Hey, there, all of you Eli Moore fans! Now that Eli’s adventure at Carlsbad Caverns is out, I’ve been working hard on his future travel plans. The rough draft of the third manuscript is complete and I am starting on the editing process. For now, however, I thought I would share one of my own adventures with you all. This one took place about 17 years ago when I was working at Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming. I worked as a front desk clerk there for a summer. I spent shifts checking people in and out of cabins five days a week. The rest of the time, I went exploring. I am breaking this adventure up into three segments, so I hope you enjoy the first one!
It was August. The sun was high and hot at Grand Tetons National Park. I started out early that day, before 7 am, because I wanted to climb up through Paintbrush Canyon up over Paintbrush Divide and back down again into Cascade Canyon. It was an ambitious hike especially since I had only started mountain hiking in June. I grew up in the Midwest, in Iowa, where the land is flat and low. The first hike I went on in the Grand Tetons nearly destroyed me simply because of the altitude.
But, after two months of consistent sojourning out into the Teton wilderness, I felt foolishly confident. Not only was this the longest hike I had tried, it was also going to be a solo hike. I strapped on my backpack which carried sunscreen, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, potato chips, an apple, and a few granola bars along with two large water bottles. My hiking boots were laced up tight.
I was thankful for the boots. Early on in the summer, I had made the rookie mistake of getting a pair of hiking boots that were just a tad too small for my feet. The end result was such a terrible blister on my pinky toe that I actually lost the entire toenail. I discovered on that particular trip that your hands and feet swell a bit when walking long distances (especially up a mountain) from the blood pumping through them.
So, I learned my lesson, got a pair of hiking boots that were just a tad too big for my feet and no longer had to worry about blisters. I drove a half hour to Jenny Lake Lodge, locked my car door, and started off on the String Lake Trailhead which would lead me to the Paintbrush Canyon Trail. The day was perfect. Bright and blue and hot. The trail steadily wound upward and I braced myself for a long day ahead. The further up I went into the canyon, the cooler the air got, but the sun was warm enough so that I didn’t need my sweatshirt.
The morning hike was primarily low and wet, in a bit of a marshy area around the lakes. At first, there were quite a few hikers, but after veering off away from the String Lake trail and onto the canyon trail, hiker traffic slowed. There were a few lonely hikers here and there, but mostly I was alone.
I came to a forest pond fed by a stream coming down from higher up the peak. The path skirted the pond and I followed it around watching the water bugs jump and skip over the brown and green water. Then, suddenly, I noticed a much larger form of wildlife standing further down in the shallow end of the pond. Two giant male moose were standing completely still, staring at each other.
Then, one snorted and pawed the ground. They ran toward each other in a fierce rage, their long antlers locking. I immediately crouched down and moved further away from them, watching their battle cautiously. I glimpsed a female moose, waiting in the brush beside the pond, also watching.
“Here, you can see better from here!” A voice came out of nowhere at me. I jumped, not expecting to see another person. There, to my left, crouched down behind the brush, was a middle-aged man pointing his camera at the three moose. I sat down next to him.
“Wow! Have you ever seen this before?” I asked. The man shook his head, but did not reply.
The two male moose continued to battle. They would come together and break off again, catching their breath between each match. Water sprayed high into the air around them, their feet still ankle-deep in the pond. The hiker beside me clicked and clicked and adjusted his camera. My small, disposable camera was in my pocket, but I did not touch it. I didn’t want to look away. I wanted to remember every single breathtaking moment of it. I wanted the image of those two moose fighting in the wild before me to be burned into my mind, not onto film.
One of the male moose was obviously older and larger than the other. After four or five clashes, the young male ran off, bawling as he went, disappointed by his failure. The larger male huffed at him as if to say “good riddance” and then proceeded to prance and dance in the pond, lifting his head and legs and leaping in a circle. I laughed aloud. The other hiker glared at me, but I couldn’t help it. The winner’s happy celebration was infectious. Then, he ran off with his female, away from the pond and deeper into the forest.
I left the other hiker to his camera and gave praise for my incredible luck. What a find! Very few people have a chance to come upon such a scene in the wild and I just happened along, an unexpected witness to a moose-mating-water-dance. I laughed aloud again.
I probably should have stopped then, just accepted my good fortune, turned back around, and arrived back to my dorm by lunch. But, I had made the plan of the hike and the promise of the high pass lured me on. Had I known what adventures waited on the trail ahead, I may have stopped with the moose.
Feel free to tell me about one of your own adventures. I would love to hear about your wildlife finds!