I didn’t want to hike yesterday. I was looking for excuses not to checking road closures, gauging whether I could get one more wear out of my wool long underwear, and trying to do mental math around how busy the trail I wanted to hike might be. I leaned on some previous tips around determining self care vs self enablement and decided to just go without worrying how far I might make it on the trail.
I was about a mile into what turned into a 7 mile hike jamming to music and deep in thoughts when I nearly ran into a big moose on the trail (I guess all moose are big). She heard me coming and turned her giant head towards me while keeping her rear facing me as I stopped immediately in my tracks barely 10-15 feet from her. I quietly and slowly backed away not trying to startle her while also trying to remember everything I had read about moose on the internet.
Do you make noise if you see a moose? Does running startle it more? Do you have to face it when you back away? Do you make yourself big? Suddenly, the knowledge I had acquired about black bears, grizzly bears, rattlesnakes, moose, and mountain lions all melted together in my brain. Somehow without truly knowing for sure what the right answer was, I did the right thing. I backed away quietly and kept my distance while waiting for her to move on.
As the minutes passed, I watched as she meandered just off trail to nibble on some brush below. I settled into the long wait and relished the break taking pictures of a few cross country skiers across the way from me. From time to time, I checked in to see where she was and had to remind myself just how little I am when the thought of sprinting by her crossed my mind. “You really don’t want to die getting trampled by a moose, Anne… Let’s not go out that way”. At one point, her big head peeked through the brush right at me when I did one of my status checks causing the sheer size of her to fully set in. I quickly hid behind a big tree even further back on the trail like a kid hiding around a parent’s leg.
During one status check, I decided I might be able to climb up and around the hillside to get past her. As I started to climb, I saw hikers coming down the trail on the opposite side before realizing there was no way they would be able to see her in the brush until they were right up on her. I began waving frantically keeping quiet to get their attention and moving a tiny bit closer. Thankfully, they saw me and I did a decent enough job of making ridiculous signs with my little arms to indicate a big animal was up ahead. I abandoned the idea of climbing around the hillside afraid that the other humans might complicate the situation perhaps causing her to dash uphill.
Before she even made moves to leave, I felt she was going to. In case I was wrong and she came charging at me on the trail, I cleaned off my crampons, moved back even further, and made sure my backpack was tight on me to make it easier to run. I hid partially behind my new favorite tree and readied my camera for a few moments before she calmly stepped across the trail in front of me allowing me to snap these shots:
It’s important to note that this is taken with my camera all the way zoomed in (I have a fixed lens X100F so not a lot of zoom power) and that I wasn’t stupid enough to be that close to her. I did find out later that you’re supposed to be at least 50ft away and I’m not quite sure I was but she was showing no signs of being bothered.
Because I haven’t been spending time with living things in person due to the pandemic, I felt strangely energized by sharing space with this giant creature. I snapped my photos. She grazed. We both left and moved on. If only I could show her the photos and say thank you. She was truly a majestic moose.
I hiked longer than I thought I would and smiled randomly thinking about how happy I was that I left the house.