The Story Of My Mother And The Mountain Lion In Yosemite On Christmas Eve

So here’s how things went down. After breakfast Christmas Eve morning in the amazing Awahnee dining room followed by a visit to the Yosemite Village store to pick up some hairspray for mom (which she’d forgot to pack), it was decided she would hang out at the hotel while Susan and I did some sightseeing.

So off we went and checked out Yosemite Falls, returning from which we found mom in the lobby of the Awahnee, whereupon she regaled us with her close encounter with the predatory king of the area’s food chain.

After getting back to her room with the hairspray she also discovered that she had somehow managed to forget all her makeup, and so donning her mink coat and foregoing the shuttle service, she set out from the hotel for the approximate 10 minute walk to the store.

But instead of striding along the paved pedestrian path on the hotel-side of the road, she opted for the more natural route that wound through the trees and big boulders between the north side of the road and the granite walls of the canyon.

There she is strolling serenely along still within the boundaries of the hotel’s grounds trying to figure out how she could have been such a doof and left her makeup at home, when she heard a voice from across the road, calling urgently and firmly to her: “Ma’am!”

My mom turned and found a uniformed person leading a small group of people on some sort of tour (probably of the hotel).

“Yes?” she answered.

“I need you to listen to me carefully and do exactly as I say.”


” I want you to walk directly to me. Do it slowly. Now. Don’t turn around. Don’t run. Just walk. To me.”

Despite my mother’s tendency neither to listen very carefully nor to do exactly as she’s told. She followed orders and in a few moments she was across the road and standing before the uniformed person who asked her if she’d like to see why he asked her to do what she did.

“Of course,” she said.

Grabbing her by her fur-clad shoulders he rotated her around until she was looking back where she had been. Perched on the tall boulder she had been passing on her left was a mountain lion.

“Not a very big one,” she told us.

But big enough for her jaw to drop open as she watched it looking from her where she was standing to down directly below it where she had stopped, the lion’s long tail whipping back and forth a few times before it leapt behind the rock and out of sight.

“It was stalking you,” the man told her. “Best to stay on this side of the road.”

Again, she did as she was told. And it wasn’t until later that she realized the impact of the encounter and what might have happened had that tour guide not been there to get her safely away from it. It haunted the rest of her stay.

Postscript: The closest we came to a mountain lion were these tracks we found while tromping off-trail on Christmas Day near the base of El Capitan:


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Will Campbell arrived in town via the maternity ward at Good Sam Hospital way back in OneNineSixFour and has never stopped calling Los Angeles home. Presently he lives in Silver Lake with his wife Susan, their cat Rocky, dogs Terra and Hazel, and a red-eared slider turtle named Mater. Blogging since 2001, Will's web endeavors extend back to 1995 with, a comprehensive theater site that was well received but ever-short on capital (or a business model). The pinnacle of his online success (which speaks volumes) arrived in 1997, when much to his surprise, a hobby site he'd built called VisuaL.A. was named "best website" in Los Angeles magazine's annual "Best of L.A." issue. He enjoys experiencing (and writing about) pretty much anything creative, explorational and/or adventurous, loves his ebike, is a better tennis player than he is horr golfer, and a lover of all creatures great and small -- emphasis on "all."