I think it all started when I watched Brother Bear, in my first month living in the US, on the boat. The two moose were the comic relief of the film, and I fell in love with them. The two actors, who made the moose’s’ voices, looked each like his respective moose. Or the other way around. I found that absolutely genius. In the film, the moose have a Canadian accent, and they do yoga – “salutaaaaations to the sun”. They apparently have more legs than they need, and don’t seem to know to use them elegantly. They are a little lanky.
I kept the moose in a drawer in my mind, and kept on living in California, among seagulls, seals and pelicans.
Until I moved to Texas. Here, some friends laughed like crazy when I said “that thing is enormoose”, meaning “enormous”. Pure Brazilian accent. I think that made me open the moose drawer and it all started again. I kept saying to myself, as a frustrated biologist – “I need to check those guys in person, some day”.
Well, the day has come. And when it rains, it pours! I decided to make a trip to Maine last weekend and here are a few stories and photos. If before I liked moose very much, now I do love them. I have never seen a moose that I did not like!
…AND THEN, THE DAY ARRIVED.
Thank God for my friend Cristina. I had made up my mind to go to Maine on this “moose safari”, anyway. I was decided to go by myself. I found this link on a slow day at work, and kept dreaming about it – http://www.maineoutfitter.com/adventures/wildlife.html
Then I commented with my friend. She said “I will go with you!”. Next weekend, we both had our tickets bought. Now we only needed to do the countdown: 3 months.
We bought our tickets to Manchester, 240 miles away from the area where we planned to go, just because the flight was incredibly cheaper. And who would not want to drive a few miles in New England? All set.
I got busy reading about the region and thinking about the lakes. Of course I got ambitious and decided to squeeze in one day at the Acadia National Park, which I don’t regret. God laughs when we make plans, so I don’t want to give HIM a good reason to crack up at me… I just decided where we were going to spend each night and got good deals. Cristina agreed with everything and just kept repeating that her only must-do was eating a lobster.
So the day arrived: Saturday, May 28th, 2010. I flew out of Austin, Cristina flew out of Dallas.
I CONFESS THAT I NEVER WAS CRAZY ABOUT BALTIMORE…
…and that is because of a pain-in-the-ass Professor that I had that insisted in reminding us every now and then of the time that he had spent in the U.S., and he always started like “When I was in Baltimore…”.
The dude ruined that city for me forever.
FLYING ABOVE NEW HAMPSHIRE…
No matter how bad they turn out, you always need to take a photo from the airplane.
Welcome to New Hampshire! Oh, yeah, I feel welcome!
WHEN THE UNIVERSE IS CONSPIRING FOR YOU… THERE’S MOOSE AT THE AIRPORT
Cristina arrived and we started the drive. It was already 6pm, and we had both woken up at 4am, but life is short, and who cares? Modest Mouse was blasting on the stereo, life was pure indie rock’n roll.
We asked for information about the roads in the airport and noticed the different accents and attitudes. Definitely we were not in Texas. People wanted to know where we were from. Well, Brazil, but we live in Texas. Crazy people. Cristina was definitely the darkest person in a 10 mile radius.
Cristina’s GPS had a hard time to find out that it was not in Texas. Then we found out that Cristina does not like maps and could not care less about them. We had still 300 miles to go, and numbered minutes in daylight. But who cares.
We made it to the highway and decided to make a quick detour to see the Atlantic Ocean. I mean, we supposed it could be quick. We exited to Kennebunkport (where Bush-the-Father had his summer home) and tried to follow directions to the beach. Seemed pretty easy, Cristina opened the windows and marveled at the smell of the sea. At this point I was tired of trying to read maps and iPhones, and told her “you know what? Let’s just follow our noses!”.
That’s when we found ourselves in a cul-de-sac, at the Sewage Plant of the town of Kennebunkport.
We saw the ocean. Cristina was disappointed. It was cold and smelled like sewage.
I was just cool as a moose, but dying to get back on the road because we were going to stay in a hostel. The guy had already called to know when he should expect us, and we were running waaay behind our schedule. But who cares.
I asked Cristina in the car if she had eve stayed in a hostel. She said no. For some reason that I can not explain, I busted out laughing, laughing so bad that I had to open the windows to take air. I was tired and aching and all I wanted was a bed, in a quiet room. I knew that the chances for all that in the next day were zero, and I regretted the day I decided, as if I was in my 20′s, to stay in a hostel. As time advanced, I called the hostel dude to inform him of our schedule, or lack of it. But when he answered I dropped the phone on Cristina’s lap, and she told him that we were 10 miles south of Bangor. Excuse me???! We were more like 250 south of Bangor, but all that matters was that the password to the backdoor was given to us, and all was good again.
We made it to the hostel at 1am, took a shower and probably woke people up, although a bunch of folks were still chatting in the living room. But not to worry, because next morning it was their turn.
