The passion of the moose-trail. 3-14-17

DISCLAIMER – The photo of the cute moose baby is not from this story, it is a separate moose-related occurrence. Anyways…

Some context:

I’ve had a blast melding with and losing my identity to the environment.  What I have lost in societies eyes I have gained twofold in the vision of the woods, and ways I exist must be changing even without me knowing it!  A squirrel just yesterday emerged from under the crawlspace of my tent’s sides.  It wandered around the ante-room to my tent where I was standing, acknowledged my presence and proximity, and promptly hung out in the space with me for, oh, a minute?  It drew near, quite unafraid of me, much to my surprise.  The little creature even climbed atop the slipper my foot happily clad, where it proceeded to remain and even perform squirrel-maintenance with its little paws and mouth for a brief spell!  I was bamboozled and tickled.  Had I obtained some sort of peace somewhere along the road that led to the squirrel being comfortable enough to do this?  I was charmed!  Perhaps it wanted some of my food- if it did, I should be happy to share if it would mean the little fellow paying me another so intimate of a visit.  Perhaps I could invite it over sometime for a tasty snack of peanut-butter… and some tea.

In the several winter months my car needed to be parked at the neighbor’s terrace 3 or so miles across the river and down the road; I have made the trek afoot many a time with my trusty backpack.  It’s a good walk, and amazing what kind of detail you can see in the forest when you’re not 4-wheeling the awful road: improving your body rather than worrying about destroying your car.

Recently in the late winter preparation for the coming year, many of the old-timers are getting rid of their junk, and the antique shops reflect this trend.  I thus made a micro-hobby of collecting old hunting knives.  The aged metal can still be comparably sharp to newer blades; but its quality is far superior.  Sure, some of them are a little rough around the edges and could use a new handle or some grinding, but they, having been hammered by hand with high-carbon steel before the days of wretched Chinese, air-bubble filled harbor-freight molding, have proven their quality.  So I’ll walk back occasionally with an old hunter’s knife.  Hide it when you wave to the snowmobilers (or brandish it if it looks like they want to mess),”prune” some evergreens on the trail, and add it to the pool.

The road past my parking space, which is groomed for snow-machine use occasionally by whoever pays for the service, is kept compact and relatively walk-ready.  Each grooming resets the level and buries any pine boughs, moose poop, or whatever other small things were on the road.  Though it doesn’t help much when we get 18 inches over night, my knee joints have generally appreciated the service.  If not snow on the trail, more than once we’ve had tourist idiots, whether they’re Washingtonian methheads, courd’alenian businessmen, or general ninny hammers, get their trucks stuck trying to ride the good-looking road; but forget that for now.  Lots of people think they have it what it takes to take on the mountain, and all they need to do is push a little harder on the gas.  It’s not always idiots that hold you up- when the snow is 6 feet deep, even the moose like to cut corners.  When in a car, snowmobile, ATV – you name it – sometimes a moose will block the road and not have any regard for your opinion over its decision for where it stands.

I have never had any issue with moose on foot, nor have I thought too much about it.


A day working the business at the library.  Sitting in front of a screen is its own vein dream, and breeds its own intensities.  The complacency I exuded would have been astounding were I able to avoid being complacent long enough to notice it.  I turn to give a quick nod of approval to someone like anyone else walking behind me, but this time she turns out to be one of the neighbors down the road.  I didn’t care enough to notice that.  Here was a person who lived in a very similar world as mine, whom I had not spoken to in perhaps a month, yet how closed my eyes were to the opportunity to celebrate a moment with a fellow creature of the world!  And through my swift glancing, in the course of my business it was simply a matter of acknowledging a neighbor.

I worked late.  How much time was spent on so uninvolved a day spent behind a screen!  The necessity to do so is a bitter fruit society bares.  Nonetheless: the crappy road, which is some combination of snow, ice, dirt, puddles, slush, and muck, didn’t aid expediency in returning to my dwellings.  I pack my bag at the terrace and set out.  Shortly on the trail, though I see no signs yet, that part of me which is changing with the forest decides to gift me a haunting intuition regarding a moose’s presence and activity before me.  Tuesday evening, an early weekday, is the perfect time for animals to reclaim the road as no humans would have been disrupting the peace on the road for a solid time.  Tonight would be the night I tango a moose on the road; my brain may be a trickster but the spine – the more structural and less glamorous member of the nervous system – doesn’t lie.

In the darkness and rain, I set on the trail.  Playing music on my pocket computer helps to ease worry and establish a human presence.  I’ve got my headlamp and my antique hunters knife: and I promptly see what look indubitably like moose tracks right in the middle of the road.  They converge with my footsteps from the trek out earlier today.  I am walking the path of the moose, and the same direction as it at that.  Normally I have no problem at night with no light, but I am inclined to keep the light on at this time.

An owl hoot.  The bad boys are coming out to do their hunting. The eruption of spring life is filling to the brim of winter’s cup and these avian marksmen shall be the first to drink.

