Magnificent Elk

Ahhhh… blue skies and sunshine after a night of Spring rain. Though rain should be expected, after all we are camped in a rainforest, in the Nimpkish Valley, on a nameless lake simply described as beautiful! We were greeted by a wift of a breeze carrying the coolness & fragrance of new evergreen growth… soothing to a restless spirit this wonderful May morning.

A stillness laid upon the lake, creating magical reflections of snow capped Insular Mountain prominences, exacting in every detail right down to fluffy white clouds. Perfect conditions for the kayaking & wildlife viewing we hoped to do. (Who could have imagined the wonderful fortune nature would bestow upon us today?)

The Nimpkish ecosystem attracts a large variety of animal & bird life, as it bisects east & west North Vancouver Island. It is prime wildlife foraging habitat, home to Roosevelt Elk, Wolf, Cougar, Black Tail Deer, Black Bears, and the occasional Grizzly Bear.

Cameras safely stowed we launched our kayaks and glided effortlessly through waters sided by beautiful second generation conifers: Tall Douglas Fir, Balsam, Cedar, Pine, and Spruce standing stately…. Tucked beneath this canopy is a forest floor of wonders; dense green gardens of salal, bracken & sword ferns, salmon & huckleberry, countless fungi, and much much more. Under the salal is yet another amazing underworld of colour diversity, “the beauty within the beauty” as a my “Nimp’ka” friend would say. Delicate low foliage of every imaginable shade of red, pink, yellow, brown, was set in a blanket of moss, sticks, old brown fir needles and leave. Such as amazing Ground Cones and Pinesaps pictured above… remarkable plant forms lacking green chlorophyll! These marvels derive nutrients by partnering with root systems of other plant & fungi structures… Together they vie for warm shards of sunlight knifing through the forest canopy far above.

The habitat contains a mosaic of lakes, rivers and ponds along it’s 100km or so length, fed by numerous mineral & nutrient rich mountain rivulets & streams. Most lakes, except for high mountain waters, are surrounded by lush renewing rainforest bio systems, affording all the necessities for wild kingdom prosperity.

Our goal: simply to visit with nature; perhaps a fishing osprey, maybe a Roosevelt Elk, perhaps a beaver, perhaps a black bear. Our chosen viewing point (inaccessible by foot) is one of many hide-a-ways of still waters beavers call home. Narrow watercourse mazes through marsh grasses, willows, bull rushes, lily pads, beaver damns, and shoulder high shrubbery. Animals large and small, countless song birds of all types, bats, fish, & frogs seek out the privacy of such places. Our morning notion: to catch a glimpse of larger inhabitants during their early foraging activities.

A simple hierarchy of need guides all life here: food, water, shelter, sunlight, rich soil, and respect. A human metropolis is much more complex…. whereby nature’s simplicity is sacred to my family; wilderness lands are places of spiritual sanctuary to connect with nature, amid the souls of departed loved ones. So it has always been.

So, far from city cares, we paddled silently towards our destination: a beautiful stretch of narrow water mazes bordered by low bush shrubbery, marsh grass, and wild roses…. To our joy amongst the vibrant greens of new spring growth were signs of all sorts of recent animal activity.

We heard elk calling before they appeared…. A whistling that echoed across the lake….. an awe inspiring exciting sound capturing our immediate attention… urging us on for a chance sighting of nature’s splendor. Moving whisper quiet we drifted closer, rounding a bend to sounds of splashing water…. suddenly two elk appeared 50 yards away!

Wading chest deep in the shallows were two magnificent male Roosevelt Elk sporting new velvet antlers, browsing marsh grasses & overhanging greenery….Males, or bulls have a shoulder height between 1.2 to 1.5 m & can weigh up to 500 kg. Perhaps these two are brothers. Also known as Wapiti one paused a long moment as if to say hello, posing for our camera, then casually meandered away. By August their antlers may grow to almost a meter tall, proud, multi pronged, and velvet free.

What a wonderful heart stopping magical moment, where time stood still. Imagine…. A chance encounter…. kayaking with wild Elk!

Nature’s awesomeness was gifted to us this day… the wonder of the Wild Kingdom.

Safe travels out there,
Gord Patterson
© 2022 Photos… Gordon & Christine Patterson