"}
Outdoors

Elk Night, Elk Fright

Caught in the rut

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I’ll never forget all those spectral, unearthly sounds they made. Even now—10 years later—that primordial cacophony of ritualistic articulations echoes through my soul.

There were only two of us working along the headwaters of the Missouri River that fateful, near-indescribable week. We were installing directional signposts through a vast, maze-like expanse of upland forest meadows known to accommodate some of the most prolific concentrations of migratory megafauna endemic to the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

Of course, the ground up there proved fiercely stubborn—chock full of inconveniently situated rocks and all manner of labor-intensive subterranean surprises.

On average, it took us the better part of two hours just to excavate a post hole. A ridiculous amount of time, really, especially considering autumnal weather conditions that season were uncharacteristically ideal. We were busting our balls to the max.

Yet, even so, we could only relish our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to luxuriate in such an intimate and completely unfettered foray among the stupefyingly resplendent surroundings of Yellowstone country.

Meanwhile, the deeper we worked our way into the remotest throes of these isolated park lands, the more conspicuous grew the presence of the local breeding population of Rocky Mountain elk.

Hundreds of freshly made hoof-prints and telltale pellet droppings crisscrossed the tawny hillsides and draws. We couldn’t dig down more than a few feet without crunching our tools into one interred generation of Cervidae bones or another.

They were out there, alright—lots of them. But still, even as late as our sixth and final night on this project, we hadn’t seen or heard a single one.

However, just moments after we crawled into our tents on that moony, eerily lit evening, we were beguiled to register the first audible stirrings of their impending onrush.

What began as the faintest smattering of isolated yelps, squeals and bugling on the forested hill rims above escalated quickly into a combative chorus of snorting, grunting and vigorous interlocking of antlers that seemed to creep closer toward our camp.

“Oh, no!” I soon heard my crew-mate scream as he hastily unzipped himself from his tent amid a throng of desperate clattering and heavy thumping. “Not here! NOT ME!”

Peering pensively out through my bug screen, I was stunned to see the type of trouble that had befallen him.

Looming directly behind his tan-colored, half-dome tent stood the largest 8-point bull I’ve ever seen. As its spear-sharp rack of antlers gleamed lethally through the shadows, this extremely horny, thousand-pound ungulate raised a definitive front leg forward and began pawing the ground with lusty determination.

“Escape while you still can!” I screamed. “Bruiser’s got serious eyes for your tent!”

In a flash, I saw the glow-white, buck-naked form of my crew-mate streak through the night, whimpering profusely as he dragged his sleeping bag off into a nearby stand of protectively thick, dog hair timber—where I, too, soon joined him in hiding. It was a night we’d survive, but never, ever forget.

SVCR Don McLean
More Outdoors...
Nordic Night
Putting the kick in cross-country

“It’s the perfect way to fly,” my old trail crew buddy Tryg said as he jammed his ski poles into the snow and pushed off into the night.

He was right. Even moving uphill on a pair of heirloom Madshus 210s he glided over the groomers so quickly and with such little apparent effort…

more »
Couples Therapy
The ins and outs of love

If you’re not in the right frame of mind to commemorate Valentine’s Day by gazing at your paramour across a candle-lit table, we’ve compiled a few alternate ways to spend time with your sweeties of choice in the coming days. They all involve going outside for an extended period of time, so…

more »
SnowSchool
Bringing students into the mountains

My life is focused in the mountains, so it is surprising how many local young people have never had the opportunity to visit our neighborhood peaks.

“So many kids in Whatcom County see Mt. Baker from the lowlands, but some never get the chance to experience the mountain environment,”…

more »
Events
Today
KMRE broadcaster receives citizen journalism award

5:00pm

17th annual Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival

10:00am|Whatcom County

Arsenic and Old Lace

7:00pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Into the Woods

7:30pm|Whidbey Playhouse

New documentary focuses human rights film festival

7:52pm

Orchid Show and Sale

9:00am|Skagit Valley Gardens

Sedro-Woolley Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #43

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Kevin Ranker completes his sermon

1:00pm

Positive Blues

2:00pm|Nancy's Farm

Mock and Maher

3:00pm|Deming Library

Tartarus

4:00pm|Village Books

MBT Rovers Bellingham Farmer’s Market
Tomorrow
KMRE broadcaster receives citizen journalism award

5:00pm

17th annual Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival

10:00am|Whatcom County

New documentary focuses human rights film festival

7:52pm

Winter Camping Basics

6:00pm|REI

Cuban Salsa

6:00pm|Bell Tower Studios

Bite of Blaine

6:00pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Pizza Party

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Rock & Gem Club Meeting

7:00pm|Bloedel Donovan Community Center

Rock and Gem Club Meeting

7:00pm|Bloedel Donovan Community Center

Swing Dance

8:00pm|Eagles Hall

Guffawingham

9:30pm|Green Frog

Northwood Steak and Crab Trove
Tuesday
KMRE broadcaster receives citizen journalism award

5:00pm

17th annual Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival

10:00am|Whatcom County

New documentary focuses human rights film festival

7:52pm

Farm-to-Table Trade Meeting

8:30am|Bellingham Technical College

Community Preparedness

2:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Baker Backcountry Basics

6:00pm|REI

All-Paces Run

6:00pm|Fairhaven Runners

Putting the kick in cross-country

6:00pm

Dressings, Sauces and Stocks

6:30pm|Ciao Thyme Commons

Prawn Particulars

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Tides

7:00pm|Village Books

Books on Tap

7:00pm|North Fork Brewery

see our complete calendar »

MBT Rovers Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Trove Village Books Bellingham Farmer’s Market Northwood Steak and Crab Bellingham Technical College