MtnBikeRiders has been frequenting Whiting Ranch as of late. Today was just another ride as I showed Val the trails of Whiting Ranch.
What made this ride interesting was when we reached Four Corners there was a Ranger truck parked up top without a ranger. After a brief rest, we headed down Cactus. I was leading the way when I saw the ranger on the singletrack flagging me to slow down. When I reached his location, I asked him “is everything ok?”. He responded with “yes they are just filming down there…”
Not too far away was a camera crew and a female mountain biker (without her bike). From my standpoint it looks like they were doing an interview. After the ranger allowed us to pass, we cautiously rode past the crew. I see the female mountain biker and recognize her face – it was Anne Hjelle.
For those who are not familiar who she is, she was attacked by a 110lbs mountain lion in Whiting Ranch, January 8, 2004. It happened on the same trail we were on. Also earlier that day (2004), the same lion killed a man, Mark Reynolds prior to attacking Anne Hjelle.
Below is a portion of a CBS News report in 2004:
Hjelle recalls, “He pulled and tore away at the flesh on my face. I thought this is it.”Hjelle is a fighter. A former Marine, she fought a battle that even her military training couldn’t prepare her for after she was attacked by a mountain lion in January while biking with her friend, Debby Nichols, in the hills of Southern California. Nichols bravely held onto Hjelle’s legs as the mountain lion pulled her off the trail and into the thick brush.
Right after the attack in an interview Nichols explained the incident, “I was holding on to her the whole time. He would not let go. He had a hold of her face.”Hjelle says, “He was going for my neck and his goal, as it would be with any type of prey, was to break my neck and paralyze me.”The pain must have been excruciating.
“I had no pain,” Hjelle says. “I didn’t feel pain at the time. But I felt just the strength of it.”But Hjelle was terrified and fully aware that the lion had just torn away half her face.”
This was certainly an experience seeing a survivor of what we fear the most out on the trails. Anne Hjelle is a brave woman and very fortunate. After passing them, I stopped just a few feet from them. I waited for Val to catch-up to me then I turned around towards the crew. They looked at me as if they were going to ask if I needed something.
I yelled out “Anne?”…
She responded with “Yes”.
I wasn’t quite sure of what to say so I just gave her the “thumbs up”.
Other riders that passed the crew also recognized her. Val and I went on to finish the ride without a hitch. Val enjoyed his first time at Whiting. It’s as fun as always but this was a ride I’ll always remember.
To read Anne story you can click here or find more information on the web.