Mountain Lion Encounter: Life vs Death in Montana

Looking north from my camp all you so is National Forest and the tiny town of West Yellowstone, MT surrounded by wilderness.

Looking north from my camp all you so is National Forest and the tiny town of West Yellowstone, MT surrounded by wilderness.

I’m way behind in my posts but something happened this week that I’m going to break out of order and tell you all about it. July, 5th started like any other day in my life, I was deep in the woods above the little town of West Yellowstone, Montana enjoying my beloved nature. Little did I know that in just a few hours I would have faced a life-and-death situation and be convinced that Cody was dead.

Let me set the stage, I’d come to West Yellowstone because I hate being on the road over the 4th of July weekend and needed a place to sit for up to a week. West Yellowstone is at a high enough elevation to be cool and I could get internet from camp. It’s also a beautiful and wild area just a few miles outside town and that’s what I always look for. I was up in the National Forest looking down on the town and as you can see in the pictures, the town is just a little dot carved out of the woods–it is truly a wild and natural place. Nature rules here, man is just an unwelcome intruder.

Looking west from my camp there is no sign that humans ever passed this way.  I don't have a view east, but if I did it would be looking at Yellowstone NP, the largest truly wild section of land in the Lower 48.

Looking west from my camp there is no sign that humans ever passed this way. I don’t have a view east, but if I did it would be looking at Yellowstone NP, the largest truly wild section of land in the Lower 48.

Before I tell you all about that day, let me say that this isn’t the first time I’ve been concerned for my life in the woods. Since I’ve been living on public land for the last 7 years I’ve faced danger from wild animals many times. You can’t spend as much time walking deep in wild nature as I do without having run-ins with mountain lions, coyotes, bears and rattle snakes and I’ve had at least two dozen dangerous encounters.

Your first though might be, “If it’s that dangerous walking in the woods, I won’t walk in the woods!” But few people walk in the woods as much as I have. I’ve averaged five miles a day, every day, for six years and that adds up to over 11,000 miles. Because there is such an abundance of dangerous animals in the desert and forest, if you’re out there that much, you WILL run into them! Let me tell you about some of them.

Mountain Lions: My first encounter was probably the most dangerous. I had only been on the road for three months and I was camped in the backcountry just outside Yosemite NP, and Homer and I were out for our regular morning walk. It was on a hillside and I heard a branch snap above us. I immediately stopped and turned to see what had caused it. Just as quickly Homer turned and ran as fast as he could back to the truck and when I got back he was huddled underneath it, shaking. I believed then, and have never doubted, that was a mountain lion because I had also found mountain lion tracks in the mud on the road. I know Homer is not afraid of bears or coyotes so whatever it was, it was much worse; that only leaves mountain lions and he had probably been stalking us and when he lost the element of surprise, he gave up on us.

Coyotes: We’ve had at least a dozen encounters with coyotes and in all but one Homer chased after them so they all ran away. One time he came running back to me from the woods with two coyotes chasing him. Canines have such strong chase instincts that whichever one runs gets chased. Homer probably thought they were playing, but they were chasing him to kill him. If I hadn’t been there, they probably would have killed and eaten him. In the year I’ve had Cody, three coyotes had laid in ambush while one tried to lure him out. Fortunately he didn’t go but next time he might or they could find him wandering in the woods without me.

Bears: Six times we ran into bears on the trail and in all but two of them they stepped out of the trail in front of us and we both stopped and stared at each other and then the bear took off running into the woods. Those were very frightening encounters, but they happened so fast I didn’t have time to think we were in danger. The other two though, I was afraid and thought I could have been killed. One time I was walking along and looked up to see Homer chasing a Black Bear cub on the hillside above me. He chased the cub all around and as he did I thought to myself, “If mama comes back she is going to be very unhappy and Homer can just run away and that means mama gets me!” Fortunately, she never came back so we just left. The other time I was afraid a bear could maul me was when Homer took off into the woods chasing something and I assumed it was a rabbit, deer or squirrel. Then just moments later I looked up and a big Black Bear was running straight at me at full speed. Just thirty feet away he spotted me and came to screeching stop and starred at me. Apparently Homer had been chasing him and chased him straight back to me. When he ran into me he could have been ether terrified of Homer, or so enraged he just wanted to kill anything in his path. I got lucky and he was more scared of Homer than he was angry because he quickly ran off another direction as fast he could.

