What a beautiful night to sleep outside in a tent. My fiancé Amanda and I were up in the mountains of northeast PA, near the NY border at my family’s cottage on Page Lake. It was the kind of summer night that was perfect for a sleeping bag: not hot, slightly chilly, and peacefully still.
I fell asleep rather quickly, Amanda did as well, but she awoke shortly afterwards. As she was trying to fall back asleep, she heard something moving through the trees and then a strange growling. It was low, startling, and unfamiliar. At this point, she tried to wake me, but I was deep asleep, dreaming of the next day’s fun by the lake and finished wedding plans.
As Amanda was trying to wake me, the growls were getting slowly louder and scarier, until I was ripped out of sleep by a roar that shook me to my core. I remember sitting straight up inside the dark tent and looking at my fiancé, who was looking right back at me, wide-eyed and obviously frightened.
I told Amanda that I thought it was a bobcat, although we couldn’t see anything because I had put the rain fly on over the tent. It clearly sounded like a large feline and I remembered one of my friends told me that bobcats definitely still live in the PA wilderness. In the back of my mind, I knew that the animal sounded too large and fierce to be a bobcat, but I refused to believe the alternative, especially at 2 a.m. I said to Amanda that we are not a threat to whatever it was and we will be fine. We then did our best to go back to sleep, I unfortunately had more luck with this than my fiancé.
In the morning when we both awoke, we immediately reached for Amanda’s phone and Youtube-searched “bobcat growls”. They sounded nothing like what we heard during the night. I couldn’t believe it: not the fact that it wasn’t a bobcat, but I couldn’t believe what I was about to say.
“Do you think it was a mountain lion?”
We quickly searched “mountain lion sounds” and when we played the video Amanda almost instantly exclaimed, “That was it!” She was right. That sound was still fresh in our bones and there was no mistaking it: we had an encounter with a mountain lion.
Do a Google search of mountain lions in Pennsylvania and you will quickly discover that mountain lion, or cougar, encounters have been happening in PA the past few years. It seems the large predator is making a come back to this side of the country. The PA Game Commission is still on the fence about this and has yet to release an official statement about the mammal’s return. On their website they don’t list the mountain lion as a wild PA animal.
All I can say is whether they release the official statement or not, it is irrelevant to Amanda and me. It was a frightening, yet incredible experience. It’s a story that we will definitely be telling our grandkids, because I am sure the neither of us will forget that roar.