As always, a relief to escape from the office. Out by the trails locker, we gather tools and signs to load into the truck along with our layers of clothing and other gear. We shuffle along like penguins in green parkas, scooting carefully along. Under a layer of fresh cold snow is ice, and balance can be lost with no effort at all.
We head for Taneum Creek, to discover that elk have come down from the foothills to their winter range. They’re grazing on the dry grasses in the meadow, lying down to chew their cuds, talking among themselves. We rolled the windows down, and could hear the squeaking and squealing of cows and calves communicating. The group was spread out, some in the open, and others closer to the cottonwoods and brush by the creek.
Elk are concerned with others of their own kind. They are aware of us, but since we made no sudden moves, they mostly disregarded us and paid attention to each other. Other vehicles on the snowy road slowed, and some stopped as we had. All of us humans kept a respectful distance, satisfied to be in the presence of these animals.