NEW HAMPSHIRE, USA — Hikers are used to seeing dogs up on a mountain, but this story is the tale of the trail and the hare.
"You ready to go?" Chelsea Eason asked as she slowly pried her nine-pound Mini Rex rabbit named Moose out of her backpack.
Moose, also known as littlemountainbunny on Instagram, is named after the first mountain she hiked: Mount Moosilauke. At the young age of just three-and-a-half, Moose has already summited New Hampshire's 48 4,000-footers.
When Eason moved to the Sunapee region of New Hampshire several years ago and wanted to explore, she started hiking, but quickly realized she wanted to share the trail with someone. Turns out a rabbit was the perfect partner.
"I have always been a weird kid," Eason explained.
When she was young, Eason would ride around her neighborhood on her bike with her pet bunny in a basket.
"I have never seen rabbits as a stationary pet or to be kept in a cage," Eason added.
In 2019, Eason took Moose on her first hike and they were both hooked.
"I was like, 'I guess she is a hiking rabbit,'" Eason chuckled.
Hiking with a 9-pound rabbit is never just a straight shoot up the trail. Moose's pace alternates between sprinting and complete halts to nibble on goodies she finds, to clean her coat, or to just take a break. (Aesop's fable was spot on).
When she's had enough, Moose catches a lift inside Eason's backpack. Typically, Eason says, Moose hikes around 2 miles of any given trail the pair have hiked.
"I swear, her favorite part is eating twigs along the trail -- like maintenance, I guess," Eason chuckled.
Fellow hikers who encounter her on the trail find it a bit "hare-raising," but reactions online, specifically on TikTok, have blown Eason away.
Attention on TikTok happened almost by accident. Eason had so much video footage of Moose she decided to download the app and post a few clips. Moose gained popularity almost overnight.
"My phone was blowing up. The videos were all over the internet, and my friends were messaging me, 'Is this your rabbit?' I was like, 'Yeah,'" Eason explained.
With New Hampshire's 48 4,000 footers in the rearview mirror, Eason and Moose are working on hiking the NH 52-With-a-View. (That is, 52 peaks in New Hampshire that all have an elevation close to or above 2,500 feet). Eason predicts that will take a few years.
As a self-described introvert, Eason says all the attention on Moose has been a little unnerving, but the precious moments the pair have encountered along the trail have made it all worth it. On one hike, a woman wanted to hold Moose, which Eason is always happy to oblige.
"Once she held Moose, she started crying tears of joys. ... To make someone that happy on [the] trail made everything worth it," Eason shared.