The tenting area was a fairly long distance from where we would meet up in the morning. In order to get to and from the tent meadow you had to either take a dirt road that went along side a horse paddock or walk along the trail that went parallel to the road on the other side of the horse paddock.
On the first night I was there I decided to take the trail instead of the road to get back to my tent. It was already dark and I walked swiftly but quietly along the trail, straining my ears to listen to all the subtle sounds in the bushes. The cool air was wonderful and a beautiful starry sky stretched out overhead.
This area had a lot of deer, raccoons & skunks. I wasn't worried about the deer and raccoons but I certainly wasn't interested in upsetting any skunks.
Attempting to detect skunks when walking along a dark trail at night definitely peaks your senses & gives you good incentive to pay close attention to your surroundings.
As I approached the horse pasture I heard a sound coming from an old shed. I stopped & listened for a little while. It sounded like some sort of animal. Maybe a weasel? Or a raccoon? I couldn't be sure but I was tired from the day of travel so I kept going and had a great sleep under the stars.
The next morning I woke up early and started heading back along the trail. The birds had already woken up and were making various dawn songs & feeding calls.
As I was walking alongside the horse paddock I started hearing song sparrows alarming maybe 100 yards up the trail. It sounded like they were alarming at some sort of ground predator.
As I scanned up the trail I realized that the alarms were coming from very close to that old shed I had passed the night previously. the birds were perched almost exactly where I had heard the noise from that animal. This was my chance to figure out what was going on.
As I approached the shed I slowed down & started watching for any sort of movement in the bushes. I caught a glimpse of one of the sparrows & noticed that it was looking to the other side of the trail. That's when I noticed shaking & movement of a young tree out past a big patch of goldenrod that bordered the trail. My mystery animal was right on the other side of that goldenrod.
I started stalking into the bushes being careful not to make too much noise.
As I got in to the center of the bushes I saw movement from an animal but it was still too hidden to tell what it was. I was watching for when it would come into view and then suddenly two juvenile raccoons rolled right out into an opening where I could see them perfectly!
They seemed to be play fighting because they were grabbing on to each other and rolling around on the ground. I watched them for a couple minutes as they did this and heard some of their whimpering calls to each other.
I wasn't sure if there were more around and I wondered if their mother might be nearby but I didn't see her.
After a few minutes I slowly stalked back out of the goldenrod so I wouldn't disturb them and headed off on the trail with much gratitude for the sparrows that helped me solve another mystery.