Monday, August 25, 2008

it's not everyday...

I got on g-chat this morning and right away said "hello, how was your weekend?!" to my good friend Lynn. She's a friend from college and now lives with her husband and kids in Wyoming.

She responds "My kids and I got chased by a moose!" It's not everyday you get a response like that, much less an opportunity to hear a moose story so I asked her to share. Enjoy!

"The Tale of the Willows"
by Lynn Valdez

The mountains are usually quite an adventure for my family. There was a time when the kids would actually take a nap in the mountains and I'd wind up fishing outside of the vehicle while Isaac disappeared down stream. One particular day, I crouched down to look through the trees at a fleeing white tail only to see a mountain lion. We made eye contact and chills went down my spine. I spent the next three hours pacing around worrying sick about Isaac—who had the car keys in his pocket and had gotten so far down stream that he lost track of time. (I do believe they have awards for deaths related to this kind of stupidity) I just knew a mountain lion had eaten him and I was going to have to hike out of here with my two kids on my back. By the time he got back, he was full of apologies for being gone so long. I began to tell him about the mountain lion, when I noticed his shirt was terribly torn up. Come to find out, leaving camp without toilet paper has definite consequences. Needless to say, the mountain had not found my lovely husband.

This particular moose story occurred just yesterday. Feeling the awesome pull of nature and the need to be in God’s country, we drove up the same mountain and back on roads accessible only by four wheel drive vehicles. Before I begin the almost disastrous but comical tale, let me tell you about the willows…

Willow trees are of the Genus Salix. Willows usually live in moist habitats and in floodplains and riverbanks; they are a rapid-growing, often pioneer species. Their wood is used in many ways and their leaves supply food for wildlife. Some species are ornamental. The willows are known as being the favorite treat for local moose. The moose can easily hide in the willows, eat them, bed down there and have accessible drinking water. The willows also surround some of the best streams in the mountain for catching brook trout. Brook Trout are one of my family’s favorite meals.

It was so beautiful outside! The wind was warm and breezed by us enough to keep most of the mosquitoes from landing. We hiked through several fishing holes along the streams. Elicia was in the back pack and Ethan was splashing in every puddle of every sort. The kids played for several hours at one spot—picking flowers and eating dirt. We'd sort of lost track of time. I am an extremely protective mother (similar to a mother moose) and I keep my children close to me like we are animals. I watch them even with my head turned away. I hear every sound they make, and I know every direction they move. It's an internal instinct and a blessing from God. It's the strongest instinct a human can have.

When Isaac and I realized how late it was, we decided it was time to head back to the vehicle. We had about a mile hike if we followed the stream back the way we had come. If we cut through the willows and to the road, we could cut our walk in half. Isaac trusts my judgment because I was raised in these mountains. I am like the Crocodile Dundee of Wyoming. Elicia was getting heavy in the back pack, so Isaac took her off his back and put her on mine. (Note: Elicia is almost 2 years old. She weighs a good amount, but her walking skills lack on the mountain terrain.)

So we begin through the willows. They are significantly taller than we are, but there are decent paths created by animals. We were walking slowly at first, trying to find the best paths. I began thinking about how unintelligent this decision was. The more intense my thoughts became, the faster I walked. I was practically dragging my son. Ethan knew something was up. He could hear what I could hear. The sound was more in the ground than on the ground. As Isaac and I made eye contact our minds connected and screamed one thing. ”MOOSE!” Bull moose are typically non-aggressive. But cow moose, especially with calves, are similar to a speeding SUV. I knew I had put my kids in danger. Shots of adrenaline were racing through my veins. When you have this much adrenaline, your muscles begin to tremble. But there were a few more major shots of adrenaline to come.

As we came to one clearing, I saw a bed. Moose lie down to sleep, and when they get up there is about an 8 foot radius of flattened grass. This particular bed still had grass popping back up. I knew it was fresh. And if I hadn’t noticed the bed, then the steaming pile of poop would have alerted me. I grabbed poor Ethan by his upper arm, dragging him through the path with super strength. Elicia’s head was higher than mine since she was in the backpack. Willows were whipping her in the face over and over again. But oddly, neither kid said a word. Isaac and I made eye contact several times. Every time we heard the moose walking, we were sure she was chasing us. Every clearing we came to, we were sure the moose and her babies would be hanging out---ready to charge. We came to another clearing…more fresh beds and poop. The danger continued to increase as did the sound of something following us. Every muscle in my body was shaking.

But we made it! We came to the edge of the willows and we could see the road. Here was my final shot of adrenaline: The hill to the road was straight up. This was also the first time I looked back at the willows, and I clearly saw a cow moose. She was not far from the path we had taken. At this point, I realized that I could no longer carry Elicia. My shoulders were aching (I actually have two bruises on my shoulders today). Isaac took the pack and we attempted to climb the hill. I literally pushed his butt up the hill like he was a car on top of a person. My strength surprised me as I threw Ethan up the hill as far as I could. He made it to the top. I do not remember how I made it, but once we hit the road we started running as fast as we could with a 3 year old and a 20 month old on Isaac’s back. In the back of my mind, I remembered that Isaac had left our pistol behind. I knew that if a mountain lion were to see us, we would appear as mice to a cat. Mountain lions like a chase. It's basically like taunting them. And a toddler would be a tasty morsel.

We made it safely to our vehicle and I thank God for that. If we had come to a clearing and seen a moose family, our lives would have ended abruptly. I am not embellishing this story and I am not kidding about the risk of death. This was a scary, stupid decision we made. I regretfully admit that I put my children in the most danger they have ever been in. I thank God that He answered the prayers that I was screaming in my soul. Thank you for reading my experience, and hopefully you will learn from my errors! Life is a blessing indeed.

1 comment:

Lins said...

That's hilarious about your friend! I am glad she an her kids were safe from the moose! I grew up in Wyoming and it is extremely beautiful there, but I have been in Houston for 3 years now! (I think I have finally conquered my curly hair in this humidity)

Thanks for sharing the story!
God Bless