Backpacking in the Olympic Mountains with two guys, I hiked up to Flapjack Lakes. Steep. When we arrived, families were fishing and noisily enjoying the lake.
We pitched the tent. Shoved in our backpacks and agreed to hike higher. I stuffed a jacket, water and Dad's old Super-8 movie camera into a napsack, grabbed a Frisbee and we took off.
Heavy snow had the guys post-holing up to their thighs. They were cursing and groaning, watching me skip ahead atop the snow-crust. I'm lightweight.
Suddenly I came to a wall of icy snow. "I wonder if I can see over it," I thought. Kicking steps, I climbed up the wall. Another snow wall loomed higher. Up again. When I was halfway up the third wall, I heard the guys yell, "Kathleen! STOP!"
Turning, I couldn't get down. Too steep. No ice axe. I thought for a second. Then I sat down on the Frisbee in my hand and hollered, "Catch me!"
I shot down the snowfields steering with my hands and feet. The guys tackled me at the bottom. They were furious. "You could have been killed!" I didn't want to hear it and ran ahead. "Post-holing will slow them down," I thought.
My attention was snagged by movement in a meadow below. A giant tawny cat leaped 15 feet to the top of a boulder. A cougar! It saw me, jumped down and walked across a snowfield toward me. I began filming it.
The cougar stopped in a patch of yellow flowers and disappeared. Couldn't see it. It walked along the shadowed edge of a creek, froze, and I couldn't see it. Great camouflage.
By then the guys had arrived. When the cougar reached the base of the hill we were standing on, it started uphill toward us. Suddenly it was joined by another cougar from the side. Both cougars relentlessly headed uphill toward us.
The men were yelling and throwing down rocks. "Put the camera away, we're leaving."
The guys put me between them. We stayed close together in single file, hustling down to the lake, people and safety. We were in Cougar Country with giant boulders overhead. A big cat could easily leap down on us.
When we got to the lake, everyone had gone home! It was Sunday afternoon. That night, nobody stepped outside of the tent to pee.
In the morning we excitedly told the ranger at Staircase Ranger Station. "I have been here for 14 years and have never seen a cougar, just their tracks," he said. "Heavy snow drove down the deer and the cougars followed."
Driving out on a logging road, a cougar ran across the road in front of us. Amazing.
Wow great story Kathleen! I have never seen a cougar, just 20-30 bears and rattlesnakes. My first solo backpacking trip in Yosemite NP was at age 17. I can across a rattlesnake on the trail just as it was getting dark. I was traveling light, no stove, no sleeping bag, and no flashlight. So the last mile was by moonlight. It was too dark to put my food in a bear bag in a tree so I left it in my pack. The next morning a bear was in a nearby tree trying to get another campers food bag and the owners were trying to chase it off. I guess my food was not good enough for the bear.
When I lived on the river I ignorantly drove a Camaro. And in winter the place was dead, we were one of only a couple that lived there year round. It wasn't my choice. I skidded on ice on the gravel road one time and had to walk home. I got stalked by two coyotes most of the way home a little over a mile. Thankfully, I'd grabbed the 40 cal I have and had it in hand but I sure didn't want to have to use it. I had to pee so bad by the time I got in the house!
I've always been surprised how seldom people see mountain lions. They can be confident sometimes almost to the point of arrogance.
A ranger at the North Rim told me of seeing a cat one morning sunning itself on a road. He tried to scare it away so it wouldn't get hit but it refused to go.
Even driving his truck up to it and honking his horn wasn't enough to convince it to go. After several minutes the cat casually got up and wandered off into the woods -- I'm sure annoyed at being disturbed. Ha, ha.
I envy you. I wish I'd ever gotten the chance to see one outside.