You would think if you chose to go to Mammoth Hot Springs, you'd be going to see- well, hot springs, right? You would, unless, you'd traveled through the town the night before. And as you crept through the winding streets, bright beady eyes began freezing in your headlights. We stopped and pulled over expecting to find deer. But no, the piercing and glowing eyes, were those of a herd of elk- walking along the main street. Yep, right on the boulevard, next to the Hotel. The elk were everywhere.
I had to go back to see what our headlights hinted at the night before.
The town of Mammoth Hot Springs, is very picturesque, and yet deceiving in some ways.
These little red signs were everywhere, and if you look closely, so were mounds of elk droppings.
The historic hotel. Rick had tried to get a room but it was booked.
The "park" across from the hotel that on first glance looks empty.
But then, as I switch to my long lens, I spot them. And they have spotted us. A crowd is beginning to gather across the street.
And then we see him. A bull elk. And the female cows are in rut. They are loudly calling out. And he is whipping them into a frenzy.
And that is when the park ranger comes screaming down the street with lights flashing on his car. And he hollers at the crowd gathering. "If the bull comes across the street, run for the store! Or get in your cars, but remember their feet and antlers pierce right through the metal of the car, you aren't safe in your car. Stay back!" I am only a few feet away from where he stands and he graciously answers our questions. The bull elk is 5 or 6 years old which is old in elk years. He has 7 splits on his antlers. The cows are just as feisty as the bull is. The elk spend several days in the city at times, but go off to the mountains for days in a row too. He said they have had 44 incidents to date this year, with elk damaging cars and injuring people.
It takes me awhile to realize, his job isn't to protect us from the elk, as much as it is to protect the habitat of the elk from us. The elk are in charge, not the people. When you live in a National Park like Yellowstone, every piece of nature is protected. As a human, you certainly learn your place.
I was smitten with the whole show unfolding before our eyes. I found myself so engrossed, fear played no factor. I respectfully kept my distance, but was delighted with how close my camera could get me.
Back and forth across the path goes the bull elk.
And then he begins to chase and we prepare to take cover...
But then... the cows decide enough already, and begin to cross the street right by where I am standing.
She calmly turns her head calling...
And baby steps clumsily off the curb and follows along...
Momma number two stops to call out as well, and soon... (the entire town just sort of comes to a standstill.)
baby number two approaches ever so timidly...
And the bull is still chasing...
He gets right to the curb as the park ranger tells us to get ready to head inside...
He gives one big call...
Stands there in his majesty...
And then heads back into the park.
The babies hurry off the opposite way to catch up with their moms.
We took that as our sign to head back to the lodge. Through the car window we got a quick glimpse of the hot springs. What you don't see are all the steps going up to the viewing area. Another trip, another day perhaps. There is so much more to the park to explore, but we are leaving early the next morning.
We collapse in bed early, skipping dinner altogether and sleep with the sounds of Old Faithful spouting off throughout the night.
Rascal Flatts, Stand
"Everytime you get up
And get back in the race
One more small piece of you
Starts to fall into place"
Slowly I am getting back to me... I just don't know it yet... but the pieces are starting to fall.