The first six pictures are actually from last night. Don built a great fire that had primo coals so Leslie could toast marshmallows and we got some visitors to our campground. A male elk and his harem (not as big as the other one, only 6 females) and some babies evidently wanted a marshmallow. Actually, the elk come in the campground a lot. They are not afraid of people and according to the rangers, actually come into the park to have their young because their predators are afraid of humans. Pretty smart.
The males, however, are dangerous at this time of year (notice how he has sharpened the tips of his antlers) and he was a bit fussy (the second picture shows him bugling). He chased a few people into their campers. Don, of course was over where he was taking pictures and had no camper to go into, so he just went behind a truck. He did get some awesome pictures though. The 4th – 6th pictures were much easier as the elk were about 8 feet away. A mother and her baby came into our camp site and spent quite a bit of time much to Leslie’s delight. She did not even mind that the coals died so she could not finish toasting her marshmallows.
Today, we were driven out by the smoke. The forecast was not good. There were air quality alerts everywhere we were supposed to go in the next week. Banff which was our next stop had an air quality warning of 10 which is the highest you can have. It is not just the Washington fires (although they are the worst), there are fires in Idaho, Oregon, Montana and British Columbia. They really had no idea how long the air quality alerts were going to last, but the weatherman said the weather in the next 10 days was not going to help. So, we cancelled the rest of our trip and started home.
We still had a few photo ops on the way out (but not many). We ran into some big horn sheep as we were driving out. It was very exciting and caused quite the traffic jam. There was also a place that was very windy that created a brief sunny spot right by a waterfall by the side of the road. Don felt it was one of the prettiest waterfalls he has ever seen. We have been driving for two days and are in southern Montana now. Hard to believe, but we have not driven out of the smoke (although it is a bit better here). It is strange…it is sunny, but you cannot really see the sun. It looks sort of like fog, but not really. Hopefully tomorrow we will see blue sky and be able to breathe fresh air. We are fortunate though as we can drive out of it. We pray for the fire fighters, the people that have to stay in the smoke, and that the fires are put out soon.