When I was younger, I was fascinated with a television series titled Northern Exposure from the early 1990s. For all of you who never watched it, or it predates your existence, it was a show about a New York City doctor who moves to a quirky small town in Alaska. The series detailed the challenges faced by this big city guy, trying to fit into this remote town in the wilderness with its crazy characters. While there was many an interesting episode dealing with encounters with wildlife — no animal was more synonymous with this show than the moose. The opening intro showed a moose sauntering down the main street of the town, poking its large bulbous head hither and yon.
Living in the large city of San Francisco at the time, I could scarcely imagine living in a place where a huge wild animal would just saunter through town like that. It seemed preposterous. Well, today, we had our own Northern Exposure (or should I say Rocky Mountain Exposure) moment at our home here in Nederland. My husband and I share a Sunday tradition of sleeping in followed by a big breakfast, chatting and reading the Sunday paper. We were eating waffles at the table, when Bryon got up to get something. Glancing out the large picture window, he stopped suddenly and exclaimed, “Oh my God!” Being a person who naturally tilts towards disaster, I thought something terrible must have happened, and my mind immediately went to — it must be a car accident on the road! I got up and looked out, and instead of a mangled car, the image of two large moose standing in our driveway greeted me.
We’ve known for awhile that we have a resident cow moose in the neighborhood. We’d come across her a couple of times while walking the dog. I’d heard from our neighbors recently that they’d seen her with a yearling calf. Yet, seeing her up close, a mere five feet away from our front porch took my breath away. I grabbed my iPhone and started snapping pictures. Not wanting to ruin the moment and scare her, Bryon grabbed our two dogs and shuttled them to the back bedroom. I continued watching, rapt with attention, fascinated to have my own personal wildlife moment unfolding right in front of me.
The cow moose started licking Bryon’s car, and then ambled even closer, standing on the front step of our front porch. Our front door has a glass window on the upper half, and we just stood there, taking it all in. Seeing her that close allowed me to see the fine details of her coat — how coarse and thick the fur was, the bald patches on her sides. Standing next to my car, her immense height and long, long legs that looked stick-like really stood out. I could see that her legs had lighter fur than her body, which was a deep, chocolate brown. And her ears appeared to be as large as a mule. At one point, she turned her head and stared directly at me — our eyes locked for a moment. I continued to snap frantically with my iPhone, wanting to capture this magical moment with as many photos as possible.
I realized what a rare treat we were witnessing. When is it possible to stand three feet from a wild moose safely and capture pictures of her grazing Aspen trees, licking the sides of my old Subaru, sauntering through our driveway? We stood enraptured for at least 15 minutes, watching her and her calf, scarcely believing this was happening on an ordinary Sunday morning in March, right where we lived. Finally, they lumbered down the hill behind our house at a slow gallop, disappearing into the woods.
I of course, had to immediately share our moment with the rest of the world, via Facebook. Immediately the comments started flooding in from friend across the country, most of whom live in cities and suburbs. My friend, Deb, simply stated, “Wow”. I have an old friend, Charlie, who dreams of living in a log cabin the woods. His comments captures it all – “How neat, how I envy you and Bryon.”
I know this moment is burnt in my brain forever. Something about wilderness has always brought a special joy to my life, and nothing symbolizes wilderness like a majestic moose. It’s moments like these when I realize how incredibly lucky we are to live in this special place, to share our habitat with those of the wildlife around us. This is the reason I pursued our dream of living in the Rocky Mountains, and what makes it all worth it.