We were just hiking out of Laughing Whitefish Falls, and it fast approaching dusk. Talking about the beauty of the falls, we weren’t paying our usual ADD-style attention the surrounding forest. Suddenly, a hundred yards up, a few whitetail deer took off like a shot, and Colette noted that it was odd that the deer would take off like that since they would have known we were coming down the trail for quite some time due to our voices carrying and feet crunching in the gravel.
I pointed out that up in the UP, they probably only had one natural predator – the mountain lion. My logic was that humans are just a given since we kill everything off, and bears are probably too slow to catch a deer.
With the words fresh out of my mouth and still lingering in the air, in roughly the same area as the deer had just vacated came a deep, growl/roar. Much the same as two housecats fighting at the food dish, but many octaves lower and with about as much volume as a car horn. This was not meow, this was not playtime, this was “you just woke me up” or “mmm dinner”. Ummm Bueller – time to exit stage left. I’m not the smartest guy, but two hikers alone in the woods with no weapons, no EPIRB/PLB, and not a whole lot of knowledge about dealing with wild animals probably didn’t have much of a chance against a couple large hungry cats.
We didn’t wait for confirmation on the number of cats, size, location, or whether it was really just Fluffy and Muffy looking for a good ear scratching. I reckoned that since I was in hiking shoes and Colette was in flip-flops, at least I could outrun her since we couldn’t outrun the cat. After reading the ‘surviving a mountain lion encounter’ web site, we discovered that you should never run away from a mountain lion. Well, this wasn’t information that we were provided with BEFORE running across one, and we bolted. We were still fairly close to the falls, a .6 mile hike to the car, but we didn’t slow until the car was in sight, and even then we didn’t dawdle. Make no mistake – I love dinner. I just prefer to be in the consumer side not the consumee side!
Perhaps it wasn’t a mountain lion. It could have been just another deer with an upset tummy. A chipmunk with a bad case of intestinal gas. Bigfoot. To be honest, we never SAW the cat. We didn’t need to – we’ve both had enough pets to know exactly what cats growling at each other sound like, and we both know enough to not get between the cats fighting at the food dish.
Valuable lessons learned:
- Let someone know your general whereabouts, and let them know an expected return time. It won’t stop you from getting eaten or even let rescuers know where to find you, but at least it will point them in the right direction.
- Buy a PLB – I’m thinking that we’ll end up with something like an ACR Terrafix. Even if someone had known that we were headed to Pictured Rocks during the day, nobody would have known that we were stopping at any of the 3 sets of falls that we visited afterward, because they were all last-minute decisions. Since we were the only people at the falls, a half mile hike from the parking area which is in the absolute middle of nowhere, nobody would have even found what was left of our carcasses until the next day.
- Buy walking sticks. Sharpen the tips! Any weapon is better than nothing.
- Buy and carry pepper spray. Remember that you have it. This may be helpful in many situations, not just Bigfoot.
- Research the area that you’re headed into, and be prepared for the terrain, animals, and any emergencies.
- Learn CPR. Everybody should know CPR anyway.
Michigan DNR has been poo-poo’ing the existence of cougars in Michigan in breeding quantities, but with numerous sightings, and verified photos (mostly from deer hunter’s trail cams), they are now reversing their stance. These pictures (don’t click if you have a weak stomach! PIC1 PIC2) were taken in 2008, but the DNR would not validate them due to the inability to 100% match the location. Check out THIS site for a list of sightings.
Lastly, a repeat of a very old joke: What has 4 legs and 1 arm? A very happy mountain lion.