Rattlesnakes: Because I’m only in the desert in the winter I’ve only had a few run-ins with rattlesnakes. Fortunately Homer showed a natural fear of snakes so he was never a problem and Cody has never seen one. However there was one time when I was walking along in the desert and passed a creosote bush with a snake sunning himself on the other side of it. Just as I walked by the snake started to rattle just three feet from me, plenty close enough for him to strike me. Snakes usually warn you when you get too close but apparently I woke this one up because I had no warning until I was right on top of him. I think it was just 50/50 whether he struck and that was my lucky day. My other encounters with them were scary but not dangerous because I saw and heard them in time to easily avoid them.

This Mountain Lion stepped out on the trail just 50 feet away from me. IWe were both so startled we just froze and starred at each other for a long time. I was so shocked and afraid I didn't know what to do. Finally. I realized I should take a picture. So I got out y camera, turned it on and got two shots.  That alone took at least 30 seconds.

This Mountain Lion stepped out on the trail just 50 feet away from me. We were both so startled we just froze and starred at each other for a long time. I was so shocked I didn’t know what to do. Finally. I realized I should take a picture. So I got out my camera, turned it on and got two shots. That alone took at least 30 seconds.

I tell you all that so you’ll know that I am no stranger to dangerous encounters with wild animals and when I tell you that on July 5th, 2015 I thought I was going to die you can be sure I had a basis to think it. To give you an idea of my state of mind, while I was waiting to see if Cody came home I tried to go about my business as usual which meant answering emails. I’d gotten a letter from my girlfriend Judy (who is back east helping her daughter with a soon-to-be new grandbaby)asking me about our plans to meet up in September so I wrote her and told her what had happened to me. Here is that email:

Right this second all my plans are in a state of flux. I’m pretty sure Cody was eaten by a mountain lion this morning. Those are words you never, ever think you will say.

We went out for our morning walk and everything was normal. I didn’t see him during the last half of the walk home but that is fairly common, sometimes he returns to camp in the woods hunting. He wasn’t home when I got back and that isn’t ordinary; usually he beats me back to camp. It’s happened a few times but not many. I assumed he was chasing a squirrel and would be back. After an hour I was worried so I started calling and whistling for him. After another hour I decided to go backtrack on our normal walk and call for him. The forest here is thick and on the side of a mountain so there is no way to go into the woods to search for him.

I walked out to our normal turn-around point and then headed for home. On the way back (at about the same spot where I saw Cody last) a huge mountain lion stepped out of the forest onto the road about 30 yards in front of me. We both froze and just starred at each other for a long time while he decided my fate. My mind searched for a way to protect myself, but there was nothing I could do, I was totally defenseless. The best I could do was pick up a rock. It finally occurred to that if I was going to die I would at least get some pictures of the animal that killed me and so I pulled out my camera, turned it on and got two pictures of it.

Finally, he decided I could live and turned and walked away down the road like nothing had happened.

It’s been 5 hours since Cody disappeared with a mountain lion within 1/2 mile of here so I think there is very little chance he is alive. I’m afraid to go outside and will not walk away from the van. I’m actually a little afraid to go outside and pee.

I’ll stay here another day hoping against hope that somehow he eluded the lion. He is a very fast little dog and his size would have been an advantage in the thick forest. I was going into town today to get ice but I’ll wait and go in tomorrow and get it and also check with the Police and dog shelter in case someone turned him in. Then I’ll come back here for another day to wait.

If he is gone, and I think he is, I don’t want to be alone so I’ll change my plans. I’ll finish exploring Wyoming then go back to Arizona. The guide book I’m working on will just cover Wyoming and Colorado or I’ll just shelve the whole thing.

It all seems very surreal, these things don’t happen anymore. If I go to bed and he isn’t here tonight, then it will really sink in.

This is the second picture I got, he's just walking away with no hurry at all.  He had no fear of me whatsoever, he just decided I wasn't worth the trouble to kill and eat. This happened at noon when Mountain Lions are usually bedded down, I think he was searching for Cody and stumbled on me.

This is the second picture I got, he’s just walking away with no hurry at all. He had no fear of me whatsoever, he just decided I wasn’t worth the trouble to kill and eat. This happened at noon when Mountain Lions are usually bedded down, I think he was searching for Cody and stumbled on me.

Fortunately I’m a pretty level-headed guy who really isn’t in touch with his emotions so I wasn’t actually very upset yet. However, as the day wore on I got more and more upset and had a few crying bouts. Worse, I started to doubt myself and I was plagued with questions:

  • I’ve always been so cavalier about the risks I take by living wild and free. Now that death had been a distinct possibility was that the real attitude of my heart, or just bravado?
  • The saying, “Live free or die” took on new meaning; am I willing to die for the free life?
  • Should I chuck this whole life and move back somewhere I could be safe?
  • Should I own a dog? I had put Homers life in danger numerous times and now Cody had probably been killed because I had him out here off-leash. Does that make me a very bad dog owner? Should I vow to never get another one?

