Maggie Vs. Wild

If you run trails regularly, you’re bound to encounter some wildlife, and not just beautiful hawks, blue herons and big fat grey squirrels.

Last week while I was on a trail run, I saw a coyote. Ok, no big deal, except silly me  thought it could have been a wolf. Now I’ve heard wolves generally don’t attack people, but there have been cases in which wolves have been aggressive toward humans. Plus, I’ve been reading A Song of Ice and Fire, and in that series there are dire wolves. Yes, dire wolves are extinct, as my 7-year-old likes to remind me, but my imagination gets the best of me sometimes. Anyway, before continuing on with my run, I let the coyote run ahead for a while until I saw him cross the trail and jog into the woods. I later reassured myself, through some internet research, that what I saw was indeed a coyote and not a wolf. 

This morning’s run was significantly more exciting. I was out for a 7 mile hilly trail run with the plan of running moderate-hard on the uphills and easy on the rest. I had turned off  of a single track portion of my route and was looping back toward the trailhead on a frequented gravel trail/road. As I began an uphill stretch, I spotted a large, golden CAT gracefully sauntering along the side of the trail, about 25-30 feet ahead of me. I stopped dead in my tracks.

My thoughts started spiraling: Holy shit. That’s a fucking mountain lion. Or cougar. Yes they call them cougars here. Fuck that thing is BIG. Definitely the biggest cat I’ve seen in the wild. It looks the size of the female lion at the SB Zoo. The Portland zoo isn’t missing a lion, is it? Shit what do I do? Turn around? No, that’d turn this run into much longer than necessary. But I don’t wanna get eaten!

As these thoughts were swirling through my head, I watched the cougar quietly saunter across the trail. I took note: no babies around. That’s good. Just one cougar, as far as I can see. That’s also good.

The cougar reached the other side of the trail then turned her head and looked at me over her left shoulder. She (because the cougar looked like a She) gave me a long hard stare and then walked into the woods, disappearing out of my sight.

I stood and waited a few minutes to make sure no more cats were lurking about and to give the cougar some time to walk deeper into the woods. Then I very slowly started jogging in the direction I was going, toward the area of the cougar. I kept my eyes and ears sharp, passed the cougar area, and once I felt confident that the cougar was off doing her business and didn’t view me as a threat, I started running super hard up the hill. And I kept on running HARD uphill, downhill, on the flats. I definitely accomplished the moderate-hard effort on the uphill, as prescribed by my training plan, but so much for easy on the flats/downhill. I was booking it all the way. Yes, I know I could never outrun a cougar, but fear had settled in and I just wanted to be done with the run. 

Fortunately, I made it back to my car without any more cougar sightings, and in record time, I might add. I stretched at the trailhead kiosk and read the flyer about what to do if I encountered cougars and/or bears. BEARS?!? Gulp.

Respect the wildlife.


8 responses to “Maggie Vs. Wild

  1. Crazy! There have been cougars in the town I grew up more and more…like walking down main street! Eek!

  2. Yikes! Guess you’ll be getting used to it with that mongo race goal ahead. Perhaps start running with jingle bells on your feet? Or with pepper spray? Or just get used to doing a lot of speed work! Thanks for sharing this fun post. Hope life is going well for you in your new digs.

    • Thanks, Becky. One smart thing to do would be to always run with a partner, but as I’m sure you know, that can’t always happen. I hear pepper spray could work if you’re close enough and the cougar is downwind. But then I fear that’d piss him off more. I looked up some statistics and in the last 100 years, there have been only 20 people in North America killed by mountain lions. That should make me feel better right?

    Yikes, your adventure sounds very scary.
    Not sure if you have heard about this, but there was a mountain lion close to your old neighborhood recently. Be careful out there and you are supposed to yell out loud and throw rocks or sticks towards it.
    Have you read Cheryl Strayed’s book “Wild”? Great book about her hiking the Pacific Crest Trail by herself. I am going to hear her speak at UCSB next week.
    Take care,

  4. I did hear about that mountain lion! Crazy! I did read Wild. THat’s awesome you are going to hear her speak. I bet that will be a good one!

  5. HOLY SHIT!! Could I just say your ‘thoughts’ were AWESOME! Note to self, don’t run with a piece of steak in your Lulu 😉

    • Thanks, Celeste! Let me tell you, my next trail run 3 days later, on a different trail, had me imagining cougars everywhere. I swear I saw them dangling from the trees, sitting on stumps…Today’s run, in the same place of my cougar sighting, was uneventful, thank goodness!

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