Isle Royale and My Pilgrimage to See a Moose, Part Three
- Numbers 75 and 42 on my life list.

Part Three: Life List Item Forty-Two
Click Here for Part 1


The night was in the upper forties and remained chilly the next morning as I repacked my gear. McCargoe Cove, 10 miles away, was today’s planned destination. I walked along a twelve-inch plank raised above the ground, with beautiful wild flowers on both sides. I didn’t hear the buzzing until I was right in the middle of it. Bees surrounded me. It was like being in an apiary without the benefits of a beekeeper outfit. I didn’t think they would sting me. I just kept walking through it. My naivety will one day be the death of me.

So far, my pilgrimage to see a moose was unsuccessful. I worried that not seeing any was a possibility. Then somewhere between Lake Richie and Chickenbone Lake, just a few yards on my right, I hear a loud exhaling grunt that could have only come from one of the half-ton lumbering beasts.

I was temporarily startled but drew the camera from my side pocket like Wyatt Earp. I walked along fallen trees to get closer, balancing myself by reaching for nearby trunks and branches. He was grazing, preparing for winter, so says Ranger Marcia. His massive size and huge rack made me feel very trivial and fragile. His movements were unhurried, living in the moment. He grabbed branches between his teeth then slid up stripping it of leaves. It was fascinating to watch. With great satisfaction, I mentally cross off #42.

I picked a site at Chickenbone Lake to stay for the night. I didn’t get to McCargoe Cove, three more miles away. I was ready to rest and after seeing the moose, I wanted to stay in the area to increase my chances of seeing more. Moose don’t like hot weather. They don’t get cold until about minus-25 degrees Fahrenheit, so I figured they would frequent the lake to cool themselves. After surveying the site, I found a few moose tracks and many paths leading toward the water. I was certain I’d be successful. I set my alarm for 6:00 am. I’d hunt early, camera in hand.

Logs and rocks surrounded a large boulder near the center of the campsite, which I used as a table and chairs to prepare dinner. While I ate, and for the rest of the evening, the periodic cry of the loon and the equally long echo, lifted my spirits. Shortly after, it started to rain. I quickly grabbed everything and put it in the tent and under the rain fly. It cleared up as quickly as it started but would return a little while later.

I moved to another large boulder that was a couple of feet out into the lake. I sat watching droplets from the slight drizzle collided with the still water. The light reflecting off the ripples looked like thousands of fireflies swarming on the surface.

Another reason I stopped three miles before reaching McCargoe was that I didn’t want this trip to be about completing as many miles as possible. I wanted time to relax by the lake, sway in my hammock, and read my book. Aside from the few intermittent showers, it was a perfect night to do so. The storm clouds moving in reflected many warm hues from the setting sun, creating a dramatic and menacing sky.

I am a hammock-based sloth with nothing to do, nowhere to go, and no one to answer to. Finally, I’m beginning to have the frame of mind to answer some, often ignored, but important questions. That is, questions that keep me in the here and now: what is going on around me, what sounds have just entered my ears that I am ignoring, what is my skin feeling, am I paying attention.

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