Well, I think it’s that time again. Time for a new National Park-related list. I previously made lists of my Top 10 Favorite National Parks and Top 10 Short and Long National Park hikes. I’ve also shared my Bucket List and a list of places I’ve visited that I think should be on everyone’s Bucket List. This time, I decided to go with a list of my Top 10 Wildlife Encounters. They all occurred in National Parks; unsurprisingly most of them were in Glacier and Yellowstone. Almost all of these were up close and personal interactions, while a couple could be better classified as “wildlife sightings” from afar. I decided I would simply use a photo of the park of the incident as my Featured Image, so that I don’t give away the type of wildlife. Hope you enjoy my list.
10. The massive bull elk in Mather Campground
Location: Mather Campground in Grand Canyon National Park.
Animal: Bull elk.
Rarity (the first of a few totally subjective 1-10 scales I am using): 3 or 4 – I’m not really sure how rare elk are in the park, but I know it’s the only time I’ve seen one and I’ve been there three times and have spent several days exploring the park.
Wow Factor: 7 – this was one big and imposing elk with a very impressive rack.
Danger: 3 – I’m sure this thing could have caused damage to someone or something if it really wanted to, but I don’t think anyone was truly in danger.
Fear Factor: 2 – I wasn’t the slightest bit afraid.
Description: I was on a solo southwest adventure and Grand Canyon National Park was the last camping stop on my trip. I hiked a few miles on the South Kaibab Trail in the morning, then stopped at Desert View for a little while, where I watched an incredible thunderstorm pass over the canyon. After that I returned to Mather Campground for a little rest and relaxation. I grilled myself a couple of hot dogs for a late lunch, then took a shower and did some laundry in the campground’s facilities.
I was heading back to my campsite when I saw it. There was a massive bull elk right beside the campground road. Lucky for me, I had my camera with me in my car. I drove since I needed my shower stuff and washed my clothes. I pulled over and got a couple of nice photos of this enormous elk before it wandered off. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure there are 12 points on this elk’s rack.
The elk was regal as it stood tall. Then it appeared to look directly at me. It seemed perfectly calm, which likewise put me at ease. I had no fear of it, despite the fact it could have easily trampled me if it wanted to. It was an attractive beast with light brown fur across most of its body with a darker coffee color for its legs and face. It feels weird to write this, but I swear it had kind eyes as it looked at me. Looking at the photos now, its eyes remind me of my dog’s typically gentle eyes.
The elk didn’t stick around for long. It wandered off into the woods, so I returned to my car and headed back to my campsite as planned. The brief interaction was a memorable one. The unexpected sighting reminded me that it’s always a good idea to have your camera on you when you’re in a National Park.