Saturday, January 26, 2008

Moose camp.

Have you ever been walking down your long drive just after the sun had set, with only enough dimmed light to see where you are going. Your walking and you find yourself in your own little world enthralled by the quiet, and the ambiance of nature surrounding you. And as you're walking you look down and notice that whoever walked down the driveway sometime before you had some funny looking shoes on, because the prints they left in the snow look like that of shoes not of this world. Then it dawns on you that nobody had been out on the driveway before you, at least since the thin layer of snow, which had fallen within the past couple hours that you had been out down the drive last. Your still walking, but now find yourself in somewhat of a disarrayed pondering, as you are pressing even harder through the dimmed light of the already set sun struggling to focus on these strange shoe prints which nobody apparently has left. And then an astonishing revelation hits you. Yet you continue your forward motion down the drive only now a sense of hesitation has your feet beginning to reconsider their forward propelling motion. All of a sudden you realize that the front door has become so far behind you that the feeling of safety that it would otherwise usually symbolize has all but become less of an option in any given crisis situation that could arise. Your feet are walking a little quicker now towards your truck, which is starting to become more of a silhouette than that of some dark obstruction, parked way down at the end of the drive. You are feeling that this may be the only saving grace at this late point in the stroll. Finding yourself now at a concerned pace, it is all coming to lite that these shoe prints in the snow, that are not of this world, are in fact not shoe prints but the prints of a moose's' hoof, which are obviously fresh, as the fluttering earthbound snowflakes that are falling have yet to dust over these hoof the snow. Knowing what you know about moose's' temperaments in the winter, and hearing of the many stories of mothers who began to wonder why their kid has taken so long to take out the trash, only come out to find them lying on the cold ground wedged under a vehicle, or the many husbands who went out for firewood and were savagely chased back into the woodshed for hits you that you may become a statistic if you don't move your ass a trite quicker to that truck door! And so I found myself in such a situation a cold night, this past week.

It's true. Our humble mountain cabin down in the sierras had a fondly known reputation as Greg's high altitude training (Camp Greg). And this past summer I willingly found myself a participant of the institute of daylight endurance training here at the compound in Alaska. But of all things, of which I never could imagine, we have found ourselves amidst 'moose camp'! This past week we have bared witness to a mass congregating of epic proportion. We are not yet sure why, much less how, but woke one morning to find that our property had become the gathering center for the local 'moose jamboree'. It all began the morning following this night of walking that long cold mile to the truck. For all reasoning, I had parked my truck down on the road at the end of the drive for some free advertisement during the snow. You know, it's snowing...plowing... We were all asleep that morning, soundly, and were awakened to the ferocious barking of Kenai. John was the first to come out to see what the racket was about, as I was rolling out of bed to follow suit. As he comes out into the family room he sees her sitting there at the front door barking at a moose staring at her through the door window! I am figuring at this point that this was the moose which left the hoof prints in the drive the night before. Eventually the moose walked off, Kenai stood down, and we all drifted off to sleep again. But from that point on we have found not just one, but as many as 8 moose at one time grazing around the house. At times it has left Maryann stranded in the house, unable to warm up her truck to go to work, John being held up trying to drive out because one would be in the drive, refusing to move. And there have been some cute moments like when Maryann came home one afternoon to find a young one laying fluffed in the snow berm. Can't forget the numerous times that Cherokee and Kenai, only going out to pottie have inadvertently come around a corner and stumbled onto one just standing there, looking down upon them as they bark in some garbled tongue, the moose as much as to say, "yea, and your point...." Amazing. This is what best we can figure of this recent developing phenomena. As the snow gets deeper, they are now hunkering down and traveling less. This is fact. Since we were a central hub here for the trafficking moose this summer, we figure that this is where they are hanging around. Lucky us. The other thing is that after 3 months of consistently freezing and sub-zero temperatures, we finally broke a warm 33 degrees for a day and a half the past week. Not enough to melt ice or snow, in fact it only made the ice even more precarious. It was just enough to melt some snow off of and out of the trees and slightly 'tender' the otherwise stiff, frozen fauna and twigs. But a moose's' delicacy! After that day and a half reprieve, everything froze solid again, and the moose activity here seems to have subsided a little. What a week! Reminded me of some twisted parody of "Invasion Of The Planet Of The Apes"....only in the form of moose! One cool thing that did come out of all of this was the baby moose. He was 'dropped' this past spring, and from our arrival in June throughout the summer we would see him often with mama at the lakes edge and around the property. He was the one staring through the window at Kenai early that one morning, and was here almost everyday this past week, throughout each day. He was our adopted 'live-in'. Very cute. At first we assumed that maybe he had lost mama by fate of a car or something and was alone, but as many moose as were around here through the week we are thinking that may not be the case now. The morning after the 'Kenai encounter' at the front door, I was out at sunrise taking a picture of the full moon setting across the lake. In my quest to get a "better shot", I started down the snowboard trail that John and a friend made to the lake and was stopped short by the dogs barking that garbled tongue at something. In investigating the source of the commotion, I stumbled upon the baby. Now mind you, when I say baby, I mean that he is just new-born of this past spring. However, he is already the size of a small horse! Isn't he just a cutie! Makes you wonder if they are as aggressive in the winter as their adult prodigy's?? Don't want to find out, will wait for the book! I ended up going back inside and Maryann and I...and the dogs...watched him through the windows as he stayed right around the house for almost an hour.