About two hours after I wrote that letter to Judy I got an email from the West Yellowstone Police Department that said they had him. That may have been the best email I’ve ever gotten in my life!!! I quickly broke camp and headed down the mountain to get him. The officer in charge said he had been picked up and dropped off at the Station and that he was a very good little dog! I have a tag on his collar offering a reward for Cody and my phone number. I didn’t have cell reception but when she called the voice mail picked up and the message I left on it says to try email and has my email address, so she had emailed me.

The best email of my life!

The best email of my life!

I’ll never know exactly what happened, but my guess is that Cody had gotten the scent of the Mountain Lion and took off in terror, just like Homer had; possibly the Lion had even chased him but his speed and size allowed him to get away in the thick forest. He ran a long ways and got away but by then he was lost and couldn’t get home. The other possibility is he just got lost, but I think that’s unlikely, I’ve never had a dog that just got lost within a ½ mile of camp.

What I know for sure is that another guy had been out for a walk a few miles from my camp and Cody had just come running up to him. Where he was walking was so remote there was no one around so he just took Cody back to town with him and dropped him off at the Police Station.

While it’s possible there is no connection between Cody getting lost and me seeing the Lion that seems very unlikely and highly coincidental. It seems much more likely that my guess is right. If that’s true, a lot of things had to happen perfectly in this story for both Cody and I to live, enough that I’m certain that someone or something was watching out for us:

  • I have to think that Cody was a distraction for the Lion and he probably saved my life. I think the Lion came across Cody and chased him away from me, otherwise he would have stalked me.
  • What a stroke of luck that Cody got away from him at all! Mountain Lions are such stealthy hunters and extremely fast that it’s hard to imagine Cody getting away.
  • When I think about the timing when I came across the Mountain Lion on the trail, I’m amazed and very grateful!! If our paths had crossed another few seconds later the Mountain Lion would have seen and smelled me before I saw him and he could have watched me and set up a stalk and easily leaped down on me from above—which is their normal method of attack. Being unarmed and unprepared, I would not have survived that. But instead, the wind was blowing away from me and he stepped out on the trail 50 feet away and I saw him before he saw me.
  • There are very few roads on this mountain and even fewer people out on them. The odds of Cody finding the other road and their just happening to be a guy out for a walk on it are astronomical. I have to see a guiding hand in that.
  • Finally, the guy who found Cody had to be willing to give him up to the Police, which is hard to do because Cody is such a very good and pretty little dog. My biggest fear for Cody is someone finding him in the woods or on a road and deciding to keep him for themselves. This guy did the right thing and turned him in.

I believe that if we will let it, out of our greatest fear and our greatest pain will come our greatest faith and our greatest joy, and that is what this story has been for me. But it’s gotten too long so I am going to wait till my next post to tell you some of the lessons I’ve learned and taken away from this near-tragedy turned into triumph.

The road into my camp is deeply rutted from spring snow melt and means there is very little traffic back her. My 1 Ton van has the highest ground clearance of all the vans or I wouldn't have made it.

The road into my camp is deeply rutted from spring snow melt and means there is very little traffic back there. My 1 Ton van has the highest ground clearance of all the vans or I wouldn’t have made it.e


I've been a full-time VanDweller for 12 years and I love it. I hope to never live in a house again!

87 comments on “Mountain Lion Encounter: Life vs Death in Montana
  1. david says:

    I’m not a betting person, but I bet the odds of all that working out the way it did are about a gazillion to one, give or take. And if it hadn’t worked out, can’t you just predict the comments: “Well, at least he went doing just what he loved to do”. :-/

    • Bob Bob says:

      David, that would be a very good epitaph on my headstone as far as I am concerned!

    • Jackie Howlett says:

      Bob, or anyone else for that matter. If you feel you have to bring a weapon to stay safe in the animals own territory, esp one that would kill them. Stay out of their neighborhood.

      They have already lost so much habitat due to man. Leave them be with what they have left. When you choose to walk among them, don’t bring a weapon that kills. As for allowing the dog to chase and do whatever it wants, irresponsible! They are domestic animals and rely on the owner to keep them out of harms way, otherwise they will chase things. Somethings are not meant to run wherever they choose, your dog is not a wild animal, don’t treat him as such.

