by Jack and Nancy Felicita
(East Smithfield, Penna.)
Several years ago, the elk were re-introduced back into Pennsylvania in Elk and Cameron Counties.
One place in Elk County is Benezett. It is a very, very small town with one of those combination grocery store/motel/restaurant/shower/post office/gas station buildings as the "center" of town. It is on route 555 and is a two lane road, but worth the trip.
The first year we went, the place we stayed was just an open field with no amenities. It is next to a stream, quiet and very beautiful.
My (Nancy) parents were with us and my father was looking forward to seeing the elk close up. He got his wish. The main viewing area is called Winslow Hill Road and it winds up the side of the mountain with some open fields on top where the elk like to congregate.
The neat thing about this place is that you can see the elk right in town. We saw a huge bull laying in the yard of one of the houses across from the grocery store.
But I digress.
As we were on our way to our first viewing experience, we rounded the first curve and right in the middle of the road was a bull elk. He stood broadside in the sunlight and I swear he was posing for my dad to get a good look at him. If we never saw another elk, my dad's wish had been fulfilled.
We did, however, see lots of them. When you get on top, there a couple of open fields and the bulls show up there with their harems. You can see forty to fifty elk at once and some are less than a football field away. All the way up and back you have to keep your eyes open as the elk are scattered in fields and yards.
We had stopped in one area where several bulls and females were feeding and over the horizon, the biggest bull we have seen to that point, came strutting over the knoll.
At first all you saw were his antlers coming then his head and body. What a sight. I got a great photo of him standing on that knoll with the sky in the background.
First thing in the morning and the evening are the best times to see them as that's when they feed. We came by a small bar that had lots of cars at it and the elk were all over the fields. A young elk came walking up to the side of the road and I got another great photo of that youngster close up. The photo ops are fabulous.
The next year when we went, the campground had updated and had electric with water available and a dump station. They were putting in showers, too. One evening, my parents, Jack and myself were sitting with a friend and her dogs when one of her dogs started barking and jumping about five feet in the air.
We heard some crashing and looking towards the road and this bull elk came running within twenty feet of our motorhome! What a thrill. My dad got a real close look at this one...as we were ooohing and ahhing over this, another bigger one came along, apparently chasing the first one.
They ran towards the creek and all night long we were treated to the bugling. If you like to be close to nature, this is one great place to do it.
The best times to go are the spring and in September/October. There is an Elk Festival the third weekend in September, I think.
To avoid crowding, going during the week is best. I don't know what the cost of the campground is now, but it was $15 the last time we were there. It is a cheap vacation if you like nature and quiet beauty.
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