I ❤ bugling elk

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. -Albert Camus

We got our first big snow in the mountains the end of last week – yay! Fall has settled in, and in Bozeman that means we’re surrounded by mountains that look like they’ve been dusted with powdered sugar. Inspired by the amazing autumn we’ve been enjoying, I packed the fam up for an impromptu Yellowstone Park visit last weekend. I decided that we needed to take more advantage of having a place like Yellowstone right next door, so we’re committing to go at least once a season (already signed up for the Old Faithful Snow Lodge this winter!). I find a sense of renewal with the changing of the seasons…and what better place to seek further inspiration than our country’s first national park? It’s a place to really soak up and appreciate nature’s seasonal rhythm. In the fall, the leaves are changing (the primary color in YS is yellow, from cottonwood and aspen trees), the snow starts to fall and dust higher elevations with its magical white…and best of all, the elk are bugling. I am mesmerized by this phenomenon, and it makes me smile and giggle and marvel at the wonder of being able to witness how the seasonal change affects this majestic animal.

What is an elk bugle? It actually includes a variety of sounds: grunts, popping, whistling, deep moans. Why does a male elk bugle? Apparently there’s some debate about this in the scientific community; some say it is to blow off steam from the stress of mating season. The majority vote is that it’s a challenge to other bulls, saying “I am ELK, hear me roar” – as in the biggest, the best, the strongest. We visited Mammoth Hot Springs in north YS, home to the largest elk herd in the park (almost 10K)…and these elk just do not care that there are people all over, so we got front row seats for the bugling, the rutting, and everything in between. The best was watching the local dominant elk boy try and run his women around. I wanted to cheer, “run girls, show him who’s really boss!”, but I didn’t.
Other highlights included hiking to some funky rock formations called The Hoodoos, visiting the Mammoth Terraces (thermal features), and soaking in the Boiling River – a hot spring that has the largest discharge of thermal water in YS. If you’re interested in the seasons of Yellowstone, I highly recommend a series of photography books by Tom Murphy. Start with The Comfort of Autumn. I’ll be chronicling my family’s future YS visits here, so stay tuned.