There may be no power lines or other signs of civilization along the almost 30 miles of "moose alley" between New Hampshire's northernmost town and the Canadian border, but as you can see from this picture, there are moose!
By the time the Great Moose Quest of 2009 ended, we'd sighted four of these magnificent AND HUGE creatures in the wild, deer, a baby fox and assorted other forest creatures -- and enjoyed other highlights of the Great North Woods aka the North Country (see below).
We reached "moose alley" around dusk, said to be prime moose watching time, after a gourmet meal lakeside in Pittsburg. At 291 square miles, Pittsburg is NH's largest municipality but home to only about 800 people -- except in summer and snow-mobiling season, when the weather can dip to 42 degrees below zero. It's also the nation's only town to border Maine, Vermont -- and Canada.
As Husband No. 1 slowly drove us along nearly deserted Route 3, No. 2 son, Buddy the Dog and I scanned the woods for moose, knowing they like to hang around swampy and salty areas. We were soon rewarded with two sightings. Once the sun went down, however, as Husband No. 1 noted, we no longer were looking for moose -- we were looking OUT for them. That isn't easy in an area with no lighting. And it was a concern because we've seen enough "Brake for Moose" signs to know there are roughly 250 moose-related accidents in NH each year, many resulting in injuries or death to drivers and passengers. That wasn't the kind of close encounter we were hoping for on this adventure.
Did you know that an adult moose is North America's largest wild animal? Now that I've seen one, I believe it. They average 1,000 pounds and stand 6 feet at the shoulder, plus they have really big heads. They reportedly have keen senses of smell and hearing, but are near-sighted, which may explain why they didn't blink when we lifted the camera. They look a little odd, though, because their front legs are longer than their hind legs, which helps them jump over fallen trees.
The next day, we saw two more moose, including this one standing along the thick spruce and fir forest of Thirteen Mile Woods between Errol and Berlin, NH. We heeded the advice of "don't count on moose stopping for you as they are very unpredictable" and pulled over. The moose walked by only a few feet away but I was too rattled to take the photo. Later, we spotted another moose in the woods and sent the teenager after that shot, figuring he could run the fastest if there was a problem. Apparently a moose that decides someone has crossed into its "personal space" will knock down the offender and kick and stomp until the threat stops moving. Fortunately, it wasn't rutting season and there were no calves around, so our moose mostly looked bored. Or maybe they were just stunned by our attire.
Our trip also included a stop at the 45th Parallel marking the halfway point between the Equator and North Pole. And we saw the Nansen Ski Jump built in 1935 near Berlin, NH, for Olympic training and still one of the largest in the country.
Our motel was located across the road from the 15-acre Shrine of Our Lady of Grace outside Colebrook, NH. Lights illuminated the shrine at night, including color distinctions for the sections of the rosary laid out in stones. There's also a granite sculpture of "Motorcyclists in Prayer," which as No. 2 son observed, isn't something you normally expect to find at religious sites.
The trip also included a stop at the luxurious and historic Balsams Grand Resort, but not to rub elbows with the hotel guests. We wanted to see where every 4 years, the 20 or so residents of tiny Dixville Notch stay up past midnight to cast the first vote in the nation's presidential primary election. The room is filled with political memorabilia, though the photos show it was mostly wives of some of the presidential candidates -- rather than the men running -- who campaigned there before the vote. Fortunately, most lost. Anyone who isn't tough enough for a trip to the North Country wouldn't have made a good president anyway.
Now that my moose quest has been a success, I'm giving thought to my next goal. What about you -- what's your mission for 2009?