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Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Wild Encounter: Mama Mountain Lion

As you might know, I enjoy a good long hike. My boyfriend and I love taking road trips and finding the best trails around the states and are now completing 8-10 mile long moderate to strenuous hikes each time which is an awesome workout but our recent adventure has reminded us that there can also be danger lurking around the corner.

This week we decided to head up to Big Sur for a few days of exploring. We'd never been, so of course I did my research to find which trails we should do and what to look out for (wildlife, poisonous plants, weather...etc) and we were set. The first hike we did was an 8.8 miler in the Andrew Molera park which was stunning! Coastal views and breezes for almost the whole hike and even wild strawberries growing all around that we indulged in. Couldn't have been more perfect.

The next day we went for the more intense Vincente hike which could be 10.2 miles round trip if you decide to go all the way to the end. The start of the hike zig zags along the side of the mountain facing the ocean and was quite strenuous but all the vibrant wild flowers blooming along the path and the turquoise beaches just below were great energy boosters so we kept going. Then at about mile 3.5, the path turns into the mountains and dense forest. As we trotted along, admiring the insanely tall red wood trees, the forest became even more dense and started to feel more remote and eerie. We hadn't passed any other hikers at this point and and the tall trees blocked out a lot of the sunlight. Then off in the distance ahead we heard a loud echoing cry. It was very high pitched and went on for a minute as we stopped to listen, shrugged it off and kept marching on. In my mind at that point I knew that the sound was not a bird. We had heard all kinds of birds throughout the day but this was a different sound.

We came to a bend in the trail and luckily stopped to decide if we would continue on. Then, as we were discussing our options, about 20 feet ahead of us came the pounding of large paws down the hill towards us! Talk about the fight or flight instinct kicking in! In full panic mode, we grabbed the biggest sticks we could find near us as we tripped over ourselves to get away. We had no time to even look to see it clearly and it also blended in with the woodsy surroundings but the sound I will never forget...pure power and strength stomping through leaves and brush, this was a mountain lion coming our way. "No matter what happens just keeping running! Don't worry about me, just keep going and don't look back no matter what you hear!" Steve ordered, keeping one eye on the path behind us as we made our escape. I remember the downhill commotion coming closer and then suddenly skidding to a halt but we didn't stop sprinting till it felt like a safe distance. Soon we were back to the part of the trail that was open to the coast, shaken and adrenaline pumping.

We warned all other hikers passing us by on their way up and made our way to our car. As we sat for lunch at a cafe down the road and reflected in disbelief on what had just happened, it occurred to me that the mysterious sound we heard earlier in the woods may have been a young lion kitten calling out so I googled it and found the clip below on youtube. It was a match! We had stumbled into the territory of a mother lion and her young which explained why she would have gone into defense mode instead of fleeing from us as they say mountain lions usually do when encountering humans.

So the lesson that I hope comes across in my story is ALWAYS be alert and ALWAYS trust your instincts when you're out in the wilderness. We could have been in major trouble if we had gone only a few feet further than we were but thankfully we got out unharmed. Here are some quick tips for anyone planning a long trek into nature where there may be a run in with a possibly dangerous animal.

-Always hike with a partner.
-Always carry a strong stick and/or have bear mace handy.
-Make lots of noise if you venture into remote areas so any animal can hear you coming and will most likely scatter away from you.
-If you hear something suspect, go in the opposite direction. Don't chance it.
-DO NOT offer any wild animals food.
-If approached by a mountain lion make loud noises by shouting, clapping and banging sticks as you back away.
-If you are actually attacked by a mountain lion, fight back at all cost. It will likely give up or scare away.

This story is not meant to scaremonger. Remember to have fun and enjoy the great outdoors. These wild creatures do not mean any harm and most likely keep to themselves but always be aware of mother's and their young around spring time. Happy travels, be safe!

1 comment:

  1. So glad you're both okay! I NEVER want to read that my fave.blogger and fave. presenter got mauled to death by a mountain lion! Please follow your own advice and keep safe on future hikes!X