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  • Sunday, August 12, 2012

    The Deer at Mokowanis Lake

    As with Helen, to access Mokowanis Lake you must get off the main loop and stroll down a quiet spur trail, so it was another peaceful, less frequented, spot to set up camp.

    This will be remembered as my favorite campsite in the park.

    As with many of the lakes in Glacier National park, glacial flour, the name for the silt generated by glaciers grinding against bedrock, drifts into Mokowanis Lake, causing the deepest water to reflect a brilliant color, like a polished turquoise stone.

    The distant sound of rushing water gave a constant background of white noise while I sat by that unbelievably blue lake for hours reading my book (The Rook, if you were wondering). A deer, grazing in the area, was as approachable and unafraid of people as a stray Labrador Retriever. It even wagged its white tail.

    Only two campsites exist at Mokowanis, a friendly German couple occupied the other. I saw them the day before at Elizabeth Lake and on the trail, but I never heard them speak English, so never said more than hello to them.

    I retreated to my tent shortly after they retreated to theirs. I was still reading after dark under headlamp light when something moved outside my tent. I poked my head out. It was just the deer, so I went back to my book. Shortly after, I heard my trekking poles clack against the log that I leaned them on while pitching my tent. I looked back out and saw the deer with one of the handle straps in his mouth, sucking disgustingly on the accumulated salty sweat.

    “Hey! Stop that!” I yelled. Its eyes shifted over to me for a moment then it grabbed the pole in its teeth and took off with it into the woods. “I paid $80 for those you son of a bitch!” I yelled while shoving my bare feet into my shoes. She didn’t care though, what’s $80 to a deer? Chump change is what. I ran into the woods after it, leaping over logs, and trampling through leaves. After a short chase, she stopped with the pole hanging from her mouth. She looked at me with that long dumb deer face. 

    “Drop the pole, you stupid deer!” I yelled and the pole dropped to its feet.

    “What? I ain’t got anything,” its expression seemed to be saying. “Nah, nah, man. That was that other deer.” For a moment, we stared each other down like it was high noon in Dodge City. Suddenly, she bolted into the woods, leaving my saliva-drenched trekking pole on the ground.

    I walked back to my tent, with my pole in hand, victorious. The poor German couple must have wondered what was going on. I hoped they slept through the ordeal. 

    Right after sunrise the following morning, I decided to explore the source of that white background noise. I found it a half mile away up a stream that flows into the lake. It was a huge waterfall of tumbling snowmelt, which I believe originates from Chaney Glacier, the source of the glacial flour turning Mokowanis into a gem in these Montana woods. I sat on the ground to wait for the sun to rise above the surrounding rock walls and provide enough light for a photo.

    During breakfast back at camp, the deer came back. I followed her around for a little bit, taking pictures of her by the lake. Maybe I should say she lured me away, because when we were far enough away, she ran for my food. 

    "Clever girl," I said.

    She didn't get anything though. I made it back in time to scare her away. "You're not going to rob me deer. I may not look it, but I'm spry."

    A few days later in my trip, I saw the German couple again and I was surprised to hear them speaking fluent English.

    “I’m sorry I sat there so quietly at Mokowanis,” I said. 

    "We just thought you wanted to read your book," she said. 

    “Wait," I said. "So did you hear everything I said to the deer that night?” 

    "Yes, we did," she smiled.

    “I feel bad. I said more to the deer than you guys!” And their English was way better.

      
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    A Backpacker's Life List by Ryan Grayson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.