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Moose Visit at Coney Lake

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Every year, I try to think about what is my favorite time of year. I always come back to the same answer. Fall. I love everything about fall. There is a familiarity and a commonality to it no matter what part of the world I'm in. The mosquitoes of the summer have finally gone. The crisp morning and evening air returns with a tinge of frost. Not to mention the amazing change of colors.

It's hard to have a favorite fall trip. Kris and I backpacked in the Great Smoky Mountains in the fall. I'll never forget climbing a fire tower near our last night's camp to watch the sunrise and sunset. We decided that the trees across the valley reminded us of Fruity Pebbles and vowed to have a huge bowl when we got home from that trip. Funny how you think of food after 5 days in the backcountry.

One of my recent favorites was a solo trip I did with Motown in September of 2015. We decided to do a quick 1 night/2 day trip up to Coney Lake. I just really needed to get out there but didn't have a ton of time to dedicate to it. It's an easier trail. Only 3.5 miles up and 1,189' in elevation gain.

After I set camp, I decide there's a perfect fishing spot across the lake. I take my pole and head around the lake to the spot. I don't catch anything but got a few nibbles. It's starting to get cold with the sun setting. Time to head back to camp.


 
Breakfast Visit

The next morning, I wake to a beautiful day. I grab my meal stuff and head over to an eating spot about 100' away from my tent. Even though I'm leaving today, I still practice bear safety. I notice movement across the lake, not too far from where I was fishing the night before. I get my binoculars and look across. It's a family of moose! A dad, mom, and a baby! Wow! I've never seen a family before! I'm mesmerized by watching them and am not worried at all as they are on the other side of the lake. I watch for about an hour while I eat.

 

As I'm beginning to clean up, the mom gets into the lake. I watch intently as she starts heading toward me! I think, “Surely they are gonna turn and go a different way!” But they don't. The baby follows mama and is practically on top of mom's back. She is coming straight across! Directly at me! I decide it's time to hide. I grab my bear spray, Motown's leash and run up to some willow bushes and boulders behind me. Moose are notorious for hating dogs. They are very territorial, and like most wild animals, will fiercely protect their young. [What do you do if you encounter a moose.

Close Call

The mom comes out of the water right by where I was eating! The baby follows suit. I'm kicking myself because I left my camera down where I was eating. The binoculars are around my neck, but this was such a great opportunity to get some great pictures while I was hiding! Meanwhile, the dad has reluctantly decided to follow, grunting the whole way. All three of them work their way closer to my tent. They get pretty close when the wind picks up and the tent flaps. They realize there's something wrong and finally start to retreat back to the other side of the lake.

Plan Foiled

It was an amazing encounter. I probably hid and watched them for a good two hours before they went back to the other side of the lake. Unfortunately for me, they are heading to the upper lake. I was going to head that way, but I haven't even begun to pack up camp and now it is late morning. I'm gonna have to come back another time to see the upper lake. On my way down the mountain, I run across some bow hunters. It is bear season. I have some people make fun of me because I tend to where bright colors while I'm hiking. This would be why. I was wearing a blaze orange tank top and the hunters saw me way before I saw them. I also have a blaze orange leash for Motown. In some areas, I even put an orange vest over his backpack.

So, even if you only have one night available in the backcountry. Do it! I had my best wildlife encounter to date because I decided it was still worth going for just one night.

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