Saved by man's best friend.
After a particularly long week at work, I left early on Friday and ran home to grab my hiking partner Wibaux, my two-year-old husky-lab mix. He greeted me at the door with an excited howl and a lick on the face. I changed out of my work attire like a triathlete switching events, not wanting to miss a moment of the beautiful, sunny weather. We jumped in my trusty Tacoma and headed for the hills.
Arriving at the trailhead, we were excited to stretch our legs. I’ve never been a fan of sticking to the trail while hiking, so Wibaux led the way and we descended into Corbly Gulch to blaze our own path. While walking up the gulch I noticed Wibaux trot up to me with a fresh furry “something” hanging in his mouth. I asked, “What ya got there bud?” Upon further investigation, it looked to be part of a mule-deer leg. I asked Wibaux to show me where it came from and without hesitation he wagged his tail and darted off toward the source of his find. I clambered through several bushes and rock-hopped across a rain-swollen stream. After climbing up the muddy bank, I came upon an explosion of deer hair and the only other identifiable remnant—the skull of a fork-horn muley.
“Sweet!” I grabbed the skull and thought to myself lucky late-season find. After perusing for other bones, I continued up and deeper into the mountains. Only after hiking 200 yards past the kill and scrambling up a 35-degree sidehill did I take a moment to look around. That’s when I heard a THUMP… what was that sound off to my left? I craned my head toward the noise and saw the culprit—a huge mountain lion was gracefully bounding over stumps and boulders and from the looks of it, heading directly toward me.
At the speed he was moving, I’d have only seconds to act before he made up the 100 feet separating us, so I decided to stand my ground. The only weapon I had to defend myself was the deer skull I had recently acquired. I raised the skull above my head, waived it menacingly and yelled in my deepest voice “You want a piece of me… bring it on you dirty SOB!” Despite my efforts to look big and scary, the cat continued on its course directly for me. With no more than ten feet separating us, I steadied my nerves for the fight of my life—this cat was hungry and it could have been days since his last meal, most likely this unfortunate fork-horn whose skull I was holding.
As I prepared to defend myself and take a swing with the skull, my trusty companion Wibaux circled behind me and lunged directly at the cat. Immediately, the lion changed its trajectory and its demeanor shifted from fight to flight. “Yeah boy, get him,” I exclaimed, even though the cat looked about twice the size of my 90-pound mutt. The cat bolted down the gulch, back up the other side, and eventually up a large Douglas fir with Wibaux nipping at its heels.
As I called Wibaux back to my side, we made a quick retreat to the trailhead, stopping every 50 feet to watch our backs. I grabbed a sharp rock, just in case the cat decided to get back on our trail, and thought, dogs are great, but next time I’m bringing my Smith & Wesson!