This Really Happened

Cougar / Puma / Mountain Lion / Panther (Puma ...

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Have you ever stared down the face of a mountain lion, been so close you could literally pluck its whiskers out?  Well about ten years ago, outside Boulder, Colorado, I had just such a privilege.  I say privilege because it really was an honor, even though it scared the living crap out of me and my friend, Paul.  It was a beautiful evening, almost dark.  We were riding the ever classic Walker Ranch Trail up Boulder Canyon and were finishing the ten-mile loop going up the last steep fireroad to the car.   Paul was ten feet in front of me and we were cresting the top of the hill on a flatter section.  In an instant a flash of color and movement was seen flying towards Paul.  Mountain lion!  The cat literally jumped towards Paul and at the same moment Paul saw the flash in the corner of his eye.  He jumped off his bike, lifted his arms holding the bike in the air, and let out the most primal, animal-like roar/ scream I have ever heard come out of a person’s mouth.  “ArrgghhRRoAAR!!!”  He was two feet away from the mountain lion, which curiously stopped its leap just shy of pouncing him to death.  It was as if the cat realized something was different about this strange deer that roars unlike other prey.  I was back ten feet and it was like I was watching a National Geographic Special on big cats, “…the prey and foe are curiously watching each other, not knowing what to do next.”  This showdown went on for two minutes, the entire time both Paul and I were yelling at the cat at the top of our lungs to no avail.  The cat then backed away ten feet into the bushes.  At this point, both of us were thinking we would have to fight off the lion, and we started chucking rocks at it.  Some of the rather large rocks hit the cat directly in the face numerous times.  The full-grown lion would barely flinch as if to say, “Is that all you have, these pebbles are like flies on a hot summer day.”  It wasn’t working.  The lion was still there just watching.  After the eternal three or four minutes of this game, Paul says quietly, “What do I do?”  I said to him that he needed to slowly back away, not making any sudden movements, and look BIG in the process.  How do you look big to a full-grown mountain lion of pure muscle that would stand as tall as my truck’s hood?  Paul backed off slowly and we were needless to say freaking out, adrenaline surging through our veins and the ever-present Oh my God, Oh my God, coming out of our bedazzled mouths.  We couldn’t see the lion, so we debated what to do next.  Do we ride around the whole ten-mile loop backwards in the dark with no lights, or do we go the half-mile past the cat towards the car?  The half-mile won out.  But how do we skirt past the cat unnoticed?  We filled our pockets with rocks, took a deep breath and started peddling past the cat.  He or she was not there.  Oh shit, where is it?  We chucked rocks in the general area the cat was, and yelled at the top of our lungs as we rode faster than I have ever ridden a bike towards the car.  We nervously kept looking back over our shoulders, sure we would see the pounce of death right on our heels.  We made it to the car and hugged each other, thankful to be alive and no worse for wear.  We talked a mile a minute for the next three hours, and marveled at our close encounter.  We drove home and I wish I could have recorded our conversation to my wife.  “Oh my God Shannon, you wouldn’t believe what just happened…”  In the end, I was thankful that no one was hurt and that we had such an incredible experience.  I grew so much in that short moment and my friend Paul and I bonded in ways others would never understand.  The experience was definitely on my top five list of all time greatest moments to be alive.  Although when you are out at feeding time, which is what we call it now, make a little noise and keep an eye out behind your head.  You never know who might be watching.  Take care.  Chris Coney

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