August 11, 2010
One afternoon, we stopped to walk through an area famous for mudboils. Yes, we saw big pools of mud that was churning and bubbling, much like I’ve always pictured the river of chocolate in Willie Wonka, except the steam smelled like sulphur instead of chocolate. We kept to the sidewalks in that area, since signs warned us that anyone walking through could break through the thin crust and get burned.
Then a bison came through, an angry male bison who was making these strange growling noises. He was followed by another male bison, and they were both moving pretty fast, their hooves sinking into the mud.
These animals are big, up close. They butted heads in a way that didn’t look so friendly.
There were a handful of tourists walking about on the boardwalks. Everyone froze and just stared at the animals. We’d been warned not to step off the boardwalks, so there was no place to go. One of the bison stepped over the boardwalk and then into the mud, maybe ten feet away from me. The other followed.
A park ranger came through, with a walkie talkie. “Try to get back to the parking lot,” he said. “Back behind the cars.”
Once the bison had moved off the boardwalk, we all moved cautiously towards the parking lot. I could hear the clicking of cameras and excited whispers in Japanese, German, and English. From a safer spot, behind the line of cars, we watched as the bison churned up the mud.
“Too much testosterone,” the park ranger said. “The rut has started.”
I wondered what would happen if either bison got too close to the boiling mud. But it didn’t happen. One of the bison decided to climb up the hill, brushing the edge of the boardwalk as he went, and the other followed. Then they both disappeared from our view.
Posted by jo(e)