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Kaibab Plateau

WPC: Graceful

A 2000 pound animal graceful?  Are you kidding?

There are 2 places in Arizona where you can find buffalo.  One of them, House Rock Valley Ranch, has no fences.  The Grand Canyon, Kaibab Plateau, and Vermillion Cliffs all form a natural perimeter.  With that much land to cover, don’t expect coming here for animal sightings.

On my first visit to House Rock Valley, I had my brother and his daughter along.  She got excited when she saw the sign about the buffalo ranch, but we let her know about the vastness of the property so her hopes were not too high.  We drove many miles out to where we set up camp overlooking Marble Canyon, then drove back slightly for another overlook.  When we came across a road junction which we had crossed not more than an hour before, there were 5 buffalo standing in the road.  Collectively, they easily outweighed my vehicle, so we just sat and watched.  After a minute or so, they got bored with the standoff, and started to move along the side of the road.  We drove slowly beside them, and then they picked up their pace.  We matched them.  They continued to pick up their pace, at which point I noticed we were driving 35mph.  We were on a fairly smooth road, they weren’t!  After about a minute of running with the herd, they peeled away until we lost sight of them.

A few years later I returned to House Rock Valley.  This time was specifically to cover the buffalo, and unfortunately, it was hunting season.  The herd’s numbers are maintained, and only a handful of permits are issued each year.  These buffalo know when it’s hunting season, and become scarce.  Rising from the valley at about a 45 degree angle, the Kaibab Plateau has some twisting, sheer walled canyons.  The buffalo traverse these canyons like bighorn sheep, and the hunters can’t follow. I met with the manager of the ranch, and he was full of information about these animals.  One story he relayed was about the animals’ ability to leave no trace.  There are no reliable water sources here, so they have placed water tanks about in several spots.  In hunting season, the buffalo will enter from one side, then step on a rock or clump of grass, get their drink, walk around to the other side of the tank, all the while being selective as to where they step, and not leave a track within ten feet.  Is it any wonder these animals were so revered by Native Americans?

Mid-week Mixings: Jacob Canyon

The start of autumn in Jacob Canyon, in Kaibab National Forest, northern Arizona. Photo by Steve Bruno.
The start of autumn in Jacob Canyon, in Kaibab National Forest, northern Arizona. Photo by Steve Bruno.

There are places where it seems you have to fight for elbow room to get your photographs, nowadays.  Most national parks come to mind, but even those have room to venture about, unless you’re looking for that classic shot.  In autumn, places like the Maroon Bells in Colorado, and Oak Creek Canyon in Arizona are just as packed as any national park in peak season.

I’ve always liked finding hidden gems, and this place, Jacob Canyon, certainly comes to mind.  In between Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce, there’s little chance of it becoming a destination for many.  The canyon runs for some distance, and is a great place to just get out and walk in the fresh air.  The area that the leaves change is quite condensed, as the forest is dominated by ponderosa pines.  To me, its main beauty is that I can have the place to myself most days of the year.

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