The Last Word:
In Like a Lion

by Mike Splain

Six AM, solo on the Vernal Equinox - I relish the anticipation of seventeen miles beneath a cloudless sky.

Steeply eroded tread leaves little time to admire the verdant scenery, and soon I descend into a lush canyon.

After lunch break and a dip in this brisk fork, I ascend the main stem. A stiff breeze wafts downstream, masking my scent as I approach her.

Quietly fording to the opposite bank, I remember the camera lashed to my waist strap.

Fatigued from ten miles underfoot, rapid escape is not an option. I can put up a good fight with this trekking pole if things turn sour, but come hell or high water, I'm getting a photo!

Knee-deep in cool clear water, trembling fingers take aim and press hard. The shutter stalls long enough to catch her in flight as she leaps to a rock midstream.

Up-wind and still unaware of her observer, she gracefully struts into alders on the far shore as I nervously back out of the water.

Just as my foot hits land, her ears twitch and she anxiously crouches behind driftwood, casting a glare that evokes equal helpings of fear and respect. For a seemingly eternal five seconds our eyes meet, the stream a welcome boundary.

As tensions near the breaking point, she beats a hasty retreat up a near-vertical bluff. Life hasn't been the same since.

Leaping Lion Photo
The original photo
Leaping Lion Photo (detail)
Detail of the photo - the lion leaps the creek