I heard a frightening story a few days ago about a local woman hiking in the mountains with her dogs. They rounded a corner and surprised a moose with two calves. The moose charged, head-butted the hiker, knocked her to the ground and stomped her. Yikes! The woman is okay and the dogs are fine. There’s no further update of the moose, but I’m sure she’s forgotten all about it by now.
Two years ago my husband and I tried to hike that exact same trail. It was early in the season, and the place was abandoned. My husband was excited because there wasn’t another soul in sight. I was nervous for the exact same reason. There might not be any other people in the area, but I couldn’t say the same about the wildlife. Especially the bears.
I allowed my husband to talk me into a short hike. My unease escalated as we made our toward the trail head. I wondered out loud about bears wandering around with their cubs. The silence in the wilderness was deafening. Soon we came across a large sign at the base of the trail educating hikers about the slim possibility of coming across a bear, and what to do if that happened.
Somewhat reassured, we continued toward the trail when we heard a loud crash. I froze like a deer in the headlights. My husband looked over my head toward the sound and whispered, “Holy (expletive)! It’s a moose!” In all our years of hiking the Rocky Mountains, we have never seen a moose. Awestruck, we watched the huge animal as he ate a tree.
It was one of those moments where you are completely one with nature. You feel honored, humbled and overwhelmed to be in the presence of such a creature. He was only about 25 feet away from us and my husband whispered again, “He doesn’t even see us!” We stood in quiet reverence as the moose continued to eat, effortlessly snapping branches that were as large as a man’s arm.
Finally, he turned his head and looked at us. Excited, my husband whispered, “He sees us! He’s checking us out now!” Uneasily, I asked, “Mike? Do moose charge?” Dead silence. Finally, he answered very slowly, “I….don’t….know.” That was good enough for me. We slowly stared walking backwards. Then we turned and ran like hell back to the car, realizing the folly of trying to out run a moose. I kept waiting to hear the pounding of hooves behind us, but apparently the tree was more interesting than two bumbling hikers on a trail. And to think I was afraid of bears.
There are a few life’s lessons in these two stories. First of all, life is full of surprises. It’s also full of adventures. You never know who or what you’re going to come across when you venture out into unknown territory. Sometimes you get knocked down and trampled on, but it’s important to get back up again. Sometimes you need to go out on a limb, as long as no one is eating it and you can keep yourself safe. Also, what you are most afraid of might not be the actual threat. But, you’ll never know unless you step out of your comfort zone.
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP