Before I relate this experience, I want to acknowledge Pat Dumont, my friend Pierre’s wonderful wife, for coining the title of this post.
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Wild, heavily forested, and mountainous Baxter State Park, located in north central Maine, attracts visitors for a variety of reasons. Some come to watch and contemplate the mystical changes of Mount Katahdin, the park’s crowning jewel. Appalachian Trail through-hikers begin or end their trek through America’s eastern mountain chain at Mt. K., (see blog post of October 1, 2011). Lovers of fall foliage view in awe Nature’s ability to paint landscapes in such vibrant colors. Fly fishermen, canoers, and kayakers ply the many lakes, ponds, and streams (see blog posts of October 9 & 15, 2011). Hues, shapes, and patterns of vegetation, mosses, lichens, mushrooms, and molds fascinate naturalists. And, of course, all visitors come to be charmed by the animals and birds. But some come primarily for chance of seeing the big three—moose, black bear, and white-tailed deer.
So what brought me to Baxter? Well pretty much most of the above, but truthfully, I came to the park to satisfy my wife Marian’s intense desire to see a moose in the wild.
Though fearless, the moose, the biggest mammals in North America (height at the shoulder 5.0-7.0 ft. and weight between 800-1500 lbs.), likes privacy. Although Maine has a population purported to be around 75,000, moose are rarely seen. Sometimes they are noticed crossing a road or highway, but better observed when they are feeding in ponds and meadows. Moose are vegetarians, who prefer aquatic vegetation. So in Baxter viewing is best done around feeding time, which is in the morning or at dusk, by tarrying around the park’s shallow, vegetated bodies of water. Unfortunately moose have preferred ponds—so which pond to go to? Because of the vastness of the park, a guide can quickly answer this question.
Our friend Pierre Dumont, who knows the park and where the moose feed, exerted every effort to find Marian a moose.
Good weather, visiting supposedly good moose habitat, and seeing their foot tracks in the forest, the search in 2011 produced zero moose sightings.
A few days ago, we concluded the 2012 “Wild Moose Chase.” Again for three nights, we braved the rigors of living in a Spartan, wilderness cabin at the Dacey Pond campsite—no running water, flush toilets, electricity, or GPS, only a woodstove to kill the chill. The weather was comfortable and fall colors incredible. Moose habitats appeared perfect, but no moose.
Charity, the park ranger at Dacey Pond, voiced the speculation that moose have become scarce. “Probably moving north to cooler climes,” she said. “You know, Global Warming.”
“Next year!” But this time, our assertion was made too soon. The declaration, “You find what you look for, when least expected,” came true.
Following Pierre, as he drove toward the park exit, his vehicle taillights blinded me. He jumped out of the car, flagged another automobile to pass us, and hurried back to where I had stopped. Through about a hundred feet of forest that separated the road from Stump Pond stood a very large cow moose, grazing. “I didn’t guarantee the gender,” he said, “but, Marian, there is your moose.”
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© Copyright Richard Modlin 2012