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What animal did I see on Holy Cross?

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What animal did I see on Holy Cross?

Postby 14er_Crazy » Sat Oct 04, 2008 2:23 pm

For those following a couple of the other threads, I climbed Holy Cross on September 19th. I had a bad week at work and just needed to get away that Friday. I had originally planned on doing the same route Michelle Vanek did when she vanished in late September 2005 (Halo Ridge up, North Ridge down) for her first 14er. It turned out to be a very tough hike for me, and I was on trail for over 17 hours, getting back to the trail at midnight.

Anyway, I saw SOMETHING in the woods that night, and I'd like to hear what others think I saw...

I came around a turn only about 1/2 mile from the North Ridge trailhead (having already hiked 13 miles), my dog Keisha 10 yards in front of me, my headlamp blazing into the darkness on a fresh set of batteries. Ahead of me, but off the trail about 15-20 yards was a small blue light. I thought it was the headlamp of the ONLY guy I saw on trail hours before (at about 13600ft, I had just started down the North Ridge Trail at 6PM, and he was heading to the summit). Having done most of the trail at night and being completely unfamiliar with the trail, I thought he passed me in the darkness on a side trail, as I was going pretty slow down the trail.

So, the light stared back at me without moving. I nodded my head, flashing my headlamp back to get some kind of reaction. Nothing. I nodded my headlamp again, and still nothing. But then the light turned away for a second, and I saw nothing but total blackness. I thought this was weird because if it was the guy I saw hours before, he would have "nodded" back by then. But then TWO lights turned back at me. I then realized they were the eyes of a pretty large animal.

I stopped and kept my headlamp focused on the eyes while pulling my backpack off to get my 3 inch pocket knife out. I pulled out the blade and held in my hand, slowing moving forward. The animal was constantly staring at me, never veering its gaze. I kept my dog Keisha close to me (she was oblivious to what was going on) and followed the trail. It went straight for a while then turned toward the area where the eyes were. Every 15 or 20 seconds, I looked back at the animal, and they were still there, staring at me. I eventually got past the animal and saw nothing else until I hit the North Ridge trailhead 15 minutes later. Keisha and I collapsed in the back of the Expedition after our horribly long day, and we slept soundly until the next morning when I drove back home.

In hindsight, I never felt threatened, and the animal didn't move from its spot. I guess it was about 15 yards off trail in the dark, and I didn't see any of its body. Based on how the trail looked, I estimate that the eyes were 3-4 ft off the ground. I just assumed that I had come upon an elk or a large deer. I didn't think anything else until I got home and started telling my story.

Anyway, a couple of friends who were regular hunters said that they don't know of any deer or the like that had blue eyes. One even did some online research and could find no animals at all that have blue eyes. I've hiked up 23 fourteeners and many other mountains, at all times of year, and haven't seen anything worse than big elk, some deer, a ton of mountain goats, marmots, picas, and some bobcat tracks in the snow. I've never even seen a bear.

So what did I see that night coming down from Mount of the Holy Cross?
Nausea at altitude, bad knees coming down, high winds, snow, gropple, the occasional thunderstorm and lightning... MAN, I love 14ers!

Re: What animal did I see on Holy Cross?

Postby Bean » Sat Oct 04, 2008 2:28 pm

Lots of animals have blue eyes, cows for one.

Snipes, too. And they can get pretty big.
gdthomas wrote:Bean, you're an idiot.

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Re: What animal did I see on Holy Cross?

Postby airhog794 » Sat Oct 04, 2008 3:29 pm

I'll tell ya, those snipes...whooa they can get to be huge, and, if I'm not mistaken, they are known to have blue or orange eyes.

Re: What animal did I see on Holy Cross?

Postby summersja » Sat Oct 04, 2008 3:54 pm

14er_Crazy wrote:I stopped and kept my headlamp focused on the eyes while pulling my backpack off to get my 3 inch pocket knife out.


I think I would invest in a bigger knife! :D

If there are cows in the area, that would be my bet. They tend to just stand there staring as you move past.

BTW, a group of us are going up there this Friday. We were thinking of doing Halo Ridge but I really don't feel like a day that will last 17 hours so we will probably just do the standard route this time.

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Re: What animal did I see on Holy Cross?

