Sunday Morning Shorts: Week 7

Short stories told by our ambassadors. Each week a different prompt! 
Grab some coffee - Grab a seat

What was your most surprising encounter with wildlife?

I was doing a solo trip in the Olympics last September. I set up camp in an alpine meadow on a small rise, near a cliff, ringed by waist high bushes. As I was sitting down cooking dinner I began to hear numerous Elk rutting calls, which if you haven't heard before, sound like a terrible combination of a deep guttural moan, and nails dragging on a chalkboard. After a while of continuous calls that were getting closer and closer, I stood up and there was a full grown twelve point bull elk about 20 yards down the meadow. I said "hey you," and he snapped his head around and just stared at me. After a few seconds of intense eye contact I yelled "Get outta here, go on!" and he ran off. I can still remember how loud his hoof steps were as he ran away. I could almost feel them through the ground. He trotted about 300 yards to the edge of the meadow, turned around, and we continued our staring contest. I finished an entire cup of hot tea as we stared at each other across the meadow, and after a while I eventually shrugged and went back to my dinner. About twenty minutes later I had finished dinner and was checking out the days pictures, when I heard a breathy growl rattle the bushed behind me. I turned around and there was this god damn bull elk close enough for me to reach out and touch. He must of tip toed across the meadow, because this huge creature didn’t make a sound as it approached. I yelped and dove around to the other side of my tent and screamed "GET OUTTA HERE, GET THE **** OUTTA HERE." Unperturbed, he shook his antlers, bellowed, and pawed the ground. I ripped my tent up out of the ground and shook it over my head while continuing to yell for him to leave. This finally did the trick, and he trotted off down the hill. If it wasn't for my campsite being ringed by thick bush, and being on a slight steep rocky incline, I believe that angry guy would of charged me. It didn't take long for him to find someone his own size to pick on and I spent all night listening to the sounds of battling bull elk. -Clyde

Graduation parties are the time of the year when high schoolers get to celebrate the weirdest 4 years of their life. My friends decided to keep the party going at a campsite in Terry Andre State Park. Sitting around the campfire, we reminisced about all the crazy things that have happen since our pre-puberty days. As my friends kept making beers disappear, an unfamiliar noise appeared. Confused from where it originated, one of my friends said, "Alex look down." I leaned forward in my chair and put my head between my shins. As I bent as far as I could, I was meet face to face with a raccoon. Shocked, I jumped to the other side of the fire to stare at this creature that probably could have kissed me if it really wanted to. As flashlights turned on, we noticed not 1, not 2, but 6 raccoons! A horde of raccoons began overtaking our campsite, and they were very eagerly eyeing our food. In order to preserve some of our supplies, we made a peace offering to the raccoons by giving them some our hot dog buns. Pragmatic? Yes! Good LNT? Not so much! Satisfied with their payload, the leader of the pack signaled the others to move out, and we returned to the fire to discuss what had just happened.    -Alex

3 years ago while hiking in the Brooks Range of Alaska, my traveling companions and I completed a river crossing and immediately came across a moose carcass. It seemed to be a couple of days old, and while we grouped up and decided to sing extra loudly, we didn’t think too much about it. We continued on, but after another 20 steps or so, we spotted 2 grizzly cubs bounding around in the brush. Before we could really process the obvious fact that cubs probably meant a nearby mommy grizzly… momma bear herself popped out and her cubs disappeared! She was incredibly big, incredibly quick, and only about 30 feet away. She darted back and forth amongst the brush trying to get a better look at us, and after a few seconds of surveying she stood up, looked at us, and then ran off. This whole time we had been yelling at the bear, waving our arms, and readying our bear spray. Initially we thought we were in the clear! The bear however was not done yet. Once it was about 100 feet away she stood up, looked at us again, and then ran right at us. We couldn’t see the bear running through the brush, but we could see the leaves rustling and shaking as the bear came towards us. It got about 20 feet away, stopped, stood up again, and then disappeared. We very quickly crossed the river in order to put some distance between ourselves and the bear, and tried to regain a normal heart rate.  -Lloyd

Often, we find that encounters with animals are what make for some of the best stories - the person who escapes a bear attack or who stumbles upon a rare bird. But, it is not always the encounters with animals that define our trips, but rather the false encounters. In the backcountry a close encounter with a grizzly can turn too close for comfort quickly with the potential for injury and death, and it is the fear of these types of encounters that often dictates the nature of our adventures. For me, the most surprising animal encounters are the ones that I imagine. On several occasions my time on the trail has been cut short from fear of animal encounters that could turn dangerous. Afterwards I inevitably ask myself did I really hear wolves howling or was that my mind playing tricks on me? While in the brush, it almost always seems like the real thing, but as soon as I am safe, and away from danger and excitement, I question the reality and danger of my previous situation! It is these encounters with animals, real or imagined that continue to surprise me the most!  -Ethan