The Most Beautiful Music

Both Bill and I grew up in the Midwest where winters are cold and snowy. You would think, therefore, that we would be used to bone-chilling temperatures and shoveling snow. Alas, we both hate it, Bill even more than I. Hence, a house in AZ. Unfortunately, we didn’t get there soon enough.

A few weeks ago, my sister Jen and I planned our annual trip to Rocky Mountain National Park to listen to the haunting and beautiful sound of the male elks bugling for their mate. Well, MATES, actually, since they don’t seem happy unless they have a whole herd. Greedy little devils. When we made our plans, the sun was shining and the temperature was in the mid-70s.

About a week ago, it became abundantly clear that fall was making itself known, and winter was just around the corner. Our lovely weekend was threatened by the forecast of snow and cold temperatures. I know I’ve been whining for a week now about the cold, but the forecast was for truly COLD temperatures — highs in the teens.

We considered canceling. After all, part of the fun is sitting on the car at dusk and listening to the beautiful mating calls, then returning to the Deercrest Inn, lighting up the firepit, and drinking a cuppa hot chocolate spiked with Fireball whiskey. All of that would be considerably less fun if the temperature was 12 degrees.

We didn’t actually make a final decision until Friday, when the forecasters were telling us that Saturday would be in the 60s, and wouldn’t turn cold until around dusk. Snow, they promised, would soon follow, the amount of which they are always vague. Very vague.

We decided to risk it. With the help of a rental SUV that had solidly good tires and all wheel drive, Bill and I drove to Estes Park, where we met up with Jen. After a quick trip to purchase the essential taffy, we returned to the Deercrest Resort and enjoyed the warm(ish) fall temperatures, with the help of some wine and (as the temperatures began to drop) the firepit…..

It is never unusual to see a lot of elk this time of year, as they come down from the high mountains to the more clement weather to graze and hook up. This big bull elk was hanging out all by himself at the Deercrest. He was clearly old and fairly crippled, so I think he was glad to get away from the youngsters’ shenanigans and enjoy some peace and quiet. All that bugling and testosterone, doncha know. It wears on one’s nerves…..

We made it into the park and though it took a bit of hunting and the help of a park ranger, we were able to locate a herd of elk. In addition to the mating calls, we were just a few feet away from a battle between two young bull elks…..

And Sunday morning, we woke up to a temperature of 12 and this…..

We all made it home safely, with another year of elk bugling under our belt. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

I could live forever without the snow, however.

Falling for Fall in the Mountains

Sisters

Sisters

My sister Jen says it’s one of her favorite sounds in the world. I must admit, it’s right up there – somewhere between a really good choir singing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus and the sounds of my grandkids’ voices.

What am I talking about? The sound of elk bugling in Rocky Mountain National Park in the fall.

That’s why Jen and I make it a point every year to trek up to Estes Park to spend at least one evening with the bull elk as they woo their girlfriends in their fascinating mating ritual. This year Bec joined us, and I think our annual tradition will become hers as well.

As dusk approaches and it begins to get darker, you start hearing the eerie sound of the bulls – a sound that begins low and increases in pitch until it echoes against the mountains. It is beautiful, and apparently the female elk agree. They can’t resist. Who could? We read that in preparation for the evening’s activities, the bulls urinate and then roll in the wet mud. What female could turn their noses up at such sex appeal?

Each year it seems we get a better show, and this year was no exception. We saw two Elk bugling 2015 (2)big bulls fighting for their territory. They lowered their heads and charged each other. They stomped their feet and charged again. Suddenly (or at least it seemed sudden to us), the fight was over. We couldn’t tell who won. The two just turned around and walked off in opposite directions. We never figured out the rules, though we tried.

We watched an interesting display that included three bull elks – one of which was injured and walked with a decided limp. He must have lost a fight. The other two played some sort of elk waiting game. Suddenly, one of the bulls walked over to the other bull’s herd and lured one of the cows to come with him. She seemed undecided, but the big bull elk helped her make the decision as he began to chase her over to his herd. We couldn’t quite figure out whether she was happy or not. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter because it’s the males that make the decision.

It was a glorious weekend. The first night we cooked steaks on the grill and ate them atsteaks estes park a table on our balcony at the Deer Crest Resort. It was a lovely warm fall night, and the grounds of this resort are beautiful. I promise I’m not being paid by the hotel to recommend this accommodation. The resort and the owners are both delightful. I can’t recommend it enough. The owner joined us that evening at the fire pit, shortly after the three of us drank our Fireball whiskey shots. Now that’s a sentence I never thought I would write. But, well, yum.

We spent much time sitting by the Fall River, listening to the sounds of nature.

We spent much time sitting by the Fall River, listening to the sounds of nature.

The second night, after the amazing elk show, we ate dinner at the Dunraven Inn, which provided us another grand experience. Jen ate mussels, and Bec and I each had cioppino. If I wasn’t such a lady, I would have licked my bowl. Yum again……

cioppino dunraven

We had a wonderful weekend, which unfortunately concluded with the car incident about which I wrote yesterday. But what the heck! Even that provided us with a great story to tell.

Bill will be home today, and it is my sincerest hope that he will NOT have rolled in mud.