Nocturnal wanderings are the stuff of Thoreau and special operations. The senses come alive. Smell is more acute. Some plants are known to be more fragrant in the early morning, attracting the early bird as it were. And sound, of course, also comes to you in a primal manner.
Slipping through the undergrowth in the dark is an enjoyable way to pass some hours. It feeds the heightened senses. It’s inescapable. Shapes take on a life and one has to be careful not to ascribe ancestral fears to the apparitions and figures your eyes and imagination latch onto. A human in the shadows can’t help themselves.
Your correspondent, no stranger to the dark from three decades in the military, is still subject to the influence of the mind’s eye. The other night, with the benefit of a full moon, he thought it opportune to capture some nocturnal impressions of Peruvian Gulch and the Cirque trail to Hidden Peak and so started out at 2:30AM. The stream was talking and an occasional disturbed bird in the brush were fine company. A single turkey took flight, but was hardly startling in the moonlight, her gray shape obvious from 100 feet.
Then it happened. In the dark of the pines under Peruvian Express chair, a black mass appeared. Massive. This wasn’t a deer… too big. A boulder playing a trick on the eyes? Hundreds of runs and hikes across the space dispatched the theory. There are no rocks, boulders, that big in this grove.
The realization hit like an avalanche at full speed. A moose!
As readers of this space are doubtless aware, moose have the acuity of Mister Magoo, without his glasses. But at less than 100 feet, if this interloper couldn’t be seen, human smell was a dead giveaway. And surely, he would have heard the clomping footfalls.
Your correspondent was about to be stomped out of existence. A tragedy for the nine loyal readers of this column. The appropriate action was a few slow steps backward. Nothing. So, Canyon Blog backtracked and circumvented the monster. And it was a VERY BIG moose. By the time safety was reached at the access road 20 minutes later, he could still be seen in the same spot, just inside the tree line.
Curiosity and a bit of stupidity have been the end of many a human, but it couldn’t be helped. In that vein, a convenient rock tossed in its direction seemed a proper course of action. No response.
“Hey, big fella!” Nothing. What the hell? More misplaced confidence descended. By the time we were in foot stomping distance it was obvious. Bullwinkle was a full-size archery target, preplaced for the upcoming archery challenge this weekend. Figures.
Yet there was no time to dawdle, Hidden Peak awaited and moonlight was burning. We needed photos. The trek up Peruvian Ridge trail was interrupted only by a lone porcupine looking for love. On top, the moonlight over Twin Peaks and Pfeiffer Horn, across to Superior were worth the misplaced adrenaline. There’s something about the summit before sunrise when it’s all to oneself, particularly with a full moon.
But the bull in the woods. To paraphrase those great and wise philosophers Monty Python, “Why not visit Snowbird this summer? See the majestic moose.” And if you do come out to enjoy an alpine stay, or nocturnal ramble, just remember to use caution. For as they also prophesied in The Search for the Holy Grail, “A moose once bit my sister…”