Tuesday, August 16, 2011

In which I go for a walk and am very nearly eaten by a mountain lion/wolf/coyote/beaver.

Tonight I ate a meal at Perkins that I swear took a few years off my life. When we go home, I decided to do something healthy to make up for it, so I went for a walk to explore more of my new 'hood. We live in a sort of a sub-division that is on the edge of Ames. I like to walk in off-road, woodsy-type places, and I was delighted to come to a dead end which turned into a lane between a corn field and a creek surrounded by tall grass, with another field on the other side. There was a sign that said "bridge closed", and I could see about half mile down the lane a faint outline of an old bridge. I was psyched to go check it out. As I walked I noticed the beauty of the countryside. There were butterflies and grasshoppers flying around, tall grass was swaying in the breeze, and once I peeked over the grass at the creek, which was down a steep bank, and saw minnows swimming.
As I walked along I was listening to my headphones, but decided to turn off the music and enjoy the peaceful sounds of nature. It was as I was removing my headphones that I heard it: A low, menacing growl from the tall grass just ahead to my left. I froze, not quite sure if I had even heard it. But there it was again, coming from the grass by the creek bank. I couldn't move. I immediately thought back to my last minute decision to leave my cellphone at home. I had no way to defend myself, and no way to call for help. I realized I could be attacked and mauled by whatever was in the grass and no one would come to my rescue.
I had adrenaline coursing through my body and I wanted to run, but I was afraid that whatever was in the grass would take my flight as an invitation to chase me down. I backed slowly away, then turned and walked swiftly away down the lane. I heard the growling again, and fought the urge to run. As I got further along, I began to look back to see if anything was following me, but the lane was clear. I wondered if anything could be stalking me in the tall grass, but I could see no movement in the grass and thought it unlikely.
As I walked, my mind went back to a conservation exhibit that I had taken the girls to last winter. The conservationist had spent a lot of time talking about how wolves and mountain lions were making their way back into Iowa. Still, it seemed unlikely that I had encountered a mountain lion on the ouskirts of my neighborhood. I could hear traffic from an interstate, and a small engine plane was making it's way noisily throught the sky. Could I have heard a weird echo in the creek bank?
I was glad when I made it to the end of the lane and stepped shakily onto paved road. I was back in civilization; it seemed I was not going to be eaten afterall. As I made my way into the neighborhood, I ran into two women out walking their dogs. I asked them if they ever walked down that lane (they did), and I told them my harrowing tale. I asked them if they ever noticed weird echos in that area, and they said no. We wondered what I had heard in the grass. The ladies told me that there were coyotes out there that howled at night, but it was too early in the evening for them to be out. I was distracted for a moment from my big cat fears as I wondered whether or not I should be alarmed at coyotes on the edge of the 'hood.
I continued on my way home. As I got closer to my duplex, my sense of unreality grew. Less than a half-hour ago I was afraid that I was in imminent danger of a lion-mauling. Now I was surrounded by split-levels and ranch style homes, children were riding bikes, moms pushing strollers. Everything was so normal.
Was I having an auditory hallucination? Or was it an echo playing off the creek? Or did I really come this close to being attacked by a wild beast?
I want to go back and check things out, but I will have to bring someone with me. And I will bring my cellphone. And maybe some blow darts.


Keely said...

Blow darts are a good idea. :) It sounds to me like you have a wild beaver on your hands... :)

Seriously though, that is scary. I remember when I lived up Emigration canyon and we would have mountain lion watches and I would keep Butters (and nina the dog) inside for a few days for safety.

Maybe it was an unfriendly neighborhood dog or something. I doubt it was an echo because it sounds like such an open space (nothing for the sound to bounce off of...) Next time, wear armor before you go. (hug) And bring your phone!!! Don't get mauled.

Jenn said...

I am glad you are okay and I hope you find out what animals are roaming around... it sounds like you live near some great walking/hiking places ;)

I go on walks every night (usually) and it's down noisy streets or neighborhoods... I wish I had somewhere like that (but I guess it wouldn't be good at night, huh. lol).

bananas said...

I used to go out on walks at night (in college and in the various places I've lived since moving to CA). Now that really scares me! I mean, that just was NOT wise walking through some of the places I walked...

And I guess that prevents me from walking. Even though walking @ night is when I'd want to walk. Helps to have a dog but I *still* don't take advantage. OK, when I come back!

kris said...

Oh wow! Your story reminds me of a time my grandmother and I went berry-picking in WI and encountered a black bear. My grandmother is brave and knew what to do to back away before we were close enough to upset the bear (or maybe it didn't see us at all) but it was still really scary.

Interestingly enough, the same grandmother lives in IA, though not by Ames. By where she lives (further east) there are quite a few coyotes and they can make growling sounds. Also, where I live, we have raccoons and they really make a lot of growling sounds. I've heard that if you make enough noise and are traveling in a group, most wild animals will hear you coming and get out of your way -- might not be a bad idea to go back with someone else.

or bring blow darts :)