“The fresh air agrees with me,” I said.
“As does the mountain life,” my beloved said in reply. She moved in close and kissed me. As she pulled away with a smile, she said, “My mountain man.”
“Can you imagine me living out here for years? I’ll be all savage and untamed. Rockin’ a huge, impressive beard… And like, be all haggard and wild, and livin’ off the land.”
She smiled with her eyes. “I think it suits you.”
We followed the others along the path until it thinned. A patch of fallen pine, covered in moss and mushrooms greeted us as the entrance to a private natural meadow revealed itself. Thick with knee high bushes and tall grass and wildflowers, the meadow was impenetrable in the middle, but easily maneuverable along its forest edge. We each followed the leader, tramping slowly and carefully through the brush, until an uncle halted at the head of the pack. He waved, and we stopped. He pulled a pair of binoculars out of his pack and scanned far off into the distance. He passed the binos and pointed as each family member spotted a lone elk grazing.
We perched ourselves atop a small hill overlooking the meadow, and we simply sat and watched for a time, hoping to spot some more wildlife. But nothing came. The swish of wind through the grass and the droning of bees and insects met our ears, but little else revealed itself to us. We all decided to venture back, but instead of taking the route we came, one of the uncles guided us along a game trail, which opened along a shallow creek. The rushing current bubbled and crashed along the rocks with a most soothing sound. And even though the trials of civilization had brought my stress level to a boiling point during previous days, here and now, in this moment, I am free from it all.
The family gathered around the fire and we roasted brauts and hot dogs for dinner, with sides of mac and cheese and fresh corn for dinner. After eating, a more talented member of the family lead a sing-a-long with a guitar and harmonica. And for hours, we sang 60s and 70s classics from the Beatles, Neil Young, John Denver, and countless others. We told stories and joked until the night was black and the stars were bright. I stared up for what seemed like hours, contemplating our existence until sleepiness came over me, causing the cosmos to dance and glitter overhead.
I awoke with the soft light of the sun and the singing of birds. Moving from the large sleeping area, I quietly made my way into the next room of the tent. It was an open room without a floor and walls of mesh fabric, no different than an enclosed porch. It appeared that I was the first to wake from our camping party, and so I let the day gently nudge me awake as I watched the birds and the trees for sometime, until I heard graceful footsteps over brittle branches and pinecones. I froze and my heart doubled in time as I stared at a dark form approaching about ten feet from where I sat.
A female moose came into the light streaming through the trees. I stared at her, unsure of what to do. I didn’t so much as fear an attack, as I feared startling such a beautiful creature. Standing what I guessed to be seven or eight feet high, the moose was a sight for sore eyes. I had never seen a moose but for photographs, or films, or the zoo, and there it was; mere feet from me. She walked forward, glancing here and there, and sniffing the air. Her ears perked with every staggered breath I eased into my lungs. Gently, I inched my phone from my pocket and snapped one photo before she skipped off into the woods.
Afterwards, with my heart racing, I showed the family to their disbelief, and even though we spent the rest of the morning watching for wildlife in our own private meadow, I was the only one to see such a beautiful creature so up-close and personal.
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Article written & Photos by © Brandon Scott / Eye & Pen