Margaret stops dead, pointing into the trees. I don’t stop in time and smack into her backpack. I look where she’s pointing in the woods off to the right of us but don’t see anything.
“What? I don’t…” I’m scanning the hillside above us.
“Right there. A moose!”
I’d been looking way too far. A bull moose is looking back at us, not even 50 feet away.
Wow. And yikes. Anyone who spends any time in the woods knows that moose can be scary: a crabby moose is not to be messed with. But this guy was mellow. He looked us over, took a few steps, checked us out again, and then calmly went on his way.
We were almost to our destination: Johnson Lake in the Pintler Wilderness. From the trailhead it had been a five mile steady climb, with increasingly incredible stands of bear grass. Bear grass is pretty much a northwest alpine phenomenon; you can find it somewhere every year, but every 5 years or so the blooms can be especially spectacular, and this has been one of those years. It looks like a sea of fluffy Q-tips.
Even our campsite was in the middle of the bear grass:
As we sat waiting for the sunset that evening, our friendly moose appeared on the opposite side of the lake. He browsed around the lake, heading toward a couple who were fishing. They didn’t see him right away, but when they did, I was pretty surprised that they didn’t back off. The moose and hikers checked each other out,
and the moose decided that his best option was to swim around these blokes who were insisting on standing their ground. Lucky for them he was one mild-mannered moose!
He parked himself in the lake, probably only 25 feet from these folks, and spent the next hour feeding and entertaining us all. What a story those guys had to tell their friends that night!
As for me, I was happy to watch from my safe distance. When the couple left the moose stayed a bit longer, but then something spooked him and he hightailed it into the woods. He could move when he wanted too, that’s for sure!