This handsome fella is my new BFF. I call him George. I was out in Denver for a no-adequate-superlative-exists needed vacation, and I drove out into the Rocky Mountain National Park yesterday. I stopped at Lake Estes, which is about 7300 feet in elevation. (The bag of chips I had bought in Denver (about 2000 feet lower) had puffed up like a balloon by that point.)
Lake Estes has a visitor center and a golf course. The only creatures on the course yesterday, though, were several (I counted four) elk bulls. A woman who grew up there was nice enough to explain that they had come down for mating season. While their antlers are quite impressive, they're mostly for show for the ladies. The bulls might butt antlers a little bit, but it's just a play for attention. However, since there were no lady elk present, and it was a hot day besides, the guys were just grazing and napping in the shade of trees. (Note that the elk were in no way fenced in. Not only were there periodic openings in the fence, they could easily have jumped it, and there were a few logs knocked off, although I don't know if they were responsible.)
The lady I was talking to went on to explain that the elk can do about $50,000 in damage each year to the course, but they had the run of the place if they wanted it. After mating season is over, they will shed those gorgeous antlers, which look a lot like aged wood close up.
One of the bulls was grazing right next to the fence, and he had quite a fan club gathered around, snapping shots. One guy kept reassuring his friend that the elk wasn't going to bite him. I pointed out that he might get poked by an antler, though. Then I asked someone to snap my picture with George, and I guess I moved too quickly, because George was a little started and stepped back a foot. Hey, most people aren't afraid of me until after I start talking to them! I felt bad, but he calmed down right away. Dude, he has several hundred pounds on me. Plus, you know, antlers.
I heard a brilliant woman say to her husband, "Look at the moose!" I made my way further down the path around the golf course. I saw a few dozen Canadian geese hanging at a water trap on the golf course. I saw some interesting butterflies (my pictures of them didn't turn out well) and walked into a bird sanctuary, although the only birds there were crows or ravens. No, I can't tell the difference.
While the path around the golf course is paved and has signs that leashed pets are fine (but owners must clean up after them), the bird sanctuary trail had a sign saying no pets or loud noise makers (read babies) were allowed. So, as I was coming out, moose woman, her husband, her chihuahua, and her baby stroller were coming down. I politely told them the sign at the head of the trail said dogs weren't allowed, as there were birds on the ground. I'm not sure how they could not see the sign, but... yeah. To their credit, they did turn around.
I stayed about an hour. My lungs are used to sea level, and although I wasn't having much trouble, I didn't want to push it. I was also driving a rental car, and the mountain roads were, well, mountain roads with switchbacks, periodically dotted by signs saying, "Drive Safely. In Memory of [some person who apparently did not drive safely enough.]" I also wanted to get back to Denver before the sun got too low and the forecast late afternoon thunderstorms hit, and as I said, it was hot (90F). Those gorgeous elk made it worth the trip on their own.