September 3, day eight of our first elk hunt. The four of us are relaxing around a morning fire at 9,800 feet. The morning air has been crisp but is slowly warming as the sun crests the east ridge and begins to peer through the dense timber that surrounds our camp. A welcoming warmth begins to comfort our aching bodies. We should be about 1,000 feet higher, navigating the mazes of deadfall and sneaking through the vast mountain forest, but the last 48 hours have been a blur, thanks to a heavy pack-out.