On Saturday morning of our visit to The County, we ventured out to an all you can eat pancake breakfast (could any meal scream Natalie's name more?), and on our drive into town we saw a couple of dark shapes run across the road about a quarter of a mile ahead of us. Another car was on the road, coming in the opposite direction, and slowed down as this mommy and baby moose darted in front of them and then paused for a moment in a field before heading off into the woods. We parked on the side of the road and rolled down our windows (and I scrambled for my camera!) so that Natalie could see her first-ever moose. It was a pretty special moment, as the cow & calf stood still and then turned to give us a couple of lingering looks before trotting off to the edge of the clearing. This was only Mike's second or third time seeing a moose, and even though I've had lots of opportunities to see these big guys up close it is always a thrill. It got me thinking about some of the coolest moose sightings I had while growing up in Northern Maine, and, not to brag or nuthin', I thought I'd share some of my favorites here. First, though, here are some shots of Natalie's first moose:
I'm no expert on moose, but I do know that they are enormous (something like 800 pounds, I think), and are generally pretty solitary creatures. The best times to spot them are at dawn and dusk, or later in the morning when the fog has lingered long enough to trick them into thinking they won't be seen. Well, aside from during rutting season, which brings me to my first story of a moose sighting:
- In high school, I was a pretty avid runner. I spent most off-season days training for cross country season, running the back quiet back country roads in our "neighborhood." One particular day I had run the 4+ mile loop that was my standard route at the time. As I came up over the hill to the flat stretch leading back up to my house, I slowed to a walk and took a look around as I cooled down. In the field to my left was an enormous bull moose. Probably the biggest I've ever seen. He was close enough for me to really get a good look at him, and I knew he had spotted me, too, as he turned his head and looked me pretty much dead in the eyes. Cool, right? Well, yes, except that it was mating season and the sight of me galloping along had apparently made him think I was a lovely romantic prospect for him (not exactly flattering to me, I know), and he literally turned and started racing towards me faster than I have ever seen a moose move. Usually these guys saunter along, but not today. Nope, this one was headed right for me, and I definitely started to panic and pee in my pants a little. As suddenly as he had started, though, he came to a stop and gave me another good look. Shaking his head (as if to say, "Oops, not my future wife"), he turned and took off in the other direction, leaving me shaking in my Nikes and grateful that I had not just been gored by his enormous antlers.
- Twice during high school I came across moose while on our school's cross country trails. Once during practice, when one came smashing out of the brush in front of me and two other girls, passing just a few feet ahead of us. We were close enough to see all of her matted fur and smell the musty wild smell coming off the breeze that trailed behind her. We stopped, stunned, and watched as she continued on her way as if we weren't even there. Another time I saw one in nearly the same spot, but after dark when a friend and I were out walking part of the trail to get to a clearing where we could play with a Ouija board or some such nonsense. There may be nothing more magnificent than a gigantic moose standing ahead on a hill under the stars. My friend and I tripped over each other as we sank to the ground and watched the bull swing his head from side to side and slowly make his way into the distance.
- The most moose I have ever seen at one time were standing close to the wood's edge on the road leading to my house, a group of five cows at dusk. I don't clearly remember what time of year it was, but my guess is that it was mating season and these gals were either trying to escape an aggressive bull moose or gather together in hopes of attracting one. As far as I know, moose tend to stick to themselves, so seeing a group is a rarity. This same spot is where I saw moose throughout my youth, it must have been a regular passageway between fields and forests for them. To this day, whenever I drive around that particular corner, I always slow down and scan the treeline for any dark shapes that might be a moose lurking in the distance.
Those are some of my cool moose stories--just one of many joys of growing up in the isolation of Aroostook County. :) Another bonus of living in moose country as a teenager was that "I almost hit a moose!" could always pass as a legitimate reason that you were late for curfew. Just sayin'.