the difficulties of repeatedly crossing state lines and dealing with COVID regulations, the past two stops have featured space gifted by my parents, enabling us to jenga our way through packing, cry over car repairs, and test out camping equipment. Long term travel, as with any large endeavor, calls for preparation and also laughs maniacally in the background knowing that no amount of preparation can completely account for unknowns and unforseens. I find this state of continued discovery exciting, and also very humbling.
Animals have already reminded us how much we have to learn about adaptability. Living in the city for the past two years, our wildlife encounters have been rather mundane. Aside from the large cohort of rats throwing parties around the perimeter of our yard at night, the general population of city animals limited itself to turkeys, rabbits, song birds, the occasional racoon or skunk, and humans walking their house pets.
Forests lend themselves better to variety. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I personally find it much more enjoyable to examine amphibians in the woods than to look up from a city porch and see a rat taking dip in the bird bath.
The birdbath rat though, had the wherewithal to stay outside. We’ve discovered first hand that not all critters share this sentiment.
Currently, we are boarded in Jefferson, NH (population 1,041) nestled among the White Mountains. Most of the surrounding towns contain fewer than 4,000 residents with large properties well spread from one another. Much of the land is forested and there are creatures everywhere. Close to my favorite moose spotting location on route 302, there used to be a three legged fox that roamed the grounds. Once, while driving back from a hike with my dad, we pulled over alongside a crowd of other spectators to watch a mountain lion scale a rock face. I have yet to see a bear, though.
The property here has its fair share of mid sized animals, often making cameos on the game camera my dad has set up in the trees. There is a deer and her spotted fawn that occasionally make their way to the edge of the woods as well as a trio of turkeys that favor walking around a dirt pile by the side of the house. Last night while sitting by the firepit, we listened in to a clear coyote howl and I woke up briefly in the night to a curious owl in the midst of a serious ponder.
It’s the small critters, however, that have proven to be our most disruptive visitors. Ironically, they completely disregard the whole area around the tent when we stay outside, even though we are right next to the vegetable garden, but can’t seem to resist the comforting lure of the house itself.
On our first night, we established a system for removing spiders from the bathroom. They like to hang out in the bottom of the bathtub. I can’t blame them. I like to hang out there too. Our system is simple:
Take one clear cup.
Place over said spider.
Slide flat circle torn from paper plate under cup.
Pick apparatus up.
Speak soothingly to spider while carrying it outside.
Place somewhere seemingly spider friendly, like near the wood pile.
Take or leave the pleasantries as you will, but I find them a nice touch. Since Jacob hates spiders, I serve as our resident arachnid whisperer and get to take some liberties with how they leave the bathtub.
Then, there are the mice.
I have a special place in my heart for anything small and fluffy, but I don’t particularly like when those small fluffy things try to take my food and then poop on the sink.
We have been transporting our food in a laundry basket so, upon arrival, we placed anything uncovered in the refrigerator and left the sealed items in the basket to fend for themselves. Bad call. I awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of rummaging. It’s rare that something wakes me up, but when it does, I am reminded how pathetic it feels to be a large creature with no night vision and zero ability to determine the size of something rustling through your stuff. So, I did what seemed logical at the time. I woke Jacob up to report to him, “Hey, I think there’s a mouse in our stuff somewhere”, a completely useless proclamation given the fact that 1) It’s not like he could see any better than I could and 2) the rustling stopped as soon as we started talking.
Being kind though, he got up and inspected our food basket. Nothing there. We proceeded to spend the next four hours trying to fall back asleep, which only one of us successfully managed to do. (Spoiler alert - it was me). As morning sunshine reconfigured the room into familiarity, we got up and began milling about the kitchen compiling breakfast.
As Jacob lifted up the all-holy sugar bag to add a few spoonfuls to his AM espresso, the bag suddenly began to dump crystals from the bottom corner. There it was, a tiny hole, chewed through during the night by a sweet seeking mouse.
Lesson learned, never underestimate a determined rodent.
We have since moved our entire food stash to a sealed plastic tub and have endearingly named our tiny nocturnal friend “Heinous” after our mutual love of Law and Order: SVU.