Bobcat Don’t-Wait

 

 

On Tuesday of this week I encountered a mountain lion (it may have been a bobcat) on my mountain biking trail.

 

This has always been a fear of mine.

 

The next day I skipped my routine and opted for an alternative, the Thousand Steps stair workout in Laguna. I was so traumatized, I wasn’t sure if I’d be doing that same mountain biking trail ever again—especially alone—but I had a hunch I would, eventually. But if and when I did, I was going to need a break first. I wanted to really think about it. I didn’t want to be stupid, but I also didn’t want that terrifying experience on Tuesday to sabotage something I simply love.

 

Yesterday morning (the day after the mountain lion/bobcat incident) I was doing my early morning reading. I hadn’t decided yet what I was going to be doing that day for my workout. Most likely I would do a short ride on a paved trail through a park near my house. A perfectly manicured, green place where I see giggling children playing on bright-colored climbing structures, zipping down slides, swinging on swings, a man who reads the Bible in the shade at a picnic table every day at ten a.m. and senior citizens in matching shirts who play bocce ball—now forever known as, The Safe Trail.

 

John popped his head in the door and said, “I’m going for a ride, want to come?”

 

I knew he meant THE trail. The Frightening Wild Animal Trail. What used to be my favorite trail.

 

His invitation stunned me.

 

I stared at him for a minute and thought aloud, “Let me think about it for a minute.”

 

I didn’t know if I wanted to go. I mean, I wanted to go and I didn’t want to go. I mostly didn’t want to go, but I also didn’t want him to go alone. I didn’t want him to get eaten by a lion/bobcat all by himself.  I had to save him.

 

As if.

 

A minute later, I unenthusiastically yelled down to him, “Yep, I’m coming.” My stomach started to churn. I went to the bathroom one more time.

 

We loaded the car and headed to the trailhead parking lot. Car parked, we were now side by side on our bikes in the dirt. Together, we said a prayer for safety, and began our descent into hell the canyon.

 

Having gotten through the first part and approaching my most feared section—what used to be my fave, and farther down into the valley, I told John I felt like my legs were hyperventilating.

 

Knowing that made no sense, I realized I was more out of breath than normal and decided to slow my pace and do some intentional deep breathing as we got closer to the “no turning back” spot. After that point, I’d be committed to figuratively and literally facing my fear.

 

Right before the scariest descent, older than old words landed on my helmet and ricocheted into my heart, and really and truly without any effort on my part. It wasn’t an audible voice, and it wasn’t my own thoughts manufacturing it, trying to gird my psychic loins. Truth. I heard:

 

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

 

Dude.

 

King James version, no less.

 

I was literally headed into a shadowy valley.

 

And I was fearing “evil.”

 

I needed Someone with me; I needed comfort; I needed protection.

 

(I had John, and John is scrappy, strong and adores me–even give his life for me–but I’m not sure how any man can effectively outrun or punch a cheetah.)

 

The King David line was on repeat, a loop I kept hearing—and no joke–without  intentionally trying, and not on my own power.

 

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

 

Still, I can’t tell you I wasn’t afraid. My legs felt like jelly–hyperventilating jelly–as I pedaled as fast as I could, imagining the bobcat/lion with its red, rabid eyes seeing my blurry, muddy Asics pass by, crouched down from his shadowy den alongside the trail, trying to decide whether to pounce.

 

We finally got through the petrifying section and came to the wide open space of trail and I breathed a sigh of relief.

 

We made it.

 

I could see a couple walking together in the direction toward us and likely into the dark danger zone.

 

After my mountain lion/bobcat siting on Tuesday, I warned everyone on the trail that day. To anyone and everyone, essentially, “Get the heck out of Dodge!!!”

 

As we approached the couple, I said to John, “I’m not sure if should be warning these people of the mountain lion.”

 

He responded, “Nah, that mountain lion is probably in Dana Point by now.”

 

“No, this is his home. He has a P.O. box in Dana Point.”

 

John knows I’m a big fan of reality. I always want to know what I’m working with. Information is power and denial is just dumb.

 

Denial isn’t faith and faith isn’t denial.

 

I said good morning to the walkers and we kept peddling. We talked some but were mostly quiet taking in the views of this valley.

 

I was feeling grateful as we passed through the waters in the creeks, the mud splashing up onto my sunglasses. I said to John, “I love the smell of fresh mud on my sunglasses early in the morning,” and he said, “Smells like victory.”

 

I’m not encouraging anyone else to do what I have done—or what I do–but for me, perfect safety in this world can be an illusion. I knew I had to get right back to it, get back on the horse, and onto my bike saddle. I had to pull what I now call a Bobcat don’t-wait.

 

I won’t deny that I rely on faith.

 

It can’t hurt to pray.