Sitting back in a Weight Watchers meeting I was happy to be facing the music. Again. I’d been snacking to the point of my clothes being too tight and frankly I can’t afford new clothes so I’m out of options.
There was a brand new leader on
Tuesday, eager and peppy. At first, I thought she might be a little too
enthusiastic, but as I listened to her talk I decided I was really ready to
commit. She was all about challenges; she had some vegetable challenge where
you were supposed to have more than half your plate full of vegetables, and
apparently the week before she had a “try-a-new-vegetable-
Determined, I took the 50.00 bill Awesomez had hidden in my wallet and bought a decent pair of walking shoes. I laced up the next morning with my new walking coach, Henry who donned his bicycle helmet and accompanied me. We went early in the cool of the morning. I felt smug as I toasted my two point multi-grain English muffin smearing two points of creamy peanut butter on top while I sipped my coffee fresh from the glow of my walk.
The next day, my “coach” was too tired and the bum slept in, so Vivian and I went it alone. Walking along, I noticed some poop in the middle of the road. Curious I studied it. It was big enough and it was filled with hair, I suspected it was cougar scat but knew it was far fetched we hadn’t seen cougar in a long time and what were the odds it would poop in the middle of the road. The scat was still fresh with urine puddled, I didn’t want my imagination to carry me away, but nonetheless it’s not what you want to see as you try and walk off a couple of chocolate meringues from Trader Joes™. I would research the specimen later and identify the culprit. Vivian had a completely different attitude; she walked up squatted and confidently peed right over it. Her confidence gave me confidence and I walked on accompanied by my canine bodyguard.
On my third walk, Amy and my “coach” both came with me, Vivian and Irish. We chatted and laughed and probably didn’t walk as fast or as far as we should have, but I got my heart rate up.
Walk number four was Phoebe, Quinn and Henry on his bicycle with my constant walking companions Vivian, and Irish. The canine bullet, Rat-Bat (Bruno) somehow escaped the house, squeezed under the fence and found us half a mile away.
“Look that’s the cougar scat my mom saw the other day”.
“Why would a cougar go in the middle of the road?” Phoebe asked.
“Well, there were four things that identify cougar scat. First it should be as big as a large dog. Check. Two, it should have hair from it’s last kill. Check. Three it should be in segments. Check and double check. And four, the documents say, it’s important to note where the scat is. Cougars like to mark their territory and so they go out in the open usually in the middle of a trail” I explained.
“That’s in the middle of a trail all right,” Phoebe agreed.
Together, we walked faster and farther, but didn’t quite walk as long as I would have liked because I needed to get to work.
This morning, I was down to only Quinn and Henry, who was sick of how hot his helmet made his head and pushing his bicycle up some of the steeper hills decided he would walk. I left Vivian the guard dog home due to limping. We took Irish and started out. The morning was crisp and bright. Sun streamed dreamily through the trees as we marched up the hill determined this time to finally get to the bridge. About three-quarters of a mile into the walk I smelled an overwhelming odor, as pungent as a skunk but not a skunk at all. I looked around wondering what the smell was.
“Do you smell that?” I asked.
“No. I don’t smell anything” Quinn answered keeping stride.
“I smell a really strong smell. It reminds me of ‘Harry and the Henderson’s. You know, they say Sasquatch smells really strong and that’s how you know it’s there”.
“I remember that movie,” Quinn said. “We saw it with Tom and Wayne I think”.
“You know, there are more Sasquatch sightings on the 9 than just about anywhere. The guys from the city who were out here last week said they weren’t going to rule out Sasquatch in a forest this size. And besides, it’s the non-believer who gets it in the end” I said through my huffing and puffing. “Or the annoying, squirrely kid on the bike”.
“Good thing I don’t have my bike, “ Henry smiled.
“Neese you kind of sound like a warthog when you’re walking and talking” Quinn so kindly informed me. Just then, we heard a huge rustle in the bushes and we could see the foliage moving.
“That’s big enough to be an elk,” I said thinking back to that fateful day last summer when I’d said just about the same thing. We walked on.
“Didn’t Kristi, the girl who used to live here, see a Sasquatch?” Quinn asked.
“Well, she saw something. She was lost one night in the late fall and something about the size of a black bear went in front of her car. She stopped and it looked at her, but she couldn’t identify it. It really freaked her out”.
“She said it kind of had the face of a monkey” Henry interjected.
“She didn’t want anyone to think she was a kook, so she never really told anyone else, but it was near the Strand Road on the 9” I snorted. We heard another break of a branch in the bushes. It wasn’t as loud as before but seemed just behind us. We turned to look but didn’t see anything.
“I smell the smell you were talking about” Quinn said sniffing the air.
