Into the Lion’s Den

Tornillo Flats - Big Bend National ParkThere is a very special location in Big Bend National Park just north of the Panther Junction visitor’s center, that Jack and I stumbled upon last spring. It’s located in an area known as “Tornillo Flat” just east of the Rosillos Ranch, a patch of private land in the middle of Big Bend.

Jack and I went there one sunny morning in search of some hoodoos to photograph but what we found was so much more interesting and potentially dangerous.

We drove North from Panther Junction about nine miles when we spied an interesting looking set of hoodoos about a mile west of the road. We donned our backpacks and started for the nearest rock outcrop about 300 yards from the road when we began to notice very small animal tracks in the crusty soil.

The tracks were very small and faint but ran all over the area we were exploring. We thought the tracks looked like they were made by a bobcat but were too small to be a mountain lion, or so we thought.

Lion's Den

Lion’s Den – Big Bend National Park, Texas
Copyright © 2011 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 20mm, f/16 for 1/25th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter and 2-stop graduated neutral density filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

I stopped to take a few shots of the interesting outcropping in the image below when I noticed several more sets of tracks leading to and from the rocks. It was then that Jack spotted the tracks of a full-grown mountain lion and we knew we had stumbled upon the daytime lair of a female and her very young kittens.

Big Bend Mountain Lion

Copyright © 2011 Big Bend National Park
Click on the image above for more information.

Mountain lions prefer to take their prey by ambush rather than by a long pursuit. They usually stalk their prey using available cover, then attack with a rush, often from behind. Jack seemed to take this all in stride but I made sure he was between myself and the rock outcropping as we continued exploring. He laughed and told me the mountain lion would never attack a skinny old man like him when there was a much larger and slower photographer to munch upon. 🙂

Lair

Lair – Big Bend National Park, Texas
Copyright © 2011 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 20mm, f/16 for 1/25th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter and 2-stop graduated neutral density filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

4 thoughts on “Into the Lion’s Den

    • Adrian,

      A hoodoo (also called a tent rock, fairy chimney, and earth pyramid) is a tall, thin spire of rock that protrudes from the bottom of an arid drainage basin or badland. Hoodoos consist of relatively soft rock topped by harder, less easily eroded stone that protects each column from the elements.

      Here is an example of a hoodoo.

      Jeff

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