I do not like to be risen by unwelcome noises. The clang of hoof on rock was no different. I half asleep mumbled curses to the wildlife across the pond. When the sounds continue, I finally understand that hoof on rock means a moose. I quickly slip out from my sleeping bag and rip the tent door open. Barefoot in only my underwear, I run to a clearing on the pond where I look across and for the first time in my life spot a real moose, not a head, not a cartoon, a real bull moose.
The entire night I had fought with an animal whose highway I had slept in the middle of. I would hear the scurrying at my feet. I would yank the edge of my tarp open to glance out. Nothing was there. Then I would here the swift footsteps racing by my head. I would leap to stick my head out from the underside. I couldn’t quite catch him, always too slow. My assumption is that it was a large rodent, maybe a beaver. But he was very busy. And while I apologized to him for blockading his pathway, he never seemed to forgive me. Throughout the night he came to and fro, brushing the nylon as he passed.
I walked through the mud on the bank of the pond, feeling it squeeze between my toes, back to my tent. I clothed myself and prepared a quick meal. When I returned to the bank, the moose had come out further into the pond to feast on the vegetation. Someone had carried a canoe up here to this pond. Yes I was on the Appalachian trail, I didn’t ask questions so I don’t have any answers. But I guess they had assumed that no one would take their canoe out because they had not left any paddles. However, we long-distance hikers are a thrifty bunch, and someone had fashioned a paddle out of a forked stick, wrapping duct tape around the base.
Soon I was facing the biggest wild animal I have ever encountered. In the water I knew he was clumsy, and he knew I was harmless. But we both hesitated, always keeping one eye on the other as we both ate our breakfasts. Once he had cleared this patch of plant life, he walked back to shore where I could really grasp his height. The mud had pulled his lanky body down to water level, but when he stood on land his height towered over everything else.
I sat in the red boat in awe and amazement. Moose do exist. Bullwinkle was not a fictional animal.
I returned to shore, giddy with joy, to set out for the days hike. A few miles in I came face to face with another of the giants. Another bull, he was walking towards me on the trail as I rounded a switch back. Instantly, my heart raced as he sprinted towards me, reaching a distance no further than ten feet away. And then, as if the narrow width of the trail in the dense woods was no limitation, he turned around and raced off the opposite direction. For minutes I heard his hoofs pound down the trail. He ran forever, definitely way more afraid of me. I wanted to spectate, whereas he simply feared me as an unknown potential predator.