The Last Glacier
From the Growing Up pages:
I'm going out on a limb here; I'm making a statement which is without collaboration. Camping is one of America's greatest pastimes. I'm basing this on the number of scouts (both girl and boy), church groups, nature lovers, etc. I know nearly every sporting goods store has "camping stuff". They know me by name at REI (okay, maybe not but should).
When growing up in Montana, camping usually included staying in one of the line cabins, horses and not tents, overnights in the woods and all that. Usually ranch work related. As I got older, camping still included horses (for riding and packing), sleeping in tents or bivey sacks. The great thing with horses you cover a lot of ground in one day, can see everything and they are just cool. The bad thing is you have to care for them, food and water, saddle and tack, and all that related. But the really bad thing is horses wander and tying them to a picket line or hobbling them looks great on paper but then they are cat and bear bait. I can't tell you how many nights I lay awake, my watch, with a 30-30 in my lap. It is just easier to car camp or backpack.
Most of the time, myself and my wife chose backpacking, easier and really just as much fun. Setting camp "wards" (tin can and string) will alert you to most dangers; in most cases Grizzly and Mountain Lions will leave humans alone. Pull your food, etc. into the trees (away from the tent) and keep a lantern going and they will skirt the area unless they smell horses. Horses are a magnet. One time we were in the Tizer Wilderness Area (Montana) and that night we slept on an island in one of the Tizer lakes, rocks rolling and water splashing being great burglar alarms. I could hear the bear checking us out and rolling logs and digging for grubs and doing all the bear things. My wife thought I was making all of it up. The next morning, we broke camp and headed deeper into the wilderness. About four or five hundred yards from camp there was a marker tree where the male grizzly mark their territory by making a cut on the tree with their claws. The new mark was nine to ten feet off the ground and they don't climb to make the mark. When the bear that had made the mark stood on his hind legs he was at least seven or more feet tall. I'm sure he was the one who had checked us out during the night, the scar was fresh and had not started to "sap up". My wife, the city girl, had a change of heart that day.
Years later, I was backpacking in the Chiricahua Mountains near in the Southeast corner of Arizona in the 80's when oddly enough I got my first taste of Altitude sickness. I had been a flatlander too long and was not used to the "high" mountains. After drinking water to ease the pain, I went to sleep with the tent flap left open. I awoke in the middle of the night with a doe's head about a foot from my face. She was eating shrub leaves and sniffing at me. As the moon rose, I counted five or six more but I was still feeling the effects of the Altitude sickness and immediately fell back to sleep. After breakfast I took a trail on the south side of the peak and where there were three springs where I might see the deer on my way out of the wilderness. I was shooting film with a small 35, an Olympus XA Rangefinder known for being a great backpacking camera. I found the herd at the second spring which has willow trees growing around the spring area. I crouched down low, pulling my camera from my pocket. The breeze was blowing in my face, the deer didn't have my scent. Out of the corner of my eye and a little up the mountain from me, I say the tail of a cat switching slowly side to side. He wiggled a little then jumped down hill towards the deer. She made forty plus feet in two jumps. The second jump put her on top of one of the deer. I must have made a noise or she saw me just a split second before her claws would have sank into the deer. She turned her head, twisted in mid air and landed to the side of the deer and further down hill, disappearing in the brush. The doe was frozen, having eliminated all body waste process. She didn't / couldn't move for about five minutes. It took that long for her to know she was still alive. I never took the shot, from the time I saw the tail twitching in the brush to the time the cat disappeared, less than two seconds. I realized that day, to protect myself (shoot the cat) would be next to impossible (if the mountain lion wanted you bad enough). Quick is not a word that defines their speed.