Thursday, September 16, 2010

Of Moose and men...

I was apprehended by a momma moose and her calf the other day while mountain biking before work in Park City. The crux was not being late for work. I squeezed in my morning recreation like a dog snatches a steak from the table while his owner’s back is turned. It’s a game that starts just before the morning light with the finish bell of arriving at the Fatali Gallery at 10:30 to open. The standard variant allowed for any miscalculations in time was exactly fifteen minutes…no time for Starbucks or any other luxurious deviations.
The pre-dawn mornings of late have the chill of frost on the ground with the steam of my breath chugging up the trail like a locomotive churning up a mountain pass. I wandered up through the maples that shot skyward in crimson flames declaring that fall has arrived and winter is soon to come. The chokeberries, rosehips and aspen trees showed slight tinges of agreement but there time was still to come. The wildflowers that one would normally equate with spring are also in full bloom as the short warm season in the mountains blends spring into fall. As the warmth of the morning sun filters through the groves of aspen, pine and brush the sweet fragrance of fresh mountain air mixed with damp earthen soil fills my nostrils reminding me of the smell of wet hay after a summer rain.

After summiting the climbing trail I had turned downward onto a winding trail that snaked its way down through endless groves of aspen with a maze of inter-connecting roots woven like lace on the bed of the trail making it impossible to take my hands off the handlebars to blow the drizzle out of a dripping nostril. Some of the aspens hinted at a change in the season but mostly they just stood their guard with their green leaves dancing in the sunlight and sounding as many waters running.

As I rounded a corner she stood, six or seven feet tall on the trail fifty feet in front of me with her calf frozen in it’s track between us. She stood her ground and refused to move. I blended in with the nearby trees trying to figure out how to get her to move on. Being downwind she could smell me, but I’m not sure she could see me too well. After about 20 minutes she started to slowly graze on the surrounding low-lying leaves but remained in place cautiously aware of me. There was simply no way of passing her and I feared that if I retraced my route back up to the summit and down from where I had come, I would be horribly late for work.

Then I came up with a plan. She was no longer panicked at my presence but still standing her ground so I figured that if she knew that I was moving both towards her and away from her she might think it was time to high-tail it out of there with her calf. I started clapping and walking towards them slightly, then away. The idea was that she would clearly hear me approaching, then leaving and not being a threat. It worked. As soon as she could hear that I was going away from her she finally took off down the hill that my switchback trail threaded its way down.

My fear was that they would show up on a subsequent switchback but to my delight upon clearing each section below they had vanished. I rushed the remaining tangle of skinny trails, roots and rocks at a crazed pace in order to make up for lost time. After a blur of motion upon returning to my room, showering and throwing on clothes as I hastily readied myself for the day I arrived at work only a few minutes behind and still surging from the adrenaline slightly.

The grin on my face was most likely evident throughout the day like the chops of a dog lapping the grease off its muzzle having pulled off another score and thankful that our Master has provided such a fine banquet before us for the taking.

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