Pictures from recent trip to Cataloochee Valley, NC.

I had a great camping trip this past weekend – a welcome retreat right before the semester starts. With only a month to go before rutting season, the male elk had full sets of antlers and were pitching some woo to the ladies in hopes for the chance to pair off in the coming weeks.

Despite frequent bugling, the females didn’t seem to care much for the bulls just yet. We were told that (regardless of our own awe) the bulls present were “nothing special” compared to the older, larger bulls.

When we saw one of the original 25 bulls brought to the valley when the species was reintroduced about 10 years ago we completely understood.

It was actually quite terrifying in comparison – though you’d never know it from people’s reactions. I witnessed a park ranger run towards a man yelling “sir, step away slowly, you’re in danger”. People are getting to be a problem in the valley at this time of year. We were told that attendance has been down almost 20% this past year but it’s hard to tell when you’re parked on the side of the road sketching a herd that steadily moves closer and the cars begin to majorly encroach on your personal space.

Although my husband and I would love to see the Elk during the rut, the potential traffic nightmare makes us hesitant to return until the very end of the season. On previous trips we experienced very few interactions with other cars – it was wonderful. Fortunately this trip wasn’t too bad – most people drive through quickly, snap a few photos, and then drive home having “experienced wilderness” and that’s good enough for them. When you hang out for hours and hours and just wait and watch you discover so much more richness and beauty.

We’ve scheduled a trip for my husband’s birthday the last weekend of the season, several weeks after the rut has ended. The camping alone is wonderful. There are great trails (thanks to the Elk) in the woods surrounding the campsite and sleeping by the river is just shy of heaven in my book.

I spent a great portion of this trip sketching (I will post some of these soon) but got interrupted multiple times by rain showers. It was a great trip though – I didn’t put on sunscreen or bug spray once the entire weekend and the temps never reached above 72 (with lows in low 50’s at night making it perfect for a fire).

I feel quite rejuvenated after my show and refreshed and ready to start the semester. I’ll be teaching 5 sections this term so I’m sure I’ll look back with fondness on such a deep breath.

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