Cool thing about the full moon was that I got a pic of it rising that night. Right now it takes a course in the sky in almost a complete circle, setting in the morning only yards (from the human eyes' perspective mind you) from where it rose the night before. Pretty similar to the suns trajectory during the summer. Keep in mind the first pic is the full moon rising (looks like the sun, huh) at sundown, and the second is of the full moon setting at sunrise. Was hugely breathtaking.

We did get a little more snow Thursday night. As a result I was out at 1:30 AM plowing, and as I was just tired as all get go, thankfully it did not snow as much as they had originally called for. However, I did have to go back out to 'clean-up'' one of the commercial office complexes I do in Soldotna, so I was out until 1:30AM the following morning. After being awake for 24 hours, and already wiped out when the run began, I was just tired, tired, tired and wanted only to get home to sleep. I was on my back from Soldotna this morning, anxious to just get home. Coming down the lonely quiet road we take to the house, I come across a dark figure standing in the middle of the road. Sure enough it is a moose. Remember, they don't like trudging through the deep snow expelling their energy and burning their life sustaining calories in the winter, so we do have to start sharing the road with them. Let me tell you a little something about sharing a narrow rural road with a moose. It is like sharing with that little jerk when you were a know, the one that wouldn't share that favorite bouncy ball in preschool. Just hogged it to himself.... This one decided that instead of taking the simple solution off to the side, he would instead do a slow jog down the middle of the road. So there I was, stuck at a 3 mph crawl as mister moose jogged in front of me, rounding the corner and jogging on. About now I start to feel a little guilt for pushing him, as I notice he is slowing down a little so I stop. He stops. He turns around to look at me, and then just settles in to gaze around him off into the trees. So I begin another slow crawl....he begins another slow jog. This goes on for what seems to a tired man like forever. Finally, just as I gave up all hope of ever getting home, because at this point I figure he is going to jog right into the driveway, he figures out to go off the road and stand up on the berm until I safely and cautiously pass....what a concept! ;) The comical side of this story was the perspective of where I was siting. I don't know if you have ever been directly behind a moose when he is jogging....I hadn't until last night...but it is just too funny. In kind of a graceful way! The incredible thing was that the moose's stride was unwittingly choreographed to the 'T' with the tempo and beat of the song playing on the radio. Made for great entertainment for a guy that minutes before was ready to fall asleep at the wheel! Today is sunny, with the temps back into the teens. Beautiful out. Have a great weekend, and for those who have commented on wanting to visit, but have poo-pooed visiting in the winter.....reconsider! It is cold, but the beauty and the ongoing winter antics are abound!!

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