It has long been my desire to see moose in the wild. These gangly, majestic vegetarians carry a mystique that has captivated the imagination of people across many states and nations. I have listened to news reports citing the sighting of these large ungulates in my own town or those close by, and have always been miffed to have missed them.
The only moose I saw up close was in a zoo nearAcadiaNational Park. I insisted that we go visit the zoo where they were boasting being a host to one. Indeed we did catch the “moose talk” at2 pmone afternoon, but were then literally chased off the premises when they discovered that we had tossed an apple core into some tall grass. They feared that we were trying to poison the animals (even though there was not a cage nearby) and bagged the core once we retrieved it, to send off to be tested. The owner screamed and cursed at us, took down our license plate number, and had someone else escort us to our car!
Although we had technically seen a moose, not only was it in a very controlled (and controlling) environment, it was also associated with being treated like a criminal. Our daughters (ages 6 and 10 at the time) were in tears, and the younger one refused to go to a zoo for years.
Thus, my yearnings for moose continued, even heightened. My family provided a variety of moosey items (wall mounted moose bottle opener, moose necklace, moose pj’s), but last Christmas my husband decided to really address the situation, and he presented me with a coupon for a guided moose safari.
We booked the tour in Maineafter a few days on MonheganIslandcelebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. We drove three hours further north to Baxter State Park (Moosehead Lake for God’s sake!) and were ready at 5:45 am to be fitted for life jackets so we could paddle around a lake quietly in search of these giant hoofed animals. Timing had it that moose hunting had opened the day before, and he cautioned us that the morning before they had come upon one that had just been shot.
He must have heard my sharp intake of breath because he said, “it’s OK, it was educational.” Hm, one way of looking at it. “Last evening we saw three, though,” he reassured us.
We climbed into the van with a group of people fromTexasandColoradowho were having a reunion. Our guide clearly knew his way around the woods and took us to a beautiful pond where we saw a beaver, and an amazing complex dam. We also saw deer en route, and grouse. The morning ended mooseless despite his efforts and continuing education. We had had a lovely paddle, and set off further north to an Appalachian Mountain Club lodge for our last night. A hike upThirdMountainrevealed a bald eagle, and an enormous waddly porcupine, but again, pas de moose, not even a pamplemousse. “I refuse to give up hope until we’re out of the state,” I declared, stubborn til the end.
My husband sighed; I know he was disappointed for me. The truth was that we had had a spectacular few days outdoors, which always puts me in good fettle. We would clearly need to book another trip back to the area.
On our way out we passed many signs that declared “Attention Moose” (although I’m fairly certain they don’t read) or “Caution, High Rate of Moose Crashes.” I was pretty certain that they were there to mock people like us who don’t see them, or to create the illusion that these creatures actually exist as a way to boost tourism. We even stopped to take a photo of the sign with me point to it looking, I admit, a tiny bit cynical.
I was at the wheel, and as we continued down the road, not 100 yards later I spotted them in a small marsh next to the road. A doe, baby and a young buck with a small rack. “There they are!” I shouted and pulled over. I sat transfixed. As soon as the passenger door swung open they trotted off before I could even get a good shot of them.
But they will remain etched in my imagination, standing tranquilly in the water, munching companionably on vegetation. I had bagged my first moose, and I went home happy.