After almost 12 long hours of driving and traveling over 500 miles, We found ourselves surrounded by tall, dark towering giants you can barely make out, so late into the night. Everyone pretty much just ate dinner and went straight to bed, hoping to get an early start for the adventures that awaited us on the landscape.
I woke up the next day to discover I was surround by these magnificent ancient giants. I quickly rolled out of my sleeping bag and prepared for the day. We had only a few hours to explore this land so efficiency was crucial. I synced up with one of the other students, Colin, and we set off into the woods.
We first found ourselves in deep conversation reflecting on the journey so far. Then we were both mesmerized and by the stark contrast of the open desert we left the day before and the dense forest of the Rredwoods. We then found ourselves drawn off trail by a fallen tree that made a lovely path towards the river.
As we explored the thickets along the river our attention turned to the animal trails that skirted the river’s edge. We very clearly saw raccoon trails and grey fox trails going in opposite directions. But there was another much larger track that drew our attention. It had 4 toes with claws showing and an “M” shaped heel pad.
We looked at several tracks and asked ourselves lots of questions, trying to refrain from jumping to conclusions of what we both thought and, hoped it was. We surveyed our surroundings following the tracks up river and back tracking down river for a few hours to confirm what we thought it was. Finally we came to the conclusion that it was in fact, a Mountain Lion!!
We came back to camp with pictures to confirm with Marcus, our lead instructor, that it was indeed a Mountain Lion. He too, found the tracks of this animal and added that you can see the sexual dimorphism in the tracks and not only was it a Mountain Lion but a Female. We were both blow away.
It is so amazing to see how just a little knowledge of animal tracks can turn a short wander in the forest into an epic Sherlock Holmes mystery, interpreting the stories of the landscape.