“Me too. Ugh it’s horrible. Maybe it is a Sasquatch” Henry laughed.
“Yeah, maybe it’s tracking us right now. Maybe we’re being followed by Harry, he left the Henderson’s. Or we think we’re being followed by a Sasquatch and a cougar will jump out of the bushes” she laughed too.
“Of course, we’re going to see a Sasquatch, I didn’t bring my camera” I added as I quickened our pace.
The conversation wound around to aliens, the Egyptians, alternate Universes, Loch Ness and unexplored regions of our oceans. We discussed cave drawings and giant squid, the cruelty of man and science and our inability as a species to allow others to co-exist. Quinn wished we’d see Sasquatch and could give him refuge on the farm. “He could eat blueberries and we’d be friends with him, but we wouldn’t tell anyone” she said wistfully.
“Yeah right, look at the Giant Squid it was dead after just one day, you’d think they’d learn” Henry said as we reached the bridge. “They can’t leave well enough alone”. We looked around a bit taking stock of what had been done. The place was deserted which seemed strange for a work day, but no wonder they’d scheduled almost a year if they’re not going to be working on the renovations consistently.
“This is just about two miles, it’s getting hot so let’s get going,” I said as Henry turned the happy-to-be-on-walk Irish around. I thought of Vivian probably moping at home sitting on my bed thinking she’d been replaced.
We walked a long easily as Quinn pondered if Kristi had actually seen Sasquatch. “Then according to Kristi, a Sasquatch doesn’t have to be that big. Now maybe she saw a baby, who knows. People probably exaggerate,“ Quinn surmised.
“Like when they almost catch a fish,” Henry concurred. And so Quinn and Henry concluded a colony of Sasquatch possibly the size of Henry could easily remain undetected in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. I had no argument to the contrary.
We walked at a fairly quick pace going up and down the hills and around the turns. We saw a smashed snake on the road and a few beer cans in the underbrush and I was wondering if the pack of Spirit’s on the side of the road were purchased at the Everybody’s’ Store, when I heard the low guttural roar of a lion. It wasn’t a loud roar like at the beginning of an MGM film, but it was unmistakable nonetheless. There’s nothing like a lion’s roar to make you realize you’re not necessarily at the top of the food chain. I looked over my shoulder searching the brush realizing the smell had been Karen, the cougar, not Harry. Quinn saw me look and went white.
“I was hoping that was your stomach,” she said with a look of terror in her eyes.
“You heard it”.
“Yes I heard it”.
“Heard what?” Henry asked as he and Irish bounced along unaware a cougar was stalking us.
“We just heard a lion growl, didn’t you?” Quinn asked.
“No, I didn’t all I could hear was Irish panting” he said.
“Well, it wasn’t a loud
I’m-going-to-pounce-on you-growl it was a-I’m-right-here-and-I’d-like-
“No one panic. No yelling, no running. A cougar can cover up to 30 feet in one bound so there’s not a chance of out running them. They’re ambush predators so I’m going to just keep looking back and making sure we’re ok. Just keep walking at the same pace. They don’t want a fight. I just hope we don’t look like walking Land jaegers,” I said trying to make light of the situation.
“Maybe it was a bear,” Henry suggested.
“Well, I’d rather face a bear because at least I wouldn’t be a primary food source. They’re not carnivores. We can check the sound when we get home, but I don’t think so,” I said fairly certain.
“Notice it’s right near the scat we saw earlier” Henry pointed out. That meant we had three-quarters of a mile yet to go and I’d forgotten the air horn. How could I be so careless? Why wasn’t Irish reaching? I wondered if he had doggie ADHD. I wished I’d brought Deli. Then thanked my lucky stars I hadn’t brought Vivian, she wouldn’t have been so calm and probably would have gotten herself or us killed.
“Mama, at least you can say you got your heart rate up,” Henry said with a giggle.
“Henry! You don’t seem to be taking this seriously!” Quinn said exasperated.
When we got home we immediately started researching cougar. Playing every cougar audio clip we could find until we found a match. “It says here it might be a female in heat and that’s why she smells so strong right now,” Quinn read to us.
“I didn’t even know cougar smelled, but I’ll never forget it,” Henry said.
“Me either, I can’t believe we were close enough to smell her. I mean how close do you think that is? How far do you suppose we were? You didn’t smell them the other two times you saw them did you?”
“No I didn’t”
“Do you think maybe a couple of yards? I read about a guy who smelled a bear and he was only six feet away. Do you think we were that close?” Quinn asked wanting answers.
“I just don’t know,” I said, uneasy thinking about how close we’d been to such a frightening but magnificent animal.
I called Tom and relayed the events of the morning playing him the sounds we’d found on the Internet. When I hung up, Quinn asked, “What did Tom say when you told him?”“Get a treadmill".