By Mitchell Scott
From afar it looks like a log with a motor on it. Like a kid has stolen his dad’s outboard and mounted it to a fallen fir tree. Even through my binoculars from shore, that’s exactly what it looks like. Except there’s no kid. I blow it off for a bit, tossing it to anomaly, to the weariness associated with late-night fireside beers and camping with kids.
The object is a kilometre or so down the lake. After 30 minutes of obvious movement, the itch to know what it is overwhelms me, so I hop into the boat and fire up the motor to investigate. As I approach, the mystery reveals itself. A young bull moose is stroking itself across three kilometres of open water. Seeing the fear in his eyes, I pull away and stay behind so I don’t upset his trajectory.
We’ve been camping at Drury Point, a boat-access flutter of beaches on the southwestern shores of Kootenay Lake. The moose must have launched just south of our camp, leaving behind a vast chunk of Selkirk Mountain wilderness. Right now, he’s halfway to the Purcells. Seeing the moose has me thinking: I’ve heard moose are fearless creatures, as they should be; one of the largest ungulates in the world, they can get up to seven feet tall and weigh up to 1,500 pounds. They’ve been known to charge trains and destroy small cars. But what would motivate this massive creature to jump into a deep, glacier-fed lake and swim to the other side, in what could be a life-changing decision, leaving behind what I can only assume is his homeland?
Is it for bigger bulls or predatory threats? The thought of greener grass and a sweeter piece of ass? From my perspective, the Selkirks and the Purcells are fairly similar swaths of land. You’d actually think the latter would be more dangerous: more wolves, bigger grizzlies, increased proximity to rednecks.
But there he goes, swimming slowly, quite smoothly thank you very much. I keep thinking about Mr. Moose. I wonder what holds me back from going to see what’s on the other side of the lake. To jump ship from this place I call home and go seek new pastures, whether they be greener, browner or full of rednecks.
Who knows, maybe this particular moose did the swim fairly regularly. No big deal. Or maybe this was a massively difficult decision, where he spent days dipping a trepidatious hoof into the water before taking the plunge, his life hanging in the balance. Sometimes the natural order requires all life to take a giant leap of faith. It might just be for shits and giggles, or it could be our undoing. Or, just maybe, it’s the most important thing we ever do.