And we ain't talkin'
no John Mellencamp, either. Now, before you talk to T-Bone or
Manciata, let me tell you what I saw and they didn't last spring
(May 17) during a Kong ascent.
Now, Kong has been
described many times on this web site, but in case you just tuned
into this site, it is Buck Mountain,
which is northeast of the town of Coburg, Oregon, which is
located north of Eugene. While we finish below the summit, we
go from about 400 feet elevation to nearly 2,500 feet in about
On this particular
trip, T-Bone and I were going to meet Bruce at our starting point
off Wilkins Road at 4:30 p.m. Coop was going to join us, too,
from the north as he returned from business in Portland that day.
When we arrived, Coop's pickup was there, but he was no where
in sight. We figured he got here early and went up on his own.
T-Bone had to get back and so did I. So, as soon as Bruce arrived,
off we went. Boom. No warm up and Tommy set his usual torrid pace
up the hill. I was thinking, "…oh, man…not today…" I was doomed
from the get go. No excuses. Some days, I just ain't in the mood
to make it hurt. And when you run Kong, that spells trouble, because
it's gonna hurt, baby. This was also Bruce's second trip up in
Tommy arrived at the
first gate in about 7:20 and I was about 10 yards back. I looked
up the hill with some dread of what was ahead of me and saw a
brown animal out ahead of Tommy. It was running on the left side
of the gravel road less than 50 yards up the hill. It wasn't bounding
like a deer. It had more of a humped back action as it's back
legs move forward. Like a cat. That's when I yelled to Tommy.
Cougar! At first I did not have a sense of fear, more curiosity
than anything else. It then turned to the left, giving me a good
side profile. I got a real good look at it's long thick rope-like
tale, the kind that drooped down and then curled back up like
the head of a candy cane. I also noticed it was not too big, assuming
it probably was a young one. I was more confident in what I was
looking at then and yelled again…this time, with more urgency
and the fear that mom might be poised and ready in the bushes
right out in front of us.
Tommy was running
head down and did not see it. He would have none of my gamesmanship
either, trying to slow him down with some kind of cougar siting
nonsense. He gave me a rather curt reply I can't print here. Bruce
was gaining rapidly and I could tell he was up there for one reason
only: To seek a little Truth, not to mention beating "the little
shit" as he affectionately calls me from time to time. A quick
glance and a couple of grunts and he just blew by me. I was left
standing at the second gate with my mouth hanging open.
We broke out into
the clearing and, fortunately, mom did not appear. And up ahead,
coming down the mountain I could now see Coop, having already
reached the summit and now heading right down through what now
is known as "Cougar Alley" on all of our subsequent Kong ascents.
While my doubting running partners pressed up the hill, I stopped
to warn Coop to make some noise.
I got to the top and
Tommy and Bruce were wondering where the heck I was and they joked
my elevated lactic acid level probably contributed to my "cougar
sighting." "Wouldn't it be easier just to grab a hamstring?" was
one line I seem to recall, as they toasted me good that day. I
also endured listening to some very creative alien abduction scenarios
on the way down.
Later in the summer,
at least the possibility of credibility in my story was established
when a cougar was struck on Interstate 5, just a couple of miles
from my sighting: the paper said it was a male, probably chasing
a female across the freeway.
From time to time,
we all read about runners being attacked by bears and cougars.
The common scenario seems to be: The animal was surprised, may
have had young and the human did some things they should not have.
From what I have read, most of the time, these animals usually
will turn and run from humans if they know you are coming or,
if they don't, continue to make noise and try to make yourself
look bigger than they are by raising your arms. Fortunately on
Kong, the terrain is fairly open with few blind turns and the
gravel surface generates noise. On Kong, I am more afraid of hunters
than I am of the animals, and for the most part, we have encountered
very polite and safety minded people.
However, my experience
did get me to stop and think, which is what every runner needs
to remember before they just lace 'em up and go. And that's The