I am not afraid of bears, and I’ll tell you why. Namely: Yogi and Boo Boo, the Berenstain Bears, Teddy Ruxpin, Care Bears, Gummy Bears, Baloo from the Jungle Book, Little John from Robin Hood, Popples, Winnie the Pooh, Paddington, Fozzie, and Smokey the Bear. See? Bears are good.
Snakes, on the other hand, don’t have a good reputation. The sly snake from the Garden of Eden, the hypnotic Kaa from The Jungle Book, slithering Hiss from Robin Hood, evil Jafar from Aladdin, and He Who Shall Not Be Named from Harry Potter. On the bright side, they are all defeated, so really no big deal with snakes either.
Instead one of the bigger wildlife concerns that I have is with mice. Mice can be seriously aggressive. During my second year serving in AmeriCorps in 2007, my team had a project in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We stayed in an old wooden cabin on Park Service property. We were grateful for the space, but truth be told it was an older structure and poorly sealed. Mice made themselves at home among us and got into everything. At first we put our dry goods in the cupboards. When that didn’t work, we sealed our food in hard plastic coolers, but the mice managed to lift the lids. As a last resort, we weighed down the lids to the coolers with books. We thought that worked well until one day we came into the kitchen and found dozens of mice wearing aprons while sauteing our vegetables and boiling our pasta.
OK, that last part is from the movie Ratatouille, but the rest is true.
If I were a mouse, I’d hang out in a warm place with readily available snacks, aka A.T. shelters. I have a sneaking suspicion that I will encounter my fair share of mice along the way. I guess I’m not too bothered by the prospect of scaring off mice that are trying to chew through my bag, but there is the itsy bitsy issue of mice-carrying diseases. Generally it’s not too worrisome considering that in its history, only one person on the A.T. has caught the hantavirus, but with the recent cases in Yosemite, it’s at least worth noting, ya know, to make me look more fearless than I really am. “Oh my gosh, Jordana is so amazing. She laughs in the face of the hantavirus.” Well, maybe – with my mouth covered and latex gloves on my hands. According to the CDC, symptoms include fever, headaches, muscle aches, stomach issues, chills, and dizziness; and later on, one can expect fluid in the lungs and shortness of breath. Historical fatality rates of 38%. (Oh my! Swoon! Swoon, I say!)
Holy bajolese. I mean, this is pretty nasty stuff. And I don’t mean to make light of the tragic deaths the disease has caused. But let’s be real, the vast majority of cases in the U.S. have been west of the Mississippi River (refer to this map). So is it common enough for me to forego sleeping in shelters? Nah, I’m guessing fellow hikers’ snoring would be more likely to chase me away.
**For the record, on my road trip this summer I went to Yellowstone, not Yosemite. So thanks for all the concerned comments, but no need to panic about my scratchy voice; it’s just a sore throat, not hantavirus.**