I fear I may have set the bar too high with those photos from Day 1 at Dosewallips. Seeing those Elk was such a thrill!
On the other hand, I continued to have great adventures here and will share them. AND … I saw Elk again today! So just stay tuned and have patience. No peeking ahead!!
First, let me show the people who aren’t familiar with the area exactly where I was on this trip in case anyone ever wants to go there, even if just for a day trip. And then we’ll take a hike to the Dosewallips River where another entirely different miracle happened, yes! And then we’ll look at more Elk photos from later today, double yes!!
So where the heck exactly am I? Let me show you.
Here’s Puget Sound (above). It’s huge. It would take you a lifetime of boating to see everything. The big water along the north edge of the map above is the Strait of Juan de Fuca which connects Puget Sound with the Pacific Ocean, and it somewhat divides the USA from Canada. The Pacific Ocean is way off the map to the left.
The big GREEN star in the lower right corner of the map is where my trailer is stored just south of the town of Puyallup (pronounced PEW-AH-LUP … PEW as in a church pew).
Move along the bottom of the map to the middle point and you’ll see Olympia, and then you’ll see the double GREEN arrow immediately west of Olympia where I turned off the freeway and headed north up Highway 101.
Hood Canal is shaped like a giant backwards checkmark .. or a fishhook. If you follow 101 up the west side of Hood Canal on this map, you’ll come to the big GREEN circle which encompasses the tiny town of Brinnon and Dosewallips State Park.
From the bottom of Hood Canal up to Brinnon was about 30 miles as the crow flies, but it took me about an hour towing the trailer on sometimes narrow roads and also slowing down from time to time to gawk. This portion of Highway 101 has numerous turnout spots for slow traffic to pull out and let other traffic pass … I did that often.
Just south of the tiny town of Brinnon (and I do mean tiny), I pulled off the highway into Dosewallips State Park.
Ok, now you know where I am. It’s the middle of the morning of Day 2 in Dosewallips State Park. Let’s get out of this trailer and go for that hike to the Dosewallips River.
Oh, but wait. Before we do that, I want a show of hands of how many people reading this blog post think they know how to pronounce “Dosewallips”. Hmmm, ok, lots of you have your hands up; that’s pretty good. I thought I knew how to pronounce the name, but there are all manner of native/Indian names in this part of the country that aren’t pronounced the way they are spelled, at least not to me. So I attempted a few options in my mind … dose-wallips …. do-sew-a-lips … dos-wallops as in Spanish dos or two, but “two-wallops” just didn’t seem right … and I tried out the accent on each syllable. Eventually, I simply asked a local woman I met when I was out hiking and she was out collecting mushrooms to eat. She mentioned that she lived “up the Dose” (pronounced DOUGH-SEE) meaning she lived beside the Dosewallips River and so I asked her how to pronounce the whole word … DOUGH-SEE-WALL-IPS. Just what I thought. 🙂
Ok … NOW we’re off for a morning hike to the Dosewallips River!
Oh, but wait! Holy cow, I just stepped outside the trailer and here are the Elk! The Rangers told me yesterday that the Elk ordinarily come through the campground only once a week, and then usually only in the evening, but here they were again this morning!
Yesterday evening, everyone in the campground had watched them walk around behind the Camp Hosts’ motorhome and then out the other end of the campground to their usual overnight area further south of the State Park. Evidently, they came back here after dark and slept here instead.
The Park Rangers explained to us that the “alpha” male (there were three or four other, younger and smaller fully grown bucks) always slept in the middle of the herd, then the oldest females slept around him, then the younger females around the outer edge. Interestingly, the fawns did not sleep in the middle, but slept on the left side of the group with their mothers surrounding them.
The younger, non-alpha bucks hung out together and sometimes had a few does around them. They hung around the larger herd but never were in the middle of the herd … always just a bit off to the side. Photo above is just a couple of buddies out for a quick bite to eat.
But then a girl walked by … you can see just a bit of her hind leg in the right of the photo. These bucks did sort of bugle once each, sort of a half-attempt at a bugle, and they rattled their antlers, but they didn’t seem very serious. As soon as the doe walked on by, the guys went back to eating grass together.
The buck above is the “alpha” male of the herd. We never saw ANY other male Elk any where near him.
Another surprise was that a second herd was also present this morning. The five females above were part of a second herd that had settled in a different part of the campground with another buck. There were now 40-45 Elk inside the campground.
Later in the morning, both herds started wandering through the campground seemingly unconcerned about humans. The photo above was my closest camping neighbor about 50 feet away, so that doe is about 25 feet away from me.
I was standing with my back against the back outer wall of my trailer, looking to the left and taking photos, then I turned to the right and saw this fellow coming towards me. I left my spot! And moved around to put my trailer between the buck and me (hoping the buck would stop there .. haha!).
When I got up to the front of my truck and looked back, there he was, nibbling away that close to the trailer. That black thing on the left side of the photo is my truck’s passenger side rear view mirror.
And yes, the three photos above were taken with a zoom lens.
A doe came over as well. The photo above looks like the buck might have been acting aggressively, but he simply “squeaked”. Really, that’s what I’d call the sound he made, just one mild, little squeak. She slowly turned around and moved calmly away from him, browsing in the nice green grass as she went.
I kept moving my legs and upper body, slowly, to be sure they saw me. Every few seconds one of her eyeballs would look directly at me, but she sure didn’t seem to care that I was there. I used the zoom lens to get closeup photos as she walked past me.
And she did simply walk right past me, hardly batting an eye, so close I could smell her and listen to her breathe. I was at the front corner of my truck and could have moved back quickly if needed. That buck had turned and gone the other way, or I would have moved behind the truck. She really didn’t seem to have any concern that I was standing there. I would guess she was six feet away from me … and that was of her own doing.
Everyone in that campground, including a few of the Park Rangers, spent all morning watching these animals. I thought I’d be back from my hike to the Dosewallips River by lunch time. As it was, I watched the Elk all morning and didn’t eat lunch until after 1pm.
From today’s visit and from yesterday’s visit, I have more than 200 photos of the Elk and yet it seemed to me I spent most of the time simply standing or sitting either by myself or with other campers quietly chatting and and watching and just enjoying a miracle that I might never see again.
By 1:30pm, after my lunch, the Elk had walked out of the campground to the south and I felt it was safe to hike north to the Dosewallips River. You’ll have to wait until the next post to read about that little miracle. 🙂 And yes the Elk came back yet again in the evening of this same day!
In the meantime, here’s a treat (below) that I posted on YouTube. It’s a video I took of the alpha buck on Day 1. He had just chased off two of the younger bucks and he had been bugling immediately before I pushed the “record” button on my camera. I so wanted to capture the bugling, but he wouldn’t cooperate on the video. He does prance around with his head high, which is a sign of watchfulness and aggression. The little bit of road noise you hear on the video is Highway 101, which runs right next to the campground and which was very quiet at night.