The Elk Parade

Ten years ago my husband Steve and I spent the end of the year with my brother Jason and his wife Laura in Granby, Colorado.  We had a great time cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, going for horse-drawn sleigh rides and tubing down the Rockies.  But what I remember most is what happened on New Year’s Eve.

We spent the evening in a town called Grand Lake, the western gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park.  After eating in a great little restaurant and wandering around the quaint town’s shops and pubs we headed down to Grand Lake itself to watch the fireworks that heralded in the New Year at midnight.   It was cold, in fact it was three degrees that night, but the fireworks looked incredible reflecting off of the snow and ice over the lake.

Once the fireworks were over, the four of us got into the rented Jeep Grand Cherokee and headed back down the mountain to Jason and Laura’s timeshare in Granby.  Jason was driving, Steve was in the front passenger seat and Laura and I were in the backseat.  As we headed down the mountain we got quiet, the road was a little icy and Jason was concentrating on getting us back safely.  Steve started to doze off while Laura and I stared out the side windows.

All of a sudden Jason said, “Oh shit,” and stepped on the brakes.  Despite the icy conditions, he managed to keep the Jeep straight as we came to a stop.  At first, the rest of us didn’t know what was going on; we didn’t see anything.  Jason pointed towards the front of the car and the three of us all looked out the windshield and saw it.  It was an elk standing less than 10 yards in front of us.  He was standing there in the middle of the road, broadside to the Jeep with his head turned towards us.  He was enormous.  Of course, elk are enormous, but when one is standing that close to you, you appreciate just how enormous they actually are; they are scary enormous.

We began whispering.  I don’t know why really, some sort of primal fear – maybe reverence – but we were whispering.

“Holy crap!  Thank God you stopped!”

“Oh my God, could you imagine if we hit that?”

“We’d be dead.”

“There’s more,” Jason whispered, “Lots more, look over there,” he pointed to the left. There were elk as far as we could see and more just kept coming.  All of them were crossing through the field, stepping over the fence and heading toward the road. They were so big and the snow so deep, they did not jump the fence, they stepped over it.

The first elk, the one we stopped for, finally moved on and continued through the field on the other side of the road.  And then we sat there as elk after elk walked right in front of the Jeep, across the road and into the dark field on the other side.  As we sat there waiting, other people began heading down the mountain from Grand Lake and several vehicles lined up behind us waiting for the elk to finish crossing.

Finally, after watching at least thirty or so elk cross the road in front of us, there was a break in the elk procession and we were able to move forward and continue down the mountain.

Although it’s been ten years since that trip, every year on New Year’s Eve I can’t help but think about that time the four of us were almost taken out by an elk herd on an icy road south of Rocky Mountain National Park.  It would make an interesting obit, no? Happy New Year, I am hopeful that 2017 brings us all health, happiness, peace and a road free of obstacles.

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Daily prompt hopeful

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