I would like to echo your senitments. It is not the kill that makes the hunt, it is the time in the field with family and good friends. Telling old hunting stories that everybody has heard a 100 time over, but we always enjoy hearing and telling them again. I live in Dallas, TX, about as far away from the beauty of the Rockies as you can get, but I carry my hunting pictures on a thumb drive in my pocket. When I get to missing the high country I pull it out and look through my pictures. It takes me back to the memories of those moments and makes me long to be back there again, as soon as possible. That is what the hunt is ALL about!!! If you happen to be a fortunate person and you fill the tag in your pocket, congratulations!! You got the sundea, whip cream and the big ole cherry on top!!!
It sounds like you had a great hunt, saw lots of elk and deer and refreshed your spirit. Now get back out there with your son and girlfriend and continue to pass along the lessons you have learned. I had the honor of teaching my son to hunt and being with him when he took his first deer (and hopefully one of these days his first elk) and it is some of the best memories I have! Good luck and thanks for posting your story!