I try, every year, to get up to Rocky Mountain National Park in time to witness love’s majestic ritual. My friend was my excuse to make a special after-church journey up the mountain. We had lunch on the balcony of the Fall River Visitors Center, absorbing the beauty of the day and the foliage and the magpies lurking for fallen French fries.
Then we rode into the park and around its roads. It was beautiful but largely elk-less. My friend was beginning to doubt the existence of elk and the legendary spectacle. We saw lots of cars and people setting up chairs to watch the annual show. But no elk. My friend was leaving the next day. She could not leave disappointed.
I decided to drive to Upper Beaver Meadow, at the end of the worst road in the park. We got all the way to end, waited and walked a bit, but still no elk. We were about to leave when a man wearing a Chicago Cubs sweatshirt (or perhaps a state of Colorado sweatshirt – they are a little similar) came over a small hill and announced that there was a lot of elk activity at the end of the little path ascending the knoll.
My friend has Parkinson’s and I had a sprained neck. Getting up that little hill was no small feat. But we did it. And there at the summit two bull elk were butting heads, sparring for the affection of a magnificent doe. I couldn’t get my camera pointed the right way in time to record the actual duel but I did photograph the victor and … off to the side, the prize. My friend saw it. I saw it. We were only a few yards from the action. It was thrilling. And awesome. And worth the wait.
She went home believing. I went home validated. And I will go back again next year.