My husband DJ, another couple, and I went to Letchworth State Park in Upstate New York. We decided to take a hike on one of the nature trails that led deep into the woods. Talking and laughing as we walked along; we became distracted. We kept going until there was no direct path and nothing but woods. We were lost.
Since it was a warm sunny day in mid-July, we decided to push onward with only canteens of water to sustain us. No survival items. No protection. And not realizing what danger could be lurking in unfamiliar woods. 14,427 acres to be precise. Thank God, it was a beautiful day but soon the high heat made our clothes stick to our bodies.
After a little while, I had to go to the bathroom. When I found a secluded area, I began to drop my pants. Suddenly, I heard a noise I never heard before. A low, deep growling. I quickly pulled my pants up without relieving myself. I started wondering what was hiding in the bushes? My heart began pounding. I could see something big moving around and I heard the rustle of undergrowth as it came towards me. Twigs snapping with ease. I began to tremble and started walking backward keeping my eyes fixed on what was there. Fear dancing in my mind with thoughts of what it might be.
Thinking, “Don’t run! Don’t run! It might chase! It might pounce!”
I slowly continued backward to discover what was tracking me.
Suddenly it appeared. Golden eyes fixed on me, head down, stalking one step after the other. A very large cougar much bigger than I could ever imagine; weighing around 100lbs. With my heart pounding in my chest, I swallowed hard. Adrenaline rushing through my veins. My eyes, surely as big as dinner plates, became fixated on this powerful beautiful beast that God created.
I kept telling myself, “Don’t run! Don’t run!”
It walked boldly as it came towards me and from time to time stepped back and forth, it’s gaze locked on me.
I thought, “It must be contemplating whether or not I am a good dinner item.”
It seemed to be weighing its options, looking for signs of fear, trying to determine how to succeed. Maybe hoping I would run. I stayed focused and kept looking it in the eyes. Hoping that would make it think twice.
I began to pray, “Lord, please keep your creation at bay.”
I felt like Daniel in the lion’s den. I believe God gave me the strength to stay calm and He was the voice in my subconscious telling me how I should react.
This definitely is not the type of cat you would say, “Hey, kitty, kitty, kitty” too.
I can promise you that. I didn’t want to get up close and personal with it. You could see the mighty power it had. The muscles bulging in its legs and in the broadness of its chest. It held the strength to climb the terrain of rocks and slopes with ease. Jumping around like it was no effort at all. Giving it the respect, it deserved. Knowing it was much stronger than any of us since hunting was its main practice. When it growled, it was deep and had authority. The glimpses of its teeth that would easily make us into hamburger meat. Having the ability to shred skin and break bones. Seeing this magnificent animal so close brought shivers up and down my spine and made the hair on my arms stand up.
For the third time, I found myself saying, “Don’t run! Don’t run!”
After what seemed like an eternity, I made it back to the group. The three of them were just standing there, talking, not paying attention; no clue of what was coming this way.
In a quiet but stern tone, I said, “Guys, look at what is behind me!”
My voice warning them to cautiously take a look around. For a moment, we all stood there staring and appreciating this creature before us. We began to whisper as we discussed what to do. This beast watching over us brought a fear that one of us would become its next meal.
The cougar continued starring and pacing back and forth, back and forth, inching forward. Watching and taking in our every move.
None of us had any weapons, not even a pocket knife. The guys carefully picked up some big walking sticks to use for protection in case of an attack. We stayed very close together knowing it would only be able to take one of us.
I said, “Whatever you do… Don’t run! Don’t run!”
I prayed once more, “Dear Lord, please watch over us and protect us. Please keep this cougar from attacking us. We don’t want to become mincemeat today. We are lost and we need your help to find a way back safely. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
We continued through the woods unaware of where we are going. It was getting later in the day and the sun wasn’t directly above us anymore. The rays no longer illuminating through the trees. Not wanting to be stuck in the woods in utter darkness since the cougar was intimately following us. It seemed to be gaining confidence and tracking closer and closer.
After walking for quite some time, we came upon some railroad tracks. What a relief! We knew the railroad tracks ran into the park but the problem was which direction to go… left, or right? If we went the wrong way… it should at least run into a small town. We took a vote and decided to go left. The day was beginning to cool down. Full of wet clothing from sweating, the clothes clung to the body, feeling damp and cold. All of us exhausted, we kept pushing forward… with the cougar not far behind.
In the late afternoon, we continued down the middle of the well-worn tracks. The cougar was not afraid and followed on the tracks as well. I can tell you one thing, it was relentless! Almost as though it was waiting for one of us to mess up or fall. I wondered if a train might come by.
We came into a field and I saw that the railroad tracks turned up ahead. Without the trees surrounding us, the cougar walked further behind and didn’t keep up so close. There were sounds of rushing water. As we drew nearer, we realized where we were. The very top! Where the Train Trestle bridge spans 820 feet across the Genesee River at a height of 240 feet.
Just perfect when you are terrified of heights. I stood there at the end of the bridge looking across and looking down. There were no sides, no walkways, and only water thundering 240 feet below the railroad ties. Knowing it would be death upon impact if I slipped.
I said, “I’m not crossing that. I hate heights and you can see in between each tie. No way!”
The four of us began talking and contemplating. The cougar was sitting on the tracks, behind us waiting. The bridge was ahead of us. Darkness was coming.
