This morning, my boss came in and showed me a picture of a moose and its two babies. I said, ‘Man that is so cool, I go up to Sundance all the time and I have never seen a moose’. So I texted Tyler and said, let’s go hike Stewart Falls after work and he agreed!! I was so excited, and in my excitement I went back to my boss and told him ‘I’ll see your moose story and raise it by my moose story’ and the last parting words I heard from him was ‘good luck’.
Dun dun dunnnn
MAP of our journey
There are two ways to get to Stewart Falls, via chair lift to the top (1h 45min hike) or starting at the base and hike for 45 mins. We decided to take the long route on the chair lift and thus started our adventure.
We were greeted at the top of Ray’s Lift by a hippie mustache sundance granola man who told us that the hike would take an hour and half, but he said it was possible to do in 45. We sarcastically thanked him and looked at each other with eyes that silently spoke our plan, to beat the time and do it in 40 mins.
So we literally began to sprint through the mountains towards Stewart Falls. It was a rocky start, but we were in Tough Mudder mindset and counted this hike as training. As we ran through the wilderness along the trail we felt as though we were reenacting the final scene from The Last of the Mohicans and agreed that next time we would being a boom box and blare the music whilst we ran.
We passed a couple people on the trail and scoffed at their slow speed and ‘beginner hiker’ demeanor. We came into a clearing with aspen trees and thought it was the perfect place to desecrate nature… so we carved our name into an aspen (don’t worry hippies, Aspens heal very quickly).
And we were off again, but while we lightly jogged I spoke out loud to Tyler and said ‘Maybe we should stop running when we get to the next clearing in case we come upon a bear or a moose so it doesn’t think we are charging it.’ We both agreed and when we came into the clearing we slowed to a walk. And literally the clearing had the same feeling as that Elephant graveyard on the Lion King, do you remember that? Creepiest feeling ever! Tyler made a comment that it would be a perfect place to put a ranger station in case a hiker got hurt or there was an attack (little did we know how much this comment would apply). We shrugged it off and silently crept through the valley to the mile marker that said we were half way there. Immediately after this marker the mountain took a downward turn and it became one of those situations when you start a light jog down the rocky path, but then you get going at a speed that becomes uncontrollable and you laugh to let the person behind you know you have the situation under control, but you know at any minute you are going to go tumbling down the face of the mountain like a loose cannon. That was how it went down, but the next few minutes turned both real crazy and real clear. Almost like one of those surreal moments when everything moves in slow motion and becomes crisp. After my uncontrollable jog, I came to a dead stop and landed on a flat surface, I could hear Tyler’s feet tramping behind me as I looked up and realized that I was staring into the eyes of a giant cow moose and her calf. If I hadn’t stopped where I had, I would have run straight into her moose body. We (the moose and I) both looked straight into each others eyes and instantly took off in opposite directions. I crashed into Ty in my attempt to turn around and book it back up the mountain, and apparently I screamed RUN like a mad woman! So we ran a little ways back up the trail. The next part is not so clear. I remember Tyler telling me to stay while he went to see if it was still on the trail, I told him to leave me the phone in case he died. I called my sister and spoke to her in frantic breaths that Tyler may die and I was at Sundance and that’s where you will find out bodies etc. I was watching Tyler walk down the trail looking for the moose when suddenly I yelled at the top of my lungs STOP! He froze in place because he didn’t see what I saw. He was on the trail at the bottom of a small hill with a tree to the right and on the other side of that tree, 4 ft away, was the moose and her baby.
I told him to slowly walk back towards me and he kinda ran a little more then walked but I took off through the branches towards the river. Tyler was hot on my trail and demanded I stop running like a crazy person. So we find ourselves off the trail by the river and I am thinking maybe we can walk down the river towards the waterfall, but instead we called Sundance to ask what we should do. They said we had three options: 1.turn back, 2.wait it out, 3.try to go around the moose. We waited as long as we could not knowing where the moose went until we saw it emerge 20 ft below our current spot on the river. I don’t know what came over me, but I turned toward the steep mountain and booked it up the hill as fast as I could fumbling and tripping into some really itchy plants. Tyler came up from behind me and I turned back once to see the moose staring at me and Tyler (she probably thought we looked like idiots). We found the trail again and waited on it for a minute and discussed what we were going to do. Tyler suggested we could probably walk the trail and it would stay out of our way, but I constantly interjected the worst case scenarios as he tried to keep me positive. If it was a single moose then I would’ve attempted but I will never come between a moose and her calf. I didn’t want to whimp out and turn around, but we also had 1 more day until our 1 year anniversary. So I thought, I at least want to make it to one year before Ty dies. So we looked on more time to see if she was still there, and sure enough she was standing there staring us down.
So we reluctantly took to the slow walk back up the mountain. I constantly had the feeling she was going to come up behind us charging so we tried to go as quickly back as possible. Back through the Elephant graveyard and the clearing of aspens and the lowly beginner hikers. We felt put in our place along with the poison ivy we now had all over our arms and legs. As we neared other hikers, we cautioned them about what lay up ahead, and most headed our warning and turned back around with us.
Tyler and I still feel like the moose and her baby are stalking us. We will be in the grocery store and feel that erie feeling of someone watching you and we look over our shoulder to see if it is the moose. I imagine sometimes that she pops her head up outside of my apartment window and I can see her moose breath on the window (like the raptor kitchen scene on Jurassic Park).
I once thought my animal spirit was a moose, but I don’t know if you’re supposed to fear your own animal spirit. Those things are huge. HUGE.