Roxborough State Park, located near Englewood, Colorado, includes a hiking trail with a 3.2-mile climb up to the 7,160-foot summit of Carpenter's Peak. Same single trail up and down. No shortcuts. No bypasses. Climbing Carpenter's Peak was part of my weekly routine. Something I did during my days off from my job as a park ranger in a neighboring park. My climb up the trail was typical of other days. Clear and warm weather with a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains.
My favorite part of this climb was taking in the summit view. My favorite vista lies to the south and west, a panorama encompassing the South Platte River, Pike National Forest and the towering Rockies. I scaled the highest rock and circled around it, a chill ran through me as I stopped and gazed on the magnificent broken horizon in every direction. After a brief rest, I removed my shirt, tying it around my waist. I then began the descent back down the trail.
Hiking down, a burst of purple caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. I walked over to two identical flowers and knelt down for a closer look. As I did, a tremor ran through me. Something wasn't right. A gentle breeze stirred the trees. I thought a cold front might be moving in so I stood back up and began moving towards the trailhead. But as I turned to go, I saw something down the trail that stopped me cold. There, lying under a pine tree to the left of the trail was a mountain lion chewing on its kill.
Mountain Lion! Wow! I couldn't believe my luck. Fear suddenly flashed through me, overtaking my excitement. My legs shook uncontrollably as I eased backwards, back up the trail as quiet as possible. Instinctively, I reached for my pocketknife, which I always carried with me in my pack. I knew I had to get past this wild animal in order to get off this mountain.
As my brain raced with thoughts and ideas of what to do, my body prepared for war. I looked down at the knife in my hand. The two-inch blade looked too small and inadequate to be a real defense against the unknown. I shot a look to the spot under the tree where I last saw the lion. It was gone! My eyes strained down the trail through the brush to my right, looking for a glimpse. There it was! It had moved. Its piercing deadly gaze seemed to stare right through me. As though opening me up to witness every fear every thought.
In the blink of an eye, the cat's 100+ pound frame was directly in front of me. Its head rose above my waist. Its eyes again locked on me in an intense deadly stare. It seemed to be sizing me up before the expected attack. At 130 pounds, I'm positive I looked like an easy meal. Just then the lion let out an evil piercing growl to reveal four immense dominant teeth.
The lion lunged before I could react, paws extended. It slammed into my chest causing us to tumble down the trail, ending up side by side in a rolled up mass of fur, claws and blood. My blood! I jumped up. The lion lunged at me a second time, barely missing me. Backpedaling, I careened down the path, trying to fend off the lion with, of all things, the shirt that had been tied around my waist.
Suddenly the lion stopped in its tracks. I was able to make a quick stand. With the strap in one hand, I swung my pack with all the force I could find. The cat just drew back, as if this were some game it had been invited to. With the knife locked in my other hand, I lashed out at the lion's face. Again, the lion simply dodged my desperate swing. Once again I started backpedaling, with the cougar only inches away from my terrified body. The lion toyed with me as it played its stalking game. That's when my escape path changed abruptly as it dropped down three feet through a series of boulder steps. I looked. In an instance, I knew I couldn't stop. I hurtled down, skipping over the boulders. The lion launched into the air and tore into me just as I hit the ground. For a second time we rolled together, down the trail. When slammed to a stop against a pile of brush, I was on my knees, over the lion that was on its back. My head was in the lion's mouth. The long black shape of a tooth hovered an inch in front of my left eye. The lion's teeth were sunk into the top of my skull! Its jaws loosened slightly, and then bit down a second time, searching for a firmer hold. Blood cascaded down over my face.
I slashed towards the lion's neck with the knife still locked in my right hand. The blade did not draw blood. I tried to swing the knife from a different angle, nothing. I raised the knife high over the animal's head and plunged it down into its head as hard as I could. Once. Twice. Nothing, not even a whimper from this blood thirsty killer. A razor sharp claws shot toward my face and snagged the skin below my left eye. I heard a distinct pop but felt no pain. Fresh blood streamed across my face. With the other paw clasped tightly around my neck, its claws dug in and pulled me down further. My pain should have been excruciating, but it wasn't. No pain, only blood.
Why didn't my knife cut into the lion's head? With an effort, I looked past its head to the knife that I still held in my left hand. The knife's blade closed on my left index finger and cut halfway through. I reached over the lion's head with my right arm and managed to pry the knife open. It was at this moment that I realized my right hand was on the lion's eyes. Desperately and with all the force I could muster, I plunged my right thumb into the lion's right eye, as I simultaneously sunk the knife into the lion's skull with my left hand.
The lion shrieked and released its deadly hold on my head. The razor sharp claws pulled out from my neck. The lion jumped backwards. My moment was here. I stumbled to my feet. In a daze and very dizzy, I began to feel cold. I looked up and saw the lion standing only 10 feet away. It also seemed dazed. I knew I must get down the mountain - now! Blood gushed from the 8-inch gash ripped across my forehead. I felt as though I was about to run out of time. I backpedaled out of sight from the lion; I turned and ran - for my life!
The attack on Carpenter's Peak had lasted for nearly 30 minutes. My situation was still grim. I was hysterical, losing blood fast and almost three miles from the trailhead still fighting for my life. Yet despite the multiple lacerations on my head, neck and torso, I felt no pain. My legs churned in their singular desire to get me off this mountain back to safety.
Halfway down, the trail took on a new menacing aspect where it traced a route through a thick stand of ponderosa pine trees. For some reason and in full stride, I glanced over my right shoulder and saw the lion was back again. The lion again stalked me now from a distant tree! I panicked and called on my legs to drive me even faster. I had nothing left. My fight was done. The lion was back for the final kill and there was nothing more I could do. I glanced again over my right shoulder and expected to see the deadly stare of my tormentor one final time. Instead, I was given a sudden glimpse of Heaven. The peaceful forgiving face of the Lord was in plain view where once the lion had been. The canopy thinned and the empty trail lightened.
I am positive this was divine intervention. For the first time since I saw the lion, I felt safe. Or should I say, saved? I felt overwhelming peace. I felt secure as though I got picked up and told, "I got you son...I got you. You want a second chance in life? Then start living for me."
Rejuvenated, I turned my head and continued to race down the trail. Near the bottom, a group of hikers suddenly appeared. They tried to talk me into sitting down. In a panic, I bolted from their grasp and continued to run down the trail. Without reason, I suddenly stopped. Fighting 30 minutes with a mountain lion and running for my life over 2 ½-miles down a mountain, my body shut down. It was at that moment that I heard the glorious thunder of an approaching rescue chopper. I knew that my nightmare was over. I knew that I was saved!
The captivating event you've just read radically changed my life. I've given my full heart, trust and life to the Lord, realizing the importance of having a personal "best friend" relationship with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Andy has had the fantastic honor of sharing his inspirational survival story on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live, Animal Planet, A&E Biography, Versus Channel, New Man Magazine, Reader's Digest, Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), Outdoor Life Network & Outdoor Life Magazine.
Andy has also shared his remarkable story with numerous churches, conferences, men's events, wild game dinners, schools, universities, youth events, businesses and many other events. Andy's story has touched hearts and lives around the world, helping to bring thousands to the Lord. Never give up and believe in yourself through the hope, peace, and love of Jesus Christ!
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