Rescue From A Buffalo Herd, 07/04/17

Michelle had to work this morning (deadlines suck), so I decided to head to the WMWR just to take pictures. When I mentioned my plans to my hubby last night, he suggested that I see if Dolores, Bill, and Maggie were hiking. Well, okay! I messaged them and Dolores replied that they would be driving around taking pictures, but probably wouldn’t hike due to an issue with Bill’s knee. We decided to meet at Post Oak Lake parking lot at 7:30 am because they had gotten a lot of great bird photographs there yesterday.

We had a huge thunderstorm last night and the power flickered once. It was enough to take out the time on my alarm clock, so while I resetting everything, I changed the backup battery. Inadvertently, I also turned the volume all the way down so when the alarm went off at 6 am, I didn’t hear it. Fortunately, one of the fur babies woke me at 6:15, so I was still on time. Even though we were only taking pictures, I came prepared with hiking clothes and boots, bug spray, and water. I even brought my snake gaiters, although I never put them on. Shortly after we all arrived, Bill and Dolores started applying bug spray, so I followed suit. I could tell we were actually going to hike and that was cool with me.

We headed toward Post Oak Falls, stopping along the way whenever a picture-taking opportunity arose. It was still fairly cool and overcast, but very humid. The clouds were hanging low over Elk Mountain, and that made for some great landscape shots.

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Elk Mountain in clouds

This hike offered a lot for both Bill and myself. There were a lot of birds for Bill to photograph, and the landscape opportunities were perfect for me. We did see one deer but she was too far away for me to get a decent shot. As we neared Post Oak Creek, I could hear the water running and I knew it would be a lot more than the last time Michelle and I hiked here (See Things From A Different Perspective). When we reached the “intersection” for Little Post Oak Falls and the back country, we headed in that direction. The water was just so beautiful.

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Post Oak Creek
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Little Post Oak Falls

After I saw Little Post Oak Falls, I wanted to go to Post Oak Falls. I could hear the falls and I knew the water level would be pretty nice. Unfortunately, none of us had hiking poles and we would all get pretty wet crossing the creek. So we decided to hike to the Forty Foot Hole. We took our time returning to the cars and spent quite a bit of time in one portion of the trail with Bill taking pictures of birds.

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Post Oak Lake under cloud cover

As we pulled away from Charon’s Garden, I rolled down the windows and hung my arm out, feeling the cool breeze. I was thinking about how good life is and what a spectacular morning we were having. But I was also thinking about the topic of my blog post. Although the scenery had been beautiful and the birds plentiful, nothing had really happened to lend itself to a story. That was about to change. We had decided to hike from the Boulder parking lot side of Kite Trail because it’s shorter and somewhat easier than the Lost Lake side. As we crossed the second low-water crossing and rounded the curve toward the picnic area, we encountered this:

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Buffalo picnic

This was so funny to me because when Michelle and I were at the visitor center on Sunday, everybody was asking where the buffalo were hanging out. Well, here they are! We sat for a while taking pictures and soaking in the total beauty and awesomeness of this herd.

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So sweet!
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Dolores, Bill, and Maggie have company!

While we were watching the buffalo, I had noticed a young couple and their toddler walking up the road from the Boulder parking lot. At first, I thought they were unaware of the danger that was in front of them, but then they turned back toward the parking lot and seemed to be debating what to do. As we moved away from the picnic area, I called out to Bill that we needed to warn them. We quickly ascertained that they were trying to get back to their car in the Lost Lake parking lot and Bill offered them a ride. Since they had a little one, I thought they would be more comfortable in my car versus the back of his pickup.

As we drove back to Lost Lake, they explained that when they reached the Boulder parking lot, they were too tired to hike back to Lost Lake due to all of the hills. They thought it would be easier to walk along the road, but then they saw the buffalo herd and couldn’t decide what to do. They were from Wichita Falls, Texas and had only been to the Refuge a couple of times. The husband asked me if buffalo were fast and I explained that they can run at 35 mph. They were very grateful to get back to their car and I was glad that we were there to help them. As I returned to the Boulder parking area, I saw Bill at the turn out for The Narrows. He had ferried a group of teenagers past the buffalo herd so they could hike The Narrows.

Once we were both back in the Boulder parking lot, we grabbed cameras, packs, and water, and headed down the trail. Very quickly, we reached the first overlook for the falls above the Forty Foot Hole. I was happy to see that more water was running today than on Sunday, which meant I wouldn’t be bouldering!

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Dolores decided to stay up on the cliff while Bill, Maggie, and I ventured down to the water. Bill and I gingerly made our way down the cliff while Maggie bounded around like a mountain goat. Ah, youth! And four paws are helpful as well. Once we reached the bottom, we spent some time taking pictures of the water from different perspectives. I was on my belly for a good portion of the time. I really enjoyed the time we spent photographing the water and setting up our shots. Bill is primarily a bird/wildlife photographer and I love hiking with him and seeing things through his eyes, but my camera equipment will not allow me to capture wildlife the way his lenses do. I am primarily a landscape photographer (and some wildlife) and he doesn’t usually carry his landscape camera with him on hikes. So it was nice to discuss how our shots were being chosen and to see the results later.

It was starting to get hot and we were pouring sweat, so we climbed back up and joined Dolores. At the cars, we said our goodbyes and headed out. Another quick stop to check on the picnicking (and napping) buffalo, and I was on my way. On the way down the trail, Dolores had asked me how I decide what my blog posts will be about. I admitted that sometimes I worry that I won’t have anything to write about, but something always seems to happen. That was so true today. Our first hike was wonderful and beautiful, but I really couldn’t find a theme for my post. Once we “rescued” the hikers, I knew what I would write about. One of the things I love about hiking is the camaraderie and the willingness of hikers to help one another. Clearly, the young couple was in over their heads. It was hot and humid, they were tired, and the mom was carrying their daughter on her back. They needed help and I am so very grateful that we were put in the right spot at the right time to deliver that help.  Situations like this happen all the time all over the world and I know that hikers help each other as often as possible.

When hiking, remember to be prepared based on your surroundings. Whether it’s really cold, really hot, or somewhere in between, you need to know what you might run into. Hiking is not a simple walk in the woods, especially if you’re hiking in a wildlife refuge or national park. You need to know what wildlife you might encounter and what precautions or evasive maneuvers you might need to take. You also need to dress appropriately and carry the right equipment. Do your homework before you hike, and if someone offers you advice, be willing to listen. They might just know something that will help you or keep you from being harmed. We are all in this together.

Remember to follow your own path, but make sure the path is safe and clear. If not, have an alternative path in mind. See you on the trail!

 

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