Chased by Elk

Despite living only hours away, I only just made the trip to see the Grand Canyon. Not to climb, mind you, I’m not a huge fan of heights. If you climb up a mountain, you can go as high as you’re comfortable, then head back down. Canyons are the opposite; you start at the very top and make your descent, and then you have to climb back up the damn thing. No, we were there for some sightseeing, some Instagram photos, and a little time away on our own. And I got a little self-reflection done.

The first day was hell, as I had a hard time acclimating to being 7,000 feet above sea level. Even standing still, I felt like I was running. It’s one of those moments where you start to question your desire to be an adventurer/explorer. But that didn’t stop us from looking for the best place to enjoy the sunset. (There’s a lot of debate, apparently, as to where the best place is, but it was told to us that Yaki Point was a good one.)

We got to the point about ten minutes before sundown. The canyon was painted in beautiful pinks and purples, with a clear blue sky above it. In truth, it wasn’t all that great to me. I mean, I grew up in the desert, and sunset at the Grand Canyon was a whole lot like the sunsets at Red Rock Canyon, only colder and six hours away (to the South Rim).

I wanted more. And off the beaten path, there was more.

At Yaki Point, there’s a railing to keep you from falling over the edge (these things seem to be arbitrarily placed, as you could fall and die from pretty much anywhere). On the other side of the railing, however, was a bit of wilderness that led to a rock outcropping that (probably) had the best pictures. I wanted those pictures!

Before I go further, I need to tell you what was told to us about the evil, scary elk. The shuttle drivers and rangers all said that elk were dangerous this time of year, mating season or something. We were warned to not go within 100 feet of them or we might get gored. (I’m a city boy, so I’m believing these people.)

Anyway, back to the story.

Once we crossed the railing, it was like we landed in another world, a world of silence and creepiness.

I moved very slowly through here. My primal senses were on full alert, ready for dire wolves, giant spiders, or bears to leap out at us (city boy, remember?). The point I wanted to get to was only a three-minute walk, but it took us about ten, I was going so slowly. But, eventually, we made it, and I got my pic!

On the way back to civilization (or at least where the shuttle buses ran) the canyon wall, which everyone in the area affectionately (and horrifyingly) refer to as “the edge”, was only a few feet away from us. Some instinct told me to grab my wife’s hand –– when I hiked up Angel’s Landing as a teenager, my friends and I had to catch one of our number from sliding down the side of the mountain. As I didn’t have my friends with me at the canyon, I thought it best to err on the side of caution and be proactive. Good thing, too.

As we walked, we were fascinated with the edge. The sun was set, but the leftover twilight gave us plenty to see by, and the canyon was the most entertaining thing around, apart from my wife’s eyes (I’m supposed to say that). But in that creepy landscape that was eerily close to the edge, something dangerous lurked.

The snap of a twig, like out of the movies, brought our attention to a tree not eight feet from us. The tree wasn’t that big, so I have no idea how it had managed to conceal the massive elk that was coming out from behind it. The thing was huge! (Sadly, despite how many dozens of elk we saw, I got no pics of them. They’re like deer, only three times as large.)

“Oh, my God!” My wife barely managed muffled her scream. “Honey! It’s going to get us!”

This is where I’m supposed to say that the monstrous elk, with antlers as big and sharp as longswords, charged my wife. And seeing her, trapped between the edge and the hulking beast, I furrowed my brow, made peace with my maker, and grabbed the damned thing by the antlers. With a powerful tug that took all I had in me, I managed the send the monster careening over the edge. I had to, I would later tell myself. It was my wife or the animal.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on whose side you’re on), that didn’t happen.

My wife tried to run for it, but I held her back. You don’t run from animals or they’ll give chase (I later realized that elk are prey, and probably don’t have a chase response, but city boy, remember –– not running works with most dogs). It was all I could do to not run myself. Somewhere between pulling her back and walking quickly myself, we fell into a comfortable half-jog that brought us to the shuttle bus area in no time. And that elk? It ate our dust! (I actually don’t know if it chased us at all, but my wife was pretty sure it followed for a while.)

Safely back on the shuttle, my wife recounted her terror to other edge goers while I thought about how lucky I was that my wife didn’t lead us toward a long fall.

Upon returning to Las Vegas, we had a long talk. We’ve decided that, as beautiful as the wilderness is, we’ll enjoy it from our hotel rooms and well-paved lookout points from now on. We’re city folk, after all, and have no business wrestling with elk-bears in the woods.

Here are a few pics from the adventure, in case you haven’t been able to make the trip on your own. (Also featured, the world’s last pay phone, I think, which we found next to a tavern inside the park.)

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