      • Bob Bob says:

        Jackie, I totally agree about the weapon. I’ll talk more about that later. I understand and respect your viewpoint about dogs, and can’t even argue with you. I’ll give it some thought

        • Jackie Howlett says:

          Bob, thank you for your comment. Although we have never met, I have always thought of you as a gentle, peace loving man.
          As I live in Utah I am very glad you love the state. It really is gorgeous.
          By the way, I’m one of the sinners still in bed

          • Bob Bob says:

            Thanks Jackie! But you are a very, very nice sinner!!!

            Of course I’m just teasing, I don’t believe in sin or in hell! I’m under the impression that Mormons don’t believe in hell either so I don’t think they would call you a sinner either!

      • Robert says:

        Jackie, do you realize how many humans would be killed by wild animals every year without weapons/ deterrents ? Do you understand humans have used weapons to hunt and to protect their family for thousands of years? hahaha Irresponsible, is refusing to bring a weapon. Why should I not enjoy nature and be afraid of wolves, bear, snakes or crazy humans? Without the use of weapons, you wouldn’t be here right now.

        • Bob Bob says:

          Robert I am a big fan of firearms, but for the most part they are not a good choice for self-defense against animals, too heavy, too slow to come on target and too likely to make the situation worse. I’m a big believer in bear spray.

          I’ll explain my thinking in a post coming up soon.

        • Jackie Howlett says:

          Robert, thousands of years ago there was plenty of land for everyone. Catch up! We now live in a land of concrete. It is irresponsible for people to allow their dog to chase wild animals.
          I don’t particularly have a problem with deterrents, but I have a strong objection to using a lethal weapon while out for a stroll.
          I have nothing against hunting if every part of the animal can be used. Even the guts will be used by an other animal for food.
          And how do you know I wouldn’t be here?
          I choose not to hike in the backcountry, that is my choice. If I did I certainly would not bring a weapon that would kill. You take your chances, bring a deterrent, but don’t blame any animal for protecting what little habitat they have left.

          • Bob Bob says:

            Jackie, I’m not sure you’ve spent enough time outside cities. You may live in a world of concrete but that’s your choice. I live in a land of deserts, forests, tons of wide open space, very few people and many, many animals.

            While I agree with a lot you say, you have much too limited a knowledge base, I’d suggest you get out of the concrete jungle and see more of the natural world. It would be very good for you!

  2. DASA says:

    Wow Bob!
    You are extremely lucky to have been reunited with Cody without incident. I have found my encounters with wildlife, from my numerous Grizzly “meetings” in the Brooks Range to the tiny pygmy rattlers in the Everglades to always enrich my life, even if they increase my heart rate more than I’d like. The only bit of advice I could offer is perhaps you should consider carrying your handgun (concealed) on your walks if you are concerned for the safety of you and Cody.
    It would be a shame if you had to shoot an animal just for doing what is natural (hunting) for them, but you do need to consider your well being as well.
    Take care of yourself and Cody, we need you guys too much!

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks DASA, I’m going to write about that in my next post.

      • John Dough says:

        Are you allowed to walk around with a huge Bowie knife, or a Ka-bar in the National Forests?

        • Bob Bob says:

          John, sure, you can carry any knife you want of any size. In fact after that encounter with the Lion back near Yosemite I started carrying a spear so if I Lion landed on me from above he would impale himself on the spear as we landed. I’ll tell you more about that in a post coming up.

          • Ming says:

            I recall a conversation with a friend who works at a local outdoor store. He uses a Cold Steel Bushman knife. It has a hollow handle so that you can mount it at the end of a stick to make a spear and he carries such a spear in grizzly country. I thought it was overkill at the time but it makes sense after your story.

            I’ve always had bears run from me, even the ones I met up close, so I haven’t gone to that level of preparedness yet.

          • Bob Bob says:

            How Ironic Ming, I carry and recommend a Cold Steel Bushman. Turning it into a spear drastically improves its usefulness.I’ll tell you all about that in a couple of posts.

  3. Lucy says:

    OMG, Bob U scared the living lights out of me !!!!! Thanks to ALL-THAT-IS you & Cody are ok.

    Glad U 2 are in one piece. Lucy.

    PS: Hug Cody for me.

  4. jonthebru says:

    Man, what an honest account. Glad everyone is safe.

  5. Omar Storm says:

    Hi Bob,

    After reading your story, I think that I will have to carry bear spray, a firearm and hiking staff when I’m as deep in the wilderness as you are. Glad that you and Cody are well. Thanks for sharing your story.


    • david says:

      When I was in Glacier a few years ago I heard a story about a guy that had a close encounter with a grisly. He panicked, pulled out his bear spray and sprayed directly into the wind. When the stuff came back into his face he screamed so loudly that he scared the bear who made quick tracks in the other direction. Bear spray works one way or another.

