You Can’t Wash Your Hands In A Buffalo*

*So this is one of my favorite dumb jokes. Q: What’s the difference between a buffalo and a bison? A: You can’t wash your hands in a buffalo.

Starting with our visit to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, we’ve been seeing a lot of bison on this part of the trip. A lot. And I learned that this creature can be called a buffalo, even though it is only distantly related to the true buffaloes of Asia and Africa, though it is more scientifically correct to call it a bison if it’s in North America. But I always love telling that dumb joke.

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Why did the bison cross the road?

Iconic bison photograph

Iconic bison photograph

We got up early on our second day at TRNP to see what animals we could see around the park. Since we had driven the loop in one direction the day before, we were going to try for the clockwise loop this morning. Not so much, since the bison were out in numbers blocking our way (see photo above). We turned around and went the other way in the hope that they would have moved off the road by the time we got to that spot (they had).

The loop is about 26 miles, and the highest speed limit is about 35 but it’s mostly 25mph, as is the case in most national parks.

Bison were the main wildlife we saw on this loop, with the exception of one pronghorn, which we read is the fastest land animal in the western hemisphere.

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Pronghorn (not pronghorn something, just pronghorn)

Now, some might mention the prairie dogs, and many people in the park stop to take pictures of the tons of prairie dogs sighted in prairie dog towns all over the park. But we’re from Colorado, where some view prairie dogs as vermin, especially since they are carriers of the plague. But here’s a picture of one for those of you who live elsewhere and have never seen them.

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We managed to complete the loop without being obstructed by any more bison, though we did spot one on the edge of the campground.

After breakfast, knowing it was going  be a hot day (not quite Big Bend hot, but hot enough), we drove to see another part of the park, Painted Canyon, which as its name suggests, included some pretty and rugged canyons. As a reminder from notes Angie made in her last post, since we’re traveling with our dog Rebbe, we have to drive a lot more than we might like, and can’t take Rebbe on the trails, so haven’t been hiking. But, given the heat, the car is often preferable to the campground. I suspect that if we didn’t have Rebbe with us, we might have considered places where we could hike more, but then, this time of year everywhere is pretty hot.

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In the Painted Canyon section of the park

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We also took another trip into Medora and checked out an exhibit about the history of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a work-relief program created under the New Deal that was a lot more wide-ranging than either of us realized.

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Many bison out again in the afternoon, despite the heat

When we returned to the camp site at Cottonwood at the end of the day (after one more loop of the park-successfully clockwise this time-and several more horse and bison sightings), we mainly just relaxed and cooked. One thing we tried to do several times a day while camping is walk Rebbe around the campground, especially since we tended to spend a lot of time in the car. While we were walking this late afternoon, we fell into conversation with a couple in one of the RVs parked near us. (RVers tended to outnumber tent campers most of the places we’ve been.) We had a lengthy and enjoyable conversation with them. They were full-time travelers who hailed from Austin, Texas who also liked to bike, but were needing to find a bike shop before their next ride because the husband’s seat post had sheared off during a ride recently, causing a nasty gash on his leg. We also talked about pets, since they had recently lost the cat they’d had traveling with them for the past 18 months. We commiserated with them about that. Rebbe is my first pet so I can’t imagine how awful it is. It was definitely one of those interactions that make this traveling thing so much fun, and Rebbe is often a great conversation starter since he’s so cute. We really enjoyed talking to Robert and Diana and have since had a chance to check out their blog, http://postcardsfromtheroad.us/. And thanks to them for adding us to their blogroll!

The only other excitement of the day came when we were clearing up after dinner. I heard rustling and looked over to where one of the water faucets was across the road. I saw something big and brown. Very big. It took me a minute to realize it was a bison! I called out to Angie and suggested we got into the van until it moved on, since it seemed to be coming toward us. I only got one picture because of the time it took to get the camera out. The bison didn’t come onto our campsite, but walked down the road past it and into the site vacated earlier in the day by a young couple with a child who, based on the tag on their site, had left early. You can see the tag for our site in the picture, which indicates to the campground hosts when people are leaving. The bison entered the site and then we couldn’t see it anymore, so we assumed it went into the trees and on its way.

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A good view to have of a bison when it’s 20 feet away

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