What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stranger

A Monumental Moose July 29, 2015

Filed under: Animal Antics — meganorussell @ 10:00 am
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Remember that time my husband got a bunch of strangers chased by a moose? Oh you don’t? That’s fine, I do. ‘Cause it was yesterday.

There was a big storm predicted for the area, so rather than go on one of our epic adventures we decided to stay closer to home. It’ll be fine, we thought. Much safer, we thought.

We did a little hike where we found a cute little pika and were turned back by a closure for bear activity. And then we went down to the good old lake trail. The one where the elderly tourist go because it’s safe. On our way down, the people going up kept telling us excitedly about how there was a moose at the bottom. We kept responding with how we would be very careful, trying to emphasize to the tourists that moose can be cool, but they can also kill you. A mama moose is the most dangerous animal in Denali Park after all.

We were almost to the bottom when we saw the little moose cross the trail. We backed off to a respectable distance and waited for the mama to follow so we could continue on our way. We kept hiking around the loop. We saw two beavers pulling trees through the lake and then, low and behold, we saw that same mama moose in the water, just chompin’ away at the weird grass at the bottom of the lake.

We had to keep circling the lake to get out, and the plan was to pass quickly and quietly behind the mama and the baby.

But when we got to the other side of the lake, there was a lady videoing the mama and the baby. So then my husband had to get a better picture. This picture: (more…)


Waiting for the Wolf July 18, 2015

Guys! I saw a wolf! After three seasons in Denali constantly looking for a wolf, I found one! And by I found one I really mean the car in front of my shuttle bus found one and the people were nice enough to point for us.


And there he was just lying in th  e empty creek bed. And he didn’t even seem to mind an entire bus of people taking pictures of him. He just sat, moving his head occasionally, enjoying the sunshine. Until one butter butt in a truck behind us decided to get out to take pictures of the wolf! Sir, you don’t stand fifteen feet from a predator! Our bus driver had to tell the guy to leave, and then the wolf was like, “Tourists,” and walked slowly away.

Then we got to see our first marmot! I never even knew they existed in Denali until like an hour before we found this cute little dude. I mean look at that face? Isn’t that adorable?


Add to that a really great hike, two bull moose a new friendship with a caribou and a bear jaunting through the riverbed, and I call that a solid win!


It was worth the three seasons’ wait to see my Denali wolf. There’s probably some huge lesson in here about good things coming to those who wait. Or when the time is right, it will happen. But those are lesson I doubt I will ever learn. So, yay for my wolf friend! And now, I want to see a wolverine!


Can you find Denali in the background?


Stomp Out the Habit June 8, 2015

It’s me again. Megan’s husband. I’m here with a public service announcement. Already this summer, there have been at least three moose stompings in the boundaries of Denali National Park by the same cow moose. And yet, you know the true problem? People become idiots when they have cameras hanging around their necks. I should know. I have a camera and have charged toward wildlife before. Granted, it was a caribou and was running the opposite direction before I ran forward by just a couple of feet to get on a rise to take a few photos. Here’s one that I got last year (sorry if you’ve seen this photo from me before)!


But I digress. The main reason for my soapbox this morning is this: if you have been warned against approaching an animal and that they can and will charge you if they are feeling harassed (which I guarantee you all who were at this location had been), don’t approach the damn animal to get a better shot! Ok, who knows? Maybe not all of these people were approaching wildlife. I’ve just seen too many tourists getting out of their cars and approaching moose to think that these stompings weren’t due to stupidity on tourists parts.

In short, please be careful when approaching wildlife. If it looks like it could kill you, it probably can. Stay… in… your car! That is all.


The Practicality of Poop May 30, 2015

Filed under: What Doesn't Kill You — meganorussell @ 10:00 am
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All right. Those of you with weak stomachs when it comes to the practicality of animal poop might want to skip this post. And no there are no videos or pictures depicting defecation. This is a post about some important life lessons I’ve learned in the wilderness.

Last week, my husband and I went for the most amazing hike. We went up a social trail to the top of a mountain.


Once we got up there, we decided to follow the cliff line, which led us to a game trail.

photo (10)

Then we cut down between two lakes and onto a national park trail.


It was epic and amazing, and we stayed safe in great part because of the poop.

photo (11)

We found large amounts of animal poop. Scat for ground squirrels, snowshoe hares, moose and even bears! Lots and lots of poop for moose and bears! Lots of moose and bear poop means lots of moose and bears, which is not ideal when you’re following the animal-made trail to water in the animals’ environment.

Now, under normal walking circumstances, the only reason that you would care if you spotted poop would be to (hopefully) avoid stepping in it. But in the great wonderland of Denali, seeing lots of moose poop, especially fresh moose poop, means that you need to make a lot of noise while you hike so the moose know you’re coming and have time to wander away. And if you’re walking down a social trail and find bear poop, that means project your human voice for Jesus so the bear will decide he’s not hungry for people and move on to eating some cute little ground squirrel.

Poop isn’t just a way of ridding the body of waste. It’s a way of warning other animals that this is your turf and you will kill them for crossing your territory. Unless you’re a dog living in Manhattan, in which case pooping is your way of showing your master who’s boss while they pick us your warm moist poop in a thin plastic baggie.

But in Denali, poop is the difference between a great hike and a cautionary tale.