..AND THERE WAS THAT HOSTEL MISHAP
I need to say… I am pretty excitable. This was a trip that I had been dreaming of for a while, and I needed not to waste time sleeping. I needed to do it all all the time. Let’s put it this way: Cristina had to cope with me. Thank God she is a social worker and I guess that dealing with weird people is her life. She also knows my dog, an absolutely lovable and hyper-active, obsessive-compulsive Border Collie, Truffles. So every time I was about to get to Cristina’s nerves, she would say “calm down, Truffles” (in Portuguese, it translates like “calma, Trufolina”). Things could have gotten more colorful in this trip if it wasn’t for my friend’s understanding of my collie personality, because at times I felt like in an Agility field.
So I woke up before Cristina at the hostel, with what I call rat-noises from other people (girls opening and closing backpacks, putting make-up and looking for clothes, jumping from the bulk-beds and the like). I grabbed my bag and took it downstairs, to the car. I was ready to go. Then I went back inside to look for some coffee, and ended up in conversations with people in the living room: a nice couple from Massachusetts and a German girl (who Cristina had absolutely hated the night before, for some unexplained but understandable reason, for friends understand everything).
Half an hour later, Cristina comes downstairs with a funny look on her face. “Where’s your bag?” she asked. Well, it’s in the trunk already waiting to get to Monson, I answered. “Merda”, she said. She woke up and saw the German girl by her bed, messing with a blue bag. I have a blue bag. Fearless and ready to protect my belongings, she told the girl “hey, that’s my friend’s bag!”. The German girl said NO, to what Cristina answered YES, and it seems that the conversation went on like this until the girl showed her the stuff in the bag. Oooops. Big mistake, entchuldigung! but then the relationship between the girl from Frankfurt and Cristina was forever ruined.
THE FLYING PLATYPUS DREAM
The night before we went to Monson, with the perspective of seeing whales and puffins and moose, I dreamed, during my brief hostel night, that I was seeing a platypus.
It’s probably my third dream with platypuses, ever since I named my small business “The Blue Platypus”. This dreamy platypus, however, was a flying one.
LITTLE TOURIST SHOPS IN BAR HARBOR
We heard about a whale watcher and screw it, let’s do it! I wanted to see puffins, too, and that would be nice.
Puffins were spotted like black little dots in the distance, and whales were plenty, playful, surprising, amazing.
People in the boat got sick all the time and that was pretty entertaining. Cristina started taking photos of whole families shut down, and by doing this we engaged in a crazy conversation with an awesome family. The chat started with puking and ended up with puking inside someone else’s mouth, or something like that. The father was a dentist (what a nice person, I’d not be afraid of a dentist like himself), and Cristina asked him if he didn’t feel like puking in his patient’s mouths, when having to work in adverse chemical situations, like very bad breath. I swear, I think that the man never expected that question, and me neither, so we all developed subject issue for quite a while. Deep inside I was admiring Cristina for her brutal honesty.
ACADIA NATIONAL PARK
We came back to terra firme after 4pm. We needed to drive to our next destination that afternoon, Monson, but we could not leave the island without going to Acadia. So off we went. And what a place.
GOING TO MONSON
After the Acadia, it was deja-vu all over again. Dawn, from Shawn Lodging in Monson, had asked me the day before at what time I thought I would be in Monson. I had said 7, but 7 was long gone. I know I might be over-sensitive with this issue, but I hate to make people wait. Also my in-laws are Inn-keepers and I see them waiting around or being woken up in the middle of the night and I didn’t want to be that kind of guest. So I called Dawn, and thank God I talked to the answering machine. Five minutes later I heard a beep and heard the voice-message that Dawn left for me. Yes, cellphones in Maine have a life of their own, free will and volition. They can make signals disappear from one end of the bedroom to the other, work only under a tree, say that there’s no service but show service. Awesome, I can’t explain why exactly I was so happy with that lack of cellphone deal. Anyway, Dawn was going to wait for us. Ugh.
Shaw’s Lodging is a reference for hikers and mainly for the Apalachian Trail hikers. I did not remember, but they were mentioned in Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in The Woods – Rediscovering America in the Apalachian Trail“, a book that I read last year and absolutely loved. It made me want to do part of the trail some day. The Apalachian Trail, for those who don’t know, starts north of Monson, at the Baxter Park, Maine, precisely at Mount Katahdin, and ends some 2200 miles south of that, in Georgia. Or the other way around, depending on which season you want to start the walkie. That is to say – the AT is the Mother of All trails, full of stories and history. People take months to do it at a time (the so called through-hikers) or do it in parts (section hikers). I had the ambition of walking a little part of it, I must confess, but then it was again the agility filed-thing (read post about my border collie).
