Denali Nat’l Park and the Moose That Live There

This is how I remember it.

Picture this: It’s 1982 or so. I was about 4 feet tall, skinny, had bangs and the sweet, innocent baby face that would years later get me out of trouble after drunkenly oinking at a Park Ranger. Freckles and all. I’m also in Alaska. Denali National Park, to be exact. It was late spring. I was wearing a hoodie.

We had moved up to Anchorage in the summer of 1981. I was born with 3 great grandparents & 3 grandparents and they wanted to see this strange new place we were living. My great-great aunt Ethel even came along! Two Winnebago’s were rented. Bags, food and people were piled in for the trip from Anchorage to Denali.

I remember me and my sister, Jen, rambling around the tight quarters of our Winnebago one morning while Mom was making breakfast – underfoot in a small space = Good times. A Styrofoam cup full of Raisin Bran was pressed into our hands and out we went.

Jen and I were wandering around the campground, kicking pinecones and munching on that Raisin Bran when one of us caught sight of a baby moose. We freaked out and ran back to the Winnebagos. EVERYONE had to know there was a baby moose out there!!

Did you know that after a gestation period of 231 days, females give birth to one baby, which is called a calf? Calves can stand on their own on day 1, and within 5 days, calves can out run a person. Yep, keep that in mind.

Jen and I go blasting into the Winnebago, excited and shouting about the baby moose. By the time everyone gets outside, the baby moose is behind our Winnebago. The baby moose and its mother. They are both right behind our Winnebago. Both of them. Both.

Did you know that moose are also the tallest mammals in North America? Their height, from hoof to shoulder, ranges from 5 to 6.5 feet. This is where I bring up the little fact that I’m an adorable and unthreatening 4 feet tall. I don’t even make it to the shoulder of a moose. Humbling.

Anyway… Looking back on it, the ruckus we kicked up may have alerted EVERYONE in the campground to the presence of a baby moose. The campers came out of their motorhomes and Winnebagos and created a half circle around the baby moose and its mother, which, again, were right behind our Winnebago.

The baby moose and its mother were in a bad spot. How does that Stealers Wheel song go? “Clowns to the left of me. Jokers to the right. Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.” If a moose could sing a song, that’s the song that this moose would have sung. I’m telling ya. I could see it in her eyes. Her large eyes.

Remember, this is 1982, and the personal video cameras are a somewhat new technology, meaning they are HUGE. Think news crew size. The cameras, on the other hand, are sorta small. Remember 110 film? Well, a good amount of campers in that half circle surrounding the moose had whirring personal video cameras propped up on their shoulders. Mom had her dainty 110 camera, and we were standing at the back of the passenger side of the Winnebago.

The momma and baby moose really only have one way out of that situation, and it is right over my stupid 4 foot body.

Uncle Frank had used Mom’s camera last, and you know what? He didn’t wind it. (Back when you had to wind cameras, among other things.) When mom wound the camera it made a distinctly electronic noise. Well, the momma moose had had enough. She had put up with 2 kids shouting about her calf and alerting the whole damn campground AND being surrounded by said campers. She was done with this bologna.

I remember it like this: The momma moose dropped her head and charged. I had this thought like, “Eek! Crap!” Then I was falling backward. Turns out mom grabbed my hoodie and I was briefly one of those capes that matadors use. Mom did get a pick it’s a blur of trees as she spun me out of the moose jaws of death.

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