As on so many trips to Lost Maples State Natural Area, I was sitting beside the banks of the Sabinal River watching tiny fish dart about in turquoise pools and getting a rare taste of fall color in evergreen Texas. On the limestone bluff high above, I noticed what I first thought was a dog, a yellow lab, perhaps. Then the animal swung its long tail around and I realized I was looking at a mountain lion.
My first and only glimpse of a cougar 10 years ago is one of my most treasured wilderness moments, and the place where it occurred, Lost Maples, is one of my most cherished destinations. Although rangers were surprised when I reported the sighting, they didn't dispute it. If a mountain lion could survive anywhere in Texas-a state with no controls on hunting the endangered predator-it would be Lost Maples, which is nestled in the most rugged and remote section of the central hill country.
I've climbed taller mountains and been to wilder places since, but last winter when I hiked Lost Maples's West Trail loop for old-time's sake, the green hills receding into infinity and white puffy clouds sailing overhead made it feel as if I were being reunited with a faithful friend.
Trail Info: Lost Maples State Natural Area, (830) 966-3413.