      • Bob Bob says:

        David, that would have had to be a very strong wind. It is a very wet stream and not a mist at all. It’s the panic that kills most people. Most encounters the bear just leaves and many charges are bluffs. Most of the time doing nothing is best. Once a black bear gets too close then you go to war with everything you have. With Browns you shoot the pepper spray and if that doesn’t work you wait to the last second and shoot him. No firearm? Play dead. If he bats you around and doesn’t leave, then fight back.

        • david says:

          Yeah, I thought it might be a lie when I heard it. It was just too humorous to leave alone.

          • Bob Bob says:

            David, I’m not saying it isn’t true, but a lot of people think it is a mist like Mace and it isn’t. I did a practice with an old can of bear spray and it is much more like the spray out of a weak garden hose than a cloud or mist. It would take a very strong wind to blow it back in your face.

            In Alaska it has been studied and used extensively, hundreds of times in actual bear encounters, and there is no doubt that it is by far the best bear deterrent.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Omar, that seems wise!

  6. Openspaceman says:


    This story/experience is almost to much for me to comprehend. I’ve seen some little skinny coyotes when I worked at Lake Mead and a few rattlesnakes when I was growing up in Texas but a standoff with a mountain lion…wow!

    *I’m glad everything is cool with you and Cody.

    **Not to discount what happened to you, but this was very well written. I was freaking out reading it.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Openspaceman, I’ve got to admit it’s nothing I ever thought would happen to me. I’ve always wanted photos of these wild predators but the encounters all happened so fast that I never had time to get one, usually they are just seconds although them seem much longer.

      This lasted a long time! The longer it went I think the more danger I was in. He wasn’t scared of me at all and never ran away, that only leaves one thing in his mind, “Do I eat him?”

      I guess I wasn’t very appealing for dinner!

  7. Calvin R (Ohio) says:

    I’m glad you and Cody are well and reunited. I look forward to your follow-up post.

    You mention rattlesnakes as a desert creature, but we have timber rattlers here in Ohio. When I was in second grade, we found a nest of baby timber rattlers on our basement steps outside.

    • Bob Bob says:

      You’re right Calvin, they are everywhere. I’ve run into them myself in the Sierras but never up close. For right or wrong we just associate them with the desert and my only danger from them has been in the desert.

  8. Ming says:

    wow, what a story! Glad to hear that you are both ok and reunited. I’m looking forward to reading about what you have learned from this. I find it a huge drag to carry the bear horn and spray on my walks, but I will be more likely to after reading your story. Mind you, cougars tend to leap on you from behind/ above from the news stories of fatalities I read about. Happens from time to time on Vancouver Island, usually to women out alone, or children. 🙁

    • Bob Bob says:

      Right Ming, that’s why I was sure it was a Mt Lion above us in Yosemite and he was stalking us.

      What scared me the most was that there were lots of hills on the way home where the Lion could jump down on me from so every time I came to one I studied it very carefully!

    • John Dough says:

      There was a website I read that documented very many mountain lion attacks.
      The almost always come from above or behind, and grab the neck, or head.

      Huge numbers of attacks on Vancouver Island.

      • Bob Bob says:

        John, that’s my understanding as well, my problem is most of the places I go have hills and they make me very nervous in Lion country!

        • Ming says:

          it would be a quick death, much better than say, death with cancer or dementia, if you want to compare.

          • Bob Bob says:

            That’s a good point Ming. While I was imagining the worst when Cody was lost, I imagined his last moments of being killed by the Lion. It wasn’t pretty but it was fast and nearly painless. Lions are very efficient killers.

  9. Carla says:

    Wow, Bob,
    The other readers are right in that you told the heart-stopping tale very well. I do not discount the danger you felt (especially for Cody), but when I lived in Montana for 10 years, the advice on mountain lions was always that they rarely attack a grown person unless the person is running or the cat is cornered.

    So I looked up the current advice on and this is the same as when I was camping in MT in the 90s (and twice found cat tracks within a few “blocks” of my camping van):

    “Instead: Maintain eye contact. Stand tall. Look bigger by opening your coat or raising your arms. Slowly wave your arms and speak firmly. Throw items at the lion if necessary. Give the cat room and time to move on.
    In the rare event of an attack, fight back. Most people succeed in driving the mountain lion away.”

    I am extremely curious about what you decided on some of the questions you posed for yourself when you believed your beloved Cody was gone.

  10. CAE says:

    Wow. Good story. I live near lots of coyotes and I’ve always seen them run from Human interactions.
    Your story is making think i should arm myself on my walks.

