Picture of the week

September 6, 2015

Elk of the Lost Coast

Elk of the Lost Coast

A male roosevelt elk peering out above the edge of the cliff line along the Lost Coast within the Sinkyone Wilderness area.  The elk rutting season has begun, where the hormones kick in, with the males start acting more territorial, showing a lot more interest towards the females, trying to establish the leader of the harem, taking on other males to establish dominance.  Typically by the end of September the rut winds down, and the elk tend to blend back in to the wilderness and being less conspicuous.  This particular elk appeared to be the top bull of the area and was monitoring its harem of female elk grazing about a hundred feet away, making sure no other stags were about or trying to horn in on its territory.  The image above was photographed early in the morning from my camp nearby with a Canon EOS 70D and EF-S 18-135mm IS f/3.5-5.6 lens, handheld at 135mm, ISO 320, f/8, and 1/250 second.

I camped at Needle Rock within the northern portion of Sinkyone Wilderness State Park for a couple of nights last week, exploring and enjoying the vistas of the majestic Lost Coast and the wildlife in this remote area.  While there, I was awoken the first morning by the bugling of a male elk right outside my tent.  At first I didn't realize what was that strange and quite loud sound. Poking my head outside my tent I discovered a herd of elk wandering through the camp, grazing on the nearby trees.  Fortunately the male did not get aggressive towards me, or perhaps even worse try to mark my tent or other camping gear.  After clapping my hands loudly I was able to get some of the closer females to move on, allowing us to go about our business of making breakfast without worrying about the male getting too possesive about my proximity to his harem.  There were a few precarious situations when either trying to use the outhouse or getting to the car, when it was necessary to walk between the bull elk and the females.  Acting non-chalant, avoiding eye contact, while making them aware of your presence in a non-threatening manner, and not lingering around too long seemed to be the best strategy.

I have camped at this park the past (see this previous blog entry), coming in from the east via Garberville and Redway, the ad-hoc marijuana stoner capital of California (If you want to see what an abundant supply of weed may do to this state, first take a drive through these towns).  This time I decided to try a "short cut" via Usal Road from the south.  This road ended up being much more arduous than expected, being quite rough for most of the 25 miles, requiring use the 4wd capability and the higher ground clearance of my SUV, and taking about 2 hours to complete.  My two passengers Mojgan and Randy were suffering quite a bit and at times I was concerned there would be mutiny.  But in the end we made it in one piece with no vehicle issues, and the scenery from our camp at Needle Rock more than made up for this short term pain to get here.  Fortunately the road was dry, as it would be a one-way ticket to try Usal Road under muddy conditions.  In hindsight, Usal Road would be much better to try on a dual sport or adventure motorcycle, running into another couple of campers that did it this way on their Kawasaki KLR 650s without issue. Also of note, is that none of us were that impressed with the camp sites at Usal Beach at the southern end, as they tended to be uncontrolled, and dominated by more red-neck oriented locals with lots of beer in big trucks tearing it up on the beach and adjacent hills.