Friday, November 26, 2010
A Close Encounter of the Maine Kind
I glanced out the back window of the living room to I dunno, just take a break from NFL overload for a minute. Standing about six feet from the window just on the other side of the Hydrangea was an adult moose. A huge cow moose. It was looking towards my neighbor's field. It's presence filled the window. I hollered for Bobbi, my wife, to come see just as it ambled over to the pucker separating my property from my neighbor"s. She hurried in and we watched it slowly work it's way down the field towards the woods and out of sight.
Awesome, simply awesome animals when they are up close and personal.
Half time ended. The Pats recovered and soundly beat Detroit. Bobbi and I had a wonderful Thanksgiving feast and I went back to watching football. I fell asleep at some point and missed most of the New Orleans/Dallas game. Woke up in time to flip to the NFL channel long enough to see that the hated New York Jets were probably going to win their game with Cincinnati. Damn them. Looks like it will come down to the Monday night game in a little less than two weeks. I passed out again.
Today while I puttered and sputtered with the wiring for the snow melt system for the roof, a show came on the National Geographic Channel, "Alone in the Wild". Apparently this British guy who fancied himself an adventurer was dropped off in the wilds of the Yukon in Canada to face the wilderness on his own for 3 months. His plan was to catch salmon when they started running. His plan failed. No salmon ever showed up. He ate porcupine and berries and cried a lot. At about two months into it he called for help and was evacuated. A very interesting tale as he filmed everything, including his many moments of self doubt and fear.
As the NatGeo saga wound down, the moose I had seen yesterday, this guy's struggles to survive, and my own feeble off road tours in the woods of Maine came together. I was back in the mid 1990s on my bike riding crude logging roads miles from anywhere. I ran through the many feelings I had as I rode alone through the Maine woods up near the Canadian border. I remember being isolated from the civilized world I thought I hated but apparently did not. I remember craving greasy McDonald's burgers. I remember wishing there were showers out there. And I remembered one encounter with another huge moose.
It was my third night out by myself. I had camped on a small point of land jutting out into some lake. Nothing but trees, rocks and water. No buildings, no people, no boats. Just me camped in the middle of nowhere. I had cooked my meal of rice and salami chopped up with melted velveeta on it. I had drank my rationed three shots of Jack Daniels. I doused my campfire and climbed into my tent to try to go to sleep.
Let me just say that sleeping in the wild miles from anywhere with no sounds but the wind rustling the leaves is not as peaceful as one envisions when coming up with the dream in the safety of one's home. Every sound made me flinch. I imagined all kinds of things out there. Bears, Coyotes, Hell even the thought of a crazed logger wielding a double bladed axe crossed my mind. I finally drifted off.
At some point later, something awakened me. My eyes popped open like they were on springs. There was something in my campsite. I could hear it. Twigs snapping, heavy breathing, the works. I laid paralyzed with fear. I have no idea how long I laid there quiet as whatever creature it was explored my campsite. At some point I gathered enough nerve to sit up and open the flap of the tent. Standing a couple of feet away over my tent entrance were four legs. They stood out against the moonlight reflecting off the lake.
Suddenly a huge snort and a moose head full to the hilt with antlers bent down and sniffed the ground in front of my tent. I stopped breathing and just stared at it. The bull snorted hard again scattering pine needles and dust and then lifted it's head back up. A stream of piss pounded the dirt and the smell of it brought me back to reality. This goddamned moose was pissing in my camp site. What the Hell? I hollered and thankfully it ran off, only taking out one of the lines holding up my raincover.
Needless to say I did not go back to sleep that night. As it turned out, dawn was only an hour or so wait. I started a fire, cooked the last of my eggs and fried salami, packed up and headed on my bike for the last leg of that trip.
That was my first solo tour of Maine's backwoods. I have experienced two others since. Each one brought with it moments when I asked why I was doing this. And each time as I packed the gear back into the truck to come home, I realized why. To experience the Wild is to feel truly alive. As the guy from the "Alone in the Wild" stated, and i paraphrase - "The Wild does not care about you. It is up to you to deliver yourself."
I make no claim that what I have experienced is the true out there alone experience. But the challenges I gave myself certainly left me with deep respect for the awesome world beyond human influence. It is indeed up to us to deliver ourselves. My time alone in the woods has taught me that.
Image not by me - poached from Google images