Cougar Lake


“We’re going WHERE?”

My buddy, a Navy veteran, tried to talk me into an overnight camping trip to Cougar Lake. Seven miles in, camp overnight, seven miles out. And fish until we dropped.

What he didn’t know was that I had a life-long, deep-seated fear of cougars. See, when we were kids heading out for camping trips in the wilds of Colorado, Aunt Bee (real name) always left us with the warning, “Watch out for the mountain lions.” She was good – we never left without snake-bite kits, whistles, quarters (for a pay phone) – and we always kept our heads on a swivel looking for mountain lions sneaking up on us.

So a hike to Cougar Lake dredged up old fears, but “fish until we dropped” had an intoxicating ring to it.

I said yes.

We headed out on a beautiful day, two grizzled old Navy guys and my dog Elway. He was there for protection.

The ruthless protector and Golden mix, Elway

Before long, we were alone, hiking through the vast Idaho mountains. Aunt Bee was with me that day. Behind every boulder, crouching in every meadow, beyond every turn in the trail, was a mountain lion ready to pounce.


My neck started to ache from swiveling.

Then, “A lady I know saw a bear cross the trail right about here.”

A BEAR? Now I have to worry about mountain lions AND bears? Are these the kind of bears you’re supposed to yell at, or the kind you’re supposed to play dead for? I DIDN’T STUDY UP ON BEARS!

As we rounded a bend, what we saw through the trees took our breaths away. There, right in the middle of the trail was something so terrifying and so unexpected that we stopped in our tracks.

It was a biker gang.


Seriously. All decked out in multi-colored armor straight out of a Mel Gibson movie. It was the Raider Nation on trail bikes. Elway, the protector in his first big test, wagged his tail and disappeared up the trail.

Luckily they turned out to be pretty good guys, and let us pass without beating us up.

Shaken but undaunted, we continued the journey. And finally, after what seemed an eternity, we reached our destination.


A sharp reader might notice the sign says Kennally Lakes. But after a day of hiking, a lake is a lake, and besides, Aunt Bee never warned me to look out for Kennallys. Somehow we had missed Cougar Lake, which was fine by me, and like kids on Christmas morning we tore open our packs and pulled out the fishing gear.

My reel was broken.

By then, little distractions had no sway over me, and with a quick application of duct tape, I found myself on the shore of Kennally Lake, enjoying the scenery and fresh air.


We had braved bears, mountain lions, biker gangs, faulty equipment and the wrong trail…and lived to tell the tale.

As we returned home the next day, I realized that life is kind of like a hike. It’s OK to acknowledge your fears, but don’t let them dominate your life. Life is a journey, but if you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you’ll eventually reach your goal. And if you don’t end up where you expected, make the most of it anyhow.

But always watch out for the mountain lions.

Kennally Lake


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