I recall an age-verified method of hunting: to find the track of a quadruped animal and simply keep following it.  The animal will tire out from needing to exert more energy to move, and you eventually catch up to them and make your kill.  In my case, I would like to avoid being killed as I return to my shelter, but it’s nice knowing that, like in the modern world, I may need to prepare to fight for what I would like to do.  The steps were made not entirely recently, since the rain had dulled and washed out their edges a tad bit.  Further down the road, there it is: a big, heaping, fibrous, brown pile of poop.  Smack dab in the middle of the road, I am tempted to put it in a bag for my garden.  But if it should anger the moose that I steal its mark of dominance, I would throw it, and all I had harvested previously, back to the soil microbes of the forest, who fear the moose not. Indeed, the microbes are the true, undisputed lord of the forest, for from them the whole web of life emerges.

A bat flies overhead.   He must be catching the insects that have emerged recently; insects feeding on soil organisms now exposed in certain areas under trees where snowmelt was prolific enough, I might add.  I’m happy to be reminded their out here, see them show up again, and should probably build my box houses for them soon!

The hoove-markings get clearer.  Though a moose will easily run 30 miles an hour, as I have seen it, it’s easy to forget they are usually in no hurry and take their time.  This one is close and growing closer as I march.  Ah for my safety that I wish he would get off the road and into the forest.  Specifically, that he not meander about the river, where there is only one way across!  I start shouting and singing loudly to the tunes playing… perhaps that will bother the animal to not want to stick around.

The next spice?  Wolves howling in the night.  Ah, a pleasant and familiar set of cries.  They must have heard my awful sounds and decided to correct and make the evening not so horrible for themselves.  Perhaps a tad spooked at first, their contribution to the trek was mostly enjoyed.  A knife like mine lended me a fairer shot at defending myself against one of them if he or she were to be the contender that night.   I had never stabbed no wolf before, but if its anything like smashing a bottle over a dog’s nose, which I would have done had I not stopped mid-swing upon seeing the mangy cur realize it was beat, then I’m game to give it a shot.  Nah, wolves are small and their hides aren’t so tough and leathery like that of a moose.  I’ve had the great pleasure of getting to handle the neighbors dog, which, at a half-husky mother, is just shy of a domesticated wolf.  Besides, everyone knows wolves get plenty freaked out by the smell of a human.  I’ve never had any issue with them even when scores of them must have been within a few hundred yards from my camp, based off the sound.  No, the wolves might have been after that moose.  They need to make a living too.

Fresher poop- this time still steaming in the cold.  This was no big pile, it was a diffuse mess dropped fresh as the being still strolled about.  It was obviously a sloppy-seconds sort of an affair.  Why did I keep walking if I knew damn well where the road would lead?  Well, why does one keep breathing?  I pull out my pocket computer, still playing music to finally snap some pictures.  I reckon that if I were to be mauled and destroyed by a moose, it should be kind of cool to have it on video for whoever finds it.  I take only a few pictures and my phone, which is now almost 2 years old and nearing the deadline of its planned obsolesce (of which my antique hunter’s knife had no such programming), decides to crash.  A fitting display of technology’s prowess in nature, coupled beautifully with my finicky headlamp ceasing in functionality shortly afterward.  No extra batteries, since I wasn’t really planning on using it at all!  No music or light leaves me to the walk I had made many times before.  Thus all was well.  I keep walking along the road and, grateful it’s not blizzarding, move down the hill to the intersection between two mountains: the river.  It was too exciting to not continue.  Besides, where else would I go anyway?

In the scattered rays of moonlight piercing in fractured overtones through an overcast and raining late winter’s night, there he was.   Standing before me, blocking my way ambled patiently a fellow mountain dweller perhaps a thousand pounds massive.  Battle on the bridge.  The river raged below from the rain and snowmelt.  Though I have been training all winter to see at night, the details of this contender were mysterious and enigmatic in the mostly dark rain.  Indeed, there existed he: a grand, mighty bull moose in full bloom and expression of his moosehood.  My heart was pounding!  It pumped blood like how I’d like to pump water through aqueducts on my mountain farm.  In the shimmering gales of pale light bouncing off the dense but melting snow, I could recreate in my eyes the hazy form of our ecosystem’s most premiere mammal.  His presence was as irrefutable as his footprints and poop that led to him.  His eyes glowed a courageous and piercingly bold, luminescent yellow.  A veritable buxom beast, his beard (or “moose-tache,” you might insist) hung elegantly – signifying a profound and deep wisdom that every last fiber of my mountain-manhood willed its little shred of life to obtain.  In his stalwart and fierce-some gaze was the living breath of the very heartbeat of the forest.  On the dawn of spring’s arrival, this fellow was stepping back up into the mountains from the valleys- or perhaps he was one of the badasses who never quite left.

