Jan 1, 2021 at 11:50 am #3691693
My wife and I usually do a backpacking trip in september to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We love the Sierra in September, less bugs and less people. In september 2014 we were doing a loop of the clark range from glacier point road. We were starting and ending at mono meadow th. We always carefully look for active fires in the areas where we will be hiking and will change our plans accordingly. We will have a plan b, c and d. We put out a small smoldering fire along Illilouette creek with our bladders and water bottles. Not a good sign of things to come.
As we approached merced lake we noticed a plume of smoke to the west. We inquired at the high sierra camp about the fire. We were informed that there was a fire burning near mariposa that we had nothing to worry about. So we continued to hike. Our plan was to set up camp at little yosemite valley then climb half dome that day. As we got closer to lyv that plume of smoke exploded and got huge. We could tell that it was in the park and in fact was very close. The only problem is we didn’t know where it was. The wind was blowing all around us. We were safe at the moment, we were surrounded by granite so we pulled out our map to come up with a plan. We saw there is a backcountry ranger in lyv. We decided to get there as fast as possible to see if he/she had any info. When we stowed the map a helicopter flew over then it hovered really low over the top of us. We started waving our arms frantically. It hovered for about two minutes then flew away and didn’t come back. So we headed for lyv. We entered a heavily forested area and started running as fast as we could with our packs on. We did not know where the fire was or if it would engulf the forest we were in. Suddenly we came across a couple we met earlier that morning. Mike and Sara (not real names). They told us we were running right into the fire. I noticed they had a two way radio, like the type police would have. I asked if we could hike with them. They said yes. It turns out they were backpacking guides for the park. They had a couple days off and were backpacking themselves.
Our plan was to head back to merced lake hsc. On the way back Mike heard on the radio that merced hsc was being evacuated. So Mike came up with a new plan head to sunrise hsc. It was a lot further but we could camp there and get a hot meal. Mike and Sara knew people that worked at all these camps. We felt very safe hiking with Mike and Sara. Sara’s knee was really bothering her. We really had to slow our pace and take lots of breaks. It added a lot of stress to an already stressful situation. At some point his radio stopped working. It was a very long day. During the day the sun went dark due to the smoke. It was raining ash down on us. We finally got to sunrise right about dark. There was a note on the door that said they had been evacuated to tuolumne meadows. We were all demoralized. Mike had a mini meltdown. There was a phone in the kitchen, Mike let himself in. He called someone in the valley that had something to do with the fire. They told us to get out and get out now. A fire crew had just gone out ahead of us over to tenaya lake, they suggested we go that same way. Turns out that is where Mike and sara’s car was. We were all completely exhausted mentally and physically. We got there around midnight. We got to there house about 1am in the yosemite valley. We are so grateful to Mike and Sara to this day. We feel like they saved our lives and guided us to safety.
So I am not sure if this was dumb dangerous mistake on our part or the parks. We found out later that the fire had been burning/smoldering for several months and they decided to let it burn itself out. Then monsoonal winds came threw and really ignited it. They rescued 80 people off of half dome by that day.Jan 1, 2021 at 12:32 pm #3691696Jan 2, 2021 at 4:51 pm #3691856John “Jay” MennaBPL Member
When I was a kid…many years ago. 4 buddies and I were approached by a hungry Mexican black bear. For some inane reason, probably having something to do with the fact that our frontal cortex was not fully developed, we decided that scaring the bear off was not enough and we gave chase to it.
50 years into the pursuit, the bear realized it was a bear and we were a bunch of stupid kids. It stopped cold and flipped around 180 degrees instantly.
I figure the only reason we are all still alive is the was laughing so hard at out pathetic attempts to flee at top speed tripping over each other.Jan 3, 2021 at 7:38 pm #3691992lisa rBPL Member
A few years ago I was backpacking solo in CO a bit off the beaten track to try and escape the crowds. I found a nice meadowy area to camp late afternoon, set up camp, and then killed an hour or two exploring the neighborhood. All day I’d been feeling on edge about mountain lions, given recent reports out of Oregon of a hiker killed by one – I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. My campsite was at the edge of a rocky cliffy area that felt like prime territory for a cougar to sit and watch for prey in my meadow below, but I was trying not to focus on that.
