They are Back
Anza-Borrego State Park has harbored some of the planet’s most incredible creatures and for this camper it might as well have been saber-toothed tigers outside my tent.
Years before this remarkable California adventure, I had read that mountain lions were returning to my home state of Pennsylvania. I doubted such reports were true and wondered if they were really mountain lions that some people had reported seeing.
It was incredibly exciting when I had my first actual wild mountain lion encounter on a camping trip to the fabulous Anza-Borrego State Park. It is known as “San Diego’s best kept secret.” I had settled in for a week of prayer and centering in my one-man tent high in the mountains on the west park border. The evening had ended without seeing another human being all day.
Outside my tent, the sound of the wind whipping the high desert air, mingled with the conversations of burrowing owls and coyotes howling at the moon. During the night, I awakened many times and sought enough internal security to resume my slumber. With all the sounds, it was one of my scariest “slumber parties” ever!
Morning was a welcomed comfort and delight. The sun blazed across the meadow making the tall dry grass glow golden and the green sage sparkle. Rock wrens called their vibrant territorial proclamations across nearby canyons and coveys of mountain quail fed. Their black crested cockerels serenaded me, standing sentinel on nearby boulders.
The warmth from the huge rock behind and above my tent helped me forget that it was January. Morning turned blustery. Although the sky was still the brightest blue, occasional snowflakes landed on my face after a long tumble from some unseen infinity.
A wedge of huge black ravens swept up a deep gorge fighting a strong headwind seeking the distant ranchlands and oak forests on the sheltering western slopes. As I contemplated copying their sensible migration, a large cougar entered my peripheral view. Talk about an adrenalin rush!
I noticed the cougar several hundred yards away moving along in a furrow in the landscape. Suddenly I was lost in deepest Africa! The big cat was seeking to cross a winding and narrow mountain highway. Not until an approaching vehicle appeared and disappeared out of sight, did the cougar cross the road and head higher into the hills. Shaking off the fear that it was just me and the lions out here, I had another thought which made me happy: “I am co-existing in the wilderness…with lions.” I lost any concern that I might be dinner that night, replaced by a more enduring respect knowing that I was a visitor in their homeland. I couldn’t resist lifting my arms heavenward and shouting a command, “God bless you, be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.” (You should be doing this too. Isaiah 45:11b “This is what the Lord says…and concerning the work of my hands, command ye me.” Practice this, you will see the results. God said you would.) As I finished blessing them and wiping a tear of joy from my eye, I was drawn back to that article I had read about cougars possibly repopulating my home state of Pennsylvania. This time I tossed in a little possibility thinking and before I knew it I was considering how wonderful it is when something you love comes home. I lifted my eyes to the hopeful blue sky once again and whispered, “Welcome.”
Spring wild flower display at Anza-Borrego State Park.