Moose Season

On May 25, 2017, in Uncategorized, by admin

Last night was a three-moose homebound commute.  I was on my way back from Manchester Airport around 10pm, and I encountered more moose in five minutes than most Americans will see in their entire lifetimes.  Ignoring the inherent dangers of driving late at night around critters who weigh more than, and are considerably taller than, most horses, I personally consider this one of the benefits of Waterville Valley life.  Last night’s moose were all spotted in plenty of time, well off the road and minding their own moosey business.  I tell you all this to remind you that it is most definitely moose season, and to beg you to be careful on the roads — for your sake as well as that of our local moose population.  I also tell you this, because living in close quarters with moose can allow you a peek at one of North America’s most majestic creatures.

My job necessitates frequent OOV (Out of Valley) travel, which unfortunately often puts me on the road in the wee hours.  Late one spring night a couple years ago, I was scurrying home about 2am, paying my customary level of attention as I came up Route 49.  When I hit the 50 zone, I accelerated, but quickly saw a bull standing on the white line and slowed way down to avoid him (don’t trust moose — they’re not afraid, they behave erratically, and man, they can move quick when they want to).  I even rolled the window down and talked to him as I passed by.  I thought, great, moose sighting done, we’re good to go.  I accelerated back up to speed.

A mile later, as I headed up Hardy Hill, I had to lay on the brakes for a cow and calf hanging out on the shoulder.  Great, I thought… two sightings in a night.  Clearly done, time to go.  I zipped back up to speed, tired and enervated.  I was still going 50 when I came onto the last straight before Drake’s Brook and started to relax.

That, of course, was when I saw the very large bull dead ahead, walking up the northbound lane.  I slammed on the brakes and came to a stop a couple feet from the south end of a northbound moose.  He was nearly a new hood ornament.

There are probably a couple things we can learn from my near misses.  First, Waterville Valley has its own distinctive Moose Alley — the zone immediately following the start of the 50-mile-per-hour sign reliably produces sightings — and real danger, especially in the hours around sunset and sunrise. Don’t get complacent, though, as you can and will see moose anywhere on Route 49 from the old William Tell all the way to Town Square.

Second, even if you’re paying attention, moose are hard to see at night.  Their fur is dark, dull brown and blends perfectly with forest, and they are so tall that their eyes are typically above the line of your headlights. I often see their cream-colored socks before I see anything else.  Use your high beams and scan both sides of the road like your life depended on it — and especially at twilight and dawn, remember, 50 is the speed limit, not the minimum.  Slow down and buy yourself some time to react.

Reaction time is definitely a factor.  Another late night last fall, I was barreling home from the airport, once again at some ungodly interval after 2am, when sensible people, and probably even sensible moose, are already long in bed.  I was hurrying a bit, trying to stay ahead the last of the caffeine that was rapidly fleeing my system, and I was pushing where I knew I probably shouldn’t.  I had just entered the 50 mile per hour zone and was speeding up when I saw him: a fully grown bull, sporting a broad spread of antlers, perhaps 100 feet ahead and standing in the middle of the up-bound lane.  I hit the brakes hard and steered — but at a bit over 50 miles per hour, 100 feet goes by very quickly.  I was still moving at a good clip when I slid by his flank, missing him by a few precious feet.

Not all moose encounters are so fraught; one of my very best memories is of a moose my family came to know fairly well.  First, allow me to introduce my late mother-in-law, Phyllis.  Phyllis was a pretty spectacular lady on the whole, but she had a way of letting you know if she thought you’d done something dumb.  She also had a thing about moose, or specifically, never having seen a moose, after several trips to Waterville Valley with us on weekends, and an Alaskan cruise excursion virtually guaranteed to produce moose; hers didn’t.  After we moved full-time to Waterville Valley, she subtly let me know I had messed up in a significant way, dragging her daughter and grandchildren so far off the grid.  And her dissatisfaction with the moose situation came to a head during a week-long visit, when several carefully timed drives had failed to produce anything bigger or more exotic than a fox.  We had a fine family meal together at the Coyote, and she groused over dinner, “I don’t even think moose exist.”  When we left, I said to our kids, then tweens, “What do you say we go find a moose for Grandma?”

