Brad Brailsford, 53, has lived a quick bike ride away from Point Defiance since 1980 and has come to rely on it for solace in a world of chatter.
“The days of chilly rain and months of political spin were taking an emotional toll,” he wrote of one afternoon last fall. “The clouds broke at dusk. A mind-clearing bike ride was just the ticket. The park was quiet, very few vehicles, and rich with moist forest smells. … Things were looking up.”
Brailsford rode on to Owen Beach, then along a parallel trail toward a clutch of picnic tables.
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“On one of these tables I saw some unattended stuff, stuff like beach towels and coolers. There was movement in the shadows around that table, but it wasn’t the owners,” he wrote. “I was witnessing a heist perpetrated by an intelligent, opportunistic and motivated family of raccoons.”
He counted one adult and four youngsters.
“As I coasted to a stop about 10 feet away, the four kids puffed up a bit and sidestepped around the table. They sidestepped back and forth in a kind of dance,” he wrote.
“Meantime, I saw Mom, peripherally, climb onto the table. As I turned my attention to her, she met my gaze, popped open the cooler, snatched a sandwich (on white bread) and bounded up the hill, followed closely by her protégés.”
Brailsford’s bold bandits, though native, are problematic in the park, where they have few predators and many opportunities to supplement their natural diet with picnic booty. Naturally speaking, that’s a formula for overpopulation.
Solid wildlife management policy cautions against feeding the raccoons and turning them into pests.
Raccoons, mischievously masked and bold as daylight, disagree.
Brailsford rode on and met the mom who had taken her four children and two dogs for a walk on the beach after a lunch of peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches on white bread.
“She was only sorry her kids had missed it,” Brailsford wrote. “I glanced back as I rode away and noticed more nefarious movement by the picnic table – and another white bread sandwich going up the hill.”
If you have personal stories or memories about the park you'd like to share, contact columnist Kathleen Merryman at firstname.lastname@example.org.