All About Elk

Arizona Adventure

Recently I traveled to Flagstaff, Arizona for work and found time one evening to take a hike in the mountains just north of the city.  Not only is it great exercise to get in shape for elk hunting, but I never turn down a chance to get to the mountains.  I did some research with my onX map app and found a trail that could take me away from the crowds and away from roads.  Just the kind of hike I enjoy!  While the trail I chose was over 10 miles long, I decided to hike out as far as I could and turn around to get back before dark.

I arrived to the trailhead a little later than I hoped but was thrilled to find a great trail with basically no foot traffic at all.  While I was at 9,500 ft. elevation the trails was fairly level and so I made good time hiking out.  I saw a muley doe out in one meadow, but I kept my eyes opened for other wildlife.  I was hoping to see a couple elk or a nice muley buck or two.   Little did I know what I was about to see.

Arizona Mountain Hiking

I was just over 1.5 miles into my hike when the excitement happened.  I turned a corner in the trail and found two college-aged girls standing up on in the middle of the trail.  They were standing perfectly still and had a terrified look on their faces.  They saw me and pointed down the hill into the woods.  I thought that perhaps they saw some wildlife like a bear or elk and so I quietly stepped and and look down the hill.  I was shocked to see that less that 40 yards down the hill was a mountain lion staring right back at me.

Mountain Lion
My poor photo of the mountain lion.  I tried!

I immediately started to evaluate the situation.  The mountain lion was not acting aggressively or threatening, but it also wasn’t running away.  There were now three of us together so I wasn’t concerned about an attack.  My first thought was to calm the girls down….they were visibly frightened and I took a moment or two to assure them that they were safe.   I found that the lion had been less than 25 yards away from them as they came around the corner.  I then tried to get a picture…..and was fairly unsuccessful as I was trying to be careful and the lion started to walk away.  After staring at us for a minute, the mountain lion calmly turned and headed off down to where the trail continued.

I made the decision that my hike had reached the turning point.  I didn’t think I wanted to continue on down the trail knowing that the lion was down there poking around.  I walked a bit back with the two girls not only for their sake, but mine as well!  It was an incredibly experience to see the lion and I was thankful that everyone remained safe.

Young Muley walking by.

On the hike back, I eventually let the girls go on ahead and took my time going back.  With the sun going down, I saw more wildlife activity.  I had the fun experience of playing around with a young buck muley that walked by 10 yards in front of me on the trail.  After a number of pictures I continued on and ran across a couple muley does before I got back to the trailhead.

My hike was not as long as I initially planned, but it ended up being plenty exciting.  I will never forget the experience of seeing a mountain lion out in the wild.

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