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Camping Log: An Unexpected Bedtime Visitor

One advantage of sleeping in your car is keeping unwanted animals out. What happens when one gets in?

By: Dusty Klein + Save to a List

Story time.

A few days ago I posted an Instagram story of a sleeper platform I built for my 4Runner and explained how it operates, showed how convenient it is, and talked about the advantages of sleeping in your car. I recorded the story the previous evening after a long day of hiking in Rainier National Park and crawled into my sleeping bag in a dispersed camping spot outside of Packwood, Washington in the back of my rig pretty early. 8:00PM. 

I slept like a little angel dreaming about the absolute gorgeous park I just toured until about 1:00am when I felt something scurry quickly across my pillow!

WhattheHELLwasthat is the PG version of what came out of my mouth. In confusion, I tried to piece together what just happened. After a detailed analysis, my tired brain concluded that a mouse must have jumped on the top of my car from an overhanging branch and rappelled down in via the open moonroof, a la Tom Cruise. Great, I’ve got a woodland mouse in my car. So I remove my bags and shoes and food and start the hunt. Turns out cars are like playgrounds for mice. This guy was dipping under seats, bobbing over extra gear, he was even pulling out old Chex mix I must have spilled like two years ago from in between the seats and showing it to me like “dude, you need to clean your car from time to time.”

We made eye contact a couple of times before he'd get lost under the seats: a cute mouse about the size of one of those travel deodorants with eyes proportionally enormous for his frame. I’ve got all of the doors open and, as I’m trying to locate this cute little guy again, I spot a mouse underneath the car with my headlamp that then darts off into the bushes. Okay, phew, that wasn’t bad. He jumped out and he’s gone. Right?

I throw all of my gear back into the Runner, close the moonroof, and slip back into my sleeping bag. I hear some weird scuttering but convince myself it’s probably another mouse on the roof that had dropped down from the overhanging branch. I’m at peace with this since the roof is closed and fall back asleep. ‘Round 4:00am the mouse reappears and wakes me up in yet another frantic by trying to join me in my sleeping bag. I grab my headlamp and watch as he beelines it under the gas pedal and up into the back of the dashboard. And then I hear it, that same weird, unique scuttering I heard previously. This crispy critter has been in here with me the whole time!

So I devise a plan. This mouse isn’t going to jump out of here on his own. Think tired brain, think… I’ve got a banana maybe I could lure him with… but I won’t be able to catch him with my hands… How about I put a piece of banana on the end of the sleeping bag, wait for him to come, and then slowly pull the sleeping bag out of the car. It’s the best shot I got, so I set it up.

If someone were to walk by and see me there- standing in the rain outside of the drivers seat, holding the head of my sleeping bag that’s got a piece of fruit on the foot of it by the pedals, whispering “take the bait Tom Cruise, take the bait” under my breath- I’d be in the looney bin. Five minutes go by, ten, fifteen. Then he comes. He crawls up on the foot of the bag and starts mowing down the banana bite. In my excitement I pull the bag back HARD. Next thing I see is the piece of banana fall to the ground and a small mouse flying like Evil Knievel through the air. He probably flew ten yards before landing, pausing, looking at me with surprise, then rushing off into the woods.

That was enough for me. I packed it up and made it back to Portland for sunrise. I put socks on and tucked my pants into them so I didn’t have any more surprises coming out from under the pedals on the way home because here’s the thing: Tom Cruise may or may not have acted alone. Only time will tell.

*None of these pictures were taken during my weekend trip to Rainier

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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