We’re still almost ninety miles from Salt Lake. It has been a long day of meetings, and I am ready to be home, but I can’t forgo the opportunity to show off our mountains. It’ll add an hour to our commute to go over Mirror Lake Pass, but if it’s clear of snow, the drive is always worth the extra time.
My decision proves itself fruitful almost immediately when we see a bull-moose standing at the canyon entrance. He is strong and standing guard over a herd of what looks to be about eight others. In all of my time traveling the mountains, I’ve never seen a group of this size. Silently, I thank Moose for sharing his family with us. This is a good sign.
Anyone who understands nature knows humans do not see animals unless the animals choose to be seen. I watch my little seven-pound Papillion bark when someone across the street, on the other side of moving traffic, shuffles a foot. I can’t comprehend how she hears them over the sounds of the house and the sounds of the cars and the sounds of every other movement in the world, but she does, and she knows if it’s a human or another dog. You can see she knows.
I know hunters who work at masking their scents and stifling their noise, and trying to disguise their presence in the forest. But, good hunters don’t look to evade an animal’s senses. They look to blend in. Like real predators, they sit in trees for days until they smell like the forest and look like the forest and become a part of the forest, so prey might become comfortable with their presence and expose themselves.
The drive over the pass is gorgeous, and I am proud of my home state with the abundance of life around us. The day is as beautiful as the scenery, and we soak up every moment of it, but it is not until the bottom edge of the pass when we are nearly out of the canyon when I see the sight that most inspires me. I spent my entire life climbing these hills. I grew up with a father who hated the city, and we would spend every weekend throughout the spring, summer, and early fall in the mountains. My parents had the camper packed and ready to go when he came home from work on Fridays or even Thursdays, so we spent our weekends hiking and fishing and river rafting.
He loved the mountains, and to this day, like him, nature is still the only place that feels like home to me. I’ve lived my life in nature, and I have seen wildlife in all forms, but as we wind our way down the canyon, we are amazed by the sight of a small black bear. I know the wildlife that typically travels here, and I have to admit, I have heard stories of attacks, but I’ve never, in all of my life, seen a bear in the wild; not until today. I stop the car, amazed as it rolls its large frame across the road. After crossing directly in front of our car, the bear climbs halfway up the hill on the other side. It then stops to consider us.
Like Moose, Bear is here for a reason, and I accept this nearly impossible coincidence as a sign. I don’t know why, after forty years of roaming Utah’s mountain, she finally showed herself to me, but I will never forget seeing such a beautiful beast moving naturally through the wild.