Reliving our closest wildlife encounters

Matt "Details"
I was hiking along the Suwannee River on the Florida Trail one morning. Red Beard and I were chatting it up and we come across a sharp turn in the trail. As I rounded the corner, there was a deer no less than 3 feet from me. Startled, the deer jump straight up in the air, landed and then wildly jumped off the trail into a thicket of Florida's palms right next to me. The deer was stuck for a couple of seconds before jumping out and running down trail. What a way to start your morning!


I have had many close wildlife encounters, but one, in particular, stands out. My Brother and I just started a 7-day canoe trip in my favorite place to get outside, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). We had never seen a Moose in the wild and got lucky driving up the Gun Flint Trail and ran across two wild Moose in a marsh. We couldn’t believe how lucky we were. Well, after our paddle across Seagull Lake, we came across a large bull (male moose) eating seaweed off the lake bed right in front of us. We probably got a little too close (15 feet away) and became mesmerized watching him eat his dinner. After about 5 minutes we carried on, but I’ll never forget the experience of being that close to a bull and having a front seat of watching him in his natural state unfazed.


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During my first GSMNP 900-Miler in the Smokies, I was hiking along a trail that had limited visibility. I came around a corner a little too quickly and came within 20’ of a 250 lb wild boar. It was huge, black and had giant tusks that seemed like they would be as sharp as knives. The trail went around a very tight corner and I was going pretty fast. By the time I seen the boar it was too late. There we were staring each other down and it was clearly obvious the boar had the size advantage. I had no plan, no strategy to get away and honestly I had no place to get away to. Where we met was a steep drop off and no trees to climb. So I stood there trying not to make direct eye contact with hopes the boar would back off and leave. Just when I thought it was gonna turn and run. The wild boar lowered its head and the hair was standing straight up on its back. Not what I wanted to see.... But just as fast as things escalated, the wild boar turned and ran the other way. Now that’s was too close for comfort.

On the Continental Divide trail in Montana, I hiked with a bear for what felt like a mile. He was in front of me on the trail, with a steep drop off down to a lake on the left, and a steep rocky incline up a mountain on the right. Neither of us had anywhere else to go and I wasn't about to hike backward. The bear was in no hurry and would stop to eat flowers or dig at the ground every so often. He didn't seem concerned with me at all as I followed him down the trail.

Another time on the CDT I was walking along and SMASH something hit me in the back of the head. It felt like getting beaned with a dodge ball. I thought a mountain lion had jumped on me. I dropped to the ground and spun around. A hawk had dive-bombed me. He left talon holes in my foam sun hat. 

It was when I was walking in the state of Washington. I was cowboy camping when suddenly I heard great footsteps. I made all kinds of noises to try and scare what was close to me, hoping it would leave, eventually I fell asleep. The next morning the sounds of great footsteps woke me up again. When I woke up the first thing I saw was a big, weird and ugly animal. I had never seen that animal in my life. So I ran to the nearest tree to hide and when the animal saw me she ran. She was very close to stepping on me because I slept among the bushes. Turns out it was a female Moose. In Mexico we don't have those animals, it was the first time I saw one. 


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Zpacks Olivia

About the Author
Olivia Magee oversees Social Media at Zpacks and helps monitor trends within the industry. Her contributions to the hiking community includes her work with the American Conservation Experience where she performed trail maintenance in the Smoky's and across the Southeast.