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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Autumn colors and elk mating season

K and I started our day with a short walk in our dazzling forest. Despite her cast, she's still feisty. She stood tall and growled to protect us both from something that I couldn't perceive. Even with a cast on her leg, she's ready to take on the world!
She has a new collar, a gift from me, to lift both of our spirits, but mostly mine since K can't see her own collar! We've also started working on a new trick where she holds up her cast for me when I need to put her hiking cover on it. She's learning this new trick super fast!

After her alarm passed, K looked back toward me with a querulous look on her face. "Do you really mean that we're only walking a few hundred yards?", she seemed to ask. She seems to be in much less pain, and has even tried to gallop and jump while on leash. This may be a very long 8 weeks.
We gazed together at the moon, still shining in the azure sky, among the yellow aspen. Can you wish upon a moon? I hope so, because I wished fervently for K's paw to be healing well under her cast.
A little later, I snagged a brief time with R for a very short bike ride. His primary calling is that he runs with the Runner. So, it's a special treat when he can lead me up to Hug Hill.
When we arrived on the peak, he reveled in the sunshine, solitude and scents.
On our way home, we practiced recalls. Would you trust this 60 lb freight train to stop before bowling you over?
He did, barely!
I took R home, after our short sojourn in the woods and continued pedaling on my own through a golden world with the moon still peeking at me.
Although the golden beauty surrounded me everywhere, I missed my K the most on this trail. We've enjoyed this trail together in every season - I wished that she were with me today.
Yesterday afternoon, we made our annual pilgrimage to Rocky Mountain National Park to watch the amazing display of the elk rut. It was ironic that yesterday morning, one of my wildlife cameras captured footage of an elk bull within a half mile of our house. For some reason, he wasn't in the high mountain meadows vying for a harem of cow elk. His antlers suggest that he'd be competitive in the mating competition, especially in a hunted population like ours, where bulls with big antlers rarely live long. I wonder why he's still down here, far away from those sexy cow elk?

At Rocky Mountain National Park, a bull elk had lost the battle for his own harem and meandered by himself. He grazed near a stream, waiting for darkness before he tried to enter the main arena of the nearby meadow where the dominance battles were underway among the gargantuan bulls. Sorry for the blurriness - I'm really starting to wish for a digital SLR camera with a telephoto lens!
For the majority of the evening, the dominant bulls fought for supremacy too far away for me to photograph them. We sat in a secluded site next to a vast meadow and watched the action through a spotting scope. The most macho of the bull elk in the meadow had corralled about 30 cows and calves. He homed in on any mature bulls who dared approach his ladies, chasing them away with his chin tipped toward the sky and his massive rack of antlers laid back along his neck. He had 6 points on each antler - that's a big rack! You can see his harem, tiny dots in the grass, spread out in the meadow below the sunlit rocky peaks.
Nearby, an older bull, perhaps a year or two past his prime, sneaked around the periphery of the macho dude's harem, carefully checking the hindquarters of each cow to see if they were ready for breeding. The dominant bull burned many calories warding off this crafty elder bull elk. The official biological name for a crafty bull elk cruising the periphery of a harem for breeding opportunities is "sneaky fucker". I'm not kidding.

Throughout this drama, the mature males bugled endlessly, emitting amazing high pitched scream-like calls. Here is someone else's Youtube of a bugling elk. The short video is worth watching if you've never heard an elk bugle.

We stayed after darkness fell, listening to the bugles emanating from all corners of the meadow, an ethereal experience.


  1. I'm so glad K is able to take at least a short walk with you, and that she wants to charge is a good sign! Maybe she will heal completely!

    The music of the elk is one of my favorite sounds of all time. I loved listening to them all through the fall when I lived in Estes Park. I confesss. I became an addict...

  2. Great pics of K and R!

    I'm glad to see you feel she's feeling less discomfort - save for not being able to do all she's used to -

    As for your bull elk, maybe he's the priest in the bunch ;-)

  3. How interesting to read about the bull elk. This city gal has lots she doesn't know:)

    The color of that collar is a great choice for K - really accentuates her coat. We hope the recovery time goes very well for her and passes quickly for both of you.

    We can't help but wonder what you DO use for a camera to obtain such gorgeous photos all the time.

  4. I know that is exactly what K is asking with that pensive face. It will indeed be a hard 8 weeks as she begins to feel better. I'm not surprised she picked up the trick of getting the walking boot on. Boot on means going for a walk.

    Interesting about the elk. And, as always, I loved your photographs.

  5. I'm not sure if the eight weeks will be longer for you or K! I hope it passes quickly! I'm not surprised to hear that she's already working on a new trick.

    That is a lot of stuff I didn't know about the elk rut! We have the deer rut around here, but the main excitement involved in that is trying not to hit one on the road when they go insane. A funny thing is that I've actually heard an elk bugle before, but didn't know what it was. I wouldn't have guessed the elk rut would be a spectator sport, though! lol

  6. " "Do you really mean that we're only walking a few hundred yards?", she seemed to ask. She seems to be in much less pain, and has even tried to gallop and jump while on leash. This may be a very long 8 weeks." You know what? She reminds me of this girl who had back surgery and was stomping all over the place almost as soon as she got home!

    The bull elk thing was wild! I can't hear them but I bet in a herd, it can really shake you up!

    Glad K is better and that R or Q or whatever his name is, is his usual upbeat self!

    Great pix!

    Jo and Stella

  7. cool we love the video...and the pups..
    Happee Wednesday
    Benny & Lily

  8. It is so beautiful where you wander and bike. I can see why you take such joy in your outings.
    Thanks for sharing about the elk too. I love that bugling sound.

  9. I would have expected a different sound coming from something so large.

    Hope K does well!

  10. Hi OP Pack,

    I use an Olympus Stylus 1030SW, primarily due to its bombproof construction. I carry it when I mountain bike and hike. I've dropped it onto rocks and into creeks, and I've used it in -20 deg F temperatures. It works no matter what so it's a good camera for most of my needs. I only wish for a fancier camera for my shorter hikes and special occasions like elk-watching...


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