Tracks in the snow

One dark snowy night, as friends and I snowshoe’d along the side of the mountain, I marveled at being first to put my tracks on the snow-covered trail. The air was thick and cold and the lights of the city below were a long way away. With snow still falling, we turned and headed back to the trailhead. Once again, falling snow had covered our tracks and the wonder of tramping across freshly fallen snow lightened my heart.

ThenĀ I spotted what I thought were massive dog prints crossing the trail. I wondered aloud at the hand-size paw print. My snowshoe buddies gathered around to look and one commented “that’s not a dog track, its cat.” No claw marks and two lobes on the heel pad indicate cat. My head whipped around as I searched the dark mountainside for the cougar. On the hurried trek back to the trailhead, we didn’t see any more signs of the big cat although I felt sure it watched us. We did spot the dinner plan – a small herd of deer huddled close to each other. I wondered if we frustrated the cougar by hiking through its hunt, or if it waited patiently watching us as we passed by, then went back to work.