We went to Farragut State Park to ride our mountain biking loop with the my daughter and the dog. There are a whole bunch of trails throughout the park and we've connected a number of them to compile a loop the kids love. It is moderate uphill from the bottom of the park to the visitor's center. On the way down, there are 5 fun drops and it's mostly downhill.
We usually see deer, an assortment of rodents, wild turkeys, and other wildlife. We pass by an equestrian park, camp sites, canopied pine hollows, and more.
One sunny day, we had finished our climb and then stopped to drink water at the visitor's center. We started the downhill section and had gone down two of the drops. I could hear my daughter yelling, "wooohoooo" as she descended behind me.
I was in the lead and stopped suddenly after one of the drops when I saw a cow elk standing in the trail. Normally, when you see elk they bolt off into the forest and you don't get to see them long. This elk didn't move and I remembered it was calving season and guessed she had a calf in the brush nearby.
As my daughter and the dog came to a stop where I was, she started to trot into the forest. However, she stayed within sight the whole time.
I dismounted my bike where she had stood and quietly told my daughter that I thought she had a calf nearby. I looked into the forest and could see her staring back about 50 yards away. The dog took off into the forest when she caught scent. I called her back because I didn't want to disrupt the duo any more. Upon whistling she came rushing back to us through, over, and under all sorts of obstacles.
Just as she got to the trail she tripped on something between two shrubs just off our trail. She's usually pretty sure footed so I looked closer at her path and no further than 15 feet off the trail was a spotted calf laying in the shadows. The dog hadn't caught her scent. Supposedly, they don't have a scent for a few days after they are born.
I secured the dog by the collar and pointed the hiding critter out to my daughter. We could see the nervous eyes staring up as though they were saying, "please don't eat me..."
I told my daughter to take the dog and go ahead while I took a quick picture. "I'll be right behind you."
My daughter disappeared behind a couple of large trees and right away I heard her exclaim in a shakey voice, "dad, dad, daaaaaad!"
I was busy taking my quick picture and told her, "keep going, I'm right behind you...."
I Jumped on my bike and heard crashing through the brushes where my daughter was suppsed to be. I finally caught her and asked her what happened.
She recounted how as she took off around the trees, she instantly bumped into the mother elk who had circled around to her calf while we were managing the dog and looking at the calf. It had come to within 10 feet. She started off down the trail and the elk, who didn't want to leave the area, decided to run along side her.
Imagine a 10-year old girl on her bike riding along a full grown cow elk only feet away. It freaked her out. Eventually the elk had peeled off into the forest and circled to her baby another way.
My daughter's heart was pounding and her eyes were wide.
We still laugh about it today.