Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Snapshot Essay: The Moose In The Mountains

In late summer of 2005, 2 friends and I decided we'd go camp high in the mountains and swim in a lake that's up there. Now I won't be divulging the name of the lake because I have recently found out that it's illegal to swim in it as well as illegal to camp by it. I'd prefer to keep myself out of trouble, but at the time we honestly didn't know that it wasn't okay to be up there.
Anyway, we started hiking up the trail towards the lake at about 7:30 P.M., so by the time we got to the lake, the sun was setting. As soon as we got there, I realized that I had dropped my swim trunks somewhere on the trail. I figured they couldn't be that far back, so I'd just walk a little way back and grab them. My friends didn't have the desire to start back down the trail, so they got a fire going and set up the tent while I headed off with a flashlight in hopes of finding the shorts. I walked down the trail and lost track of time and distance.
Eventually, I ended up at the end of the trail and back by my friend Kurt's van with no shorts in hand. I searched the car, they weren't there, so I decided to start back up the trail so my friends wouldn't worry about me and the next day I'd just skip out on swimming. About 500 feet up the trail, I saw something blue in the dirt. It was the shorts! So, with the flashlight dimming and the forest completely black, I headed towards the lake.
However, I hadn't walked more than about 100 feet when I heard strange breathing just ahead and got very scared. I sort of froze and listened. "There's nothing there. It's just my imagination." I told myself. The sound sort of faded out so I took a few steps forward. But as I strained to see anything in the darkness I noticed a few stars blacked out ahead. At first I thought it was a tree. Then I heard a loud grunt and got more scared then I've ever been. I raised the extremely dim flashlight and could see two little reflections glinting off the eyes of a giant moose who was standing right in the trail. I didn't know what to do. For a second, I felt a little bold and thought about just running past him. Then I had an image of my dead body being found gored in the forest and decided to make a run for it the other way.
I took off back to the bottom of the trail. There was a ski lodge there with a pay phone on it so I called my friends at the top of the trail to try and tell them what was going on. On both phones, there was no answer, just message machines. I left them both a message that said I was stuck at the bottom of the trail, scared of a moose, I was going to sleep in the car and they could meet me at dawn.
After making a few more calls to them, I jumped in my friends van and decided rather than sleep in it, I'd go home, get a gun, and do some research on moose aggressiveness, then come back and pass him with confidence. So I drove all the way down the 40 minute canyon, then about 20 minutes across the valley to my house, went inside, got the gun, got online, pulled up a website about moose and their behavior around humans. Then the phone rang. It was the police. They asked me if I had stolen my friend's car, and I said, "I don't know that I'd call it stolen, but uh yeah, I took it." Then they told me they were standing there with him at the base of the trail and that he wanted his car back, so I went out of the house, jumped in Kurt's car, sped back up the canyon, and there he was with some cops at the base of the trail. The cops were really laid back and not particularly concerned, so that wasn't much of a problem. They just left and said, "Be good." or something.
Kurt was disgusted with me and lectured me all the way up the trail as we headed back to the lake. He kept asking me what was wrong with me- being scared of a little old moose.
Then, halfway up the trail, who should we run into but the moose. We just casually walked past him and he didn't do anything. Kurt sneered, "See, it's not even dangerous."
When we arrived at the lake we found our other friend, Nate, cowering in a tent. Kurt tried to get sympathy from him and get Nate to tease me too about how moose aren't scary, but it turned out he was shivering with fear and said, "I don't blame you. A moose was up here wandering around the tent and I was paralyzed with fear!" So Kurt teased us both, we went to bed, and swam the next day.
I found out that the reason I couldn't get a hold of them on the phone earlier was not because they had no service but they were too lazy to answer a phone call from an unrecognizable number. I couldn't believe it! If they'd answered their phones, I never would have taken the car home, the cops never would have been involved, and I probably would actually get to hike to that lake with Kurt without him teasing me the whole way up!


Phat Doan said...

i like the way you wrote about your recall. the emotion was shown through out the recall, yet also infuse with a little of comedy behind. great story

Jenni said...

I liked the way you wrote about this experience, the only thing I might add is some more description of the moose so that the reader can get a better grasp of what you saw and felt.

Rich B said...

I like the story. I can't believe you strolled right passed that moose. Moose that I have encountered are damn aggressive and have been known to charge. I don't think you have to worry about getting in trouble for divulging the location, depending on how long ago this was. After a certain amount of time they can't do anything.

Kevin said...

Entertaining Blog! Your friends had cell phone service in a canyon? I need to get that provider... Did that experience change your relationship with your friends at all? Any lasting effects?

ron said...

Pretty good, although I was hoping for some drama about the cops finding a gun in a van that you stole. I doubt telling the name of the lake would do any harm unless you guys started a forest fire or buried a body up there or something.