Rounding a slight bend in the logging road miles from anywhere and anyone in Oregon’s Coastal Range, gravel crunching beneath my mountain bike’s fat knobby tires, a movement ahead catches my attention.
I focus on one of my most amazing moments in the great outdoors.
About 40 yards ahead of me a mountain lion bolts down the road in hasty retreat. Its super smooth athletic gait leaves me spellbound as its powerful legs spring in rhythm with its paws digging into the gravel, a colorful spray of autumn leaves flying out in its draft while its tail rises straight up suspended behind it, barely moving.
While the cougar’s speed surprises me, I sense it could flash to another gear. Its nearly casual exit appears to be prompted more from annoyance than actual panic.
Whatever its motive, its desire to depart rather than stand its ground eases my initial fright or flight reaction as its physical prowess mesmerizes me into a trance.
Typically these wildlife moments flash by in an instant. Not this time.
The cougar continues up the road, its body stunningly balanced and barely moving from its axis as its legs bound from side to side along the crest in the middle of the road. It extends its gap on me in an effortless manner.
The road hugs along Rickreal Creek to my right, and takes a slight bend to the left. The cougar slips out of view.
I jump on the pedals to sprint, my instincts leaping from concern to borderline panic.
I must know where it disappears into the woods to decipher my next moves. If it departs right, it might get caught between the road and creek and feel cornered.
Please, oh, please …
In an instant I’m around the bend and it stuns me that this beautiful creature continues its loping gait down the roadway, the gap now nearing 150 yards. Once again, I somehow lose all fear of the situation, feeling as strong a connection to nature as ever.
Finally the cougar stops without slowing, pivots and darts into the forest allowing me to see its full body after such a glorious display of its backside.
I note that it isn’t the huge male (I assume gender based on size) that I saw with my dog a year or so ago. Looking up more information on cougars after that first encounter, I assume it might be a younger male or female.
About 30 seconds later I’m pedaling past its exit point, yelling and shouting in case, for some odd reason, it might change its mind about our encounter — my false sense of security 6-inch knife in my hand.
Instead of other brushes with wildlife both seen and unseen that leave the hair standing on my neck, I never sensed cause for alarm.
I ride on, sharing my astonishment with the trees, the bright yellow and orange leaves fluttering in the breeze, the water in the creek cascading over rocks and the gravel beneath my tires, chatting aloud with Mother Nature feeling more like one of her offspring than ever before.
Time to ride