Dosewallips State Park, day 2 evening

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Housekeeping note:  I have changed how I manage the dates of these blog posts.  The date on which I write the post and on which I “publish” the post using WordPress software will be listed in small print immediately under the title of the post (January 14, 2018, for this post).  In addition, under that, in larger green/italic font, I will put the date that the occurrences described in each post actually happened (September 26, 2017, for this post).  I hope this change will eliminate some of the confusion about the dates.

Readers have asked why I’m going camping in such lousy, cold weather in the middle of January.  Rest assured, I am not.  I am actually sitting at home in my nice warm library/office with a cup of hot tea while writing these blog posts.  I’m hoping to get caught up to real time with these posts in a month or two.  In the meantime, this change in how I post the dates should make my escapades easier to follow.  At least, I hope so.  🙂

And now we return to our regularly scheduled programming!

So … now let’s go back to where I left off on the last post.  You’ll remember that I couldn’t get back to my trailer because of all the Elk spread across the entire campground just north of my truck and trailer.

In this post, I pick up where I left off as I walked to the northern end of the campground then walked through the Highway 101 underpass so I could explore the original campground that was on the east side of the highway and right on the Dosewallips River.

Here’s the map again, with a few additions:

The map above is almost identical to the one in the previous post except for the addition of four red dots on the right side of the map … right on the edge of the Dosewallips River.  The dots are my four favorite campsites that I would love to use in the future.

The red arrows at the bottom of the map show the usual route the Elk take when they leave the south end of the main campground.  They walk onto the state park road, then cross Highway 101 (and believe me all traffic stops!), then they walk down into the parking lot of the day-use area on the east side of Highway 101.  From there, they sometimes wander north through the original campground along the river, although usually they head further south into the grassland of the estuary of the Dosewallips River, and that’s usually where they sleep for one night.

Ordinarily, the next day, they then head further south a bit then cross the highway again and then head west back up into the foothills of the Olympic Mountains.  A week or so later, they return to the campground coming from the northwest.  That large circle is the usual route they take.

This year, however, as we’ve seen, is different.  This day (day 2) is now the second day that the Elk have stayed in the area, even sleeping overnight inside the campground rather than sleeping in the grassland of the estuary.  The Rangers say the Elk will certainly leave the area this afternoon and continue on their usual route.  So for now, I’ll check out this other campground and then head back to my trailer.

It was such a beautiful week that I figured there would be plenty of people over here in campsites right next to the river, but it was almost empty.  There were three campsites occupied, that’s it.  So I was able to poke around and explore and then photograph my favorite campsites for future reference.  #95 above and #94 below were favorites, right on the river, flat, and somewhat private.

None of the campsites over here had water or electricity, so maybe that’s why fewer folks were over here.

Elk tracks!  I am such a good tracker, aren’t I?  Ok, maybe not. 🙂  It couldn’t have been much more obvious what animal made these tracks.

Another favorite campsite above and below, #137.  Just back the trailer in there and I’d be in heaven.  The two photos below are of the river access from this campsite.

Easy, almost flat access to the river.  No dead fish here so no smell.  The only concern here is that the river can overflow its banks during heavy spring mountain snow run-off and flood all of these campsites.  So, you pick your dates, and call the Rangers ahead of time.

The fourth campsite on my list of favorites was the one below.  The red dot for it on the map above is on the road that is shaped like a big P.  It’s a group site, with three campsites.  It was lovely!

I asked a Ranger about reserving the group site.  She told me that I cannot reserve it since, with one RV trailer, I am a single camping unit, but that I could occupy one of the sites on a first-come, first-served basis whenever it has not been reserved.  And, if I do that, as long as I’m in one of the campsites then no one else can use any of the campsites in that group area.  It would be all mine!

The downside of using the group site is that someone could reserve it for the second night (as long as there were at least two camping units making the reservation) and then I would have to move.  But it might be worth the risk … this group site was empty all four nights that I was camping at Dosewallips.

At the right (east) end of the group campsite, there was access to a little creek.  No fish, just really pretty.

Further south and east, there was the estuary of the Dosewallips River and the grasslands, and beyond that is Hood Canal.

And Mt. Rainier, ever-present for us here in the Pacific Northwest, could be seen above the waters of Hood Canal.

