Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Domestic Squabble in the Meadow

We had lunch beside this fungus and lichen covered log that rested beside the log on which we sat. Its stunning beauty was more enticing than any elaborate centerpiece in a fancy restaurant and the lighting was far lovelier than any candle arrangement. We ate sliced asian pears that were as crisp as but more sweet than apples. We had crunchy crackers and cheese, to complete the gourmet meal as the fall whispered its way into the tall trees in the ravines.

We also sat not far from this very rare beauty in the photograph above. It appears to be a white-leaved maple tree. I have never seen his before and there were no others the same color nearby. Is there such a thing as an albino tree and how does it produce food with no chlorophyll?

The last day of our travels it began raining steadily and the skies were very overcast. We realized we would probably not be hiking very much on the leaf covered and slippery trails. Therefore, we made a plan to drive to a distant valley that hung between 6,000 foot peaks. Getting there is a real challenge because the paved road soon changes to gravel and becomes a narrow lane and then becomes very winding with many blind curves. We had to keep alert as we encountered a few cars as well as large trucks coming down the mountain as we were trying to make our way up. We passed safely, but sometimes with only inches between the vehicles and just a few feet from the steep drop off on one side. This was not a trip for the weak of heart.

We were determined to reach the top because we had been told by the ranger that we might be rewarded on an overcast day by seeing elk that had been re-introduced into the area a number of years ago. "Surrounded by 6000-foot peaks, this isolated valley was the largest and most prosperous settlement in what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Once known for its farms and orchards, today Cataloochee is one of the most picturesque areas of the park."

As can be seen from the photo above, we were rewarded with a sighting of elk, actually an entire herd. We saw several striking bull elk and a number of cows as well as younger calves. Most were collared or tagged and close enough to photograph. You can see the tag if you click on the photo.

Just as we approached this large bull saw that part of his harem was on the other side of the road. He bugled loudly several times (such a haunting call) before lowering his head back and trotting over to that side of the road to herd them back and away from some of the younger males that were casually grazing nearby. The testosterone in the air was palpable.

If you click on the photo above you can see more clearly the cows hurrying ahead of the bull and the young males on the far right wondering what all the fuss was about. They will probably figure it out next year.


Barry said...

This is a great series, Tabor! I'm really enjoying it. I had to enlarge every picture of the elk, not being satisfied with the smaller ones on blogger.

It was worth the dangers of your drive.

Tabor said...

Thanks, Barry. Your reactions are so important to me. Ooops, now I guess I have put you on the spot. If you do not want to comment, that is OK also.

Susie Hemingway said...

I love all your photos and have so enjoyed your travels. Wonderful pictures of the Elk. From my windows I overlook pasture lands and the magnificent Lincoln Red cows with their lush rusty red coats. I check them each morning, quite stunning now with the early mists. I enjoy you blog very much indeed.

Beverly said...

Enjoyed this post. I had a limb (branch) of my pin oak fall in the driveway, hitting my electric gate. It was covered with the fungus, lichten all over it. I thought it was a disease. I thought it was interesting that you knew which elk were male and you can see I do not know much about nature....

Scarlet said...

What I wouldn't give to be hiking in a land like that! Wow! These pics are great!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi There, Sorry it has taken me so long to respond to you after your visit to my blog. After being on vacation, I have been WAY far behind on my blog comments.

Please come back to my blog anytime!!!! I am enjoying yours. I wanted to see the elk SO much--but we didn't make it to Cataloochie. One of these days, we will get there.

Hope you enjoyed your time near Maggie --like we did.

Robert V. Sobczak said...

A meal, however humble, never tasted better than enjoyed somewhere outside in the middle of a hike, probably partly because you're hungrier, but also because everything is more relaxed. Good to see your hike to the top was rewarded.

Hilary said...

Oh how I'd have loved to have been there to see them. Such beautiful photos. What a lovely gift to see these wonderful critters.