For those in the know, the dirt is where it’s at. Grinding along a rutted country lane on a beater bike, leaving behind pavement, motorheads, and carbon-Freds. Returning home sweaty and grimy, soul renewed.
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Sshhhh!! Did you hear that noise? There’s something outside the tent! Please, please, please….don’t let it be a yellow-bellied marmot!
A marmot, you scoff? The same furry little critter the state of Alaska recently adopted as their version of Groundhog Day?
Trust me, don’t let its cute and cuddly appearance fool you. The yellow-bellied marmot is one bad-ass rodent, striking fear into the hearts of many would-be campers. Remember how terrified you were the first time you slept outdoors in a tent? You know that thing that went bump in the night? Chances are, it was a yellow-bellied marmot. If you lived to tell about it, count yourself lucky.
According to the internet, marmots who have been previously fed by humans develop supernatural powers which cause them to become particularly aggressive toward first-time campers during the full moon. The marmot’s hunting strategy usually plays something like this:
First, the marmot stalks the humans’ campsite making subtle nighttime noises to mimic a large predatory animal such as a bear or sasquatch. To the uninitiated tent occupant, this has the psychological effect of needing to empty one’s bladder. He or she will inevitably lie awake for hours holding their urge, knowing the dangers that lie outside the safety of the tent. But the clever marmot knows that eventually nature will win, and it waits for its prey to emerge.
When the nocturnal urinal event finally occurs, the Satan-squirrel ambushes its prey like a ninja, stunning them with a shrill, ear-splitting chirp. As the stupefied victim lies unconscious with its pants around its ankles and blood droplets oozing from its ears, the marmot will immediately locate its backpack and devour it along with its expensive contents. Then, it returns to the victim and proceeds to strangle it with its own intestines before dragging the hapless casualty into a dank, underground burrow. Upon entering the hive, a host of larval-stage marmot younglings attack with venomous fangs injecting acidic toxin into the victim – who in some cases may still be alive but too weakened to struggle – and begin to satiate their constant blood thirst by sucking its liquified innards through unusual, elongated proboscis mouthparts. In a final demonstration of dominance, the adult marmot then regurgitates the partially digested backpack bolus into the hollowed body cavity, emits a prolonged roar, and ritualistically beats its chest. Marmots are one of the few animals who can survive decapitation, and die not because of the loss of the head directly, but rather because of eventual starvation.
And that’s why there are signs in national parks that read “Don’t Feed the Marmots.” So now ya know.
A few more commonly known marmot facts:
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In one of my favorite memories from last summer, the sprawling disc of our own Milky Way galaxy is viewed edge-on, angling across the night sky above the visitor lodge at Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon. The faint greenish hue seen here is airglow, the phenomenon of very weak light emission by Earth’s own planetary atmosphere.
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Last night was a golden one for a crisp Autumn stroll around Norm’s Island.