Symbol of the northern wilderness

ESCANABA – Knee deep in the muskeg as the northern lights glint above the spruces and firs, the moose has always been a symbol of the northern wilderness.

For years, whenever my family and I traveled by lily pad covered pristine looking ponds, someone would say “gee, wouldn’t it be nice to see a moose in there?”

For several years now, we have seen the unmistakably big tracks of a moose around our neck of the woods.

In the early spring of 2011, a wayward moose left its foot prints along our camp road. We did not see the creature, but we were fascinated by the huge prints it made in the mud and snow.

One of our tiny beagle pups made use of the tracks by propelling his stubby, round body into the moose tracks using them like they were cobble stepping stones through the snow. That’s how that pup got knick named “Moose Hound.”

I sort of thought it would be neat to see a wild moose, not just its tracks. I had heard of several moose sightings in Delta County in the past decade. My cousin Jeff and a friend had to slow down on County Road 426 for a moose crossing a few years ago.

Even though I enjoy the spending time in the woodlands and in the wetlands and frequently traveled between Manistique and Newberry and between Ishpeming and Baraga-I never saw a moose.

That all changed on Memorial Day Weekend. On our way to a field trial in Lake Linden, out of the cattails near Champion stepped a moose. My husband spotted it first. It was just about dusk after one of those warm humid days and through a cloud of gnats and flies and large black object stood out among the rushes and stunted trees.

We stopped the car to watch and wait in suspense as the big dark mound finally decided to raise its head. It was a cow. Very contently she grazed on green stuff, but what I remembered the most is how she moved. Her long gangly legs just sort of mowed over everything. The muscular humped back and big shoulders helped her to simply push over any tree or vegetation in her way.

Moose don’t follow trails like deer do they make them. The show wasn’t over until baby moose joined Mama. She nuzzled her calf and they aimlessly meandered on their way, stopping to eat here and there.

Upper Michigan is fortunate to have two moose herds (besides moose on Isle Royal). Moose still roam the Seney and Tahquamenon areas. This herd is a native U.P. herd that has thrived in the eastern wilderness.

The western herd are offspring of the 59 animals from the 1985 and 1987 moose transplants from Ontario Canada. These moose were released in northern Marquette County just north of Van Riper State Park.

So all of my waiting paid off, I finally got to see a moose. At seven feet tall and weighing ton, it’s a pretty awesome critter to see.

Now that fall is in the air, and the colors of autumn are just beginning to show, folks will be heading out for their rides in the country. Upper Michigan has so much beauty to share from sun rises over placid ponds to red and orange leaves cascading over the waterfalls.

Look for Mr. and Mrs. Moose in your autumn travels too!

Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong resident of north Escanaba. Her folksy columns are published weekly in Lifestyles.