Brian McKinney and Sam Vonderheide were on the first day of an 11-day backpacking trip in Sequoia National Park in California when they were stopped in their tracks by a mountain lion peering down at them from a rocky perch.
"We were getting close to where we were going to camp—or intended to camp—and we came around the corner and I saw a body moving through these bushes and thought maybe it’d be a deer or something,” Vonderheide told KSBY. “But immediately, I see a long tail after it, and I’m like, ‘That’s a mountain lion.'”
They captured video of the nerve-wracking encounter:
"What are we supposed to do, back up?" one of them said in the video.
"I don't know," the other replied. "I don't think you're supposed to run."
The mountain lion kept staring at the two backpackers as they backed away slowly.
“We weren’t trying to mess with it or anything like that, believe me. I’m very risk-averse and did not want to mess with a mountain lion that day,” Vonderheide told KSBY. “I think I was a little fearful for my life. It appeared to be full grown, probably twice my volume in full muscle—nothing that I could contend with.”
Since the area they wanted to camp at was just ahead, they again attempted to hike the trail and discovered the mountain lion laying on trail, facing them.
"After the video, the cat was in the way of us getting to our camp, and we wanted to get by," McKinney told the The Tribune of San Luis Obispo. "For a good 20 to 25 minutes, we tried to scare it, to make noise, we threw small stones and nothing. It just looked at us. For 20 minutes [the lion] was literally laying, lounging on the trail."
The two retreated back down the trail to discuss their options. When they proceeded ahead, again they walked around a corner of the trail and discovered the mountain lion peering at them from a rock above.
"It got a little more aggressive," McKinney told The Tribune. "He got on his hind legs."
It was then the pair decided to retreat two miles and find a different place to camp.
"It was extra tough to get to sleep that night," McKinney told The Tribune.
The Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park says this about encountering mountain lions:
"Cougars roam throughout the parks, but you are unlikely to see one. Attacks are rare, but be aware. Watch children closely; never let them run ahead. Cautiously move away if you find a partially buried animal carcass. If you see a cougar, convince it that you are not prey by trying to appear as large as possible. Don’t crouch or try to hide. Don’t run; that may trigger pursuit. Pick up children. Hold your ground or back away slowly while facing the cougar. If the cougar acts aggressively, wave your hands, shout, and throw stones or sticks at it. If attacked, fight back!"
Fortunately, the two backpackers did exactly what they should have done.
Read more about mountain lions on GrindTV