Ok- there’s no claw marks on anyone- but this was really cool! After we finally got around that huge fallen tree, the trail got easier from there- which was a good thing because the sun was going down fast. We finally found water, but all the grass had been grazed down by free range cattle, so there was nothing for the horses to eat. We kept going down and down the other side of the mountain hoping to find a better camping spot before complete darkness.
It was getting pretty dim when suddenly- something started crashing through the bushes right next to me! We thought it was a deer at first, but our guts made us say out loud, “what the heck was THAT?” Richard said the cadence of the footfalls was all wrong to be a deer.
Just then, I saw a small mountain lion- unmistakably- slinking away from us! I had never seen one before in my life and was SO excited! (especially since it was going AWAY!) Richard explained that it was young and had been laying in the bushes next to the trail thinking we were deer, but the horses were more than it bargained for so it got scared. A more experienced adult lion would not have moved and we would have walked feet from it and never known it was there.
We watched it slink up the hillside to a rock outcropping directly across the creek from us. It was a narrow canyon so he was probably only 100 feet away. Now we never took our eyes off him, but when he got to the rock the same color as his body, he froze. I was staring at him the whole time- but I swear to you- it was like he vanished right in front of my eyes. I knew he was still there and I was looking right at him, yet I couldn’t seem to see him for sure. It was the creepiest feeling! Now I know why they say that if a mountain lion does not want to be seen, you won’t see him! Their ability to camouflage and not move a muscle is incomprehensible unless you have seen it with your own eyes. I’m so glad he was after deer and not Apache!
Now remember, it’s just about dark (thus sadly no picture of the wild mountain lion) and we still hadn’t found a place to camp. We had no choice but to keep riding. Shortly after, I barely made out a fence-line in the dim light and was almost certain it was a corral. We got off and checked it out- and sure enough- it was! It was even full of grass and didn’t take Richard more than about 20 minutes to fix it up by flashlight so the horses would stay in. We felt relieved that they would be free and not tied since we were so close to a known mountain lion. Not to mention, it was so much easier to get them fed that way instead of trying to keep track of them in the dark with hobbles on! We thought God was really cool tonight- He didn’t let us find a good place to stop so that we would be blessed by seeing a mountain lion (my first) and then out of the dark- a perfect camping spot that was comfortable for the whole crew and easy to set up in the dark! What a cool evening! (And yes- I slept just fine- that mountain lion was after deer or something smaller than us anyhow!