Blending with the Landscape

Between 1974 – 1977, while training for my Death Valley run, I had ventured many miles and hours on Mt Diablo (a 4000′ mountain in “our back yard”). This was during a period of extensive heat, dry spells and prolonged drought conditions. Only the wild animals sensed and executed their abilities of survival. I became one of those animals. And, as such, I “marked my territory”. It was during this “primitive period” I had encountered many “nature experiences”. This is one, “The Cougar and me”. Keep in mind that I was a tall, tanned, muscular, talkative, and singing “Mountain Man.” I wouldn’t “surprise” anyone or anything. I slowly developed my own style of an acceptance personality, or better yet, a type of wilderness defense. After a few years of this style of “entering” the natural habitat of “critter-world,” I was able to do amazing things with the natural world. The following experience, alone, is worth all the “challenges.” One particular event was the day that I jogged through an area on Mt Diablo. This area was parched and, to the untrained, devoid of moisture. The winds were sweeping up the slopes of the Mountain, and of seemingly hurricane force (ripe condition for a catastrophic fire —- always a threat). I had started running down the side of the mountain, in and around huge boulders. These hot winds were roaring into my sweaty body. I loved it; the conditions were perfect. Except: I didn’t see the cougar, standing on the fire trail, just around the bend. It hadn’t sensed my coming presence either. That is, until I physically ran into its right hind-quarters. Boy, were WE surprised! It quickly sprinted up the side of the mountain. I just stood there, in disbelief! My first experience, and contact, with the rough and coarse hide of a real live predatory animal. (Other than some dogs I’ve encountered while jogging.) That was it ……… for then. The next day, while in the same area, I had stopped at a hidden spring, charted as “Big Springs.” Remember the environment and weather conditions. AND, my purpose on the Mountain. Refreshing myself, in the cool shade surrounding this oasis, I soon “sensed” that I wasn’t alone. So, I stood tall and started yakking loudy. Slowly turning around I acknowledged and greeted my fellow guest: the cougar, standing not mare than a few feet away. After sending friendly vibes .. no fear, I slowly encouraged an exchange of “positions.” It was amazing; I sat on an elevated rock and just spent about an hour with my fellow traveler (their territory covers at least 35 miles). Eventually it was time for me to depart; always standing tall and yakking, I proceeded to climb a very long and steep trail. My new “associate” came over to the trail, sat down and watched me slip over the summit. I never saw my “friend” again. But, I’m sure that cougar was aware of my every moveent, night and day.

This story has been shared, around campsites, many many times. It is the absolute truth!

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