14 August 2011

The Elk Encounter

I've seen elk before. My family frequents national parks, so somewhere along the way, standing across a river or a pond or a field, I've seen elk. Sure, they're big and impressive, but nothing - nothing - is like seeing an elk up close.

We had two days of cleaning at camp, and breakfast was at 9:30, so it was definitely necessary to celebrate the extra hour and a half of morning. The night between these days, we went to the Grizzly Rose. It was pretty fantastic. I love nightclubs in  general, and this was something I'd never experienced before: line dancing, two stepping, people twirling and moving. I'm used to the typical hip-hop/electronica scene, but this was so much more: a country western Saloon. We headed home late, and it was quiet the eventful night, complete with vomit, 24-hour doughnut shops, and bumming cigs from stoners at a gas station. So we're driving 285 at 1:30 in the morning. My car is full, and three people are dozing off as myself and the last are deep in conversation. There aren't many cars on the road: one would pass by in the opposite direction every five minutes or so, but on my side, I was the only one.

National Geographic tells me elk are 4-5 feet at the shoulder. That's at the shoulder. His neck, head, antlers: that's all above that. I'm 5'3". And my little sedan? That's shorter than me.

Twenty feet in front of me, and there he was, standing in the lane next to mine. If he was in my lane, I could have seen him sooner, I could have slowed down, even stopped... but in the lane next to me, in the dark, he was invisible. It was just his silhouette, but I could see his legs clearly. They were already in my lane, but he took a step back- and I froze. A second later, the beast was behind me. His hoofs were at most two feet from my tire. His head must have been hanging over my car. I had never, ever seen a beast of that size.

I went crazy. My car had almost been totaled. I had almost died. I had almost died with the four other people in my car- and yet I had survived. The elk grew bigger in my mind, the more I ran and ran that image through my head. By the time we arrived back at camp, I was laughing hysterically, completely out of control. That was the scariest thing to ever happen to me on the road. That was The Elk Encounter.

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