    • Bob Bob says:

      CAE, I don’t think I was in any danger, just Cody and Homer. There have been accounts of coyotes attacking humans but it is very rare so I don’t worry about it.

      • John Dough says:

        Good thing Homer was smart. It sounds like Cody is very smart too. I bet he ran and escaped the lion, and continued running, and using his amazing dog sense of smell, and hearing, was able to find the guy hiking, knowing a human represents safety/security.

        I had a great Black Lab mix, one day we were in the city park about 4 blocks from home. He heard fireworks and disappeared. What a horrible feeling to go looking for my dog, my pal, calling him etc.

        I got home without finding him, only to find he had run straight home, and was desperately trying to get in the yard, when my neighbor let him in.

        The second time it happened, I knew where to look.

        I’ve done much solo motorcycle tent camping in bear country (grizz, and black), so I can relate to the feeling of being considered food. Nature can be a rough neioghborhood.

        • Bob Bob says:

          John, I agree, that’s likely what happened. This happened on July 5th and went I got Cody the officer said that every 4th of July they get a rash of lost dogs turned in for that very reason, they run away from the fireworks.

          Tents in bear country are pretty iffy, I bet you slept really lightly those nights!

          • John Dough says:

            I put anything with an odor in the perimeter of my camp, and slept with one eye open, and right next to some nice folks in an RV.

            The ranger had told me that recently a bear had been chasing people around their car, so the threat was very real.

            But you take your precautions and your risks. This was in Bighorn. There were huge herds of elk travelling, gorgeous scenic area. The rewards outweighed the risks by far, as you have also concluded.

          • Bob Bob says:

            I’m headed toward Bighorn next, so I’ll keep that in mind! Yeah, I’m a huge fan of bear spray, it’s light, cheap, easy to use and can be carried very easily and fired very quickly. I try to always have it on me in bar country.

  11. Martha says:

    I was on the edge of my seat reading this blog. So happy that Cody turned up and would love to hear about your reunion. Thank you for sharing. Martha Petru

  12. Tina says:

    My heart is racing from reading this. Very glad to hear you and Cody are okay. Wow things did line up a certain way otherwise this would of been a sad tale. Looking forward to your next post on your thoughts and what you may change for your future walks.


  13. Gregg says:

    Hi Bob

    A happy ending to what seemed like it was going to be a terrible story. I am so glad for both you and Cody that he is back home safe.

    I seem to recall reading that you wore a sidearm on your walks, a 44 mag if I’m not mistaken. Seems like it was from a coyote encounter story. Have you given up on that practice?

    • Bob Bob says:

      Gregg, I do have a .357 mag and I did mention wearing it after our encounter with the 3 coyotes trying to lure Cody out. Carrying handguns is uncomfortable and weird so most of my vows to always wear one usually get broken quickly. I may make another vow, but if I do I think it will just as quickly get broken.

  14. Dave says:


    Wow, great story. I’m glad both you and Cody are okay. Encounters with predators higher on the food chain than us are always alarming, but as DASA said, also enriching. Don’t let this encounter trip up your plans or cause you to second guess yourself out of fear. It was one negative episode out of many thousands of positive ones. Chances are you’ll never see another one.

    I do a lot of solo bushwhack hiking in northern arizona and western new mexico and have seen more than my share of bears and all the other kinds of wildlife we have around here, but not had the good fortune to directly see a lion in the wild yet. Seen plenty of very recent signs and felt them watching me from close by, though. The scare with Cody going missing notwithstanding, you should consider yourself lucky to have seen one of these magnificent cats. Research with radio collared cats has shown that they spend a lot of their time just lying in cover near trails and roads waiting for deer to come along and we never even know they’re there.

    – Dave

    • Bob Bob says:

      Dave, I have to totally agree and I will always treasure this as one of the best experiences of my life.

      A life without risk isn’t a life, it’s a distorted form of living death. Only the dead never fear or face discomfort.

    • Ed says:

      Bingo….A great wildlife experience.

  15. Bob – that horrible fear/hope/despair cycle that hits when your dog goes missing – been there. I read to learn when you talk about Cody’s need to run vs keeping him on a lead. My beastie runs regularly here in Michgan’s Northwood. I do randomly plink w/ a .22 just to announce my turf. My main concern are the coyotes and hopefully they are wily enough to get the message. When Scooter comes running back to the house panting and with bright eyes I know I’m doing the right thing.

  16. Naomi says:

    So very glad that you are both safe!

  17. Cheri says:

    So glad all is well with both you an Cody. What an experience!