So off we went, driving into moose country. I was suffering from lack of sleep, in a state that reminds me of the nights that I spent awake during school finishing those architectural projects. There comes a time when you are so exhausted that you start to act extra silly. All that silliness that is kept under some censure waits for those moments of censorship weakness to make its way out. And it succeeds in a baffling manner, you can hardly recognize yourself. I was so tired (and silly) that I was almost hallucinating, and Cristina had to drive, although I was the only insured driver in that vehicle. I was a little paranoid about that, and allowing non-insured Cristina to drive in the dark in mooseland took some minutes of my life. We started to see those CAREFUL MOOSE CROSSING signs.
For two moments I scared Cristina out of her skin, yelling ***MOOOOOOSE***, when I had seen two cat eyes glowing in the dark, or a big mail box. I thought that Cristina was going to throw me in the back seat or out of the car. That for sure gave us some adrenalin to keep on moving.
We got to Monson at 11 and Dane, Dawn´s daughter, was waiting for us. What nice folks. Next post!
MONSON AND SHAW’S LODGING
As we had our breakfast, we finally got to meet Dawn and her husband (I might not be fully correct about this status, though). They told us stories about their main guests – people who walk the Apalachian trail north-bound (NOBOs, as they call themselves, contrary to SOBOs). As the hikers arrive in Monson, 95% of the hike is behind them. That means that they have only 100 miles to go until Mount Katahdin and only days to get back to real life. Or is it real?
According to Bill Bryson, the Apalachian Trail was the most difficult task he ever made in his life, and the Maine part of it is the most difficult part of the Apalachian Trail. So you can imagine. Rocky trails, extremely cold weather, high elevation, maybe bears. In the book, Bryson dedicates one chapter just for bears – and the fear of them. Much of all the stories that we hear can be crazy legends, but you’d better stay on the very safe side, when it come to bears. The do not attack often – but here’s the thing – all it takes is once.
At Shaw’s we heard about how people who had been on the trails for months were fearing the return to civilization – or dying to get back to it. As they go through Monson, the last town stop before the end of the trail, they are usually going through an emotional roller-coaster. I wish I had heard more, much more about that.
On the walls we could see lots of maps – the Apalachian Trail map (a long strip that I later found and bought), a world map, a US map, a topographic map of the region (that one I liked very much). Pins were stuck on the cities where guests had come from. She got three new pins from us – Rio, Austin, and Dallas. We saw photos of people standing in front of the Mount Katahdin top mark, showing that glare of people who finish an incredible accomplishment. There was a cute photo of a girl high-fiving her dog in front of the mark. I thought of Truffles. She would do the 200o mile trail chasing the ball. My right arm would become definitely thicker than the left one, or it would fall down.
Cristina had a great breakfast, while I ate my bread and butter and coffee (you take the girl out of Brazil, but not Brazil out of the girl) and we hit the road to Greenville, looking for the Apalachian Trail sign, that we completely missed and only found later on that evening.
GETTING LOST IN MOOSEHEAD LAKE REGION
GREENVILLE AND THE WAIT FOR THE MOOSE
So we were exploring Greenville and the region while waiting to see the moose people at a quarter to four, at the store. Greenville is a small town, but it was rocking and rolling with the Memorial Day parade. There were firemen, policemen, bands and lots of public of all ages to watch each other. I found a boy with a Border Collie and that made me miss my Truffles. Greenville was the place to be, if you were in the region. Not that it was crowded. But it was Greenville-crowded, I am sure. We walked into the store that organizes the moose safari, payed our tickets, and were free until the afternoon.
I was restless!
In this meantime we tried to find nice spots that the woman in the shop recommended. Total failure, but total success in being lost.
THE MOOSE SAFARI
So we were at the store at 15 to four, precisely. There we were introduced to our guide, Mark, a thirty-something tall guy, all dressed in khaki (oh, yes, there’s a reason for that which we found out later), smiling, full of energy. Mark looked at Cristina and I and asked if we could handle a canoe ok. I thought of the day we went kayaking and I looked back to see Cristina spinning around in aqua-donuts. I myself was not too bad with kayaks, but the last time I tried to do the J-stroke in a canoe with my husband, we zig-zagged frenetically throughout Townlake in Austin. No, definitely Cristina and I needed another person with us in the canoe, also because – for God’s sake – I needed to photograph the moose. Mark also told us to take a bug-repellent, the most important advice of the trip. So it was all set, and we split, along with our super guide and another couple.
Mark told us that we were going to drive for one hour, and that later we would be canoeing for approximately 2 hours. Also we should be alert during our drive, because he had spotted a black bear in this region earlier in the morning. Wow, at this point I thought that if I added a black bear to this list, my next dreamy platypus would be roller skating. Bring on the black bear, as long as we are in the car! Mark also told us that the chances of photographing the black bear would be minimum, for the time it takes to grab the camera and point, the bear is long lone into the woods.
