Getting up early on a Saturday is always difficult but today was a special day. We were going to see bison in their natural habitat...the prairie! I wouldn't say that we jumped out of bed however we did rally pretty quickly to be on the road for the 2.5 hour trip. The hike starts at 10 am with or without us. We arrived at Prairie State Park, MO with time to spare. After our guide, Dana, went over some preliminary guidelines we drove to the trail head closest to where he had spotted a herd. Trail head...ha! We didn't hike on the trail long when we took the path not there! Everyone was wearing shorts! I strongly suggest long pants even in the 90+ degrees of Summer. Our legs took some furious blows from the native vegetation. With the recent storms the ground was quite soft and wet, we wore our hiking boots which kept our feet dry. A tick tried to make Mike's leg its new home but he quickly evicted it! As we trekked through the prairie we would stop to explore the plant life. The teenagers in the group really liked the blackberry bushes. They were picking them like they hadn't eaten in a week. I have to admit the snack nature provided was quite welcomed by my stomach. As we hiked to the top of a hill, they were on the other side! The moment I had been wanting for so long was really happening. These amazing animals were about 100 yards away. Using binoculars I could see the young with their light cinnamon colored fur. The adults kept them very well protected in the center of the herd. Some of the bison had not shed their winter coats yet so they looked so shaggy. The longer we stood there our eyes fixed on them the more their eyes became fixed on us. As the grazed the prairie grasses, they slowly migrated closer to us until they were about 50 yard away. We became instinctively quieter the closer they came to us. Dana said as long as their tales were just swatting flies and not pointing straight up were were okay. Just as we turned to hike back, the herd took off into a run almost parallel to our path. I understand now why they only do tours once a month. I still can't believe I hiked through original untouched prairie and stood before America's largest native animal, the bison.
Mike & Kat
Kat left teaching after 18 years to travel throughout the USA with her husband, Mike, who is an engineer for a Power generation company.