Monday, October 27, 2008

Goblins and ghools arrive early too in Ak

I had myself a Halloween styled scare a week early this year, and for a few frightful minutes I thought I might not see the sunrise early Friday morning.
Sometime around 5 a.m., a good four hours before the sun makes its daily showing over the river, something roused me from sleep. Because it woke me, I wasn't quite sure what I heard, though it sounded like something hit the wall outside my room.
The lodge is heated with air vents, and after the furnace shut off, the ducts will contract, making loud thuds as they do so. Not hearing anything else, I assumed that's what I'd heard, and began to drift back into sleep after a few moments.
Suddenly I heard something again, this time I could tell, it was right next to the house, right outside my room. It sounded like a plastic bucket was getting tossed around. Immediately I thought a bear must have been throwing a garbage can around; but there was no garbage outside, and I hadn't seen a bear in camp in a few weeks, they should be bedding down by now.
I stuck a leg out of bed, when to my horror, a loud raking noise started coming from the siding. Something was scratching the wall of the house right below the window. The glass window began to shudder and clink as whatever it was scratched the glass.
I leapt out of bed, but froze in terror in the middle of the room.
Was this really happening I thought? Over and over the wall of the house was clawed and whatever was outside appeared to be trying to pry open the window. With the blinds drawn, I couldn't see what so eagerly was attempting to get in, though I was sure at any second it would burst open the double pane glass and reveal itself. I could also hear the plastic bucket getting kicked around, whatever was here, and there was more than one.
They had to know I was in here. The front of the lodge is made up of giant glass windows and a sliding glass door, they had picked one of the harder points to get in, so clearly they knew I was here, and they wanted me.
My right leg shook violently; I wished like hell I had a gun, I'd just start firing through the window. I didn't however, and I had to do something quick. I reached towards the nightstand and felt around in the dark for my keys, I couldn't find them.
Now I was posed with a conundrum. I needed to find my keys, if I could remote start my car outside the window, whatever it was would bolt. To do so I needed to see, and flipping on the light seemed like the worst idea in the world.
Panic stricken, and knowing I had no other choice; I reached back and flipped them on.
The raking stopped. I held still for second, with the light on, the outside world was now completely blacked out. I saw my keys and snatched them, holding down the remote start button.
The lights of the suby flipped on. I heard something step back from the window.
The car loudly coughed to life, revving the engine as the starter caught.
Its loud purr was greeted with the sound of something fumbling first away from the house and then thundering full speed up the driveway.
Holy shit was all I could think.
I shut the room light back off and ran to the window.
Outside the Subaru’s lights lit up the courtyard, but I couldn't see anything beyond the shadows of the cabins and dark woods. I watched for another minute or two, expecting at any minute to see a dark object emerge from the shadows to carry on in its endeavor. I couldn't make out what tracks were imprinted in the snow outside, I could see a bunch, but I knew some of them were likely mine.
I still couldn't believe what had just happened. Had something really just sought me out? What condition could an animal be in, driven to invade a home for a meal? If I was going to have to put up with this all winter I'd need a gun. My little suby couldn't protect me for much longer.
Finally I gathered up the courage to go outside and look at the tracks in the snow. I grabbed the biggest flashlight in the lodge, and walled cautiously to the arctic entryway. I stood in the doorway for several seconds, shining my light beyond the reaches of the floodlight looking for glowing eyes in the forest. Satisfied whatever was out there was far enough away I ventured down the steps to the end of my window.
At first I was nothing but my own tracks, when I noticed, two firmly planted, massive moose tracks....What the hell I thought. It started making sense; the raking could have easily been a moose's antlers, but why.
That's when I noticed a dislodged hanging flower basket, caught neatly in a gap between the railroad tie retaining wall and the corner of my room.
It all made sense now. I could see the moose had had walked on the elevated yard on one corner of my room to nibble on the frozen remains of some flowers in the hanging basket. He must have pulled too hard and the basket fell, probably waking me up. Stepping down from the yard he came around to the other side and began to try and paw it out. Unable move it, he must have become frustrated at tried to reach it with is long hero of a snout, repeatedly slamming his antlers against the house as he did so.
I just about died laughing, and fell back on the cold stairs of the arctic entryway.
I was so sure something had sniffed me out and was determined to make be breakfast, and all the while, some stupid moose had been out there trying to make a meal of some dead flowers, totally unaware that I trembled only a few feet away.
I wished I'd had a bit more nerve, and peered out the window. I might have had some good face to face time with the moose without it ever knowing. Anyway, I took down the rest of the hanging baskets on the house the next morning.

Here are some photos from my hike Saturday afternoon in the upper Upper Russian River Valley trail. It made sense on the rides I did on this 20 mile trail to start at the lower end and ride ten miles in to the upper lake. To circuit it I'd have had to ride a 40 mile loop with 20 miles or road to connect the two, and a 40 mile out and back round trip also lacked appeal. Thus it'd been four years since I'd seen the upper reaches of the trail, though even covered in a dusting of snow, I still found myself recognizing many vistas. The upper trail is equally as gorgeous as the lower, and I wished I'd have sacked up a bit and done the upper on bike too. Ahh well, I'll have to wait for summer.
anyhoo, I originally hoped to ski the upper ten miles, but was both shocked and disappointed to find on my drive into the mountains, that as I gained elevation, the snow pack thinned from a measly 3-4 inches to nothing! The mountains seem to be forcing all the moisture to fall down here on the flats or high up in their crowns, as I didn't find snow again until I'd gained a good 1,000.' The high snow was fine and dry, giving me hope that when it does accumulate, it will be spectacular stuff.

This ought to give a pretty good idea of how much snow falls. The bottom of this snag is a good 10 feet up. Unless Paul Bunyon came through and made this cut, I'd say there was at least a couple feet on the ground.


Anonymous said...

Hey Dante its crazy kev from skidmore. Just read your moose story and looked at the pics. Great tale [I laughed a little myself] and beautiful pics! Hope everything is awesome up there in the 49th state. Sounds incredible. Congrats on the graduation again...wish i could have made it but I had to get back to MA for my painting business. Oh-- a little news from skidmore. Guess who's team just won the HUNT?! That would be mine. We finally did it. And I am once again eyebrowless. Keep the blog going...every now and then i see a link on facebook for it and more often than not i see it. Always a good story, thread or some sweet pics. Take care. Kevin McCreary

Dante said...

Thanks man
That's great news about the hunt, it's about time, you guys have owned that event every year whether the judges have recognized it or not! Congrats bud, it's well deserved