They're big and have those things on their head - Elk Attack!!!
Elks are majestic animals, graceful, strong...and really bloody annoying. So, what was the Elk Attack? We had arrived at our campsite in Jasper the previous evening. The site was in the forest, with the river nearby, and other campers hidden amongst the trees. Our site had a picnic table with benches attached, the fire pit and Neil Young, our van. The morning kicked off with the usual alarm drilling through my head. I jumped up (well ‘The Man’ would say I dragged myself out of my pit) and made my way to the toilet block. After waiting for the last few hours until it was light, it was a fairly impressive lope through the forest, thankfully no embarrassing accidents. When you have to share your space with Elks and bears I always think its wise to wait until daylight to tackle a walk through a forest, where they can see at night.
When I got back to the van, ‘The Man’ was up, chirpy and ready to go for our hike. Ugh, morning people. I rolled myself back into my sleeping bag and went back to sleep for the next two hours. After all 7.30am is not right, its just unheard of to get up at this time. I think I heard ‘The Man’ ask whether I was getting up, and making noises about going down to the river. Yeah, whatever…I finally stirred around 10am, refreshed and ready to face the day, without coffee. I needed to refresh myself back in the toilet block, so wandered through the forest until I was stopped on the path by a rather large female elk. What on earth?! You’re not meant to go near animals here, they’re (the park rangers) very clear that if a decision has to be made between you and the animal, well it’s not you that always comes out on top. So, I backed up as the animal briefing video had informed us. I tried to recall what the video had instructed us, but had we learnt anything about elks? They’re big, something about rutting and running away if you see one. I backed up and considered an alternative path, but bugger me they were all over the forest. Thankfully she decided to stop amusing herself at my expense and moved on. I swear that she winked at me. I quickly moved to the toilets. Salvation.
On my second return, I saw a glimpse of something through the trees. Bloody hell, the Stag was in the forest and on my path. He was huge and didn’t look that friendly with antlers cresting his head. He paused on the path, and I froze, and quickly retreated to the door of the men’s toilet. He stood for a while sniffing the air, thankfully I had had a shower the previous evening so was smelling pretty good. I guess he liked the smell as he eventually moved on through the forest.
I pretty much ran back to the van, and recounted my story to ‘The Man’. ‘The Man’ said that the Stag was friendly. Ugh…what?! In the words of Arnold from a Different Strokes ‘Whatcha talking about Willis?’. That huge beast was not friendly, and definitely didn’t like me. I know.
Anyway as I was up, I was ready to go on our wee hike. Fed, watered and cleaned. “Let’s do this”, I may have said. Ok I didn’t say it but I thought it. We walked away from the toilet block and I saw the stag through the trees and thought that would make a lovely picture. The Stag through the trees…and it pawing the ground…and it…shit it’s charging us. I ran. [Didn’t they say something about running in a zigzag as they aren't fast on the diagonal?!?!? That was Moose by the way, Elks are bloody fast]. I hid behind a tree. Why couldn’t they make the trees fatter here, thank God for the tree. But, where was ‘The Man’? He was entertaining the Stag behind a tree. Well the tree was between him and the Stag. His hands were moving and the Stag was fencing (afterwards he said that he was close enough to hit the Stag on the nose). He then ran to another tree, and the Stag chased. My heart was pounding and I thought maybe he could throw the van key to me and I could open the side door and he could jump in and I could leap onto the bonnet and onto the roof. Come on Clare this is real life, you’d trip on the bonnet and the Stag would stick you, or you’d drop the key. While I was dreaming up escape scenarios, ‘The Man’ was facing down the Stag and trying to get it to leave. Finally, it calmed down and left. Adrenaline has never moved so quickly around my body, sweaty armpits, heart racing. I hate Elks. We were 30 metres from it, and what the hell are they doing putting us in a campsite with rutting Elks?
Camping and hiking with actual wild animals adds an extra dimension of fear and respect to any trip. I now know to keep well away from Elks, they’re not deer, and even the juvenile males are aggressive as we found out the next day when we were charged by another Elk, this time it was on the side of the road eating grass. We didn’t see it. :-( Thankfully another episode that we walked away from. I write this post sitting in ‘Neil Young’, our van, as the sun streams onto legs and warms my feet, drinking wine, while ‘The Man’ sits down by the river with his beaker of wine. I write this knowing that there are two bears in the campground (the attendant told us this after we had registered!) so once again I’ll be waiting until morning to go to the toilet. It’s not far but knowing my luck I’ll probably meet one of the bears amongst the trees, and as we all know they’re not as friendly as Yogi Bear.