A Hair-Raising New Years in Ouray
My last hours of 2019 ended with quite a hair-raising experience, and I have a crazy story to tell you from my outings last night to photograph the New Years fireworks.
I had an idea last night to snowshoe up to a cliff overlooking town to gain a unique perspective of the fireworks over the valley, so at 10:30pm I bundled up, strapped on my snowshoes and headlamp, and started trudging up through knee deep powder towards my destination. When I was only about ten minutes up from the road, I was alarmed when I saw three or four pairs of orange eyes reflecting at me from behind some bushes up ahead. My first thought was that they were probably just deer. But I was a bit concerned that the eyes were orange; typically I remember all the deer I’ve seen at night having greenish colored eyes in light of my headlamp. Even more alarming, though, was the fact that the eyes had a certain calm and confidence to them – the animals clearly were not afraid of me and had no intention of fleeing like deer normally would.
About 20-30 feet from the “eyes”, I could see that one of the animals was standing up while the other two or three were sitting or laying down. I took a few more steps closer to get a closer look when I got a clear view of the one that was standing. It was a massive mountain lion staring right at me! Along with two or three of his buddies* (I was too focussed on the big guy to count the others). Holy shit. I quietly turned around and retreated back down through the snow, trying not to seem panicked or rushed like prey, but constantly glancing over my shoulder while trying not to trip over my snowshoes. I got back to my truck without incident, got in as fast as I could, and got the hell out of there, with a bit of adrenaline pumping through my veins!
So, although I was scared away from my intended photo destination, at least I got a story to tell! I had enough time to drive to an old standby vantage point and take the photo above as a consolation shot.
Happy New Year! I hope 2020 is full of more excitement and adventure, though preferrably not involving close encounters with mountains lion gangs!
* P.S. – It’s possible it was a momma lion with her teenage cubs; I didn’t get a good look at the others, just the big one standing in front.