A moose is on the loose . . . and that’s good newsGrowing up, I had two heroes: Hank Aaron and my big brother, Bruce. To this day, there is no male of the species who I love and respect more than the latter. So, a few years ago, when Bruce and Lydia–my favorite older sister-in-law (FOSIL, for short)–asked to see a real moose, I was determined to make this happen. Waiting until near dusk, Marla, Bruce, Lydia, and I drove north through Franconia Notch, then along much of Crawford Notch, looking for moose. For those of you who have never had the opportunity to see a moose in the flesh, they are tall, seemingly awkward, gangly, quite dark creatures. For this reason, the only way to find a moose in the evening hours is with the help of a set of very bright lights. The by-product of our search was skepticism, as not a single moose presented itself. Both my brother and my FOSIL admonished me for inventing the existence of those moose beasts. Subsequently, Marla and I brought them tee shirts, inflatable underwear (please don’t ask), and coffee mugs bearing images of the aforementioned animals. At that moment, not even a guest appearance by the cast of Rocky and His Friends would have saved my failing reputation.
Enter Larry Hartle and his wonderful Moose Tours of Lincoln, New Hampshire. Marla and I were determined not to fail a second time. We contacted Larry and arranged to be booked on one of his tours. It proved to be the best $30 per person I’ve ever spent. On June 4th, Bruce, Lydia, Marla, and I boarded Larry’s 44-seat bus just east of Lincoln, NH. By pure luck, we picked the best time of year to take the tour. As Larry later told me, spring is the best season to find moose, while late summer and early fall present extreme difficulties. We know those difficulties as the Dating Game.
On the night in question, our busload of passengers was treated to what proved to be much more than a moose hunt. As Larry drove out of the parking lot, he and his sidekick, Tony, slipped into their schtick. For three and one-half hours, we were treated to corny jokes, edible “moose droppings,” and excellent video footage of moose. Meanwhile, as we drove along the very same route I’d used two years earlier, out came spotlights–mounted and hand held spotlights. Soon, we had our first sighting, a cow with a very large yearling calf. We weren’t finished. Four more moose made their appearance, as the bus circled round and round past the wallows that Larry knows so well. Just as I was about to nominate Larry for man of the year, it happened. A large cow moose appeared on the left side of the bus, not more than thirty feet from where Bruce and Lydia were seated. What happened next was the stuff of legends. As we drove along route 302, the moose decided to accompany us. For nearly a mile, the moose galloped along, stopping occasionally to wave its ears at Bruce and Lydia. Watching the expressions on their faces is one of the thrills of my lifetime. Much as our reaction to the Gemini Giant must have been theirs.
So, Larry Hartle, we had no idea our paths would cross when, during the summer of 1999, you put a much smaller bus into service. How clever you were, upon seeing the desire to see moose on the part of visitors, to establish your tour. Larry is much more than an entrepreneur. Inside his chest beats the heart of a conservationist. You see, Larry’s tour serves the best interests of more than the visiting public. By converting multiple car trips into a single busload, he has protected the environment, and has made the lives of our moose much less complicated.