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Since I promised elsewhere (right, Alicia?) that I'd share the story of a cow moose and calf that together tested my emergency hormonal alarm systems, here it is. Feel free to share your own, too.
On a backpacking trip to the Bitterroot Mountains several years ago, a solo trip like many of mine, I was on my final day, heading back to the trailhead, and came to a trail section that crossed about a seventy-yard wide talus field.
As I got about two-thirds of the way across, bouncing merrily along under a pack much ligther than I'd started with, under a beautiful blue sky, and anticipating an ice-cold Coke whilst seated on a sofa (ah, luxury!) in a few hours, I heard a noise up ahead. The noise sounded like it was that of a good-sized branch breaking.
My first thought was that whatever broke said branch itself had to be pretty good-sized just to do so. My second thought, racing through my mind and trampling on the first in its rush, was that whatever it was didn't care about making noise.
The third thought, which made the second one seem laggardly in comparison, raced into my brain and bounced around off the insides of my cranium with ringing noises, shouting, "Grizzy country! This is grizzly country, moron! Bears! Big ones! Ursus horribilis, you twit! It could be--"
At this point, I saw a large brown-black shape pushing its way up through the undergrowth on the downhill side of the trail just a short distance into the trees beyond the talus. Cognition ceased, and I froze. Thank goodness the eyes are directly connected to the brain, because all other systems had gone into emergency shut-down.
I stood and watched as the shape got bigger and bigger, stretching well above ground level. As the more rudimentary mental faculties resumed, I reached for the buckle on my pack belt, figuring I'd likely be ditching my pack soon. It was then that the creature turned and looked at me.
It was a moose. I breathed again, for the first time in what seemed hours, and exhaled in a heavy release against pursed lips. The moose stepped into the path, and I relaxed, figuring both moose and I would soon be on our separate ways.
Then the calf appeared. In light of the calf's entrance onto the scene, the cow's demeanor, which I'd taken at first to be simply a slight surliness based on my intrusion into what the moose figured wasn't really the right sort of country for a furless biped, took on a more ominous shade. Stories of hikers, hunters, and professional wrestlers being kicked, stomped, and trampled into soggy red puddles came tearing into my mind, full of apologies about being late to the party.
I froze again. Watching me much as one might expect of a suspicious mother who outweighs the apparent threat to her offspring by several hundred pounds, the cow glared at me while the young calf lumbered across the path and up into the trees. After the calf cleared the trail, the cow lifted one hoof, as if to remind me of how big her foot was, and how easily it could be used to pound me into pulp, and then thumped it back onto the trail. I took her message to be one of "You wait there for a bit while I go on over there with my young one. Don't come any closer, don't do anything to make me any more suspicious, and we'll all survive this just fine. But you go near my calf, and you're gonna become part of these mountains, buster."
I waited. I waited for a good long bit, just in case a short bit wasn't enough, and then I waited a bit more. Finally, I hitched up my pack and resumed my journey on down the trail. As I passed the point where mom and child had crossed, I looked off into the trees. There, about thirty yards away, was the cow, staring back at me, standing amongst some bushes. The calf wasn't visible. I waved, called out a cheery "Hi, there. Don't mind me. Just going on down the trail, away from you and junior. Going on home to supper. Promise not to even consider eating an ungulate for the next week. Thinking of becoming a vegetarian, actually."
In the event, I passed on down the trail, and the moose receded from sight. Not much of an experience, in some ways, I suppose, but enough to remind me of both the dangers and unexpected nature of things when dealing with nature on its own terms.