In the Olympic National Forest, I awoke at dawn before my campmates to sneak in a run along the Hoh River. Cool air lay heavy and damp and thick upon the forest. The light was dim, but growing with every passing minute. I was minding my own breath with each stride on the soft trail when I heard a rumble to my right, growing in intensity. I looked up startled, and behold! A herd of Roosevelt Elk – the largest of its kind – were galloping in tangent with me.
I was so engulfed by the immensity of their sudden presence which so starkly matched my own present circumstance of running in the lush forest, that I reacted with a kind of glorious grace and raced to join the herd in a kind of mania that only a lonesome human desiring to be of nature could accentuate with such prominence. I found myself diverging off the human trail and smashing through the forest right alongside the massive elk. No longer focused on my own breathing, I turned and glanced out my peripherals, as much as a hominid can, to see the plumes of breath in the cold morning shoot out from what looked to be over thirty individual snouts. The sounds of the forest birds seized, and the rolling and rushing of the nearby Hoh river were drowned out by their rhythmic stampeding.
I felt pulled along, swept away from my mere human existence, pushed into the profundity of life, freed from the confinements of my ever-encroaching thoughts. I was truly a man among giants. Alas, I could not keep up any longer with the powerful creatures. My heart felt as if it were to leap out through my throat. I couldnʻt tell if from exhaustion or pure passion to join the herd forever. I slowed to a stop and watched the giant elk disappear into the depths of the forest.
Breathing wildly, I turned around and slowly jogged towards the sound of the river, finding my way back to the peaceful and unbeknownst humans, who still lay cocooned in their tents dreaming of fantastical encounters with the magical unknown…