About 15 minutes into our hike, we found a mountain lion track. On our last trip out, we found what I though was a mountain lion track, but after careful research of the photos I took, it was clear that it was some sort of canine print. This time, after knowing that cougar prints are wider rather than longer, and comparing the picture below to other prints online, it is pretty clear to me that this belongs to a mountain lion. I was pretty excited to start out the day with finding a trackway from another elusive denizen of the sierras.
(Click on any of these photos to enlarge.)
The print, by my best guess, appears to be from the day before, as this area received rain and freezing snow the previous 2 days. As you can see the print is a little eroded, and unfortunately, the angle I took the picture from, didn't capture as much detail as I thought it would. But you can clearly see the pad, and the 4 toes, with a lack of claw marks. A canine or bear print would have left claw/nail marks. The print measures about 4 1/4" across. For reference, my knife measures 4 5/8" in length. CLICK HERE to see a nice comparison of large feline tracks, to canine.
Continuing up the trail another 15 to 20 minutes, we found a suspicious print (see below), that measured 13" by 5.5". The print itself looks as though it might have been made where there may have been small puddle, as it looks like the print was made in washed out mud, and then the water seeped into the ground and/or evaporated, washing the print out. What kept my attention was the area at the front that appears to be toes. I'm confident it is a print and not just erosion, due to the fact that the mud is freshly pushed up on one side.
While I was examining the first print, Henry found a trackway leading away from the fire road we were on, up toward higher ground. There he found a print on the side of a stream bank, about 30-40 feet away from the aforementioned print. I first filmed the video of it, and then took a still photo of the print.
It had what appears to be a defined toe line, and you could see a mark on the left side of the print which looks like the foot slipped downhill a bit and the heel rotated to the right. You can see the mud pushed up around the right side of the heel area. I wish I would have spent more time examining this print. I don't know why I didn't. We had such a late start on the day that I just wanted to get up to my target destination. After looking at the photo, I am very excited by it. It looked to be about the same dimensions of the first print. The cut mark left on the left side of this second print, looks like it was made by a bare foot and not a boot. There would be streaks left by the treads on a shoe or boot and the edge of the shoe or boot sole would leave a definite angular cut. This mark was rounded as if the outside of a barefoot had slipped down the muddy slope. This print also looks very fresh, as if it had been made after the rain and snow stopped falling, the night before. The debris that is in the print, rocks, clumps of mud, etc. was either made by the subject in question, or by Henry stepping on the soft ground above the print, causing the debris to roll down into the print. This was our first possible sasquatch print find, and we handled it like the amateurs that we are. I can chalk this one up to "living and learning in the matters of squatching."
Feel free to right click on the photo, and copy it so you can look at it in Windows Photo Gallery, or similar program so you have the ability to zoom in and look at the details. The more I look at it, the more I want to kick myself for not spending more time examining it.
....It looks squatchy to me.
After spending only about 10 minutes in the area of the tracks, we moved onward back up the mountain. Halfway through the day, we did hear a thumping sound, but it was coming from the lower elevations, down toward the lake. I figured it was probably human in origin. It sounded like a hollow thud, with a very low tone. It happened in steady 3 and 4 beats at a time, with a minute or two between hearing them again. It carried on 5 or six times. At one point, I think the third time we heard it, they seemed much closer. Then they got farther away as we climbed higher.
Here's some of the scenery from our trip up.
After trudging up the mountain 3 miles or so, and gaining 1500 feet in elevation, we came to the snow line at about 6600 feet. It was 2-3 feet deep, and sloppy. With the day waning, we decided to head back down the mountain.
It turned out to be a good day. Any day we get to spend out there, is a good day.
VIDEO FROM THIS TRIP