Friday, June 1, 2012

Throwing Rocks

I was horse packing in the Sierra's one summer back in the late 70's. It was one of those brutally hot California days where you just put your head down and try to soldier on. Should really have stopped but was trying to do another 10 miles to Lake Almanor.

I was leading my horse up a trail when he started acting up; stopping, pulling, and rearing. I was hot, thirsty, pissed and in no mood for silly games. As I was trying to calm him down, he suddenly charged past me, knocking me flat and heading up the trail. I was recovering, when I heard a thump near me, looked over, and saw a mountain lion crouched and ready to take the next leap right on me. He was about 10' away.
Time froze, my mind went blank, and all I could think of was the rifle in the scabbard on my horse's saddle... that was rapidly disappearing up the trail. I started to get my legs under me, and he snarled, and started to gather himself for a leap.

Without thinking about it, I grabbed a rock and nailed him right between the eyes. He snarled again, and I nailed him with another one. And another. As fast and as hard as I could throw them while on my ass. I hit him on the nose with a 4th rock and he took off up the trail, veering left up the mountain. I threw a couple more as he scrambled up the hill and then he was out of sight... I could hear him moving off so I picked myself up and started moving up the trail after my horse.

About 30 minutes later, I found the horse tangled up in some brush. I got him free and then suddenly started shaking uncontrollably. I couldn't stop for at least another half-hour.

I've been in the mountains many, many times, and that's the only time I've ever really been in serious danger. I've seen bears, mountain lions, had a lynx prowling my camp, been in a major thunderstorm with lightning strikes all around me and no place to hide, winter camped in a surprise storm, etc. But that encounter with a mountain lion was the one that was really dangerous. Turned out ok, as you say, but only because of luck.

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