For much of my life when I lived in the suburbs and commuted to work, like many others I spent much of my time stuck in the proverbial traffic jam. Cards would inch along at a snail’s pace, and it would take me an hour to go 10 or 12 miles. I never had much patience for sitting in a traffic jam along the highways and city streets. I’ve often thought I’d rather drive way out of my way on a country road, but be moving along than sit in traffic.
But life in the mountains brings an entirely different sort of traffic jam. It doesn’t have anything to do with tons of people trying to get to work, but rather what they see along the way. This past weekend working in the county parks brought the most interesting kind of “jam” when I was driving down the Peak to Peak Highway near Nederland. Near the intersection of Caribou Road, I noticed 4 or 5 cars stopped and people standing next to the road intently looking at something. Instantly I knew what that “something” must be given the location, knowing a small pond lay alongside the road — Moose!
I pulled my county car safely over to the side of the road and got out to investigate. There in the shallow pond stood a cow moose, with two yearling calves alongside her. They were no more than 30 feet or so from the road, eating the green plants growing in the pond. Dipping their heads periodically to nibble on some greens and then taking a breath as they came up for air.
Since it was a gorgeous blue-sky day filled with sunshine with well above average temperatures for this time of year, there were tons of people up in the mountains to hike, see the last of the fall foliage and otherwise enjoy the day. The Peak to Peak Highway is a very popular scenic route for many tourists to make their way from Boulder to Rocky Mountain National Park and accordingly can be well traveled, especially on the weekends. Given the amount of traffic, it wasn’t long before cars were parked every which way along the Peak to Peak and along the Caribou Road. At one point, there were as many as fifty people or more standing alongside the road gazing upon this mother moose with her children. The moose were incredibly tolerant of this adoring crowd, going about their business with an occasional look up, and occasionally putting on a show of prancing through the water, running alongside the willows, but never charging the people. Kristin Cannon of Colorado Parks & Wildlife explained that because moose have few predators (the wolf being their only true predator), they are very tolerant of people watching them as long as they don’t get too close. The biggest issues with people and moose come not from the humans themselves, but frequently their canine companions. Moose see dogs as being similar to wolves and perceive them as a threat and will charge the dogs and the humans with them.
Fortunately, this day no visitors had their dogs with them. The moose hung out for close to an hour enjoying their cooling off in the pond and then took off through the willows. Within minutes of the moose disappearing, so too did the cars and moose jam dissipate. But the memory of standing watching this magic moment of wildlife is one that made my day. And judging from the crowd it attracted and the comments I heard from visitors, it certainly brought a lot of joy to others as well.