Elk Just Want To Have Fun
The final chapter of Yellowstone: The Introspective Landscape.
Considered one of the largest alpine lakes of its size in North America, the serenity and beauty of Yellowstone Lake is internationally known. There is an abundance of flowers along its shore in early summer. By this time, the snow showers have taken a break and the warmth of the sun begins to warm its coves. There is nothing that sooths the wintered weathered mind like photographing the hot springs and flowers along one of the world’s largest and most gorgeous alpine lakes. It was a great day to be alive or at least it seemed so at the time?
This day, the Lupines and Indian Paintbrush blooms caught my eye amongst the steam of the hot springs near the lake’s shoreline. Other people too were caught up with the bloom here as well. Some were closer to the shoreline taking photographs of an Elk Bull in velvet horns. I was not interested in the elk. Elk in velvet images are not that much in demand and I had enough of them in my files for the time being. The flowers and hot springs with a lake backdrop would be a better inclusion for my next Yellowstone calendar. After shooting flowers a good distance above the people and the calmly grazing elk, I threw my camera with tripod over my shoulder then began to head to the shoreline. As I got closer to the water, this elk which was safely beyond the safe zone for elk in rut season started to gallop toward me passing though the tourists that were between us. Immediately, I looked for something to put between me and the elk. First, I ran behind a fire scarred fallen tree. When the elk moved to one side or the other I ran in the opposite direction always staying on the other side much like Charlie Chaplin and the Keystone Cops in a silent comedy film. Meanwhile, the other tourists just ran up the hill to their cars. In my mind, I could hear the children shriek and protective parent shout, “Mad Elk! Run For Your Lives Children!”
When I thought the elk was tired of trying to trap me and started to graze, I started to walk away slowly. Again, the elk gave chase this time and drives me down to the shoreline with only enough time to jump off the ledge. I landed on the gravel below with the lake behind me. Now the elk towered over me: His hoofs at eye level. I had no where to go except a cold swim. I was bewildered as to why was this elk behaved like this. Was it sick? This was summer not the rut season when this type of behavior was expected. The elk was also in velvet. This was a time when his horns are too soft and sensitive for impaling snap shooting tourists.
Then it dawned on me. This elk wants to play make believe horn jostling. Yes, this was a playful rut behavior triggered when I placed my extended tripod legs over my shoulder projecting over and behind my head. The elk thought that I too was an elk, a very strange elk indeed! As I now realized this, I did something that an elk in velvet could never do. I slammed my tripod on the ledge above me near the hoofs of the elk. Right then, this once playful elk became a horrified elk as it ran for its life up the hill, past the tourists in their car, over the road and disappeared into the forest. Playtime was over.