My sister Melissa called to invite me to hike in Baxter State Park. The weather was going to be perfect so we made a date to meet early Thursday morning. Snapping turtles are on the move. We saw five or six along the way, none willing to move out of the road at anything other than their own pace. We hadn’t been together long when we rounded a long corner and spied a doe standing in the gravel on the side of the road. She looked ready to step onto the pavement so I hit the brakes pretty hard.
“Is there a faw….” Melissa started ask as a spotted fawn, the first I’ve seen this year, walked out of the tall grass. As we ooh’ed and aw’ed Melissa reached for her camera and I flashed the headlights at a truck flying toward us. The deer disappeared into the woods.
The Roaring Brook parking lot had plenty of room so we made Sandy Stream Pond our destination. The ranger at the gate said a cow and calf have been spotted at the pond a few times and that a few bulls have been there. One of the bulls has been seen every day for two weeks. Sounded promising.
The walk from the parking lot to Sandy Stream Pond is only four-tenths of a mile. Melissa signed us in at the ranger station. The sign-in sheet showed two people at Sandy Stream Pond and many others on their way to Chimney Pond. The hike in was nice. The wooden walkway has been extended and is wider and the path wasn’t very muddy.
We spotted a big rump sticking out of the water closer to Big Rock than the board walk. Thinking there were only two people at Big Rock we beat feet to get there and be closer to the moose.
We were surprised to find nine or ten people at Big Rock. We moved in quietly and sat down to watch the moose. According to the folks vacationing from New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania the moose had been there for an hour. The muddied water around him showed where he’d been eating.
People filed in and found places to sit or stood behind us. The bull looked toward us now and then but paid us little attention until the last five minutes of his time in the pond. It got noisy on Big Rock with the last group of hikers. There was a lot of activity and some whistling at the moose. He stopped eating and looked toward us several times, laying his ears back twice. A mom with her three young kids and their Grampy (who spent a lot of time teaching them about the moose, why we take our trash out with us, and other good manners for the outdoors) decided to see more of the park and left. Soon after the moose turned abruptly and walked to shore. He stopped twice to look toward Big Rock and the commotion. The further out of the water he came the louder the crowd became. If you’ve never seen a moose before it’s hard to imagine this big bull’s size when half his body was in the water. His agitation went up with the noise.
Mom, Grampy and the kids were on the trail back to the parking lot and the bull was making his way up the short path leading away from the pond. He’d cross or move onto the trail they were following. “He’s going to cross the trail, Melissa. I’m going out.” She and the folks from Ohio jumped up. We sprinted up the short trail to the main trail and caught up to the family to warn them. I barely finished my warning when he appeared, closer than I expected. Instead of crossing the trail and continuing on his way he turned to face them, snorted (I’m not sure that’s what the noise is called but you can imagine the sound.) twice and stomped his left front foot. We stood still, waiting to see what he’d do. He watched Bless their hearts, the kids were silent. It was a long 30 seconds until he turned to his right and left the main trail. He stopped several times in a 50 foot stretch, and everyone stayed still and quiet.
We wasted no time leaving when he moved out of our sight. Grampy said something about “almost charged by a moose,” and that’s all it took for the oldest of the kids to start chattering. She turned to look at her mom, eyes big and wide, and told us what happened. She’d paid very close attention to the moose and didn’t miss a detail any of the three times she told us her story.
There’s a little girl who is “almost eight years old” who will never forget the day she was almost charged by a moose while vacationing in Maine. Neither will I.
Although the moose at Sandy Stream Pond have always known people to be at the pond, they are wild animals and behave as such. This moose has been seen at the pond every day for the last two weeks. It’s important that we remember these animals are wild and free to do as they please. Keep your distance and be mindful of noise and activity. Watch quietly and avoid aggravating the wildlife.
If you’re in Raymond’s Diner in Lee this weekend ask Melissa to see her moose photos. She’s working both days. She has some great shots. She’ll probably show you the three bobcats that visited her backyard often in late winter and the big black bear that strolled through a couple of weeks ago.