Guests visit Bearskin Lodge for widely divergent reasons. Some come in hopes of catching trophy fish, some come to ski our trails, and others come with a goal of spending quality time with their family. The one common denominator among all Bearskin guests is this: almost everyone hopes to see a moose.
A good moose encounter story is worth a lot. Years ago when Bob, my dad and I were canoeing the Kawishiwi, we rounded a bend and came upon a moose cow and her calf standing at the mouth of a small stream. We stealthily (and foolishly) paddled forward to get a closer look. As we edged nearer, the cow took a step towards us, lowered her head and gave us her best mother moose glare. We quickly paddled away. That is the total extent of what occurred that afternoon, yet over the years my dad has probably retold that story 7,000 times. The moose has grown larger, fiercer and noisier. Our situation has become increasingly treacherous — now it sounds like we were lucky to escape with our lives. He’s gotten a lot of mileage out of our little moose tale.
For everyone who failed to find a moose this year, here’s the story that will make you grateful that you were “skunked” in your moose search.
It was about 8:30 PM when Andy McDonnell, Bearskin employee extraordinaire, was leaving the lodge in his pickup truck. His pickup truck that he likes very much. His pickup truck that he spent a bundle repairing after an accidental meeting with a deer.
As he turned onto East Bearskin Road, he spotted a female moose. As moose are apt to do, she loped out into the center of the road in front of Andy’s truck and headed up Bearskin Road towards the Gunflint, with Andy slowly following behind.
Apparently she had a hot date waiting for her. As Andy came over the ridge of the hill, there stood a big bull moose—and he was not at all pleased to see a 4-wheeled competitor pursuing his girlfriend. The moose pawed the ground, lowered his head and started to charge towards Andy.
Andy quickly shoved his truck into reverse. The moose kept coming. He repeatedly flashed his lights. The moose didn’t care. He wildly honked his horn. Didn’t slow the moose down in the least. Faster and faster he backed down the road, with the moose in hot pursuit. When he got to the Bearskin driveway, he rapidly backed around the corner hoping the moose wouldn’t follow. No such luck.
Adde, another outstanding Bearskin employee, was walking back to staff housing when she started to hear crazy loud honking noises. This is the Gunflint Trail, not New York City—horn honking is just not a typical sound at Bearskin. More proof that life is quite different on the Gunflint: Adde only wondered about the honking for a second before assuming that somebody somewhere was having big moose trouble.
In the end, the moose gave up before Andy did. He saved his truck from another unanticipated trip to the body shop.
To me the most amazing part of this story is that he did it all going backwards. In many places on East Bearskin Road there is a steep drop-off to the surrounding lowlands. When a vehicle goes over the edge on Bearskin, it’s not just, “Oh dear, my wheel is in the ditch”—the car or truck frequently rolls over on its side. If I had run into this mad bull moose, I would have had to say, “Go ahead, gore me.” No way could I have sped back in reverse down that twisty, steep sided road without going over the edge. Andy’s backwards driving/honking/flashing lights skills are impressive.
If the only moose you saw this year at Bearskin was the stuffed moose head in the Lodge, maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing. If you need a good moose story, go ahead and use Andy’s. Moose encounter stories don’t come much better than that one.