In which I fear being eaten by a cougar, accidentally commit slug-slaughter, and then spend the rest of my day avoiding retribution from its sluggy brethren…
The first thing on the list for our California trip? Hiking in Redwoods National Park. We each had a specific goal for our day o’ nature: The Rocket Scientist wanted to find a banana slug, and I wanted to avoid being eaten by a cougar.
Not that kind:
Apparently, as soon a big cats with chompy teeth enter the picture, Katie stops being rational. As a biologist, I know that cougars are one of the redwood’s top predators, and that the number of attacks on humans has increased over the past twenty years. And I also know that these attacks are still very rare, and that there are precautions you can take to avoid them.* So I was calm and logical, right? Hah! Crazy Katie has no time for logic.
From the moment we got out of the car, I was scanning our surroundings, listening for sounds, looking for tracks, and spending an inappropriate amount of time studying poop to determine whether or not it contained pieces of Northface jackets and Nalgene bottles. I was reassured when we passed hikers coming from the other direction – obviously they hadn’t been eaten, so we were probably safe. Unless, of course, the cougars had somehow missed those hikers and were now extra hungry.
The poor Rocket Scientist had to keep reminding me to stop examining the underbrush and appreciate the redwoods we were hiking among. And he was right, I was missing the forest for the trees. Or, rather, missing the trees for the imaginary cougars.**
So here I am, hugging a giant tree after making sure no cougars were lurking in its branches.
And here’s The Rocket Scientist, hugging another tree. He didn’t check for cougars; he plays fast and loose with life.
So we continued hiking and I began to relax, appreciating the seriously amazing scenery surrounding us.
See? So pretty!
Suddenly, The Rocket Scientist grabbed me, yanking me backwards – gah! The cougars had found us! Although I don’t remember it now, The Rocket Scientist claims I shrieked, fell into the fetal position, and began mumbling something about not being ready to die before Kevin rejoins The Backstreet Boys. Pfff, that doesn’t sound like me at all.
Apparently, I’d gone and stepped on a banana slug and The Rocket Scientist was trying in vain to save it. So, one goal down – we found a banana slug! It just happened to be on the bottom of my boot.
It looked like this, only much more squished:
You know what else the banana slug looked like? Every freaking leaf covering the ground. The slugs are all long, skinny leaf-shaped and range in leaf colors from brown to yellow. So the rest of my hike was spent alternating between scanning the ground making sure I didn’t squish another slug and looking up into the trees to make sure we were still cougar-free. I saw the tops of trees and the bottom of the ground, but pretty much missed the whole middle of Redwoods National Park.
I was also slightly concerned that the slugs might gang up to exact revenge for their fallen compatriot, and possibly enlist the cougars to help. So the next slug we found, I apologized sincerely.
And we survived! No slug attacks, and nary a cougar to be seen. This one’s for you, cougars:
*If my rigorous study of Hayley Mills movies is correct, you keep them away by banging two sticks together.
**Seriously, dudes, I know they were there.