Unexpected Guests

Sunday was a lazy day. I’d had my big Grand Canyon adventures. I did take a motorcycle ride on some nearby National Forest Roads, which somehow led me back to the Grand Canyon without going through an entry gate. I’m not suggesting you do this to avoid paying the entrance fee. But since I have an annual pass anyway, and would gladly show it to any ranger who asked, I wasn’t worried about going back to check in or anything.

I was having an early dinner because I wanted to go back to the Grand Canyon to watch the sunset. I heard a commotion nearby, turned, and saw a herd of elk wandering by.

They crossed the road, then crossed the small pull-off where I was parked. Most of them sauntered into the hills behind my camp, grazing as they went along.

But the only male in the herd, who was bringing up the rear, wasn’t so fast to wander off. In fact, he turned around and started slowly walking toward me and Lister! I grabbed Lister’s tether and pulled him back. He was walking toward the elk, probably wanting to be friends. The broken antler tells me that this guy has seen some action and isn’t afraid to fight if he has to. The last thing I wanted to do was be in a “stupid human tries to pet a wild animal” viral video, which the woman in the RV at the far end was already shooting.

I pulled Lister back far enough to put my motorcycle between us and the elk. We could also run inside the van and shut the door if he decided to charge. But he had no aggressive intentions toward us at all. All he wanted was a drink of water from the nearby puddle. All his movements were confident but calm. He knows he owns this place. He has no predators here, including humans since we aren’t allowed to hunt them in a National Forest. This is a popular camping area, so they’re used to people. Fortunately, it’s the wrong time of year for them to be aggressive during mating season.

Eventually, he had his fill to drink, returned to his herd, and they wandered off into the hills.

I’d never even seen elk before heading out west. Even then, I’d only ever seen them at a distance in Oregon, at designated “elk viewing areas.” I’ve had wildlife come to my camp before, but never like this, or this close. What an amazing experience.

It delayed my departure to the Grand Canyon to watch the sunset, but it was very much worth it. And I made it in time anyway.

On my way out, I got stuck behind a couple of cars stopped in the road for no reason that I could see — at first. As I got closer, I saw that they’d stopped for two elk in the trees right next to the road. Rather than take out my camera in the middle of traffic, I slowly made my way by the elk couple after the cars ahead of me moved, then continued on.

Today was a work day, both the day job and catching up on other writing projects I’d let slide while adventuring the past few days. I took the bike into town for a few (vastly overpriced) supplies. On my way back to camp, more elk were hanging out next to the road about a quarter mile from my camp. The male with the broken antler wasn’t there, but these were likely some of the same herd. Suddenly, I’m seeing all the elk.


    1. Seeing a herd of elk is pretty common here. Having one step away from the herd and walk right up like this one did is not! Your thought has already crossed my mind. It’s an interesting message.


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