I had a similar experience a few years ago in MT. I had hiked in late afternoon while it was raining. By the time I reached my destination, the rain had turned to snow and was accumulating quick. Managed to get the tent set up, but couldn't find any dry wood to get a fire going and dry out. Right at dark I finally decided to call it quits for the night and head back for the truck. Everything was soaking wet. Starting hiking back down the mountain and a few hundred yards into the hike, I caught a glimpse of eyes in the trees off the side of the trail. The snow was coming down so hard that it was tough to see more than 20-25 feet with the headlamp. Saw the eyes a few more times along the 4 mile stretch. As I got lower in elevation the snow started to let up and then the eyes appeared again. The cat stopped 25 yards off the trail and was locked on me. I yelled and threw rocks, but he just sat there like a statue. After what seemed like 5 minutes (maybe 45 seconds), I grabbed my pistol and put a shot in the dirt right in front of him. He stood up, let out a growl, and slowly turned and walked away. I was only a 1/4 mile from the truck at this point so I kept my head on a swivel the rest of the way out.This happened to my son. To start with he’s ex-military combat veteran, 82nd Airborne, scout sniper, Ranger School. (He had to tap out of Ranger School because his static line hung up on a jump and slammed him against the plane. He woke up on the ground with a broken collarbone and still carried his 70 lb ruck for three days before the pain made him nearly delirious). He does’nt act like a badass or pretend to be one he just is. I’m relating his tough badass bonafides just to say that he ain’t afraid of much. Doesn’t panic easily And he’s the most skilled woodsman I know. And yet...
On a backpacking trip with some friends in the Sierras they all took a short walk out of camp on the last morning of their trip. The others went back to camp and he said he’d follow shortly. When he did head back to camp he had barely gotten started when a full grown cougar appeared about 100 yards off, on the trail between him and camp. At first it just stood there and then advanced on him. He yelled and threw some rocks in the big cat’s direction, but the cat just paced sideways and switched its tail, unafraid. Normally he carries a .45 or 9mm auto, but he’d left it in camp. I’m somewhat convinced that predators will read your body language, and if you approach them with a sincere deadly gleam in your eye, and the swagger of a killer, you may have a chance to back them down. OTOH they may just accept this invitation to fight. At any rate it’s hard to pull off when your only weapon is a rock.
He tried to walk around it but the cat just blocked him and the landscape offered few options, so he started walking away from camp, hoping it would lose interest. No dice... it followed him for three hours. Never attacking or bluff charging, but also not backing off. Finally he came to a near vertical cliff band about 60 feet high, and nearly 1/2 a mile long. Being a fairly skilled rock climber, he figured the cat would not be able to follow. And he was right. The cat started to go along the base of the cliff in one direction and he watched until he felt the cat was committed then hightailed it in the other. He managed to put a large distance between himself and the cat. It was then, his attention no longer focused on the large predator, that he noticed three things. 1) Three or so hours had passed. 2) He had no water or food, and just his clothes and a large pocket knife. 3) He was lost.
Not seriously lost... he just didn’t know where he was!! This is pretty open country with lots of Jeffry Pine and alpine scrub growing in rolling rocky basins flanked by ridges. One basin looks very much like the rest and it’s pretty easy to get disoriented, especially when you are distracted by being hunted. He new he was south of CA 88 by a few miles and all he had to do was walk north. Once he found the highway he’d know where he was and be able to hitch a ride to his car. Well anyone who has ever traveled in real mountains knows this. “Just walk north” is easy on the map, often hard to near impossible on the ground. He walked north (and various other directions as needed) until nearly sundown. He ended up drinking a little water out of a tiny rock pothole and did not get back to camp until the next morning. He got out in time to stop his friends who were in the process of organizing a search.