So as we left Greenville we spotted beautiful views of the Moosehead Lake, and Mark began his lecture about moose, also answering our moose questions. That’s when Mark started to vaguely remind me of a moose dressed in khaki.
The first thing we learned was that we were not going to see moose with those parabolic-antlers. Those are fully grown only by September, by the mating season, after the full moon. Moose antlers grow and fall in a period of just one year! I asked Mark if the antlers feel in parts or as a whole, to what he answered that they fall in one piece, and that they can be found by February, mainly on mountain tops. Everything in the moose calendar -as it is with other mammals, including us – is related to the moon cycles and its increments: 28 days, 14 days and so on.
Moose’s sight is very different from ours: they are extremely near-sighted and their vision angle is far broader than ours – now, this is not a surprise, if you think of how separated those eyes are. They practically have one eye on each side of the head, just like chicken, but less. Am I clear? Moose are not like Mr. Magoo, for they have what they need the most: peripheral vision. We detect motion mainly with our peripheral vision, on the very edge of our vision-cone. Mark added that he had read a book on how to develop peripheral vision, and that he had been training to do so for 9 years, to spot more wildlife faster, as a guide and hunter. As he continued driving, I looked to him and definitely saw a moose on the wheel. Nice!
THE FIRST SPOTTED MOOSE
Mark was definitely good with the peripheral vision. As we were driving, now literally in the middle of nowhere, he stopped the car all of a sudden, as we were chatting, and said – “look!”, pointing to the right.
And there she was. A moose-girl, my first moose.
Mark put his hands together in some sort of flute-shape, and with that he produced a sound that he said was the calf-call. It worked, because we got the full attention of the lady moose.
I got out of the car with my camera and must have somehow have expressed my excitement, because Mark told me to try to talk much, much lower around moose, if I had to talk at all. Ooops. I must have been loud.
To what he added that moose are very sensitive to sounds, much more than us, and that somehow compensates for their sort of poor eyesight.
The girl moose seemed to be as curious about us as we were about her. It was an unforgettable moment, and here she is:
THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL
After the safari we were emotionally drained. Well, at least I was. Cristina was fly and mosquito drained, all bitten and afraid of the consequences.
As we were driving back to Monson, we had to find the Appalachian Trail sign, for God’s sake. So we went back and forth where it was supposed to be until we wisely decided to ask for information. The sign was kind of hidden on a parking lot.
We pulled over and finally saw the sign: Appalachian Trail. At this point it had become dark, but who cares, we had to put our feet in the trail. Off we went, until we heard a loud, loud sound coming from inside the forest. There were no people there, and that was no people sound. It was a full, vast sound. You know what a vast sound is when you hear one. We looked at each other and I didn’t need to talk to Cristina to understand that she and I shared the same thought: the bear that mark had seen in the region earlier that morning.
In half a second we were back to the car, windows closed, starting the drive.
I wonder why we never thought of moose at that moment. Chances were it was just another moose. But even moose, I didn’t need to see nobody bigger than me at that place at that time. Run was the verb – like Bill Bryson says, if you see a bear, run – at least it’ll give you something to do in the last 7 seconds of your life.
GOOD MOOSE FOUND IN ONE OLD EMAIL
I received this photo from friends that live in Montreal. They swear that they know that guy from their neighborhood.
I CAN’T BELEIVE I FOUND THIS
This is a photo from 2006 that I just stumbled upon, taken in the Museum of Natural History in Brussels. I took it and forgot about it!
Ok, I was totally joking when I said in one of my emails that the moose was a mixture of cow with horse with camel with giraffe.
Here I am, continuing my education on moose (bought two books and don’t lose a chance to surf the web when things are slow at work), and I find out that there are 5 moose subspecies, one of them being the
Alces alces cameloides
WOW! A real camel-moose.
I had read about the subspescies in the American continent, but today’s discovery took me elsewhere! This subspecies’ habitat is Eastern Siberia, Mongolia and Manchuria.
Most of you know, I’m sure, but for those who forgot it… a species is that end of the taxonomy tree. In the moose’s case, the tree starts with “Kingdom: Animal”and the name of the species is Alces alces. If you want to refine the branch a little more with subspecies, then a third word is added to the species name, like in this case – “Alces alces cameloides”. Of course, Latin is the official taxonomy language.
Anyway, I wasn’t really totally crazy when I found a resemblance with camels! Weirdly enough, The Alces alces cameloides seem to have a bigger “bump” on the back, just like camels, uuughhh, or I should say dromedaries. That might be the reason why the sub-species is named cameloides. But then I am just speculating! Anyone with information on this, please email me.
Here’s a picture of an Alces alces cameloides. This is really hard to find on the internet.
The branch with all subspecies is here, at Wikipedia.
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