This story begins with an idea. The idea: I have never seen a moose before, with the exception of the baby that walks down the main street in the opening sequence of Northern Exposure. But that is television, not the real world. Isn’t it so much better to experience things in real life (well, maybe not everything)?
This story does not involve weapons, unless you include a weary driver (me) and car, plying the misty winding roads of Cape Breton Highlands National Park before sunrise. This story is about the constant promise of moose, from signs to local’s warnings. But alas, where are all the moose I am being warned to avoid? Are they avoiding me?
So, I take to the road in my rented red beast, intent on finding a moose.
Cape Breton Island, to the north of Nova Scotia in Canada, is accessed by bridges from the mainland. A large part of the Island is national park, with the famous Cabot Trail highway intersecting the island and following very dramatic coastline.
I refer to my Cape Breton Highlands National Park guide often and stop at all of the walks that promise sightings of moose. Forget the black bear or beaver, I want to see a moose! Ok, not quite true, I was also looking for these animals too, but I was warned they were more rare and shy.
I travelled far and wide – from Ingonish in the east…
to Meat Cove in the north…
to Cheticamp in the west…
It was while in Cheticamp, staying at a little B’n’B I was lamenting the tale of my moose hunt failure, that the owner provided some much needed encouragement. He tells me about a couple who came to stay for a whole month, just to observe moose. “They would get up at 4am every morning they were here, and head up to French Lake. The husband he would sit and read, while the wife, well, she’d sit and draw until the moose came to the lake to drink in the early morning light”, he recalled. There it was, a plan! I would get up before dawn the next morning and go and sit by French Lake until the moose came.
Plans often have a way of failing, or at least straying. French Lake, it turned out was not visible from the road, so I would have to weave my way through bushes and across moose tracks (really, moose tracks??) to get to its edge. Sitting on a rock in the cold morning air, surrounded by strange noises and still a lot of darkness, I waited. As the sun started rising, the fog really began to move in. I could hear some splashing and animal huffing noises to my left, but could not see a thing. The fog became so thick I began to wonder if I would get back to the car again, or would I become a moose’s plaything?
Forlorn and cold I made my way back to the car, soothing my disappointment with memories of moose tracks and noises. Then it happened. Driving back to Cheticamp on the still dark winding roads – a moose-shaped tree, NO, it might actually be a moose. Three u-turns later, my disbelief turned to ecstatic joy and relief. The brown moose-shaped tree turned out to be a real live male moose.
He was the only one I saw, but he was splendid. I think the top of my head might have reached to his shoulder. I remember wondering how he moved his head with the weight of those antlers and how his long skinny legs held him up. He had my full and undivided attention. Although I had very little of his, as he proceeded to graze in the early morning light. But that was ok with me. I saw a moose.