  18. T says:

    Oh Bob, I can so completely imagine exactly how you felt waiting to learn Cody’s fate. I am as attached to my Bella, and would be an absolute mess. I am so very relieved at the outcome of this story. Thank you for reminding us that we’re just visitors when we venture into the wilderness; intruders into other creatures’ homes…

  19. joe says:

    I have been told by Dow that they will shoot and kill any loin so that in it self is enough to think about at any rate when you go into the woods you take chances overall I like the woods but you never know about those big cats I really like the chance you got to take photos that will stick in your mind for a long time I am very glad you are OK it all turned out fine for you and I,m glad you are on your way and your friend is OK also great story with a good ending

  20. green says:

    Glad you 2 are fine. Your telepathy and strong connection with nature shines!

  21. Yeah, I’m one of those who would rather avoid areas with dangerous animals. Particularly when I’m alone. I love this nomad life because I can mentally and physically relax. I don’t want to be wary, vigilant, anxious. I’m very glad everything worked out for you and Cody.
    Al Christensen recently posted…No cheese, just planesMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Al, my problem is that I am too totally relaxed in wild country. I NEVER give them a thought. I never walked at that camp again but I did drive close to town and walked there. The fear of that experience is already gone, and I’m walking in the woods like it never happened.

      This will be one of the top 5 experiences of my life, and if I were timid I would have missed it. That idea makes me very sad.

  22. It’s wonderful to see your good luck and fortune with your wildlife encounters. Thankfully, mountain lion attacks on humans are typically rare, or so I’ve read. I believe I found tracks near my camp of one on the road Rochelle and I were hiking one night. We quickly scooted back to camp as night time was falling. I was concerned and more alert than ever. All the best and look forward to seeing you in Nov. again!

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks Gloria! You’re right Lion attacks are rare, but then so are sightings. I do feel very privileged to have had the experience and it was well worth the scare to me.

      You two stay safe and I’ll see you in AZ!

  23. Woah, I was right there with you, racing heart and all. So glad all ended well!

    I carry an air horn when I’m out walking in the woods with Scout. Anything more lethal than that would most likely wind up injuring me rather than any predator. I tried keeping Scout on a 20-foot lead but she’s so happy when she’s free to run that I gave it up — except where we are likely to come across other people and dogs.
    LaVonne Ellis recently posted…Coming home–againMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      LaVonne, I know exactly what you mean, I know he should be on a leash but I just can’t bring myself to do it. I also put Cody on a leash if we are around other people and dogs. Good thing that isn’t very often!

      See you in November!

    • Jackie Howlett says:

      LaVonne, the air horn is a great idea. When I originally posted I should have made it clear that I wasn’t talking about keeping a dog on a leash, I wouldn’t do that to my own dog if we were out in the mountains. It was about having control of the dog off leash. My dog has to listen and obey my command to keep it from danger. I will buy an air horn. Great idea!

  24. Linda Sand says:

    Glad all turned out well. And your pictures, too. I’m the only one who can find the bear in my picture of the bear with it’s snout in my backpack. 🙂

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks Linda! Yeah, I had to crop the picture down a lot to make the Lion that big in the pic. The quality fell but it is is still pretty good.

  25. Douglas says:

    Our pets are so much a part of our lives. I was initially skeptical if not almost downright against getting a dog when my wife brought ours home. But, I warmed up to her and she’s the funniest, strangest little dog i have met.

    I met a mountain lion in Arizona. Luckily he didn’t want anything to do with my buddies or myself.
    Douglas recently posted…Radio FrequenciesMy Profile

  26. MIKE says:

    Hi Bob what a story and what a experience. Glade it turned out good. I just finished reading your book and you did a very good job. It has all kinds of good information in it. Well worth the little cost of the book. Stay safe out there my friend.

  27. Al says:

    Hi Bob,

    What an experience! I was completely riveted with each and every turn of this story. So glad you are all well.
    Looking forward to your next post and what thoughts/tips/experiences you can pass on to some of us who are still weekend warriors! Take care out there.

  28. Kay says:

    OMG, Bob! Your travels take you so FAR & DEEP into the forest…You need to get COMFY with wearing your sidearm! Who wants to have people say, “He DIED doing what he loves best – communing with and exploring nature.” Not ME!!! To HECK with THAT! Keep in mind, nature has its ugly and aggressive sides! And personally, I want to KEEP READING YOUR BLOG ENTRIES! So strap that baby on PLEASE(!), before you venture out into the mountain wilderness again. You were given a gift (and maybe a wake up call?), when Cody was found, delivered to the police and then miraculously RETURNED to you. You’ve both been given a second chance. Don’t waste it.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Kay, I very much appreciate your concern. I guess the difference is that I no longer think of this as the dangerous place I go and visit. This is my home and I have no fear from my home. However, I do need to be wiser so from now on I’m going to wear bear spray on 100% of my walks.

