By Mark Okrant,
NH Travel Guru
Growing up, I had three heroes: Hank Aaron, Arnold Palmer, and my big brother, Bruce.
To this day, there is no male of the species whom I love and respect more than the latter. So, a few years ago, when Bruce and Lydia—my favorite older sister-in-law—asked to see a real moose, I was determined to make that happen. Waiting until near dusk, my wife 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. Bruce and Lydia admonished me for inventing the existence of those moose beasts, and returned home to Illinois disappointed. 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 an early June evening, Bruce, Lydia, Marla, and I boarded Larry’s 44-seat bus just east of Lincoln. By pure luck, we picked the correct 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. To the uninitiated, those difficulties are otherwise known 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—both mounted and hand held. 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, things got even better. 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 legend. As we drove along Route 302, the moose decided to accompany us. For nearly a mile, the large beast 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 on Illinois’ Route 66 must have been for them.
We had no idea our paths would cross with Larry Hartle, when, during the summer of 1999, he put his first tour bus into service. How clever he was to respond to the public’s desire to see moose. However, Larry is much more than an entrepreneur. Inside his chest beats the heart of a conservationist. Those moose tours serve the best interests of more than the visiting public. By converting multiple, willy-nilly car trips into single busloads, he has protected the environment, and has safeguarded the lives of our beloved moose. Now, if only the science community could figure a way to build up the gawky animals’ resistance (and ours) to the increasing threat from ticks.
After forty years as an educator, researcher, and consultant, Mark Okrant joins IndepthNH.org to offer concise, informative insight into New Hampshire’s travel and tourism industry as a business, while showcasing the people and places you want to know. This guy’s really been around. And, he’s funny, too.
For more about Mark’s compelling tourism-based murder mystery series, visit www.markokrant.com.
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