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the gift of the moose | by Steve took it
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the gift of the moose

Our trips to the paddle-only wilderness area along the border of Minnesota and Ontario are not really about fishing. It‘s just easier to tell everyone we’re “goin’ fishin’” than try to explain we’re going to rejuvenate our souls in a pristine world of natural beauty unchanged since the Ojibwa tribe made it home. People would just roll their eyes.


The magic of becoming one with nature has been a topic of conversation around many campfires. We’ve decided that when a traveler sacrifices modern conveniences and schedules, and leaves clocks, phones and work at home, the wilderness is more likely to bestow them with certain “gifts”. And for us, the most valued of these are the gift of loon calls, the gift of northern lights and the gift of the moose. Any one of those precious gifts makes for a GREAT trip. The rare perfect trip grants all three.


As usual, on this trip we tried to select campsites with northern exposures, and about the fourth night in were rewarded with a clear night and incredible show. The shimmering greens and red explosions of Aurora Borealis put civilized fireworks displays to shame. And twice we camped in lakes where we could sit quietly at the waters edge and hear loons on both ends of the lake exchange hauntingly piercing calls. On most trips we would surprise more than one moose as we paddle into a secluded bay or drifted by a quiet marsh. But for 12 straight days the moose remained elusive.


Every morning we discussed if this would be the day for the gift of the moose. I was beginning to suspect one of my companions cursed us with a smuggled cell phone or something. And sure enough, on the last night of the trip my friend confessed he had packed an alarm clock to make sure we got an early start on our final push home. I crawled into my sleeping bag, swearing to the spirits that it was not MY alarm clock, but resigned that two out of three gifts was pretty darned good.


It was still pretty dark when I woke to what sounded like distant grunts. HRUUP! HRUUP!


“What the heck is that?” I asked my snoring, technology-whipped tent-mate.


“I don’t hear anything….scared of the dark?” he said sarcastically. Then he glanced at his uninvited clock and said, “Stop worrying and go back to sleep because we have to get up soon.”


Instead, I threw on some clothes, grabbed my camera, and jumped in the canoe to follow the grunts. I quietly paddled around our point and into a little bay behind our campsite. And there I received the ultimate gift of the moose.


For more than 30 minutes as the sun slowly peeked up through the morning mist I sat mesmerized as this majestic beast ate and explored less than 30 feet away. He posed, grunted, and swam in front of me several times before finally climbing back on shore and noisily disappearing through the trees. The BEST gift of the moose ever!


I love showing this photo to the guy with the alarm clock.


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Taken on November 6, 2006