Sunday, March 21, 2010

When Buffalo Attack

Saturday morning I decided to go for a longer ride than usual so I left from my house and rode out across the causeway to Antelope Island. 

I have talked about this road before, look at the size of that shoulder, perfectly flat and very few cars.  Put your head down and go.

Once you hit the Island there is plenty of wide open space to get your tires dirty.

The Island has a good balance of hills, flats and technical double and singletrack

The soil on the Island is porous and drains extremely fast, great ride in the early spring when everything else is soggy. 

View of the Great Salt Lake, you get a feel for its size once you are out there.

The starting point, you can see my house from here.
Here is where the ride gets interesting.  As I am riding toward this herd of Buffalo a wide-eyed runner passes me going the opposite direction.  He stopped me and said "If I were you I would turn around and go the other way.  The Buffalo are agitated by something; they ran me up a rock and tried to kill me."  I have ridden within a few feet of Buffalo lots of times.  They usually respond the same way cattle do, in that either they just stand there and look at you or they run off, no big deal, but in the back of my mind I was a little scared.  There was another way out but this was the quickest and funnest way and I really did not want to miss a fun super fast downhill so I rolled the dice. 

Two things of note in this picture Buffalo and rocks

Turns out when someone tells you that they just got chased up on to the top of a big rock by a herd of Buffalo you should listen to them.  He is a picture I took from the top of the rocks after I ditched my bike and ran from the charging herd.  I pulled my camera out only after they had backed off a little and had quit pawing at the dirt and snorting at me from the base of the rocks.  The two in the picture were the most aggressive; they looked to be adolescents to me but still weighed well over 1000 lbs.  I could feel the base from their grunts and snorts bouncing around in my chest cavity and the musky smell of their breath was equally as intimidating.  I was pretty sure that if they really wanted to they could have scaled the rock I was standing on.  Luckily they didn't and after a minute they started to back off. 

These rocks saved my life.

I waited for a while and when they had backed off the trail a little ways I climbed down, grabbed my bike and walked ten feet when the herd charged for the second time.  Back up on the rocks, fast.  Three Buffalo charged to the base of the rock and again started pawing at the ground grunting and snorting.  I stood there and tried to look BIG.  This time I gave them a good solid 20 minutes before climbing down from my perch and when I did come down I circled down off the other side of the hill just out of sight to make my pass.  I was terrified as I was bush whacking the long way around the herd.  I was afraid that they would come charging over the hill and this time there would be nowhere to hide.  Luckily they didn't and when I got a safe distance past the herd I circled back around and picked up the trail.  I had been riding for three hours by this time but with the adrenalin pumping I stood up on the pedals and got the hell out of there.  As I picked back up on the pavement I was tempted to swing by the restaurant on the Island and order a big fat juicy Buffalo Burger, instead I just put my head down and hammered my way home. 

Here is a link to another story of a guy who was not as lucky as I was.


  1. When you go out again on Saturday...take a gun.

  2. Having had the pleasure of riding this route with Ryan, I can attest for it's unexpected beauty and thrills. Goat Heads, mosquitoes, and some emergency Slime are things you have to expect. Agitated Buffalo however are something I have yet to encounter. I personally can't wait for my spring break ride. I think a T Shirt in its honor is warranted.

  3. I live in Alaska where moose, not bison, are the threat. The city of Anchorage may have the highest density of moose of any place in the world as well as lots of narrow trails with minimal line of sight. I never approach the moose to more than 50 yards if I can avoid it and now always carry bear spray in the hopes have having time to deploy it. Unfortunately, surprise encounters happen at distances of a few feet. I'm more cautious than most, having dodged behind a tree while being charged to with a few feet five times. I then climbed the tree and spent the night there.

    When I came to ride Antelope Island, I gave the bison more respect than most locals probably do. Despite admonishment by the park to stay on the trails, I got off a walked to stay as much a 100 yards away. I can't imagine that I had as much impact as a herd of bison.