Moose are among the critters that make life in Alaska interesting. Having them all around us is one of the cool things about living here, but they also demand respect. We teach our kids how to handle them at the bus stop and on the playground. We find them in our yards. We routinely stop on trails and wait for them to move out of the way. We religiously avoid riding between cows and calves, which can make momma really pissed off.
But I sometimes see them too late and realize at the last possible second that I’m riding within a couple of feet of a 1,000- to 1,500-pound ungulate that kills by stomping. And I've just startled it. I've seen them so late and so close that I reflexively dipped a shoulder to avoid contact. I’ve locked up my rear wheel and skidded to avoid slamming into the damned things at night. Fortunately, Anchorage moose are pretty accustomed to town life and they usually take these encounters somewhat in stride.
It's now dark when I leave the office at 5 p.m., and that makes it easy to miss those big, brown beasts in the brush. So I was feeling pretty good about catching sight of a yearling about 15 feet off the trail last night as I left the woods and crossed Campbell Creek to ride up a short hill toward Dimond Boulevard. She was grazing and I was moving at a brisk pace, so I just put my head down and cruised up the hill without paying much attention. At the top, two boys of about 12 years old were standing by the trail.
“Were you scared?” they asked.
“That moose by the trail.”
When I said the moose was no big deal, they told me they were worried about passing through the area and pointed to a nearby moose they thought might be the mother. I thought they were being prudent, but I felt they’d be fine and I offered to escort them down the hill to make sure they were OK.
They were very nice kids. One boy expressed concern about me putting myself in danger. I assured him I’d be fine. They moved into the brush well off the trail and started downhill as I pedaled back onto the trail. I thought to myself, “Wow. These guys have really been taught to be cautious."
I rolled about 20 feet and suddenly noticed a big moose browsing in some brush just off my left shoulder. He was looking a little edgy about my second intrusion. That’s when I realized what was going on: There were three moose in one small area. The kids hadn’t seen the one by the creek, and I hadn’t seen the one that had them worried, even though I rode right past it on my way up the hill.
I turned toward the boys, rode across a snow-covered patch of weeds and told them what was going on. They high-tailed it back up the hill and announced they’d just walk around the block, thanks.
I didn’t argue.