The Class A motor home entered the campground at dusk, raking our little campsite with its high beams as we were just finishing up dinner. The big burgundy rig with matching car in-tow, slowed in front of our site then continued down the campground road into the darkness of the trees, leaving only a faint whiff of diesel to linger. We were temporarily spared an unwanted intrusion into the tranquility we had found these past several days in the San Juan National Forest, just north of Pagosa Springs, Colorado.
This was a time before our Airstream and before our tent trailer, when the summer camping trip entailed loading the family tent, boxes of food and gear, children, and a healthy dose of patience into the SUV and driving several hours to the mountains to try to jettison the accumulated stresses of everyday life in two weeks or less. Our campground was rather large and primitive. An outhouse was situated just down the road and downwind. We had the place virtually to ourselves.
As the sun was setting on our first night, they came, little cat-like critters, following their noses into our camp, under the picnic table, into the cooler, and around the fire ring. A family of skunks, three in all, let us know that this was their home, and they were entitled to any scraps of food we had carelessly dropped. Their black coat with white racing stripe was a clear reminder to us that if we were not polite, it would be at our peril.
Pepé Le Pew and his little family came back to our camp the next night and the next. I became increasingly concerned that our luck would run out, and these diabolic weasels would eventually decide that we were not polite enough and would be summarily sprayed. So I devised a plan. Knowing that skunks possessed a keen sense of smell, I planned an odoriferous preemptive strike. I added a bottle of Tabasco hot sauce to a bucket of water and then dribbled my concoction around the perimeter of our camp, creating a veritable olfactory moat. It worked, and we were bothered no more. Until that is when the burgundy motor home reappeared after its short trip around the campground loop, passing dozens of unoccupied campsites, to claim the space directly across the drive from ours.
We sat in the glow of our campfire watching in disbelief as the rig rumbled into the pull-through site and came to a halt with a hiss of its air brakes. No occupants emerged as hydraulic levelers descended on to the pine straw detritus, a pull-out living room grew like a tumor from the vehicle’s flank, and the rooftop satellite dish extended into the sky to receive the latest news from a world we were trying to escape. The constant din of the generator further shattered our quietude. Still, while the TV flickered blue light in the windshield, no one stepped out of this “recreational vehicle.”
“Welcome to our home,” you could imagine the little skunk family saying as they scampered over to check out our new neighbors. They pushed their noses into the wheel wells and along the bottom of the exterior storage hatches, picking up scents from faraway places. The smell of a frozen dinner coming from the microwave of this impenetrable fortress must have been to them, a cruel tease.
Just as the skunks were losing interest and were about to leave, the front door opened, and the owner/operator, with a broom in hand, jumped from the rig like a stormtrooper. His apparent intent was to rid his campsite of the vermin he could have only seen through his tinted windows or back up camera. Pepé Le Pew had no hesitation in deciding that this broom-swinging intruder was not polite and quickly turned his back on the ingrate, tail high in the air, and delivered a punishing spray worthy of a Super Soaker.
The door closed, the blue hue of the TV quickly vanished, the generator coughed to a stop, the satellite dish descended to its rooftop cradle, the living room receded, the levelers retracted into the belly of the beast, and off it went.
Tranquility was ours once more. We had the whole campground to ourselves again. However, as the diesel fumes dissipated from our pitch, we were left with the overwhelming stench of Mr. Skunk. A nauseating smell so strong and dense that it lingered and permeated everything we owned. Packing up and leaving the campsite ourselves now was not an option because… I had already paid for two more nights.