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  • Meagan Butler

Stratton Open Space {Colorado Springs}

In preparation for the upcoming summer and my thoughts about getting back into running, I am throwing it back to the time when I ran Stratton Open Space in Colorado Springs. Although this is a beautiful run, I will never ever step foot in the vicinity of these trails again. Ever.

I’ve been on some memorable runs. When training for half marathons, I have to find things to keep me interested while running because running the Santa Fe trail over and over again gets tedious and boring. There was the Helen Hunt run where I went for a nice jog and ended up running uphill the entire way. There was the Red-Rock open space run where I was to run 3 miles, and the first half was ALL uphill. There was the Garden of the Gods run where my shin splints were screaming at me but, the most memorable run / hike was the time I hiked the incline and came down in the pitch dark. That was probably the most scared I have been in a long time…until the animal on the mountain incident.My running partner and I decided to mix up the run and went to a spot called Stratton Open Space. The open space is a run that has some hills, meandering trails, and a thick brush area around a reservoir on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs. It really is a beautiful run. During the first part of the run, I was not a happy girl. My calves had Barbie-doll syndrome where my calves would lock up and they would not let me flex my leg properly. My friend was ahead of me, and further ahead of us were a few more friends and a dog. I had my iPod on, but only in one ear. I usually like to be able to hear things around me while out on the trails, but more importantly, I like to be able to hear my running partners, so I only wear an earbud in one ear. I was slowly running along, listening to Eminem, and silently complaining to myself when I heard something. I paused for a second but then kept on running. I sometimes have an over-active imagination, and just coming off an Alaska trip, so I was still on bear-watch. I painfully picked up the pace until I heard it. Grrrowwwwwllllll…….. Still, I thought the noise was my imagination. Then I heard it again. “Uh…do you hear that?” I shouted to my friend ahead of me.  She said no, and said that it is probably bunnies in the brush, and to keep going. Then I heard it again. I yelled ahead, “Are you certain you don’t hear that?” This time, she took out her earbud and listened. The sound was unmistakeable: Grrrroooowwwwwwwlllllllll. “I heard it!” she shouted and then yelled again,”run!” So we ran. I started crying and couldn’t breathe. Yes, I was close to hyperventilating on the side of the mountain. At this point, I was really scared, because that was not my imagination, and it most certainly was not a bunny. My friend ran behind me, looking behind us as we tore through the trail. We shouted and called for our friends ahead, but they never heard us. Blubbering and struggling for a breath I shouted, “I made it through Alaska without seeing a bear, and I get home and am going to be eaten by a mountain lion!” Honestly, I am not sure how we made it out of the space. We clapped our hands and yelled and cried. We tried to make ourselves look as large as we could, and prayed that we weren’t going to turn into kibble.

We finally made it to the parking lot, causing a ruckus along the way to hopefully deter whatever was following us from having a white-meat dinner. Of course, the parking lot was not the right spot to end up, and we have to go through a more wooded area to get to our car. We started back, and I stopped. There is NO WAY I am going back through that area again. I do not CARE if we scared off Mr. Mountain Lion {because I am certain that is what was stalking us}. We had to take the long way back to the car, but I was perfectly fine with the long-safe path. We told many hikers who were just beginning their evening walks about our experience, and the hikers immediately turned around to find another place to exercise. Smart move.

Here is what I learned from that day. The creature had to be a mountain lion. Bears don’t stalk people for 400 meters or more. We were lucky we didn’t turn into a kitty toys because we did not do anything we were supposed to do when encountering a mountain lion. In fact, we did the exact opposite of what we were supposed to do and are lucky we lived to tell the tale. While it sounds dramatic, people see mountain lions in this area often. Not necessarily out on the trails, but in the neighborhoods on the mountain, and of course by the tell-tale signs they leave behind on the ground. Living in Colorado, outdoorsy people are bound to have wildlife experiences. Whether it’s a skunk, a fox, or a snake, it is doubtful it will be as terrifying as the mountain lion experience. I doubt anything could top that, and I am ok with that.


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