Early on, my husband and I gave elk hunting a go. We hiked into a steep area and I spotted a bull elk. It was several canyons over, so we went home and planned to move on him the next day. 

A bull elk in the distance.

We e-scouted the area and found the ridgeline to climb. We left at 3:30am. It was raining, and we had an unexpected creek crossing. Visibility by headlamp was barely 10 feet. Bushwacking was rough – I didn’t even try to move branches – I just barreled through. Sweating like crazy and hammered by rain, it quickly became our worst hike ever.  

But the ridge began to even out and get drier. Things were looking up, until we saw a giant mountain lion within our 10 feet of visibility. 

A mountain lion moves into the small circumference of light.

She ran but we had no idea how far. Were we being circled? Did she have kittens nearby or a kill she was guarding? It’s okay to assume what prey might be doing, but it’s not a good idea with predators. 

After all that work, we had to go down. We got back to back for a combat-style descent. We sent our packs ahead and slid down on our butts. I had to put some terrain between me and that cat. 

The outdoors always offers lessons to be learned.

Back across the creek, we’d learned some important lessons: don’t rely on e-scouting for new terrain in the dark, and always be alert. Because you can end up sneaking up on the very things that typically sneak up on you.

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