So there we wuz, walking along, 6:30 p.m. Just me and the boy. We go out every night. It’s our thing. We walk through two dark (seriously dark) parks, a new neighborhood built in what was open space just two years ago, through an older neighborhood, back through another dark park and then home. Takes about 50 minutes.
It’s a short walk, our evening walk, because, as you know, Jake and I have already hiked for 2 hours earlier in the day. (I’m back up to 4 miles in the morning! Yay!) And that’s without counting an hour and a half of basketball. Here’s a segue – Yesterday we hiked along the river and I took a new trail. We didn’t get lost but we did have to backtrack 2 miles because the trail ended in a tidal marsh then picked up again on the far side. I would have needed hip waders to get through. I suspect both of us would have been stuck fast in the tidal mud. Coulda been nasty! But the trail was cool and we got up close and personal with two kites and a big old red shouldered hawk. I mean really close.
White tailed kite.
Red shouldered hawk
Where was I? Oh yeah… So anywhoo, a few nights ago, oh like maybe on January 10th, Jake and I were doing our neighborhood walk and he was on high alert. I didn’t see anything unusual, but his hackles were up and he kept growling and barking at shadows. He insisted upon walking ahead of me and peering around corners and hedges before I got to them. Was I worried? Not really. Maybe about a creepy guy but that’s about the only thing I ever worry about. Not that I’ve seen any but still… Oh, and before you say anything, yeah, I do vary my route and time. You know, keep it fresh, change it up, and make sure I’m not predictable.
On the evening of the 12th we were in the same neighborhood although we came by a different route. A runner had passed me along the way. He was dressed all in black and the only reason I could even see him on this dark night was because he was running with a small dog, also dark in color, except the dog wore a blinking red light on his collar. It blinked once with every step the dog took. That was how I figured out what it was– the rhythm of the dog’s steps.
However, here I was, walking with Jake along a relatively busy street – by busy I mean I might see a single car over a span of 20 minutes – on my right were homes along said busy street, up behind them is a hill leading to open space and I often see deer running right down the middle of this street heading from open space a few blocks away to the other open space behind the homes. (Jake loves those deer!) Across the street on my left were the brand new homes built in what was, a mere 2 years ago, open space. This new neighborhood is nestled between 2 small remaining open space parks. Jake and I access both parks via this neighborhood.
So, got the picture? As we walked down this street, here came the runner, obviously on his return run. I glanced across the street, thinking this guy really needs to wear something reflective. You can’t see him at all. The only thing you can see is the blinking red light….
At that moment, Jake gave a snarl and launched himself up over a 4 foot retaining wall, barking like a maniac, dragging me into the wall where I came face to face with a mountain lion. Face to face as in we stared at each other across a span of 5-6 feet. Neither of us said anything. He was intent upon staying out of Jake’s reach and I was busy wrestling Jake back- took all my strength to keep him off that lion.
Fortunately the lion did nothing except turn around and jump a fence into someone’s backyard.
He was such a beautiful mountain lion! He was a pink-tan. A gorgeous cat. No, I wasn’t scared. He didn’t eat me so what’s to be scared about?
Cougar. He was almost this color but more pink-tan.
Seriously folks, I simply didn’t have time to be afraid. However, I am grateful Jake was paying attention because I was not. Jake caught us both off-guard. I believe the lion and I were staring at the same thing – the bouncing red light across the street. It was probably better that Jake and I stumbled into the lion instead of the runner, who, by the way, kept going. How he managed to ignore Jake’s barking and the growling was beyond me.
I walked past the house and stood beneath a streetlight – pulled out my cell phone and called a friend who lives just up the hill. In fact, her house backs into the open space. I told her what had just happened and suggested she call her neighbors. She said a mountain lion had been spotted on the hill two nights before. Aha! The pieces fell into place. That was the night Jake had been all weirded out.
So Fish and Game declined to intervene, which is actually okay with me. We do have many mountain lions around here. It’s pretty rural. However, the Fish and Game guy laughed when I told him what happened. He said, “We consider a near sighting 300-400 yards, not 5-6 feet.”
My daughter said, “Mom, you see so many mountain lions. I think the mountain lion is your totem animal.” I always thought my totem was a red-tailed hawk, but now I think she’s right. Most people in California never ever see a single mountain lion. My sightings have been numerous- maybe 2 dozen sightings in 21 years- 2 of them in my own backyard.
Here’s my hero chillin’ post-event:
Just another day…