He did as his instincts bade him: he held his ground and clucked the way you don’t want to hear a moose cluck.  My senses bid me just the same- clutching my old hunter’s knife with enough electricity in nerve signals that in retrospect I wish I could have wired to my solar system and make up a little bit for the past 3 days of constant rain.  Twirling a bag with a 5 pound can inside of it with my other hand, I could perhaps land a throw on his head to disorient him the tiniest bit.  If I landed that, I might be able to, if I put all my aspiration-as-a-man into the thrust, use both hands to stick the knife in his lounges and discourage him from completely goring me.  If I would miss, it would all be over, and my own lounges would have trampled- with rib cage and any other constitutional element of my frame to moose-boot.  If he was a she, and would have had some young ones around, I would have skipped any rubbish with the knife, cast it to the ground, and started praying to the Almighty.  All my singing and shouting was dulled, if not muted, by the river’s roar.  He was not scared – a regular interlocutor in keeping up the energetic equilibrium, you might say – for I might say I was plenty frightened for the both us.  My intuition led me to a truth, and my damned curiosity to experience that truth was about to lead me to ruin.  I have, at best, one shot with the knife, which, to be frank, could do nothing for me.

He stomped in the snow and won the battle for dominance of the space with his declaration of force.  Making noises that were, thanks to the river, as indiscernible to me as the details of its hardly-lit figure, it was as if, for a brief but immediate and everlasting moment, I was in an enraptured vision of pure natural order.  The enigmatic shadows danced with the flickering light to a tumultuous yet gentle tune that reflected perfectly the polarity of nature’s dual expression.  Might yet stillness; power but restraint.  Time, but not time yet.  Sublime doesn’t come close to ancient gaze in the eyes of the moose.  If someone could live with the awareness alongside lack of knowledge I saw within that beast, for just one day, they couldn’t hope to see the world the same thereafter.  The dream higher and yet lower than any fantasy quickly phased away as the moose profiled me in its understanding.  All creatures celebrate a moment together each in their interlocking and weaving way, and die together accordingly.  My muscles loosened, and I stopped pretending the knife – my 5th, special antique hunter’s knife – would do anything.  Upon his brief inspection, after energetically dominating my presence, he lost interest.

So what was it?  A moment of spiritual enlightenment for everyone?  Eh… To all of the ladies who have rejected me, and anyone else, based on smell alone, my preparation thanks you on account of this most apex of refusals-to-engage.  Indeed, humans are animals, and it is with good sense we were given our scents should we work hard to earn them.  Those poor city girls couldn’t smell anything but the petroleum on their faces smeared right under their noses.  A good, well synthesized smell is a much more effective war paint whose price, a surplus of hard work, is better than free.  The moose sensed my fear and knew I was as little a threat on its road than that squirrel was on my foot.  He meant me as much harm as he knew I could do to him; his language was serenity, and his ways sagaciously peaceful.  As with most moose, he was in no hurry to be anywhere or do a whole lot of anything- including starting a fight.  He knew I would give it whatever I had if he did, and I earned his respect thereby, or at least I like to think so.  As some sort of proof, behold how I wasn’t mauled.  Instead, I backed off, giving the fellow some space we both enjoyed.  I, contemplating the experience, waited long enough to realize that I was sick of the rain and needed to get back to my tent at some point.  Upon returning to the bridge of many+1 memories, I found he had left the road deeper in on my side of the mountain, and gone off to find a place to rest in the thick of the woods.  Never did I follow such fresh tracks. To me, a thrilling chase.  To him, I was just another miniscule shard in the jewel of daily experience.  In the course of his business it was simply a matter of acknowledging to a neighbor.

I do have reason to believe that the moose smelled me and wanted no more to do with the trifling affair thereafter.  His river hang-out session was probably coming to an end in the rain anyhow.  But don’t forget about the wolves, whose hordes of desperate teeth have a several-hundred-thousand year history with his kind.

I had seen many a moose before; but when not in the safety of my truck, tent or hiding behind a shotgun, my psyche was unencumbered to behold with awe and trembling the magnificence of this noble animal, who hails as the rightful king of the forest.  The only one who would challenge his authority, at any rate, is the celebrated grizzly bear, whom I hope not to meet for a good time yet; shotgun or not.  Someday, if not dead yet, I shall be ready for that.  But alas, the bears will inevitably show up soon enough trying to get into my honey bees.  Those poor bees, whose pollen filled blossoms of the orchard trees are already so browsed by the moose!  Would that I could just give the moose to the bears and keep them all out…

Next time I see a moose like this, I might tempt fate a wee bit further.  If you could taste the intoxicating thrill, wouldn’t you?  Bring it to the next level of life?  This particular encounter, truth be told, wasn’t really that special in that most people who run into moose usually go through a comparable type of affair.  I certainly have heard worse tales from the old-timers.  Yes, if you thought I was lying, then the joke’s on you because rather than being fabricated, the moment was merely insignificant.  It certainly was to that moose, at any rate!  But who cares about his opinion? Or yours, or mine, friend?  Whatever the case, I wish him well in his journeys – perhaps I shall invite him over sometime for, like his ruder and unannounced cousins earlier in the season, a tasty snack of some of my fruit trees… and some tea.