The park’s peak months are from June to August, autumn also holds a special lure for tourists wanting to see aspens changing color and large populations of elk. People travel from all over the world to tour the park and escape the chaos and crowded streets of major cities. It just so happens that 3 million other people annually also have the same idea at one point or another. Perhaps it’s a little ironic then, that one would end up at the end of an 80-car standstill in the middle of a national park. One thing you won’t find, however, is angry drivers or the sound of car-horns blaring. Instead, excited heads pop through sunroofs and through passenger windows with cameras ready to see what everyone else sees.
By the fifth day in the park we stopped looking for elk altogether and drove until we found other cars pulled off on the side of the road. While a little discomforting to think of traffic in such a beautiful place, it was refreshing to see such a crazed enthusiasm for wildlife.
On Friday morning, I woke up before sunrise to search for my own herd of elk off the beaten path and far from the crowds. Just beyond Barry’s house an open grazing ground proved a perfect spot. Hiking through the trees I came to a clearing and there they were.
Three bull elk lumbered amongst a small harem of cows, pronouncing their dominion over the others with shrieking bugle calls. Desensitized to humans, they let me approach without worry.
I watched as they sparred, clashing full racks of bone, performing for their female audience. I spent 20 minutes photographing in the cold morning alone with these wonderful creatures. I thanked them for the private session and headed back up the hill to my car.
Turning onto the main road I drove for a few minutes until coming to a complete stop. Stuck behind twenty other vehicles I slowly inched forward until I saw a large gathering of people photographing a bull elk that had just walked across the road.