  29. sushidog says:

    I’m happy both of you are safe. Happy day! Did you get to meet, thank and reward the good Samaritan who turned Cody over to the police?

    I always carry a 22mag derringer when hiking the boonies, though it’s mainly for use as a noisemaker (and for protection from 2 legged predators) than to actually shoot a snake or coyote. I usually take my Sun Conure with me when hiking the trails. She is an extra set of sharp eyes, alert to anything unusual on the trail. She always spots deer and birds of prey before I do, sounding the alarm. She is also an excellent noisemaker, BTW.

    When in bear country I usually carry a can of UDAP bear spray. I’ve never considered having to use it against a cougar, but it seems that this might work too.

    I also sometimes carry a “Rambo” style survival knife (and canteen or CamelBak) with me – the kind with the compass on the pommel, and a hollow handle filled with matches, wire saw, fish hooks, line and such. In an emergency situation I’m sure it would make a great spear, though your chances of fighting off a determined grizzly with one would be remote. The fact that you would be more likely to stand your ground and engage a predator if attacked, rather than run like prey, will improve one’s odds of surviving an attack by your attitude of resistance more than anything else. If a “field expedient” spear, bear spray, etc. gives you the confidence to do so, then it has served you well.


    • Bob Bob says:

      Hi Chip, I spend so much time walking in the woods I’ve gotten so comfortable with it I don’t even think about it. If you live in a house, going into th woods is strange and foreign, but to me it’s not foreign, it’s literally my backyard. The way you wouldn’t go armed to your local park, I think of the woods as just part of my home.

      But it’s my intention to start carrying bear spray 100% of the time on all my walks. I may also stat carry an ultralight .357 snubby in my pocket.

  30. John I. Nitahara says:

    Hello Bob.
    1st time for me. I am thinking about your life and hoping I can convince myself to try it. My wife won’t give up the standard American lifestyle so I will likely do this alone. I am 63, a retired poker dealer. Las Vegas and San Jose. Stopped dealing in 2010. 5 years of looking for a freer life. I am pragmatic, but also a liberal thinker on most social issues. The world is dangerous and becoming ugly with the sadistic behavior of the Jihads in our world. I think the internet brought these horrific acts to our attention and we are reacting poorly to this “new” kind of terrorism.More knowledgeable men probably know that this is a common occurrence in our world.In my working life I paid no attention to world affairs. Too busy making a living. I hope to change my perspective on life and living and being really free. Like you are.
    On the post of the mountain lion encounter. Why are you unarmed in a dangerous setting? A least a big stick? Knife? Situational danger sucks but is a fact of life. No? Everything else a Van Dweller prepares for, why not this?
    I like your articles and posts a lot.A lot. I hope to soon see you on the road. be well Bob.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Hi John, I’m so comfortable in the wild and have been doing it so long that it just isn’t part of my thinking to be fearful. I actually did have a 2 1/2 inch knife in my pocket but I didn’t think of it until the Lion was gone. I’ve started carrying bear spray and it’s my intention to have it on 100% of my walks.

  31. Ken L. says:

    As far as carrying a hand gun for protection in the wilds, with a mountain lion, if it’s stalking you with intent to take you, I agree with others who say that you probably won’t have time to use the gun. The lion will pounce on your back and have its teeth around your neck before you even know what’s happening. A lion might think twice about a full size adult human, like you, but I worry about kids who parents let wander off from camp. Here in southern AZ, I carry a handgun mainly for protection from two legged predators, such as smugglers and other criminals. I’m with some of your readers, I’m not out camping or fishing with the intent to harm any critters. Although I’m not a hunter, I’m not against hunters if they’re doing things legally, safely, and not poaching, and if they’re killing for the pot. When I fish, I am a “catch and release” fisherman, but if I were hungry, I would kill the fish so I could eat. However, if a predator jumped me or someone I’m with, I would fight for my (or hers) life with whatever means I had, including my gun if I could get it out in time.

  32. greg says:

    Bear spray is best with a nice walking stick custom made and some small bells that could be slilenced if you choose.I know bear spray is very good.

  33. Jackie says:

    Bob, for some reason I was unable to reply to your last post to me. I just wanted to say that I do spend a fair amount of time in the mountains, when my back allows. However you have a valid point with regards to living in the open, as opposed to living in the city. Hope everyone here is enjoying the beginning of fall.

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