Your article "Cougar Sightings in East: Comeback of a Native?" in the Oct. 8 paper brings to mind one of my experiences with the big cats.

One day about 15 years ago when I was hiking on a little-used trail in the Shenandoah National Park, I came to the Rapidan fire road at a point about two miles east of Big Meadows. I stopped to eat my lunch, and a rather large kitten came up to me. The kitten was interested in my food.

My first thought was that its mother might be close by and might attack me for playing with her kitten. I stood up to give the animal some of my food. That was when I saw its size. On its hind legs, it would have reached almost to my shoulders (I'm six feet tall).

I gave the kitten the balance of my meal and walked away.

The following year at the same place I came into the Rapidan road. I looked up the road and saw a rather large cat. I thought it to be a wildcat until I reached for my camera. The cat turned to climb up the bank beside the road. Then I saw its long tail. I didn't have time to get a picture, but it was definitely a cougar -- my kitten from the year before had grown up. JAMES W. DENTON Front Royal, Va.