Postby klabar » Sat Oct 04, 2008 3:57 pm

From my understanding "Snipes" are only found in Asia and Europe. I have been in the Holy Cross area since '72 and I'm sorry but I'm not sure what you saw. Did you smell anything different in the air when you came near it? Depending on your head lamp Deer, Elk, Bear and Goats eyes can appear blue. I also know that Mountain Lions have blue eyes when born but gradually turn yellowish. At what age I'm not sure.
Last edited by klabar on Sat Oct 04, 2008 4:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What animal did I see on Holy Cross?

Postby BillMiddlebrook » Sat Oct 04, 2008 4:02 pm

Deer, elk or cow. Most other animals would have moved.
Were you using an LED headlamp?
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Re: What animal did I see on Holy Cross?

Postby 14er_Crazy » Sat Oct 04, 2008 4:33 pm

BillMiddlebrook wrote:Deer, elk or cow. Most other animals would have moved.
Were you using an LED headlamp?


I use a Princeton Tec 4 mode LED headlamp. $35 at REI, nothing special.

klabar wrote:Did you smell anything different in the air when you came near it? Depending on your head lamp Deer, Elk, Bear and Goats eyes can appear blue.


No, didn't smell anything.

summersja wrote:I think I would invest in a bigger knife! :D

If there are cows in the area, that would be my bet. They tend to just stand there staring as you move past.


I've had friends that've tried to get me to carry guns in the wilderness, especially after I told them I saw bobcat tracks right next to my trail. However, I figured if I started carrying a gun, it'd defeat the purpose of me hiking in the woods. Plus, by the time I'd get the gun out, a mountain lion would have me down.

Cows in the middle of the Holy Cross wilderness? I'm intrigued. Never have seen a cow outside of a farm. Anyone have a picture of a wild cow in the woods?

summersja wrote:BTW, a group of us are going up there this Friday. We were thinking of doing Halo Ridge but I really don't feel like a day that will last 17 hours so we will probably just do the standard route this time.


I spent close to 7 hours on Halo Ridge alone. Other than some flat grassy spots, you spend the whole time doing Class 2/2+ scrambling.
Nausea at altitude, bad knees coming down, high winds, snow, gropple, the occasional thunderstorm and lightning... MAN, I love 14ers!

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Re: What animal did I see on Holy Cross?

Postby Tory Wells » Sat Oct 04, 2008 5:09 pm

14er_Crazy wrote:Plus, by the time I'd get the gun out, a mountain lion would have me down.

That is a misconception regarding mt lions and guns..........a properly trained handgun owner can draw, fire, and hit with accuracy in well under 2 seconds at close range (maybe even 1.5 or less is fair to say). I'm not saying carry a gun everywhere (I don't mostly due to wanting to be light as possible for running purposes), but I just wanted to clear the air on that common way of thinking. If you're worried about mt lions, you would be safer with a gun than any other form of self-defense.

As for the animal you saw, having been to the HCW recently, I didn't see anything nearby that would lead me to believe a cow could be found that high and so far away from any sort of ranch. My vote is for deer or elk as they are the animal most likely to sit and stare back, especially when having a light shined on them.
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Re: What animal did I see on Holy Cross?

Postby Phill the Thrill » Sat Oct 04, 2008 5:39 pm

It's gotta be a deer IMHO. I can almost guarantee you it's not a mountain lion - I've encountered them twice and they are quick to move away and not likely to let you get within 15-20 yds. Deer, on the other hand, will stand there staring at you for a long time without moving.

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Re: What animal did I see on Holy Cross?

Postby rockchalker » Sat Oct 04, 2008 5:57 pm

No doubt it was "Bigfoot".
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Re: What animal did I see on Holy Cross?

Postby Nutrition_Guy » Sat Oct 04, 2008 6:51 pm

When your only tool is a hammer, everybody starts lookin' like a nail.

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Re: What animal did I see on Holy Cross?

Postby MUni Rider » Sat Oct 04, 2008 8:31 pm

14er_Crazy wrote:Cows in the middle of the Holy Cross wilderness? I'm intrigued. Never have seen a cow outside of a farm. Anyone have a picture of a wild cow in the woods?


I've seen cows and cow pies here and there. No pictures because come on, It's a cow. Moo-moo. However, I know some people have posted a few pics of cows on the trail to Capital.
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