“What scares a bull moose?” or, “That’s not moose poo.”

The leaves are bursting with color right now, and knowing we are supposed to get our first inches of snow this week, I wanted to capture them before that happened.

The girls and I headed to the beautiful falls nearby.

I love this place.  I felt like it welcomed me when I first came here.

Today, with the mist and the water and the burst of color, I couldn’t have been more happy.

I took some pictures of my sweet girls, and we walked around exploring. (I’ll post more of those later.)

My little wild child is always the straggler.  She’s in her own little world and she loves to hang back.  She’s three and independent and loves to dream.

We were in a pretty safe place, so I let her hang back a bit.  I turned to take this picture of her, smiling to myself as she plucked leaves from the bush.

Suddenly, I had a very strong feeling that I needed to go get her, now.  As I started to walk back to her, I heard a loud noise in the woods right by me.  I turned to see an enormous bull moose crashing through the trees, heading straight towards my daughter.

We have two different moose families living in the woods near our cabin.  One mama with a calf, and another mama with twins.  Though these are breathtaking and I could watch them for hours, I have been dying to see a bull moose.

Seeing an enormous bull with a majestic rack crashing through the woods towards my baby was not how I envisioned this first sighting.

I think I flew to her.  I picked her up just in time and took several huge steps backward, just as the awesome animal broke through the woods and onto the path, exactly where she had been just moments before.  He was obviously terrified and ran in the opposite direction.  My heart was racing, and I grabbed my camera just as his hind legs were disappearing around the bend.

My three-year-old, in her typical fashion, said, “Hmmm. That a moose?”, as though nothing too big had occured.  Anyone who knows her knows how typical this is. :)

I hurried back to my other girls, shaken and so grateful for the incredible inspiration.

As we emerged from the woods, we approached the little cabin that serves as a visitor’s center in the peak season.  In the back of my mind, all I could think of was the bull and what might have scared him so badly.  All of the moose I have seen saunter slowly.  The only time I have seen one run was once, in my car.  And even then, it was more like a trot.  This bull was tearing out of the woods like his life depended on it.

I wished my other girls could see him (they had been turned the other way).  I decided to take them up on the porch of the cabin.  If the moose came out of the woods, that would be a safe place to see him from.  Also, I wanted to give him time to clear the parking lot if he didn’t come out.  So we went there to wait. I decided to take a picture of my girls up on the side of the porch while we waited.  

As we approached the porch, we saw an enormous pile of scat.  The girls have been pouring over scat and tracks books for weeks, trying to learn the difference between deer, moose, and elk scat, the difference between squirrell and chipmunk.  They’ve studied pictures of wolf and coyote scat so that they could identify if any came through.  So they were excited to try to figure this out.  They could tell it was something that eats lots of berries.  They each had their guesses, but honestly, it was huge and didn’t look like anything we’d seen before.  It was also very fresh.

Up on the porch, I started to line the girls up for a picture.  It was then that I noticed scat all over the ground.  Piles and piles.  I thought it was really odd, but I didn’t process it as quickly as I should have.

I had time to take one test picture before my seven-year-old called out.  You can see in the picture that both she and the baby saw it before the rest of us.  (I think this picture will live as a family treasure forever more!)

“Mom, it’s the moooo……BEAR!”

I couldn’t believe it.  Of course.  This is what terrifies a bull moose.  And of course this is what makes enormous piles of scat.

It was a surreal, terrifying, and in some ways, thrilling (that’s not exactly the word, but I don’t know a better one) experience.  Words cannot describe it.  The girls and I have practiced our “just in case” scenario for bears a few times.  But this scenario was different.  Since we were going to a more touristy spot, I had stupidly thought we didn’t need our bear bell or whistle, so I left them home (never again!).  Also, we couldn’t back away as we would normally have done, as we were kind of trapped on the porch.

I am really in awe of what happened.  The bear did walk towards us and got pretty close.  (I stopped taking pictures the second it actually started to get closer to us.)  The girls stayed as calm as could be.  The big girls instantly just knew to take a smaller sister in hand.  They all knew to listen to my instructions exactly.  We all looked as big as we could and made quick plans for what to do if the bear did not go away.  They did everything so calmly and precisely.  My own reactions were calmer than I expected.  I am still shocked at the primal thoughts that sped through my mind.  I’ve never had thoughts quite like that before.  I went through every possible scenario in my mind, and all I know is that he would never have gotten to my babes.

I felt shrouded in protection today.  We had prepared for things like this, but none of them happened the way we had prepared.  Still, I felt blessed by our attempts to prepare.  I felt like we were watched over.  I felt my mind quickened and alert.

I learn something new everyday here.  And not just about life in the forest.  New principles, new things are taught to me each day.  

Once we were later safe in our car, I told the girls how incredibly proud of them I was.  They had stayed so calm and had listened to my instructions precisely.  They hadn’t panicked or acted afraid.

They all said the same thing: “We knew you would keep us safe.”  

How is it that that kind of trust, that child-like faith, is so difficult as an adult?  My girls were faced with what could have easily been life and death situations today, yet they trusted me so completely and did not give way to fear.

Tonight, I feel humble, grateful, and quiet.  I’m going to bed with new lessons learned, and a newer, fresher faith.

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