The Eckels family picnic with friends at Lester Park Sunday afternoon included a visit from a bull moose that gave a few snorts and, at one point, passed within 20 feet of the group.
"It was so surreal," said Brad Eckel, who took a few photographs with his phone, adding that afterward they wondered if they had imagined it.
It was Eckel's first time at the park with his wife Kimi and children Shea, 7, and Anya, 4. They planned to eat lunch, hike the trails, collect leaves. Then, there was the moose.
"It took over the whole setting," he said. "We were spellbound by it. We all stopped and had an awesome little show. ... This will probably never happen in our lifetime again."
They first noticed when it was about 50-70 feet away. Then, it passed by the picnickers and headed west. Later, it returned and headed toward the trails. Eckel estimated that the dark-colored moose was about eight feet tall, not including its large rack.
"He moved really light on his feet," Eckel said.
Still, they wondered what they would do if it charged, he said.
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' website, mating season for moose is from mid-September to mid-October. And while moose - Minnesota's largest wild animal - aren't typically aggressive, bulls in rut and a cow protecting a calf are exceptions.
Though unusual, there have been reported moose sightings in the Lester Park area in previous years.