Saturday, August 31, 2013

Elk Hunting in the Great Smoky Mountains

We arrived at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, Stop #29, a few days before our conference was scheduled to begin.    It's always good to have a few days of rest and catch-up time between travels, and this is the perfect place for that. 

The small town, a little west of Asheville, is centered around a large, beautiful Methodist Conference Center and its 400 acre lake.  It has allowed us to refresh both body and spirit with daily walks around the lake and a delightful Labor Day Mountain Folk Festival of music and dance.

The first night we arrived, we took the advice of other campers and went elk hunting in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.  We don't hunt armed with guns or bows and arrows, of course, but with cameras and curiosity.

The scenery was breath-taking as we climbed higher and higher along the Blue Ridge Parkway and connecting mountain roads.  But no elk to be seen.
Each turn and twist of the road opened to us a new vista of beauty  But no elk.
Our ears crackled with the decreasing air pressure as we drew nearer to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  But not a four-legged creature was stirring.
Then, ever so quietly, out of a dense thicket of trees and brush, strolled this magnificent looking creature, a young but full grown female elk.  We never learned the reason for the ear tags and necklace she wore, but she gazed around calmly as if she was used to being the entertainment for a crowd of human gawkers with cameras.
While she got down to the business of eating dinner,
two more female members of her family arrived, one full-grown with a nursing calf.
We watched as the family ate dinner together.
If we kept quiet and still, these residents of the forest did not seem to be camera-shy.
Then, to our surprise and delight, Papa came home to supper, too!
He was, indeed, a noble specimen of elk-hood: a full-grown male with a ten-point rack of antlers.
He grazed on the lush green grass, leafy vines and tree leaves as he watched over his family. When his stomach got full and his patience got short, he encouraged his family to move on.
Our elk-hunting safari had been more successful than we could ever have imagined!