Travelling of any sort is always a crap shoot for me. Aside from the logistics of 4 kidlets, (although, with everyone out of “babyhood”, I have finally become adept enough at packing that I can leave behind the kitchen sink!), the Griswold moniker is well earned…I seem to encounter “adventures” that fall outside of the typical. Moreover, MY typical usually falls within the realm of the bizarre, unexpected, & expensive…& plain, old fashioned bad luck. I’m often accused of over packing, over planning, over preparing, but experience has taught me it is better to be prepared for something that never happens than to be unprepared for something that does. For example, despite all of my meticulous & careful packing, planning, & preparing, a 3 week trip to Disney saw NUMEROUS breakdowns, which finally led to us ditching our trailer full of camp gear & belongings at the side of the highway in Daytona, thus spending our first night in Disney sleeping in the car, then it was a concussion & ambulance call for my oldest kid, a trip to the emergency room for my wee 4 year old who suddenly fell very ill , & constant pouring rain with below freezing temperatures for the entire trip, all while sleeping in a tent with 4 children ranging from a one year old to a nine year old. And those are just the highlights! So as I set off for cottage country last week, the Expedition packed to the rafters with rug rats, yard apes, & everything but the kitchen sink, I had little doubt it would be an interesting trip. It always is.
My family cottage is very remote. My Grandfather built it decades ago, starting with a little hunting cabin, on a small lake on Crown Land within the wilds of cottage country. Three of his buddies did the same, & eventually, they earned “squatters rights”, & the land became theirs. To this day, those same 4 cabins remain,with 3 of the original families still maintaining them. There is no one else on our lake. Water is pumped up from the lake, the fridge & stove run on propane, there are no phone lines, cell signals, or TV’s, & what little power we now have available is due to modern technology & the clever use of batteries & generators…just enough for a few lights & my portable DVD player for those rainy days. If no one else is up, it’s a good two hour walk to find help, so fingers crossed that the help you need doesn’t involve a broken down vehicle! Wildlife is, of course, not uncommon, but it tends to be limited to chipmunks, loons &, of course, those rug rats & yard apes. Over the years, we’ve had a friendly little mink living on the dock, Gracie the groundhog that would eat from our hands, & when I was young, my Grandpa befriended a little red fox named Vicky that came around. Bears were only seen when we travelled to the dump, often just to see the bears, & occasionally, again when I was little, we’d catch sight of a moose or two across the lake. Once, when I was maybe 8 or 9 years old, a moose stopped us on our cottage road, just standing there staring us down for awhile. The last two summers in a row, I have suddenly spotted bears near the cottage, while driving the last dirt road in…a little too close for comfort, & definitely not typical. This year, for the first time, I was the only grownup, just my kidlets & I getting away from it all, but I had taught them what to do in case of a bear sighting, & wasn’t overly concerned since no one had actually encountered a bear up close & personal on our lake for many, many years. I was confident I could manage on my own & was looking forward to it. And The Boy had been given very strict orders to immediately kill any & all spiders we may see before they got anywhere near me…especially those big ass dock spiders! (Trust me, I have my reasons for my fairly recent, but quite extreme, phobia of large spiders!)
Stalker or Stalkee??
After leaving the larger dirt road for the smaller dirt road that carves through the woods leading to our lake, we were all very excited to see our long drive coming to an end & finally be within reach of our favourite place. Or so we thought…mere moments after turning onto that last road, a baby moose bounded out of the woods…right in front of me! I say ”baby”, but a young moose is a very large animal, larger than a full grown deer & as tall as my Expedition. Forty years spent cottaging around them there parts has taught me enough about the wild life to have two things cross my mind as I slammed on my brakes & took stock of the animal…this WAS a youngster, & that MAY mean a Mama nearby… I stared at him, he stared at me, & the kids shrieked in both fear & amazement. Though I attempted to reassure them, I had the distinct feeling that I was more frightened of him than he was of me as I flashed back to the similar incident from my own childhood. I reached out a very shaky hand to do up all the windows, & leaned on the horn. He continued to stare at me. I then revved the engine of my very large, very loud truck. He continued to stare at me. I made a half-assed attempt to joke with the kids, that maybe said truck sounded like his mother. He continued to stare at me. I said a silent prayer in thanks for being encased in such a large truck. He continued to stare at me. Finally, as though he didn’t have a care in the world, he lifted a leg, peed a small waterfall, & began to trot off…ALONG THE ROAD! Since this particular dirt road is barely wide enough to accomodate my truck, all I could do was creep along behind him. For the next 40 minutes, on what should have been a ten minute drive, we were engaged in a bizarre little game of cat & moose. He’d stop dead in front of me, stare us down for a few minutes, pee all over the road, trot off a few feet…I’d creep along behind him, stopping & creeping, stopping & creeping, meeting his gaze in hopes of anticipating any signs of aggression…& insanely wondering if his bladder issues were about territory or nerves, making a mental note to Google that sh** when (if??) I made it home again. Meanwhile, I had The Boy beside me, snapping photos, & keeping a sharp eye out for any signs of a Mama moose. My panic grew, however, as we neared the cottage itself. I was not at all happy at the thought of having literally “driven” him closer & closer to our cabin. Night was falling, & I was soon to encounter our gate…that I would have to get out to unlock. Granted, moose aren’t really known for their aggressive nature, but the sheer size of him was plenty intimidating beside my 5 foot tall, 100 pound frame! Finally, about ten feet before said gate, he bounded off in to the woods…& I sat at the gate, eyes darting in all directions, debating the merits of getting out & leaving the safety of my metal box. After gathering my courage, & giving the kidlets strict instructions to stay put no matter what horrors they may witness, I made a mad dash for the padlocks, frantically looking over my shoulder every two seconds. Suprisingly, my shaky hands managed to get the gate open, & I flew back to the truck. Being the Mom that I am, I pulled in, herded my kids to the cottage, locked them inside & unloaded the car on my own, though with no phone & no idea how to drive, I’m not entirely certain what they would have done had I been mauled by a moose! Thankfully, these North American Rug Rats & Yard Apes tend to be pretty industrious creatures, I’m sure they’d manage to soldier on without me & find their way back to civilization…especially once they ran out of food. However, praise all that is good & holy, it wasn’t necessary…there were no more moose sightings, & Mom managed to make it back in one piece. Later that night, The Boy & I heard a tremendous ruckus of splashing nearby, & I could only assume (hope??) the baby moose had jumped in to head back across the lake where they are known to dwell.
And The Adventure Continues…
You may recall my words of wisdom at the start of this post…better to be prepared for something that never happens than to be unprepared for something that does. Frankly though, my own words negate my own words…it simply isn’t possible to be prepared for the bizarre, unexpected, plain old fashioned bad luck…or for being stalked by a moose. Since we’d barely even arrived, & still had a week ahead of us, you can be rest assured that I have more tall tales to tell…but I think I’ll save them for another day…
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