Camping fever has officially set in for the summer in South Dakota. One must really plan ahead when trying to find a premium camping spot for tent or electrical in nearby campgrounds.

So, when I found one camping spot left in the Big Sioux Rec Area near Brandon on very short notice our first thought was "what is wrong with it?"

With my wife at a wedding for the weekend I decided to take the three kids to enjoy nature, go on some hikes, and grill lots of food. We loaded up the Jeep and headed out Friday afternoon.

When we arrived we were amazed. It was a beautiful secluded tent spot and the kids were quite excited to spend the weekend there. We set up our tents, grilled some food, and sat by the night fire telling stories, jokes, and a few kid-friendly ghostly tales.

My daughter slept in my tent while the boys had their own a few feet away. They had fallen asleep as quickly as did my daughter. 

A little after midnight I heard my cooler door opening and closing. I knew it wasn't my boys as I would've heard their tent zipper. As the cooler kept opening and closing I grabbed my flashlight and slowly unzipped my tent flap and aimed the beam at the disturbance.

A dozen feet away and standing on it's hind legs was the fattest raccoon I had ever seen. He was going to town on our muffins, chips, and hot dogs. I slapped my fist on the ground and loudly whispered "shoo!"

He stood his ground.

I thought, "Wow, am I really going to have a standoff with a raccoon tonight?"

I grabbed a nearby stick and hit it on the ground and he scurried off in the trees. I secured the cooler and other totes we had lying about and went back to the tent.

My kids were still all sleeping. That raccoon was not. He wasn't quite fished with us.

He returned 20 minutes later and I again shined the flashlight on him. This time he was on his back legs with his front paws on the picnic table trying to grab a citronella candle, a roll of paper towels, and a bottle of water. I again chased him out of the area.

I had fallen asleep after that, but I'm sure he came back a time or two. By the time we woke in the morning that rascal had devoured four muffins, six donuts, two bags of chips, the hot dogs, and a pack of licorice.

He would now be the fattest raccoon along the Big Sioux River.

That fat raccoon gained the nickname "Old 48" by my kids. That's how many dollars it took to replace the groceries he stole.

The next night we secured all of the food and went to bed. We were visited by another raccoon. This time he was much smaller, but just as curious. When he learned that he couldn't find much at our site, he moved on.

By the way, I couldn't leave the food in the Jeep as I had the top down and didn't want the coon to scratch it up.

All that excitement aside, we found two really fun trails. The Prairie Vista Trail was 2 miles, steep in places, rated as difficult, but a great hike. Next, we were amazed by the Valley of the Giants trail. It's a mile and a half under a canopy of trees along the river. It was beautiful! 

Overall it was an amazing weekend and this was truly a hidden gem on our summer camping travels. I would highly recommend it. Just make sure to secure your food at night.

"Old 48" just might visit.

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