Moose sightings inspire awe, fear in Summit County
Ryan Summerlin October 4, 2009
It was Sunday, a beautiful fall afternoon in the Colorado High Country. Happy the Broncos were victorious in their game against the Raiders, James and I set out on the Mesa Cortina trail behind our house for a walk with Scooter. The sun was shining and the aspen were in full bloom, their golden leaves quaking against the bright blue sky.
We decided to do the 40 minute “medium” loop so we could get back in time to fix dinner before heading home to Denver. We went the clockwise route and climbed to the top of the hill through the woods to the Laura Almon Trail cutoff. We were descending down the trail, almost to the point where Laura Almon again intersects the Mesa Cortina Trail in the big open valley overlooking Silverthorne, when we saw them.
There, a mere 20 yards off the path, was a herd of moose munching their way through the woods. James quickly picked up Scooter and we stood behind the cover of the trees watching the huge majestic bull moose (James says he was a “shooter” with three brow tines), a female (cow), and two calves having their evening meal of aspen, scrub oak and willows. We felt sure they were aware of our presence, assuming they could smell us, and we had been talking as well, but they did not seem concerned with us in the least. We stood watching for a minute, debating what we should do. All the while I was thinking how James had mentioned soon after we left the house that he forgot the camera, and I had commented to him that it would probably mean we will definitely see something.
Since they seemed unconcerned with us and were in no hurry to leave the area, we decided we would continue slowly down the trail away from them. I was in front and James was still carrying Scooter a few steps behind me. As we began walking I turned my head to look at the moose, wanting to make sure all was OK as we made our get-away. Then our eyes locked and in a flash the big bull came charging, crashing through the trees full speed toward us. I uttered a few expletives as I dove off the trail into the grass, listening to the sound of his hooves fast approaching.
I placed my arms over my head and began to pray, so many things going through my head. Where were James and Scooter? Were they safe? I lay there, preparing for impact, waiting to feel the pain of his giant antlers piercing through my side or being trampled to death, the weight of his massive body crushing my skull and vertebrae. Suddenly, everything got quiet as I continued lying still when I heard James say, “You’re OK, you’re OK. Just lay there and don’t move.” It was such a relief to hear his voice and I lifted my head slightly and could see that he and Scooter had moved back up the trail behind the cover of the trees where we had been standing before.
Apparently stopping just short of me and then making a slight move toward James, the big moose had also retreated back closer to his family, keeping a watchful eye on us as he continued to graze. I guess he decided to spare us and at that time I knew our prayers were heard. But we were not out of the woods yet (so to speak).
James suggested that I should try to inch on my belly slowly toward the cover of some trees a few feet away, but every time I rustled the grass the moose would look in my direction. James kept me informed each time the moose looked away when I could move a little, and after what seemed an eternity, I made it to the trees. Soon James and Scooter were able to make it over to where I stood, and by that time the cow and calves were moving deeper into the woods away from us. Big Daddy continued to glance in our direction, but by then he must have decided we weren’t that big a threat and the necessity to stay close to the other moose took him further from us. At that point, we decided to make our break, trudging swiftly through the muddy marsh away from the trail and the moose. From time to time we looked cautiously over our shoulder, making sure nothing was charging behind us. I don’t think we felt entirely at ease until we made it back to the safety of our home.
Now that our National Geographic adventure is over, I can say that I feel extremely fortunate, and I definitely think God was at hand keeping us safe.