I should let you know up front that this post has no surprise Rob Bell-esque twist at the end where I come out of nowhere with a deep theological insight.
This is just a story about me chasing a moose through Yellowstone National Park that I wanted to share A) for your amusement and B) because after years lost in the wilderness, my friend Ryan just uncovered pictures of the momentous occasion.
Unfortunately, the entire story is too long and borderline unbelievable (but entirely true) for me to set the entire context of my stupidity, but if you’ve ever heard me speak before, chances are good you already know the story of what led me to Yellowstone National Park the summer after my freshman year in college and all the wonderful craziness that transpired along the way.
If not, don’t worry. Not knowing the rest of the story doesn’t affect this brief episode of idiocy.
And who knows?
Maybe I’ll write down the rest of the story one day so you can have a good laugh at me, but there’s no space here to tell you about nearly driving off a mesa in New Mexico, getting lost in Idaho, accidentally driving our conversion van down a horseback riding trail, or puking on bikers. And I’ll have to wait to tell you about crossing the bridge of death, the most beautiful campsite I’ve ever seen, and the secret natural hot tub in the middle of the Yellowstone backcountry.
All of that will have to wait for another day.
So, until that day arrives here’s all the context you need for this brief episode – my friend Ryan and I were back country hiking in Yellowstone National Park the summer after our freshman year in college.
This particular morning I woke up not particularly well rested after a night of constant terror. It was only our second night in the woods and I was still afraid that every bump in the night was a bear coming to eat me. So, I decided to try to calm my nerves by getting back to my Ansel Adams delusions of grandeur.
You see, I had brought my grandmother’s vintage camera along with me on the trip, convinced I would take amazing pictures along the way and emerge from the woods to be herald by the art world as the next Ansel Adams.
Now, if you don’t know who Ansel Adams is, then….well…I’ll pray for you.
Anyway, I got my backpack packed up a little quicker than Ryan that morning and while he was finishing gathering his stuff together, I decided to take a walk around our campsite and started snapping away at pseudo-artistic pictures of the trees and sky.
They were awful.
But thankfully for humanity’s sake no one’s eyes will ever be injured by the sight of those cheeztastic images.
Because in the middle of my wannabe Ansel Adams session I realized that the vintage camera I had hauled all the way across the country and all the way through the woods, the camera I had been taking pictures with like crazy for the past couple of days….wasn’t working.
I hadn’t taken a single picture.
(Turns out the battery was dead. I think.)
I was livid.
And more than a bit crestfallen.
Fortunately, Ryan played the part of the Good Samaritan that morning and offered to let me take a few pictures with his camera while he finished getting ready to hit the trail.
Still angry at myself, but also still delusional enough to think my Ansel Adams career had just had new life breathed into it, I borrowed Ryan’s camera and headed off into the woods alone to sulk and snap away.
I was out there by myself for only a few minutes when I heard what I assumed was Ryan coming up the trail behind me.
Turns out, though, that it wasn’t Ryan.
When I turned around to give him back his camera, I found myself standing face to face with full-grown 7-foot tall(?) adult bull moose.
He was just staring at me.
And I stared right back.
Naturally, I did what any aspiring Ansel Adams would do and snapped a picture.
For some reason, the first thing that popped into my head while I stared down this majestic creature was….wait for it….the Crocodile Hunter.
You remember him, right? That crazy Australian TV host that used to wrestle alligators for science?
Well, for some insane reason, I got it into my head that if that guy can wrestle alligators, then surely I can pet this moose.
You know, for science and whatnot.
So, I took a step forward.
Not surprisingly, the moose turned and started to walk away.
But not quickly.
So, I took that as an invitation to keep following him.
I stalked him for about 20 yards or so before he stopped and turned around to look at me as if to say, “Are you really this stupid?”
And as soon as I snapped another quick picture, he started to walk away.
And I kept following, determined to pet him no matter what.
And then he started walking a little faster.
And so did I.
And then he started walking even faster.
And so did I.
And then he started running.
And so did I.
And before I knew it I was chasing a full-grown 7-foot tall adult bull moose through Yellowstone National Park like some sort of crazy person.
I didn’t care if I had a 70 lb backpack on and a camera dangling around my neck bouncing all over the place and hitting me in the face while I dodged trees and hopped over fallen logs. I was gonna pet that moose if it was the last thing I ever did.
And it may have been if disaster hadn’t struck in the form of a river that came out of nowhere.
While I quickly strategized my river crossing, the moose bolted across like the river wasn’t even there and was up and over a mountain before I even knew what happened.
She stared back at me with outrage in her eyes and frustration in her voice (because the nearest set of handcuffs was 13 miles away) and said, “Are you kidding me?! Moose are responsible for more deaths in the park than grizzly bears!!”