I go out early and I stay out late. Often I am out hiking before the sun rises and I’m out well past the time the sunsets. I have multiple head lamps that I keep in my pack at all times because I never want to be without some sort of guiding light but as anyone whose used those knows your sight line is only limited to what is illuminated with the head lamp. The rest of the world remains completely dark and mysterious and what lies in the darkness can often be fierce and deadly if you sneak up on it. A few weeks back while hiking around one of the most frequented and easy to access places in Rocky Mountain National Park I had an encounter with Mama Moose. Now many wouldn’t think a Moose could be a violent creature but when they are protecting their young they will certainly turn from docile to attack mode pretty quickly. In fact, in the state of Alaska there are more Moose attacks annually then bear attacks.
It was pre-dawn – around 45 minutes before sunrise – so the sky was starting to light up a little bit. My eyes were adjusting to the darkness and I wasn’t paying enough attention to what was in front of me because I was distracted by the beauty of the lake and the mountains in the distance. I was also focusing and trying to figure out the best possible place to stand for what I hoped would be a great sunrise. It wasn’t until I heard the grunt about 15 feet in front of me and slightly off the trail that indicated to me that I was in trouble. I picked my head up and illuminated by the headlamp was a fully grown female moose with two young calves behind her. Her head and ears were back indicating that she didn’t want me to come any closer. I froze and didn’t know what to do but instinctively I knew I needed to get away so I dimmed the headlamp and started to slowly back away never letting the moose out of my sights….eventually when I sensed the moose was comfortable with where I was I turned and walked quickly, than trotted in the opposite direction. I came across a few other photographers on my way back around the lake and warned them of the potential ‘killer moose’ up ahead.
Photo of the Day – The Killer’s smile
After capturing a beautiful sunrise over Sprague Lake with the Continental Divide reflecting in the calm waters I started to pack up my gear. It was then that I saw the mama moose hop into the water. She spent the next half hour to forty five minutes just walking around, bathing and drinking water while the calves trailed her on the other side of the lake (you can see them in the distance). In this particular shot she had just reached down for a drink of water and picked her head up. I fired off six shots and in this particular one as the water is dripping out of her mouth it seems like she is smiling at me (if you click the image – and all images on the blog – it will bring up a larger version and you can also make it larger with some options on that page). I took that to me that she forgave me for my intrusion earlier in the morning. As the great portrait photographer Peter Hurley would say….’Shabang!’