Pacific Crest Trail Week 6: Crouching Bobcat, Hidden Mosquitoes

Photo by Mark Stevens
View of Oregon’s Mount Hood from the Pacific Crest Trail.

As I sit in my sweet mountain-lodge room, I am reflecting on the last seven weeks of my life.

The grandeur and solitude of Washington are a distant memory and Oregon has been full of surprises. I started hiking through Oregon as fast as I could only to learn to slow down. This state has taught me that thru-hiking isn’t all about the physical challenge, but the challenge of balance. One must keep a schedule, yet enjoy the journey at the same time.

I was told many things about Oregon before I even got there. But the vision of the state I take away is a very different one. I was warned of mosquitoes that swarmed you for days, and promised flat, easy trails, as well as 40 mile days. What I found were friends waiting to spend time with me, volcanoes, tolerable mosquitoes, and luxury mountain lodges or RV resorts always a few days away.

I got to relax in Oregon. The mountains here are majestic and the dry grasslands shimmer against the blue skies. But there are always surprises.

Photo by Jason Farrar
This obviously isn’t the cat that I saw, but maybe it will explain my decision not to stop and take a picture.

Yesterday, I was enjoying a lighter load (my boyfriend took my pack for a 16-mile stretch) when I had an unexpected encounter. I was coming around a corner when I saw a large cat in the trail turned away from me. A small bird fluttered in front of it. Was it a baby mountain lion? Was it a bobcat?

I whistled instinctively as it stood 10 feet in front of me and said, “hey.” It turned around slowly. I said, “hey” again then it jogged away from me.

As I wasn’t quite sure what it was, what it might do, and what was with it, I decided to make myself look big by waving my trekking poles in the air and singing the Presidential March. (I guess this was my instinctual way of asserting my authority?) I continued this for a bit till I realized no mommy mountain lion was coming to attack me. I was very lucky to have seen this beautiful animal and sorry that I disturbed its lunch.

Each trail and turn in Oregon held a similar surprise encounter. The people here are proud of their mountains and they make sure to get out and enjoy them. It was magical to run into old friends in Crater Lake, wet thunderstorms, and wild cats on the trail.

You never now what’s going to happen out here, but if you slow down you might get to see some cool stuff and eat some great meals.

Read the rest of Suzanne’s adventures:

Week 1: Approaching the Adventure
Week 2: Falling Down, Climbing Up
Week 3: The Pulse of Humanity
Week 4: Beware the Grouse
Week 5: Being Zen (or Not)
Week 7: Appreciation
Week 8: The End?

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About the Author

Suzanne Hessler is a connoisseur of odd jobs and misspent adventures. She can often be found wandering the countryside or hiding from everything in her tiny mid-city apartment. She is currently attempting a long-distance backpacking trip starting at the Canadian Border of the Pacific Crest Trail and heading South. You can find her on Google + and Facebook.