I ate dinner and as dusk fell I walked about 100 feet away to hang my ursack. Just after getting it hung, I turned around and saw just a few feet away a very fresh deer carcass, clearly killed by a mountain lion and neatly eaten. There was still blood pooling in the cavity and a couple fresh, uneaten organs.
I considered my options, which were to stay put in my camp or move to a different spot. Given it was getting close to dark, which is prime time for cougar activity, I opted not to move camp. I wasn’t thrilled with this decision, but also really didn’t like the idea of trying to quickly pack everything up in falling darkness, feeling like at any moment a cougar was going to pounce on me as I crouched down to roll up the tent. Given that cats are visual hunters, I decided to just get in the tent and stay there out of sight and hope for the best.
I was surprised that I actually got some sleep that night. When I woke up in the morning and emerged from the tent, I decided to quickly pack up and move on down the trail. I was partly packed up when three coyotes came down over the hill right next to my tent. They looked at me for a moment, then went along to the carcass, which was clearly their destination. They seemed pretty well occupied with it so I continued packing up. After a few minutes, though, one coyote came over and started to watch me. I decided it might be best to give them some space to enjoy their meal.
I grabbed my binoculars and walked a quarter mile up the valley and waited. It was fun to watch the coyotes munch the remains of the deer. Unlike the cougar, they pulled the thing completely apart, dragging limbs left and right. As they ate, crows and ravens flew in and sat in nearby trees waiting for their turn. After a while, once the coyotes had their fill, they moved on, letting the birds get whatever morsels remained. I headed back to pack up the rest of my camp. As I was finally leaving, one more coyote showed up, a little late the party. He checked out the carcass but by then there wasn’t anything left for him, and he kept moving.
When I got home I asked a wildlife biologist friend, who spent much of her career working in the Rockies, if I’d made the right choice to stay put. She said it probably would have been wise to move, because in her experience fresh kills can invite both territorial young male cougars as well as bears, and that a carcass is a hot commodity critters may be willing to fight over. That said, it still doesn’t feel like it would have been the safe move to be out messing with camp and trying to find a new place in the dark, but who knows. Since that trip, whenever I’m solo, I carry bear spray. It’s probably a waste of 6 oz but it gives me some peace of mind when it comes to a range of animals (or humans; I’m not actually worried about bears though). Although this summer I had an animal paw at my tent in the night, and though I had bear spray with me I was pretty sure it wouldn’t help me from inside a tent.
I do almost all of my backpacking solo, which has its rewards and drawbacks. The wildlife encounters I have tend to be both reward and drawback at the same time. I rarely see much wildlife when I’m with other people.Jan 3, 2021 at 9:16 pm #3692002Dave HeissBPL Member
@daveheissLocale: Pacific Northwest
I’ve never seen a cougar (although I’m sure they’ve seen me) until last summer on a trip around the East side of Glacier Peak in the Cascades. I camped at a spot called Lady Camp, and while it was a great location at the edge of the big ridgetop meadows along Miners Ridge, the actual camp area was just a bare patch of dirt with very little shade.
I noticed there was a faint trail that continued on past the camp area and, thinking there might be a better camping spot back there, I went to take a look. Passing into some trees and rounding a bend something exploded out of the shrubs just a little uphill and to my left and zoomed downhill. It was unbelievably fast and all I saw was a tail. A long, curved tail. The only thing I know that has a tail like that is a cougar.
After my heart slowed down I decided it was better to have see that end of a cougar instead of the other end.Jan 4, 2021 at 7:00 am #3692031Erica RBPL Member
Our town is near the Los Padres National Forest, and there are wildlife corridors along the creek. There was a mountain lion sighting a few years ago in a rural area almost right in town.
My neighbor across the street saw one just a few months ago.
One time we were deep in the National Forest with our mountain bikes. It was getting dark, and we had quite a ways to go back up hill. When you hear the scream of a mountain lion between you and your car you decide to stay together. It sounds much like a woman being murdered.Jan 4, 2021 at 10:10 am #3692047Ben CBPL Member
Good story, Casey. Enjoyed the whole thing. Solid storytelling technique.Jan 4, 2021 at 10:30 am #3692053Todd TBPL Member
@texasbbLocale: Pacific Northwest
…50 years into the pursuit, the bear realized…
Heh, heh. Not the sharpest mind, but impressive endurance! :-)
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