About a month ago, when the bike trails were finally clear of snow, myself and a group of friends headed into the provincial park to hit my favourite trail, Verboten. Verboten (which means forbidden in German) is my favourite trail for many reasons. Mostly because of its root sections and technical aspects but another reason I like it so much is because in those peaceful woods just below the Haulback T-Bar I feel especially close to my friend Connor, who passed away a few years ago. I am not sure why I feel so close to him there but after he died I was riding up Red Tree Road by myself and I felt his presence more than I had ever felt before. I think part of it has to do with being close to the ski hill, where we both spent so much time together working and playing. Now every time I go there, I can still feel that presence which makes it a very special place.
The five of us made our way up Gorby and once we got to the top of Snake Bite we had to walk almost the rest of the way because the road was still full of snow. Despite this, I was almost certain the trail was ready. After trying to pedal through the patches of snow we made it to the top of our objective and the trail was, in fact, clear and ready to go.
Max, a new friend of mine went first, and I followed. We went full tilt all the way down until about half way where there is a natural break in the trail. Max slowed to a stop, I was right behind him. As soon as we stopped we noticed a large male moose blocking the trail about twenty metres ahead. Max is from Australia and had never seen a moose before and wasn’t really sure what to do, but we got off our bikes and stayed where we were.
Soon after the rest of the group showed up and we tried to figure out what to do. We could see the moose had his ears back, a sure sign that he wasn’t happy and could be aggressive but we wanted to continue our ride so I slowly started moving towards him, hoping he would simply walk off the trail and let us pass.
With the group behind me I took one more step, talking to the moose calmly, then he lowered his head, snorted and galloped towards me. I quickly picked up my bike and ran for the nearest tree, and by the time I got there the moose had turned around and headed up into the woods. It was a classic bluff charge. I looked back to where my friends had been standing and none of them were to be seen. They had all dropped their bikes and scattered into the woods. I could hear laughter and cursing as they all slowly made their way out from hiding. We regrouped and expressed the fear we had felt as the moose ran towards us, but everyone was safe and we were able to continue our way down Verboten.
It was another lesson learned; moose are aggressive, territorial, and not to be trifled with. As I was running for cover I was thinking how I would feel if someone had been injured because of my actions. Give animals their space, after all, the woods is their territory.