DJ and my friends said, “Unless you want to join the cougar for dinner you must pass. We will help you.”
I felt powerless. Trembling with fear, I said, “I can’t do this.”
DJ grabbed my right hand and started to pull me.
I began to cry and pray, “Lord, please help me!”
The tears kept coming. I could not stop them. My girlfriend walked over and grabbed my other hand. Her boyfriend grabbed hers.
They said, “We’re going to cross this together. Don’t run! Don’t run! The slow and steady wins the race.”
Feeling paralyzed, I said, “No problem there!”
DJ said, “Close your eyes and we’ll guide you.”
I had to put my hope and trust in the Lord and my teammates. Terrified, I closed my eyes and took the first step.
They said, “Step left, step right.”
I cried the whole way and kept asking how much longer.
I said, “I can’t believe I let you guys talk me into this.”
After a little while, DJ said, “Well the cougar is no longer after us. It almost fell in between the ties. It must have decided were not worth it.”
I said, “That’s good but I don’t feel any better.”
He said, “Ok, right foot, left foot.”
About halfway across the trestle, we heard the not so distant sound of a train whistle quickly approaching the bridge. The Engineer must have spotted us because he began blowing the horn intensely. My eyes flew open! Panic settled in.
DJ and my friends yelled, “Run, run, run!”
I had no choice. I ran with my eyes wide open, screaming and crying at the same time; adrenaline pumping through every part of my body. My fear of falling between the ties to the gorge prevented me from keeping pace with the others.
I cried out, “Lord, save me. Save me.”
I locked my gaze on DJ just like the hungry cougar. He and my friends were waiting on the other side.
“Hurry it’s coming. Hurry up!” They yelled.
The tracks vibrating as the train began to cross the bridge. It was coming closer and closer. I had to give it my all. I ran faster and faster as tears flowed down my cheeks. Finally, I made it to the end of the bridge and jumped off the track into DJ’s arms. I made it. We all made it. The train barreled us. I just made it.
I said, “Thank you, God!” as we stood there panting like dogs, grasping, some of us leaning over with hands down on knees, trying to calm down.
They all began laughing at me and telling me things like, “You should have seen yourself. How fast you picked up the pace!”
I wasn’t amused at all. I couldn’t find it funny. I wasn’t there for their entertainment.
I punched each of them in the shoulder and said, “Knock it off. That was high and scary.”
They laughed a little more and then smiled with a smirk. I was extremely happy that I didn’t pee my pants because of being so scared.
We made it back into the park onto the pavement. The sun was near the horizon as we came upon our vehicles. I found joy in seeing my car. There were hardly any people left in the park. The sunset was simply stunning. The sky is filled with warm pinks, oranges, and reds. There were fluffy clouds going by which seemed to take on the hues of the sunset colors. I stood there for a moment with everyone to take it in but I was exhausted and so were they. I said my goodbyes and jumped in the car to drive home. What an experience that I will never forget.
All I can say is, “God got me through.”
He protected all of us. Not one of us was hurt and we didn’t have to spend the night. He answered my prayers and I was filled with gratitude. That night before bed, I prayed and gave thanks and praise to God.
This event made me decide it is time to face various fears. This means pushing myself to the edge where my fear is. Some of it because the others laughed at me but also, I want to conquer my fears. The cougar is living proof that with God’s help I could survive and overcome. With God everything is possible and he is always with me. Because of this, my faith and trust in God has doubled.
I have begun doing more and more things that involve heights. One example is I went parasailing in Ocean City, MD. I was 600 feet above the ocean being pulled by a small boat with a parachute. My feet dangling in the air. At this height, the amusement park looked like a child’s playground and I could see the roundness of the earth. The boat looked like a toy. I saw groups of Manta Rays swimming below in the ocean waves. The sky as blue as it could be and I loved every minute of it.
Working on my fears has opened my eyes to many new perspectives and outlook. What could be ahead in my future? I look forward to my next adventure. I know God will be a part of it. He always has been and always will be.
I have a bucket list of things I hope to accomplish before I die. Some include hot air balloon ride, the zip line across Niagara Falls, a helicopter ride, or possibly even parachute jumping. Who knows, the possibilities are endless…
Anytime I am fearful, I ask myself, “What am I missing that I might enjoy?”
Facing your fear can open you up to a whole new world. Experiences you never thought possible which you might find invigorating. So many choices and opportunities that exist. It makes you look forward to the journey and the next experience. A hope that there is many better things to come.
I hope you found this story inspiring. Next time, you are surrounded by fear, I say, “Don’t run! Don’t run! (Unless absolutely necessary).”
Instead, try praying and trusting in God to help bring you through the circumstance. He is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.
Don’t be afraid to enjoy the events that make up this journey on the railroad tracks of life. Wonderful experiences that you might be missing out on. Life is short. The only thing we can do is live it! The attitude we have determines whether it is good or bad. Two people can experience the same thing and have a totally different story and outlook.
Running through life at a high pace depletes energy, and robs you of joy. Instead, slowdown when you can and smell the flowers. Catch up on some nature and the beauty around you. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It could be a field full of wildflowers with butterflies or a sunset over the water, even a gentle breeze on a warm day. The little moments in life that makes it worth living. The ones you will never forget. Take heart and live life intentionally.