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.