That was a nice walk!  I was glad to have more information about the campground and have specific campsites that I would like to return to.  Now it was time to head back to the trailer and get ready for dinner.  With the Elk spread across the campground just north of my trailer, returning from the south won’t be a problem.  I’ll just walk across Highway 101 down here at the south end of the campground and …..

Ooops!  The Elk are now down here!

I walked into the south parking lot on the east side of Highway 101, thinking I would cross Highway 101 and get back to the main campground from the south.  Oh my word, the Elk had walked south inside the main campground and had come across Highway 101 and were now in the south parking lot right in front of me.  Some of them were still up on Highway 101.  I sure wasn’t going THAT direction!

Well, ok … sigh.  Ha!  I guess I’ll head back north, back through the original campground, and then back through the underpass.  I wanted so badly to see a few Elk, even if from a distance, and now I couldn’t get rid of them … they kept following me!  🙂

So, back north and then through the underpass I went, and then down past the other campers in the campground.  It was clear sailing to my trailer and I climbed in with a bit of relief.  Not 20 minutes later however, I began to hear noises outside so poked my head out the door.  Here the Elk were AGAIN!  They had come back over Highway 101 from the south and were now in the campground heading north towards my trailer.

Do they love me?  Do I smell?  Do they covet my big white truck?  Why do they keep following me?  LOL!  What a problem to have, eh?  🙂

These two little ones might have been twins.  Do Elk give birth to twins?  I noticed them yesterday and earlier today.  This was my best photo of them.

This was the first time that the alpha bull came over to my trailer to grab a bite to eat.  Again, I kept moving my upper body back and forth slowly so that they were sure to see me.  They didn’t seem to give a hoot about my being there.

Notice the different tilt of his head in the two photos above.  In the second photo, a younger bull was coming along from the right.  The big guy didn’t bugle, but he was ready to.  I noticed the opening in front of his eye got bigger when his head tilted.

Both herds were here, and possibly a third one according to the Camp Host.  In all there were about 65 Elk.  Even the Camp Hosts said they had never seen so many inside the campground at one time.  The photo above is looking south from my trailer.  The videos below are looking north from my trailer.  I was surrounded.  All of the Elk ended up sleeping inside the campground yet again overnight, but left early the next morning.



After I returned home, I researched the eyes of Elk and that cavity just in front of the eye.  Turns out there is a gland in there and here’s what wikipedia says about it:  “The preorbital gland is a paired exocrine gland found in many species of hoofed animals, which is homologous to the lacrimal gland found in humans.”

In regular English, I think this means that Elk have a gland that “feeds” this cavity, and that the gland is similar in structure to the gland that is above the human eye, tho it is different in function.  The Elk gland secretes pheromones and other chemicals used for communication.  When a bull Elk rubs his head and antlers on a shrub, he may not be doing anything with his antlers as we sometimes suspect.  He maybe rubbing the sides of his face on the shrub in order to deposit the secretions from those preorbital glands.

If any of you very fine readers know more about this, please share.

Other websites state that the preorbital cavity opens up when Elk (male or female) are being aggressive or are frightened.  As a comparison, the photo below is the photo from this morning when that female Elk was walking oh so close to me.  Her preorbital cavity was closed up tight, letting me know she was calm and cool as a cucumber.  Who would have thought?

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3 Responses to Dosewallips State Park, day 2 evening

  1. Ginger D says:

    I think all the campsites are pretty nice. They look so big.
    I notice some of the elk are wearing collars.

    • Ann says:

      Yes, some of the females (cows) have tracking collars. I asked the Rangers about a few red spots on the collars that I noticed in my first few photos, thinking the red spots were blood, but the red is actually part of the lining or some other physical part of the collar, not blood. And when I enlarge the photos, it seems that’s true. The Rangers also said that cows leave the collars intact whereas bulls rub their heads so much on trees that they damage the tracking equipment, and that they track the cows partly to be able to track pregnant cows. If a pregnant cow gets in trouble in the wilderness, the bulls will leave the area but other cows will stick around. As well, bulls don’t ordinarily live as long because they are targeted more by hunters because of the antlers. Hunters don’t often take cows so cows live longer so tracking them proves more efficient. At least that’s what I was told and it makes sense.

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