Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Skyline Traverse and Mountain Lion

Christmas Skyline Traverse and Mountain Lion

With the morning of Christmas day free, but obligations to be in Boulder later that day, Tara and I went and ran part of the Skyline Traverse. I ran the same route as last time, going from South Table Mesa up Homestead to Shadow to SoBo, then over to Bear, down the west ridge and up Green, then back the way I came, tagging all the peaks again. The day was absolutely spectacular, with not a single cloud in the sky. A bit cool and breezy on the peaks, the trails were dry and smooth. I didn't see anyone on SoBo or Bear, and only a few people on Green, it was a great Christmas present. A little better then last time at 3:47 rt.

The following day (26th), I was running one of my usual routes from home when I encountered my second mountain lion in the 38 years I've been in Colorado. The route goes through some open space near Apex Park in Golden, and I usually only run it early in the morning when I don't have time to go anywhere else. It was about 6:03am and I was wearing a headlamp. I like to scan the hills with my headlamp on this run because there is often a large elk herd that winters here, so it is fun to see hundreds of glowing eyes in the blackness. This time, however, I only saw one pair. As I kept running down the trail, approaching the eyes, they blinked out. Then, a few seconds later they were back. It didn't seem like a lone elk, so I slowed down and zeroed my light beam on them. They disappeared again, then came back. I could tell whatever it was was standing up, then it started to move the opposite direction I was heading in a smooth gait - no lope of a fox or coyote. I was about 40 feet away on the other side of this small drainage, and it looked like it was going back behind me. Tara was still coming down the trail, so I stopped and then started to run up towards the eyes. The thing stopped, and then I could make out the form of the mountain lion. It stood staring at me, and I could see the white of its underside and started to make out the fur. I didn't want him heading towards Tara, so I moved closer to it and made some noises - mostly just talking to it - "Hey, what are you doing. Don't go that way. I see you." etc. It froze again, and we had a stare off at about 25 feet. It then turned and started to move silently through the grass the other way. I followed it with my light as it slowly moved across the slope, stopping to check me out every couple yards. Finally, it went over a bend and disappeared. I told Tara what happened, and we walked down the trail with our headlamps scanning the slopes. After a few minutes, we spotted it again, this time on the other side of the draw and up about 50 yards, moving away.

The only other time that I've seen any mountain lions was once driving up Boulder Canyon early in the morning, and two of them ran across the road, moving from the creek up the slope right in front of the car. That was cool, but this had a different sense of respect. There was no fear, but certainly a lot of respect. It never made a sound, and if I had not spotted his eyes, I would never have known it was there. Really cool!
 Looking into Eldo from the top of SoBo
 The Divide - not a cloud. The moon is up in the left corner.

 Bear and Green from SoBo...
 East from Bear...
 Green and beyond from Bear...
 Bear from Green...
 Bear's super fun West Ridge trail...
Shadow, so good...


  1. That is a heck of a beast in the garden story. I am sure they see us way more than we see them!

    1. Yeah, it was pretty cool. I agree, I'm sure we run by them all the time.

  2. Oh, the joys of mountain lion encounters. They can be pretty intense sometimes. I've seen eight in six different encounters. One of those involved a mom and cubs and another involved the mountain lion coming straight at me when I was in a trailhead parking lot with no means to defend myself. Fun stuff.