Hiking and Buffalo....
It has been raining all night and most of the morning so we waited until 11 am to start our first hike here at Caprock Canyon state park. It was supposed to be a short (OK a 2 mile) hike. Instead we felt really good at that point and decided to keep going on the next trail.
We hiked the Canyon Rim trail, the Wild Horse trail, and then back up the road from the Equestrian camping area. We ended up with a 5 hour 6.5 miles hike. Really good time considering the terrain. The elevation from highest to lowest was 350 feet. Of course there was a lot of up and down in the hike but the bottom of the valley is that much lower than the start of our hike.
We started by walking along the canyon rim then down to the valley below. Really pretty.
At some point we got diverted onto a Buffalo trail. Later in the hike we learned the signs and could tell which direction they were moving, about how many, and how long since they had passed. It does not seem that so much could be learned so fast but the Buffalo are not really shy and we were very concerned about walking up on them without warning. Eventually we rejoined the regular hiking trail and continued. The buffalo frequently use the hiking trails and their own for moving around the park. It was obvious from the tracks where they enter and leave the trail.
We crossed the "Little Red River" 6 times. There are no bridges or improved crossings. AT ALL! At most crossings the trail had eroded several feet down through the center. The river flow was small but we could see where in the past there had been flash flooding as much as 10 feet up from the current level. We passed places where large sections of cliffs had collapsed leaving boulders that were almost as tall as we are in the water. Most of the time crossing required hopping from stone to stone. Several times we had to either move up or downstream to find a better place to cross or look for the buffalo crossed. That usually worked for us because they do not want to step in soft mud. If they could cross without sinking, we knew we would not have a problem.
On our 2nd river crossing we looked to our right and noticed a buffalo standing in the tall grass about 150 feet away. Officially by state law we are never to get closer to 150 feet so that is how far away it was. No matter what the photo seems to represent.
We then noticed there were several others near the first. We could only see their backs and head as they ate grass. They were not even interested in us. They were focused on eating. After a few seconds, two more topped the rise behind the first. That was our first 6 bison spotted. We decided to continue down the trail to give them more room to eat.
After our last river crossing we noticed that behind and above us on the cliff were 3 more. They had been watching us cross the river away from them. We had walk directly below them and never saw them. When they started down the cliff, we decided a hasty retreat up the trail was in order. As we reached the rise we noticed they had cross the river but taken off the other direction. That was close because we had almost nowhere to go if they had followed us.
A half a mile or so later, the trail ended at the road back to the campground. The overlook is along the road and we stopped to rest for a few minutes. Just as we got to the overlook, we noticed that a huge buffalo was standing directly in front of us about (insert throat clearing here) 150 feet away just standing in the light rain.
Our little hike turned out to be an EPIC hike. One of our best ever despite the long trails that were poorly maintained. There was a drizzle of light rain most of the way and a lot of muddy places to traverse. The river that was just too wide to jump without using stones or a running jump. With all of that we had vistas, canyons, fields of buffalo grass, and of course wild buffalo. I wonder what the next few days will bring.
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We are a couple who have started on a new adventure...