Wednesday, January 26

Elk

This is one use I was not expecting on the MUP today:



Along the busy section of highway 93 between 19th Street (Lookout Mountain Rd) and Jefferson County Parkway, some governing agency (most likely CDOT) has created a pathway for wildlife to cross the four lane divided road. They've erected tall fencing along a very long stretch of road with only one major break, complete with flashing lights, a "crosswalk" for wildlife and the obligatory deer and elk crossing signs.

Tonight as I headed home I decided I'd take The 93 all the way to the CCT instead of shortcutting down Illinois. To be honest, I haven't had a chance to descend the "Steep Trail Next 1300 Feet" section of the new section of MUP, and I wanted a reason to scream like a school-girl on my commute home tonight.

I passed the Illinois cutoff and began climbing the first rolling hill which is the one where the "crosswalk" is located and I saw a cluster of elk at the top of the hill, silhouetted against the darkening sky, and standing in the middle of The 93.

A Golden police officer was parked on 93 proper and as I slowed to a stop he suggested I wait as they were going to stop traffic to let the elk cross. I wasn't going to argue. The smallest of them, presumably a calf, or pup or kid, whatever you call a juvenile elk, was still big enough to give the Cannonball a good thrashing.

Time moved on. No stopping of traffic occurred for many long minutes. I considered retreating to IL, but really didn't want to back track. The elk, sensing absolutely nothing of what was going on, began to amble away from the gap in the high fence and clustered on the right half of the path.

Finally the police officer moved his car forward, lights winkin' and blink' and all the traffic (ALL the traffic, A LOT OF TRAFFIC) stopped. The elk bunched up, huddling, perhaps to throw together a plan of attack. Then they broke up a little, peed on the trail and then continued to loiter in the middle of the way as if to say, "Uh, we're just gonna hang out here. You guys can go on about your business."

I wanted to just go on. No one was coming to herd them through the opening. I was downhill and on the side of the opening from them, so if I had moved forward or made noise I would only have shooed them away from the crossing. I didn't want to be charged with obstructing the migration of wildlife, so I stayed put.

Finally the elk decided the grass was greener on the side they were already on and they casually stampeded over each other for a few yards and then stopped. It seems this was a pre-arranged signal between the elk and police officers to indicate something because as they moved on down the trail (where I needed to go) the police car moved onto the shoulder letting traffic flow again and the officer blatted his siren at the elk a few times.

This seemed to confuse the elk (Uh, what seems to be the problem occifer?). So they stopped in the trail. By this time I had creeped to the top of the hill and was looking down on the whole docu-drama below. I tried to calculate how fast I would need to go to buzz the elk without alerting or startling them until I was almost past. I was confident once I was mostly past that they would move away from me. What I was afraid of was that if they saw me before I got past they have may become less confused and decide they were done monkeying around and get down to the business of stomping on me. They did have juveniles in tow after all.

I paused near the police car and the officer got out and motioned me on.

"You can go on," he said with a grin.

"I know," I replied," They're just a whole lot bigger than me!"

He chuckled. I didn't really think it was funny.

In the end I waited until they were all moving away from me toward a break in the fence on opposite the road and I jumped on the pedals. They ran away across the prairie grass and I continued toward my less than epic descent.

It was anti-climactic.

After that it felt like "Ramming Speed Friday" but the sucky thing is that I have to go back to work tomorrow.

2 comments:

  1. Years ago I used to ride my bike on our local path at around 5am before heading to school, etc. I'd see all sorts of wildlife on the trail at that hour. I remember one morning a buck ran right along side me .5 mile. I was scared to death with all those antlers, but he didn't seem to realize what I was. It was an incredible experience. Something you wouldn't experience in a car!

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  2. Don't be too jealous, there was a mountain lion sighting less than a mile from my house last summer. And I live in the middle of suburbia.

    On some of my more rural rides I've been seriously concerned about bears and mtn lions. While I'd love to be able to see them and get photos (with 300mm zoom) I don't want the up close and personal encounter while tangled up in my bike.

    It is nice to see some variety though.

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