MOOSE! Day 5
Day 5 in Alaska, the last day of my trip. Our plan was to head back to Anchorage in the morning, since there were two places I still wanted to go before flying out that night: Power Line Trail and Knowles Coastal Trail.
Denali National Park
The weather had cleared, so the sun was out, and we realized that we hadn’t gotten to see Denali, aka Mt. McKinley, due to the inclement weather. Alenka had wanted to see it, and I was under the impression that you could only see Denali from Denali National Park and only on a good day. I knew that there was a spot 8 miles into the park where there was a view of the mountain. It seemed like a harmless detour, and ended up being worth the effort.
As I drove through the park, we saw lots of moose out in the distance, having already crossed back over the road to where they had come from the night before. Alenka yelled out, “MOOSE!” Andreal yelled out, “MOOSE!” I yelled out, “MOOSE!”
It became a game to see who could spot them first. (FYI, I held my own against to two sets of hawk eyes). For days afterwards my Alaska trip, I could still hear Andreal and Alenka yelling out, “MOOSE!”
After we had our fill of moose sightings (most were very tiny), we headed back down to Anchorage. Turns out, you can see Denali from the highway, even more huge.
Although there was an epic failure for finding the Power Line Trail parking lot, we did eventually find it. Andreal, under the impression that this was a real hike, opted to bring absolutely nothing along to weigh her down, even though I’d been talking for days about a valley where you see plenty of moose. It turned out, there was a misunderstanding on her part and she didn’t realized that this 1 mile flat walk was the same as the moose valley. Granted, we did drive through crazy steep terrain during our failure to find the parking lot, so she may have had that in her mind. In the end, we did see some moose in the valley.
Since Andreal didn’t have her camera with 400mm zoom, we decided to follow a “trail” towards the center of the valley, where a male moose was on the far side of, to get a closer shot. I probably would not have agreed to this (seeing how everyone warned us to keep a distance from them), but it was so far out and there was a stream separating us, I figured we’d have enough time to get back to the paved trail… and hide behind nothing. So, we headed out along this crazy, over grown, complete nonsense trail (eventually we realized we were following moose tracks).
As we got slightly closer to the moose, Andreal remarked on a strange, gray form on the other side of the stream. She asked if it was a person or a rock. Using my telephoto lens, I told her it was a rock, because there was no way a person would be that far out and that close to a moose. We continued to walk closer, at which point she told me that the rock was moving. Sure enough, her hawk eyes out classed me and my telephoto lens. It was a man in gray camouflage with a camera and tripod, approaching the moose from behind.
We continued our slow trek closer to the moose (we never got closer than 200 yards) and watched as this man gets to within 15 yards of this moose. There was no one in the valley except us, the moose, and this man. We were certain that we would be the only witnesses to a moose rampage. As he got closer and moved within the line of sight of the moose, then in front of the moose, we figured it’d happen any minute now. We stayed there, frozen to our spot (because we had lost the “trail” and couldn’t find any easy way further) until, eventually, the camou man walked off. Quite anticlimactic.
When we got back to our car, we saw the camou man at his car. Desperate to see the photos he got at such a close distance, we approached him. I showed him a photo of him next to the moose, and he claimed he wasn’t as close as it looks (sure…) and he showed us his photos (which turned out to be very disappointing to us). In the photos, we saw that the male moose (bull) was standing in front of a female moose (cow) and a baby moose (calf). It occured to me that at some point, the man was nearly in between the bull and the other two. The man proceeded to tell us that as long as you show no threat to the moose, and run if you see it start to flare it’s nostrils and salivate, it was perfectly safe. I thought to myself, wildlife conservationists (am I making up words now?) are flipping out all around the world.
Later, when we head out to walk along the Knowles Coastal Trail, I specifically tell Andreal that there was a possibility of seeing moose on this trail. I ask, “Are you sure you want to leave your camera behind?” She says she’s had a good fill of moose from that morning. In hindsight, I should have told her that this was the last day to use the 400mm lens before I bring it back to Portland. Oh well. We walk along the paved trail where we realize that it has very high traffic of runners and bikers. There’s a coast on one side and train tracks fenced off on the other side.
Why on earth would moose or bears ever hang around here? We walk an easy distance to the Lagoon, a nice unnatural place to take someone on a cheesy date. Very easy on the eyes, but we’re hungry and uninterested so we head back.
As we’re walking back, Alenka talks about a weird time discrepancy with her flight back to Slovenia. Looking over to us to explain the issue, she suddenly stops mid-sentence to point high (HIGH) up behind us and yell, “BALD EAGLE!” The girl had just spotted a bald eagle high up in a tree, behind us. Say what?? I told you she had hawk eyes.
So there we are, in Anchorage on the paved Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, standing by train tracks with runners and biking going by us, and a bald eagle above us. Andreal, of course, is flipping out about leaving her camera behind, and we wonder if she has time to run back to the car and get it (in the end, she wouldn’t have had enough time). As we stand there, watching the eagle, hoping it would do something (apparently they can stay perched for hours), we hear a train coming. We think, aw it’s going to scare the eagle away. And then… we get a little A.D.D. Alenka and Andreal start taking pictures of the oncoming train, which they encourage me to do also.
So there we are, in Anchorage, bald eagle above us, and taking pictures of a train approaching. It blows its whistle, and I realize, OH CRAP THE EAGLE! Sure enough, the eagle takes off and I’m just barely able to get a shot of it.
It was a wonderful farewell from Alaska.