In March of 1993, the first year that I worked at Destinations Cyclery, I bought a Specialized StumpJumper M2, my first bike with a suspension fork. I traded out the Rockshox-built Future Shock for a Manitiou 2, because I just don't care for air shocks, and built my first pair of custom wheels for it.
Not long after the first, ill-fated, ride on the new wheels, I had rebuilt the rear wheel and wanted to take a good ride on it. I had a day off, so I headed up to White Ranch Open Space, north of Golden, to climb the big hill. I knew there was still snow, at the top, but I had heard that the trail was mostly clear and rideable.
I parked at the bottom of Belcher Hill, and started up. The hill consists of nine miles of climbing, with 1290 feet of elevation gain (1785 feet of actual climbing, due to some short downs which you have to regain). It's a pretty brutal climb, but it was one of my favorites at the time.
I no longer go to White Ranch, for mountain biking, due to conflicts with equestrians. In fact, I don't even know if the trails are still open to bikes.
Anyway, I started up the hill and climbed slowly up the hill. As I finally passed the upper parking lot, I began to see patches of snow on the trail. Under the trees, shaded from the sun, the snow was pretty solid.
As I rode, I heard an odd noise. Skrnk...skrnk... Thinking that the bike was making a noise, I stopped. The noise stopped, as well. I couldn't find anything wrong with the bike, so I contined on.
Again, skrnk...skrnk...skrnk... But, it seemed a little louder.
Again, I stopped. Only, this time, the noise continued for a couple of seconds after I had stopped.
I looked around, but I couldn't see anything moving. As I started rolling again, I rode through some snow on the trail. Ssskkkrrrnnnkkk... The snow was dry, and squeaked as the tires rolled through it, compressing the icy flakes.
It was then that I figured out that I was hearing footsteps in the snow, under the trees. As I rode along, I started looking around trying to spot something moving. Eventually, I spotted it..a mountain lion!
Mountain lions usually avoid humans, rather than stalking them, and I figured that he was just traveling along a path coincidentally close to mine. I continued climbing, and so did the big cat.
After a little while, I noticed that he was angling toward the trail, as he went...angling toward me.
Mountain lions stalk prey by sneaking along in an almost parallel track, until they get close enough to sprint and tackle their prey. It looked a lot like that's what this one was doing to me.
At that point, it seemed like a really good idea to turn around and go really, really fast downhill toward the car. That is just what I did, with some alacrity.
That was probably the fastest trip down Belcher Hill that I ever made.