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Pennsylvania’s home for where the elk roam

OBSERVER photo by Catherine D’Agostino These elk were spotted near a camp site on PA Route 555 on Sept. 12.

By JOHN D’AGOSTINO

jdagostino@observertoday.com

BENEZETTE, Pa. — We were not disappointed. Right at 5:45 p.m. Sept. 12 as sub 60-degree temperatures surrounded the open area, they slowly moved out of the wooded areas.

Herds of the elk began grazing near one of the eastern trails. Taking their time, one by one, they made their way closer. Then came the star of the show: the bull with the magnificent set of antlers.

On this Saturday evening, about 250 lined the trail area of the Elk County Visitors Center, many wearing masks, to view the animals that make this region of the commonwealth a destination. Surrounding the unincorporated community are a number of camp sites and cabins.

Nature is definitely worth taking in during this scenic and mountainous stay — for those who are looking for a day trip or a short getaway.

Our arrival was early in the afternoon. From Warren County, we navigated plenty of peaks and dips on the 100-minute journey. There also was no mistaking from the number of signs — rural Pennsylvania is Trump country.

Once at the Visitors Center, there was activity but nothing like what was coming in the evening. After visiting three state-owned trails on Winslow Hill Road, we stopped back in Benezette and took in a couple cups of coffee at the Elk Life shop. Outside the store was a fire pit, which actually helped in keeping those at the property warm on a crisp late summer day.

Visitors and locals from throughout the commonwealth said the best time to view the elk were from 6 to 8 p.m. or before 8 in the morning. The center’s advice was the same.

“Elk are wild animals, and we can’t promise you will see them during your visit – but we can offer some tips to improve your chances!” the center notes on its web site. “The fields surrounding the center are planted with alfalfa, timothy, clover, and winter wheat to attract the elk. The best times to view are early in the morning, just after day light, and in the hours before dark. Elk do not like the heat, and they will bed down in the shade where it is coolest during the day. Be sure to bring a camera and binoculars for better viewing!”

That evening option was our only choice. We headed back to the center optimistic we would see what we came for. The elk did not let us down.

After viewing from a distance for about an hour, we decided to head back — before it became too late. This actually gave us our best glimpse.

Upon leaving Winslow Hill Road, we headed west on PA Route 555. Within the next two miles, cars were stopping or pulling into campgrounds.

More elk had made their way out into much closer viewing areas along the road as darkness set upon the region. Law enforcement asks that you keep moving, but motorists could not resist.

Many took photos, including my wife, in awe of the elegance of these creatures. That last glimpse made the visit one to remember.

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