a stroll along the pigeon...

 

the elk

 

Climbing a steep ridge with a backpack on quickly reminds a person of their true age. When I was younger I could have run up this hill with a pack on my back. Unfortunately, that was a few decades ago.

When the game trail I had been following up the side of the steep ridge finally leveled out I was huffing and puffing like 'the little engine who could' from the children's story. A nearby fallen tree made a welcome seat. Once I caught my breath, I took the opportunity to tighten and retie my shoelaces..

The first hint that something was about to happen was the sound of a twig snapping in the forest near the trail. Then, without another sound, a large bull elk stepped from the woods. He stopped only part way onto the trail and swung his head towards me, clearly baffled by my presence.

When the elk stepped from the trees, I froze in place, barely 20 feet away. What little breeze there was came from the northwest and carried my scent away from him. Leaning forward, with a shoelace in each hand, I appeared to be a large bump on the log. Even though he didn't know what I was, he was still clearly puzzled. He took a step closer trying to determine just what this strange apparition might be.

Bits of velvet hung in tattered strips near the base of his antlers. They fluttered like ribbons whenever he moved his head. His nostrils flared as he tried to catch my scent. He took another short step closer.

A mature bull elk is a very large animal. This one must have weighed close to 800 pounds (360kg) It was a 'Royal' with six points on each side. The polished tips of his antlers gleamed in the sunlight. They looked very sharp. I suddenly realized that I could be in some danger. Thankfully, it was too early for the rut. If this encounter had happened a few weeks later he would probably have charged as soon as he saw me. Fortunately for me, he seemed more inquisitive than aggressive.

I was about to stand up and say, "boo" when the elk finally caught my scent. He whirled around and disappeared into the woods. He moved faster than I could believe possible for such a large animal. The sounds of his passage echoed through the forest for a seemingly long while before they faded away.

"Wow", was the only thing I could think of to say. That's when I realized I had held my breath throughout the encounter. My legs were shaky when I stood up. I blamed it on the climb, but I knew better. This was definitely a 'close encounter' of the natural kind.

Part 2...

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