I had an ace up my sleeve.  All summer, we’d seen a cow hanging out in the small bog to the right side of the Tripoli Road as you headed up to the mountain.  We’d seen her so often that the kids had taken to calling her Charlotte.  To my great relief, Charlotte was there, keeping her appointed rounds.  Phyllis was so thrilled she squeezed my wife Nancy’s hand until it was blue.  We sat quietly and watched Charlotte dine, then eased away up to the perfect darkness of Lot 7 at the mountain to see if we could see a shooting star.  Once again, luck was on our side, and we saw several in rapid succession.  Later, Phyllis quietly let me know she now understood what drew us here.  And she’d finally seen her moose.

 

And then there were three…

On May 7, 2017, in Uncategorized, by admin

The considerably diminished Waterville Valley Foundation Board of Directors met this morning, dodging showers to enjoy the hospitality at the Waterville Valley Golf Course.  Treasurer Mike Furgal, Vice President Bill Powell and I sat down at at round table in the pleasant screened deck of the Clubhouse and talked about old and new business.  We considered our contributions over the past couple of years — continued support of the things that make Waterville Valley unique, including perennial favorite Shakespeare in the Valley, the rejuvenated Waterville Valley Adaptive Sports program, a new spring rite, the Casting for Kirby fishing derby, and something we’re particularly proud of, scholarships for area children to join the fabulous JETS ski program.  We also supported the forthcoming documentary film about Waterville Valley legends H.A. and Margret Rey and are looking forward to its coming debut. This combination of culture, history, and athletics with a unique mountain twist remains our sweet-spot, and we hope you’re pleased with the choices we’ve made.

Over the course of the last couple of years, we’ve gone from a robust, sometimes contentious, but always thoughtful group of eight down to the three of us, by attrition and retirement and the inevitable move-aways that accompany the rhythms of life in the mountains.  The last departure from our team was Secretary (and sharp legal mind) Pat Sullivan, who moved with his wife Deb and daughter Kaitlin to be closer to Kaitlin’s high school and Pat’s job, upon son Jack’s high school graduation in 2016.  With all the comings and goings, to be frank, the WVF board has been quiet… too quiet.

As we thought about it together over coffee, we realized that there might have been something else afoot, subliminal but just as important.  Like the rest of the town and the region, I think at some level, we were waiting for something to happen.  Change that we all felt in the wind a few years back seemed stalled, no closer, some days even farther away.  We kept the lights on and supported good things, but to a person, we were hoping for something new and bigger, that would also suggest new challenges for the Foundation, too.

Well, with the advent of Green Peak this winter — I think we all feel like the levee is finally breaking, and positive change is coming to the valley once again.  I hope you had a chance to ski the new terrain this winter.  We got lucky and had a great snow year, and that was enough to allow us to sample the goods, and they were good indeed: interesting lines with pleasant surprises around each bend and a nice step up from Valley Run for novices — with plenty to keep experts entertained, too.

If you’ve talked with one of us about interest in the Waterville Valley Foundation board, you’re likely going to be hearing from us soon (you might just, even if you haven’t expressed interest; we’re funny like that).  We need some new energy and ideas, and want to make sure we’re representing the interests of all of those who love the Valley.  And we have some good ideas of our own, too.  

As I walked Mike back to his car, I noticed a somewhat faded and tattered Waterville Valley LOVE sticker in the back window.  Love can be like that — whether love of a person, a place, or an idea — time and weather can wear at it, but if it’s true love, it somehow sticks with you, and can be refreshed anew by the currents of spring and the hope that possibility brings.