Part 6 of 6

I was on Skype, talking to my old friend, Ed, back in England. “Have you seen much wildlife?” he asked.

“I certainly have, Ed,” I replied. “I’ve seen porcupine, eagles, caribou, bison, grizzly bear, black bear, wolves, even a lynx, but my most extraordinary encounter was with something else …”

I was about to enter new territory, I was about to do something I’d never done with Ed since I’d been in Canada; I was about to tell him the unembellished truth and it felt strange, but I forged ahead nevertheless.

“It was a fresh, May morning in Crestview. What better way to dismiss a hangover, than to take a 20-minute jog into the forest. It’s wonderful out there, Ed. The smell of the trees, the chirping squirrels, the numerous criss-crossing trails.

As I ran, I marvelled that my track could potentially continue for hundreds or even thousands of kilometres. I was enjoying the new sights and sounds and scents so much that I thought I’d do a circuit instead of doubling back over old ground.”

“I know where this is going Ollie,” groaned Ed over the static.

“So I’m lost, an hour has dragged by and I’m still jogging. I wasn’t irrecoverably lost Ed, I could still hear the sound of traffic on a distant road but I wanted to find my own way back. I ran down a steep, muddy track into a dark stretch of forest and was just thinking I should have brought some water when something huge and brown leapt onto the track right in front of me. I almost choked on my heart. Thankfully it was a moose, not a bear.

“We stood there looking at each other. I was close enough to touch its nose, Ed, but it sprang into the forest when I stretched out my hand so I carried on jogging. Less than a minute later, I looked back and saw it was galloping after me. ‘Well, great!’ I thought. ‘Not only am I dead thirsty and dog tired, I’m going to be attacked by a bloody moose.’

“But then I remembered a useful fact: animals chase things – it’s an instinct! ‘Stand still!’ my father had shouted at me when, as a child, a small calf chased me across a field. So, fortified by this useful knowledge I decided to hold my ground. But this thing was big Ed, bigger than a large horse. And I looked into its eyes as it thundered toward me and I had a change of heart. I needed to do something better, something bolder.

“I thought quickly, swallowed hard and began running toward it. We ran toward each other – the moose and I – both with something to prove. I’m no expert on moose expressions, Ed, but I did see shock – something it did with its nostrils I think – and it stopped, we both stopped.

“We were two metres apart. I stepped back and so did the moose. Without turning my back, I retreated a few steps, and the moose backed into the trees. At this point I took stock and realized that if I had found a moose I was probably running away from habitation so, very slowly at first and with one eye on the moose, I began jogging back.

“To my surprise, the moose began trotting in the same direction. We were running in parallel. By this time, Ed, I’d been jogging for about 70 minutes; I was tired and thirsty, so the magic of the moment was sadly lost on me. But I was pretty impressed when it closed in and leapt onto the track in front of me. We ran like this for two or three minutes, barely a metre between us. I wanted to come across a hiker going in the opposite direction so I could give an unassuming nod as we ran past.

“As we ran, it looked back at me frequently and I found this encouraging; I became energized by my moose. Then, without warning it sprang into the forest again and stopped to watch me from a distance. I stopped, too. Was this the end? We’d been together for so long! ‘You can’t go now mate,’ I said aloud. I felt drained and despondent; I looked down at my tired feet and, to my surprise, I saw a faint track leading off the main trail. And there, right in the middle of it, stood the moose watching me.

“I narrowed my eyes, looked to the sky and then back to the moose. God, have you sent a moose to lead me home? I’d be mad not to follow my instincts on this one, I thought. That’s how dehydrated I was, Ed. I thought it was crazier not to follow it.

“What a great rescue story this’ll make, I thought as I jogged down the track toward my celestial friend. We continued along this new path for a while, but after a minute or so it broke track and cantered through rougher ground. I paused for a moment, looked to the sky, sighed, and off I went, stumbling after it through the bracken and low branches, the moose looking back occasionally to check I was still in tow.

Then, just as I was finding my rhythm, everything changed; the moose hit Mach-7 and was gone. I stopped in a thicket of bushes and looked around. ‘Well, that’s just bloody great’ I said aloud. The questions, ‘Where on earth am I?’ and, ‘Why did the moose panic?’ also sprang to mind.

“I looked around expecting to see a bear but there was nothing, nothing but the distant drone of traffic. So I ran toward the sound and eventually came across the road. By the time I got back home, Ed, I’d been running for two hours.”

There was silence on the other end of the line.

“Well, what would you have done?” I asked defensively.

The answer came in the form of a deafening Skype ringtone. It was Ed.

“Sorry, Ollie, I lost the connection a couple of minutes ago. What happened about the moose?”

I took a deep breath. “Gosh, Ed, is that the time already? I really must be getting off. I’ll give you a buzz next Friday.”

“OK, old pal, but be sure to tell me about that moose!”

I sighed and hung up.