Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Elk. Up Close and Personal.


Most Labor Day weekends Hubby and I make a trip out to Colorado. Partly because by this time of year, we're sick of the heat and humidity out here on the Plains. But, mostly we head to the Rocky Mountains to leisurely look for the perfect place to retire.

We often make a trip up to Rocky Mountain National Park. It's such an enchanting place to explore. And the cool, dry air is such a welcome relief from our sweatbox at home. Trail Ridge Road that cuts through the park is the highest major highway in North America, topping out at 12,183 feet above sea level. This vast expanse of public land encompasses 72 named mountain peaks above 12,000 feet, multiple ecosystems and a variety of wildlife.

Following the loss of my dad last month, this trip into the park was bittersweet. I made my first trip into RMNP when I was about eight. This was my parents' favorite place to vacation. We spent many a summer hiking as a family, taking nature walks and camping at the park's campground. Those vacations soaking up Mother Nature in all her glory helped shape the woman I am today.

RMNP never fails to surprise and delight. Even after all these years and countless trips. And, this trip was no different. On the road down from the Alpine Visitor Center, we rounded a bend somewhere between Rainbow Curve and Many Parks Curve and came to a screeching halt. Bumper-to-bumper traffic alternated between a complete standstill and a snail's pace for half a mile or so. Then, as suddenly as traffic had stalled, it sped up again. I won't elaborate on Hubby's reaction to the traffic.

Before long, the traffic jam returned. This time, we could clearly see what the fuss was about.


A large bull elk was trying to move his herd from one side of the road to the other. He called out over and over and herded the cows and calves down the hillside toward the highway. Then, he circled around out of sight and repeated the routine. Each time, more cows and calves appeared on the hillside above the road before precariously making their way across the highway.




Lucky for us, the elk were crossing at a point in the road where there was a pull-off. As we approached the pull-off, another car pulled away and we got a prime parking and viewing spot. Perfect positioning for snapping a few photos.


The females didn't seem to be intimdated by the tourists. In fact, this one seems to be saying, "Did you get my good side?"

Many of the the herd had settled in for dinner on the side of the road opposite where the bull was rounding up his clan. It was clearly dinner time and the shrubbery and grass along a small creek was lush and tender. Bon apetit!





This sweet-looking cow walked right up to me as I snapped her photo. I could have reached out and touched her. Don't worry, I know better.

This enchanting herd was so up close and personal that I took all these photos with my 28-105mm lens.


We were greeted by other wildlife on our wonderful day trip. So glad to see the chipmunks remain  plentiful and accessible after all these years. My sis and I fed many of these little critters in our youth! Now, the signs tell us not to feed the wildlife.



And the marmots. Always my dad's favorite. They made their appearances at the Alpine Visitor Center as if to pay tribute to a man who loved RMNP as much as anyone.


'Til next  year, RMNP. It's been a pleasure, as always.

Make it a great day!



15 comments:

  1. That must have been quite the sight! That big fellow has a very impressive rack!

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  2. Wow, how great was that! That must have been something to see - beautiful. thanks so much for sharing the pictures were outstanding.
    Glad you had such a great vacation.
    So sorry about you dad.
    Mary

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  3. Oh wow!! What an amazing opportunity! I've never seen elk before. We don't get too many of them over here in MA. One of my favorite parts about blogging is getting to see the world through other bloggers.

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  4. Wow! such beautiful pictures and I love the first one of the elk up close and personal:)Must have been an awesome experience! I'm so sorry about your recent loss...my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family! hugs, Poppy

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  5. What an experience being that close to such beautiful animals.

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  6. I didn't know that elks have long hairs particularly on the neck, somehow the photos before were not as close-up. I love that shot where it is half hidden in the bushes, lovely shots.

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  7. I didn't know that elks have long hairs particularly on the neck, somehow the photos before were not as close-up. I love that shot where it is half hidden in the bushes, lovely shots.

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  8. Now thats a herd indeed. Love those antlers

    PhenoMenon

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  9. Lucky you! We were in Acadia and I was hoping to spot an elk but only saw a guy on the side of the road selling elk antlers! We did spot a porcupine in our yard though - my girls loved that!
    Kelly

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  10. I love this post....I have always wanted to visit out west...and your post just confirmed it. Thanks so much for sharing it :-)

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  11. You certainly captured some great photos!! Sounds like a great trip.
    Mary Alice

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  12. What a thrill to have been so close to the elk! The photos are wonderful!

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  13. What a thrill to have been so close to the elk! The photos are wonderful!

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  14. I am very sorry to hear about your father, Ann...I am sure this trip brought back many special memories. It must have been amazing to see these beautiful animals up close...thank you for sharing! I really appreciate your sweet comments about my daughter's wedding, too!

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  15. Oh Ann sorry about the loss of your Dad...my condolences...what beautiful pictures of the Elk.. I would have loved to seen them up close like that...they don't seem to be too fazed by the traffic... the RM are beautiful <3 Glad you enjoyed your trip

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