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WOW WOW we meet mountain lions

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WOW WOW we meet mountain lions

Postby SSSdave » Wed Jul 05, 2006 2:23 pm

In thirty years of all manner of Sierra Nevada adventures I've seen a lot of critters but never a fisher, mountain lion, or wolverine. Well yesterday July 4 that list dropped down to two. Friend Doug and I were hiking up to the fabulous wildflower area on McGee Creek for photography. We had hiked up the previous afternoon to check on wildflower conditions and decided to get an early start the next morning. We left the parking lot at 7.8k just before 7am and took the trail along the creek instead of the one further from the creek more used by pack horses. I was carrying my large Gitzo G1325 in my hand and both of us had on our heavy camera daypacks. The trail follows the heavily cottonwood, willow, alder, and aspen lined creek which is more often down a steep embankment. About a quarter mile along the creek is about 30 feet below the trail level. Ahead of us snowy Mount Baldwin loomed ahead in this lower canyon sagebrush area. Then about 100 feet ahead of me I noticed what at first moment registered as small deer. Light deer like tan color. In a second it disappeared over the embankment. As it did I noticed the head was not a deer but maybe a cat? And not a bobcat which I've seen dozens of. My friend had not been looking and I excitedly told my friend what I might just have seen mumbling lion...lion...lion? Wondered whether I needed to be cautious but then even if it were a mountain lion, expected it would only run if it met two people. Well we quickly reach the spot and walk the 15 feet from the trail to the brink of the embankment where we can peer over the edge down towards the creek. My friend peers over just a moment before me and does not see anything so blurts out something. Suddenly a mere dozen feet directly below behind a modest sized sagebrush, two big mountain lions turn their heads suddenly up towards our noise and instantly explode down the slope into the very dense green trees that totally hide the snow swollen raging creek. Immediately both of us were blurting out how those lions were huge! They bound down the very steep rugged slope into the green mass in mere moments with huge leaping bounds. We were all WOW and WOW for quite some time as we continued up the trail. Wondering how big and powerful those cats were we second guessed our decision to so leisurely peer over the edge. And that we had not bothered to take out our digital cameras. And how during many mountain adventures in the past these elusive secretive animals have probably seen us on our ramblings in the past a few times as we stumbled about nearby without us ever noticing. From now on as I wander about alone as I often do in remote places, I will be thinking of these powerful animals.

Still cannot believe we were so so close and saw not one but two...huge mountain lions.


...David



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Postby Matilda » Wed Jul 05, 2006 3:02 pm

Wow wow is right! Thanks for sharing.
I've heard tell of lions in McGee canyon, but nothing that up close and personal.
Was thinking of going on a run up there tomorrow morning. Maybe I'll do Duck Pass trail instead!
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Postby ifernau » Wed Jul 05, 2006 4:20 pm

WOW, I hiked the canyon on Monday July 3rd at ~6:30AM, but I was on the high trail. Since I am alone I make a lot of noise with my hiking stick, and sometimes talk out loud when I go through some of the shaded areas. I guess I would have p...d my pants if I had come across these big cats.
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Postby krudler » Wed Jul 05, 2006 9:13 pm

That's pretty dang cool Dave! 2 or 3 years ago Labor Day I was on the Upper Kern at Painter Camp in the Golden Trout Wilderness with a friend, and I'm standing in the middle of the river fly fishing and he starts blurting out from shore something about "coy-coy-coyote" and just pointing and practically yelling "are you shi**ing me?!?!?!". I look over where he is pointing and see nothing, but eventually up the embankment jumps a pretty good sized cat. Its about 60' away on the embankment and just stands there and stares me in the eye for like 10 seconds :eek: Then it bounds off into the woods.
It was pretty exhilerating.
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Postby Ranboze » Thu Jul 06, 2006 5:27 am

What an exciting event, Dave! Did you report the lions to the USFS in Bishop... just to let them know the cats are in the area? After running into cat tracks last year in Round Valley I chatted with the rangers about the lions. Lions are one animal that I am truly afraid of because they are so unpredictable, and then there's all the unprovoked attacks that occur in SoCal. According to the rangers, there's never been a human attack by the eastern sierra lions. They'll attack small animals and pets, but haven't developed a taste for humans. Regardless, I think I'll stay away from McGee creek this week!
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Postby copeg » Thu Jul 06, 2006 6:54 am

What a cool story Dave. Must have been scary to see those lions dart out from nowhere, and amazing to watch them gracefully tackle a rugged slope. I always wonder how many times I've been watched by a lion or something similar hiding out unseen.
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Postby SSSdave » Thu Jul 06, 2006 10:53 am

A couple of pics below at the spot we saw the lions. Note the pic is later at 1pm when a thunderstorm was bearing down on us while it had been mostly sunny at 7am.

Matilda, those big cats moved incredibly powerfully and fast. I am too impressed. :eek:
Inge, we went up the canyon the same day you did on Monday but rather in the afternoon.
Krudler I'd expect that area of the Kern probably has quite a lot of lions. A place to be aware anytime.
Ranboze, yep I sent off an email account to Inyo NF yesterday morning.
trailblazer, we should have been afraid walking up to peek over the embankment but at the time were unsure if it was a lion and I figured it had already scooted down to the creek. We were as surprised to see the lions so close as they were to see us. The fact they immediately ran away changed our surprise to excited wonder instead of fright and that lasted for hours. Both of us have seen a lot and are not easily scared. I would not want to be walking by that creek early mornings. The lions likely live just on the other side of the big creek as it is a perfect place with lots of prey and no humans. ...David

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Postby soccerbum » Thu Jul 06, 2006 3:56 pm

I'm just glad for your sake that they ran rather than sizing you guys up as a potential meal!
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Postby hikerduane » Thu Jul 06, 2006 5:08 pm

I hadn't seen any lions for years then within 6 months I saw a couple young cats. Also one morning when I had to be at work at 0-dark:30, I saw a BIG cat running down a driveway out where I live. He was a big one. I saw something in the Caribou Wilderness on one trip, going thru the trees. Not sure what it was, a light grey and darker grey/blue fur, thicker than a weasel. I caught a glimpse of a wolverine I think, just for a split second in another place. It was a rust color and weight you would think a critter like that would be in a area it could frequent.
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Postby Shawn » Thu Jul 06, 2006 7:05 pm

Wow Dave, that is too close for comfort. :paranoid:
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Postby Wanderer » Sat Jul 08, 2006 9:21 am

Wow, great story. Like you, I think I've seen everything that crawls, climbs or slithers, but I also have never come across a Lion. I actualy think about that a lot anymore, was solo last week & saw something that gave me a startle, originally thought it might be a Lion, but turned out to be a deer. Whew, I was glad it was!
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