After eight years at Elk Lake, I have done and seen and experienced most of what the area has to offer at least once. Nonetheless, even the same walk or the same drive or the same animal or the same bird is never really the same. Every experience is unique. Thus, while I have had the privilege of spending much time in Montana's Centennial Valley, my trip out the other evening offered new perspectives - new experiences - and new delights!
Many people think the best place to see wildlife is Yellowstone National Park. To a point this is correct. However, a recent evening outting into the Centennial with our new employees left a lasting impression. Since they have spent a lot of time in YNP, their comment (below) carried even more weight.
About half way through our trip, after spotting numerous and various big game - some very impressive and only TWO other vehicles, they said, "This is so much better than Yellowstone Park!" Of course, the abundant scenic beauty probably helped influence their opinion.
The Centennial Valley's east west orientation flanked by the Continental Divide's abrupt face on the south creates a spectacular setting for sunset photos. As the rosy glow brushes the Centennial's snowy peaks, everything else seems to pause and reflect.
Thus, the elk and deer and moose and pronghorn and sandhills and everything else we observed that evening were enjoyed in a most spectacular setting.
While we saw dozens of elk, this lone cow and young bull were kind enough to come close to the road and pose for their pictures. Since the animals in the Centennial Valley are wild - this was definitely an added bonus.
However, the photo opp of the evening was this big boy who stood, watching us for the longest time.
I almost had to laugh when I looked closely at this photo. Mr. Big Bull was looking over at some elk near the treeline. If you look closely, it almost looks like he's talking to them (I know, it's his nose opening, but with that face, well, you can easily imagine it to be a mouth). If he were, I suspect he would be saying something about the tourists who have obviously never seen such a good looking guy before!
A few yards down the road we spotted two more big boys - one comparable to Mr. Big Bull whom we had just left mosing his way toward the road.
All too soon, however, daylight began to fade and it was time to turn back. Heading back to the east I happened to look over toward Elk Lake. The Madison's basking in the sunset's rosy embrace were too beautiful not to try and capture for memory's sake!
Yet the wildlife sightings were not finished. More elk. More moose. More deer (whitetail and mule deer). Even some Sandhill Cranes who were more than happy to tell us off for disturbing their quiet evening stroll!
We had seen quite a few bull Moose, but I had begun to wonder where all the ladies were hanging out. Not much further down the road I found one - playing peek a boo through the aspens!
One last unexpected bonus awaited us before the light faded away. This snowshoe hare 'hopes' it is hidden - but, of course, we were glad it was not. I have seen these rabbits many times - usually in my headlights as I am heading down Elk Lake Road after dark. However, this one was up and about early enough to be seen and really enjoyed.
As we said goodbye to another spectacular day, I couldn't help but thank the good Lord for the privilege of living in such a spectacular location. A place that never grows old - a place which continues to charm me even when I've "been there - done that" before. I hope, wherever this finds you, you are experiencing similar beauty and enjoyment in the grandeurs of creation!
Lady of the Lake