Elk are large animals with good-sized whitish rumps or “wapiti”, which is also the Indian name for elk. Clear-cuts and forest fires provide necessary food for these magnificent creatures.
The last weekend of December I drove northwest to the town of Kalama. After obtaining a fresh cup of hot coffee, I headed up the Kalama River for ten-plus miles to the 6300 Road. In less than one mile a gate at the entrance to Weyerhaeuser’s forest land west of Mt. St. Helens was reached.
For the next four hours logging roads were my hiking trails as I looked for elk in the upper Gobar Creek drainage. There was much fresh elk sign to be seen. It was clearly prime elk habitat.
It began to snow in earnest providing good tracking opportunities and I began seeing coyote tracks. Finally I spotted some movement about 40 yards away near some hemlock trees. I creeped closer and saw that it was a large cow elk. But, it got my scent and was gone before I could take a photo. It goes to show that even a long-time elk hunter can be tricked.
Returning to the trailhead, I came to a bridge over Gobar Creek. A raven and a bald eagle were in the vicinity. I assumed they were looking for spawned-out salmon.
For a snowy and foggy day, it turned out to be an interesting outing – – – nine miles in length with 1,600 feet of elevation gain. Although the photography opportunities were far and few between.