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Reflections February 2014

Ready to Tackle a Loose Moose in Alaska

By Tait Trussell

Seeing this strange vehicle (our rickety old pickup truck) and humans near her baby, the mother moose began to gallop down the road toward us. I was riding in the open back of the truck.

I was chased by a moose during my first trip to Alaska. But more about that later.

This first Alaskan visit was in June, 1985, as I best recall. Four of us made the trip. It was led by George Cheek, then president of the American Forest Institute. I was second in command at the Institute and later succeeded George when he became VP of one of the largest forest companies, Potlatch Corp.

The other two travelers, were a reporter with Fortune magazine and a writer with Field & Stream magazine. Our host and cook when we arrived at our main destination — a small camp in south-central Alaska – was a native Alaskan (then in his late 70s).  His nickname was Gen.

George Cheek had been to Alaska several times. He had even spent one winter in a little shack in the wilderness. The purpose of this trip was to show the writers, whom I had corralled, the expert forest management practices of U.S. forest products companies.

The Tongas National Forest, the nation's largest national forest, covers most of southeast Alaska, surrounding the famous Inside Passage. Shaped by the staggering force of massive glaciers millions of years ago, Alaska's Inside Passage boasts wildlife-filled fjords, and lush island scenery habitat. It offers unique opportunities to view eagles, bears, spawning salmon, and the breathtaking vistas of "wild" Alaska.

We were in Alaska long enough to get in some fishing for grayling, a prehistoric fish that likes cold water and shallow streams. They are fun to get on your line because the stream is shallow enough so you can see them struggle as you reel them in. They also make a delicious meal.

We also panned for gold. This involves breaking up rocks holding the precious metal into small enough pieces that can be put in a pan with water. You swish the mix around until the gold nuggets or specks, which are heavier than the stones, sink to a crevice in the pan and can then be retrieved.

We took several flights in a small plane that picked its landing strips facing a hill in order to stop quickly once it touched ground. Helicopter rides provided other views of logging. Our camp had a sauna, where four naked men steamed ourselves, then dived into the snow to cool off.

Everyone had a camera, and hundreds of pictures were taken. 

Now about that moose: One day, we were bumping along a narrow dirt road. Beside the road there suddenly appeared a baby moose. “Stop the truck,” yelled one of us to get pictures of the baby moose. As we should have known, the mother moose was not far away. Seeing this strange vehicle (our rickety old pickup truck) and humans near her baby, the mother moose began to gallop down the road toward us. I was riding in the open back of the truck.

“Go, go!” everyone was shouting to Gen, who was at the wheel. The truck started moving. But the mother moose, which possibly weighed in at 1,500 pounds or more was moving faster. As the moose got near, I picked up a shovel which was in the back of the truck, prepared to smack mother moose in her nose.

Thank heavens, the truck chugged ahead and mother moose veered off the dirt road and headed for her baby. When we arrived back at our camp, I was the recipient of a big razz from my colleagues for thinking I could battle a huge and angry moose with a shovel.

The time we spent examining the lush forests and the successful management of the nation’s largest forest area and acquiring a small amount of gold – mostly flakes – was somewhat more successful than my shovel defense against a huffy mother moose.


Tait Trussell is an old guy and fourth-generation professional journalist who writes extensively about aging issues among a myriad of diverse topics.

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