Rock climbing with a moose

I was belaying my rock climber pal up a tall cliff along the Snake River near Wolf Flats on Friday afternoon when I heard a rustling in the bushes and trees below.

At first I thought it was another climber using the little boys room. But the rustling continued, and I heard a branch snap.

“What’s down there?” I asked some friends climbing nearby.

From the base of the rock wall, there is a steep slope for about a hundred feet that drops to Snake River Road, with the river just beyond.

“Moose” came the reply.

A smallish moose — the size of a small horse — was munching on brush. It had apparently been there all along and woke up for dinner. It paused from its munching occasionally and looked at the puny humans above.

There was a bush that had greened up on the slope that attracted the moose. It slowly made its way up the slope chewing on the bushes until it was near the base of the cliff, maybe 25 yards away. Rock climbing stopped and picture taking became the priority. All along the crag, climbers — gear still hanging from their harnesses — pointed cameras and phones to snap a photo.

The moose was clearly nervous. The hair on the back of its neck and shoulders stood straight up. After several bites, it walked back down to the side of the road and continued eating there.

Our rock climbing outing was animalistic. As often happens in the spring, we saw critters everywhere we turned.

On the drive to the crag, we saw a turkey trotting along side the road. There were eagles, osprey, waterfowl and vultures in the air and on nests. Most impressive were the hundreds (perhaps 300 to 400) deer in the cow pasture just down the road from Kelly Island Campground. The deer should be there most evenings for the next couple of weeks for those who want to get their deer fix.

The lizards and bugs were out along the base of the cliff. Unfortunately that meant there were also some wasps, mosquitoes and ticks out, too.

While I have never worried much about the wasps (they don’t bother you if you don’t bother them), the ticks and mosquitoes are the real thugs. It’s a good idea to always apply bug spray with some DEET as a main ingredient to repel these nasty pests. Make sure to apply it to your legs and arms.

My son climbed this past weekend farther up the river and came back with a few ticks crawling on his back. One, he said, was burrowing into his shoulder.

If you suspect ticks on your body, the surefire way to find them and get them off is to have someone inspect your skin from head to toe. If a handy inspector is not around, a few large mirrors might help you spot the rascals. If a tick has buried its head into your skin, make sure to remove all of it. Sometimes the bug’s head breaks off and can cause infection.

These ticks and mosquitoes can carry nasty diseases. Mosquitoes are often ranked as the most dangerous animal in the world because of the deadly diseases they carry.

Some places are just not worth going to until the drier months of the year (late summer, early fall) when the mosquito threat has lessoned.

As the sun set Friday evening, the river became a silver ribbon, the sky bright orange and the honking geese could be heard echoing through the river bottoms. The air was just starting to cool off.

“I love days like this,” I said to my friends as we walked back to our vehicle. “Everyday could be like this.”