no matter where you go, there you are

Monday, June 20, 2011

boof-falo, the boof-falo

The midwest, specifically the prairie and grasslands, is home to the American Bison. And although not a true buffalo, most people I know call them buffalo. Driving out west you expect to see them at some point or another especially when you visit National Parks that work at preserving their living conditions. Badlands National Park and Yellowstone National Park are two excellent examples and buffalo sighting locales. While we were at the Badlands we didn't see any on the main road but after driving 20 min off a dirt road to the area highlighted on the map as being Buffalo territory we were not disappointed. And there were even quite a few young ones grazing and roaming about.

Now a quick flashback story that sets up part of our buffalo experience in Yellowstone. When I went cross country with my family way back in 1996 my mother became famous for not having the camera cocked (because way back then you needed to do that to advance the film), and missing a great photo opportunity when a buffalo walked right in front of our van. I've told that story so many times that I think everyone knows it by now. So, back to present day. Molly and I are entering Yellowstone after a long day of driving across Wyoming from the Black Hills. As we're approaching the road that's part of the main loop we see a buffalo up ahead in the middle of the road. Now buffalo have the right of way. Not because they're animals but because if you scare or piss them off they will trample you and your car. So we stopped and let it go about its business. I got the camera out and just as it crosses in front of the car....I fail to take a picture. I took one, and I honestly have no idea what happened, but what came out was a picture of the dashboard. I, like my mother did 15 years ago, failed at taking a picture at the perfect buffalo photo op.

Thinking this was going to be it for up close and personal buffalo I was a little sad but we continued on towards the campground. Turns out we planned our arrival poorly, but spectacularly too. Poorly because we hadn't showered in 3 days and it took a long time to get to the campground because of traffic. But, the traffic was due to all the buffalo out and about during dinner so that was a sight to see as we continued to pass groups in the distant fields or solo ones running alongside the road. This time we got some great pics and it was amazing, and a lil scary to be so close to such large, and interesting creatures.

Turns out being in your car is a lot less scary than up close and personal which we discovered on our second day in the park. As we made our way around the park toward the Geyser Basin we stopped at the mud pots first. There's a short walk along the boardwalks from the lower pots to ones situated up the hill and as we're ascending, this foreign man comes walking down with his group and pointing up the hill says "boof-falo! the boof-falo!" Excited, intrigued and entertained, we continued up the hill and discovered what he meant by "boof-falo." There they were, a small herd lazying about the mud pots; some were rolling in the dirt, others were mothers caring for their young. And then there were the males trying to find a mate. Not only were they chasing down females but they were battling other males. One gentleman even chased the others over the boardwalk, right in front of us! We were about 15 feet away from being trampled by 3 angry, horny buffalo.

Being this close and scared out of our sneakers we were wary about continuing around the loop. We could see others up ahead close to the boardwalks and both Molly and I were hesitant to approach not knowing if they were males or females, nice or angry. The crazy ones had run off in that direction as well so in all it was a nerve-wracking experience navigating our way back to the car. We made it and that was the last of the boof-falo...til next time.

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