Grazing on clumps of dry grass that peak through the snow, bisons for the most part mind their own business, treating awe-struck, picture-snapping visitors with utter indifference. But occasionally one of them standing closer to the road looks up right at you with indeterminate intent in the eye. There wasn’t really a good reason to be scared given how tame those bisons are but let’s just say I made a few hasty retreats to the car nonetheless after such stare-downs. Looking at the bisons in a strange way also made me homesick. Białowieża forest, a UNESCO World Heritage site in eastern Poland on the border with Belarus, is home to over 450 European bison. It is also the source of world-famous bison grass that lends its unique flavor to Żubrówka, traditional Polish vodka and my personal favorite. Unfortunately the real Żubrówka is not available in the U.S. (only adulterated versions) due to a hard to justify FDA restriction regarding the chemical compound coumarin that comes from the bison grass that makes Żubrówka what it is – but I digress.
You don’t often see this sign
Although bisons are definitely number one attraction here, Antelope Island is also home to many other animals: its namesake pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, badgers, bobcats, deer, rabbits, and dozens of different bird species. Our most memorable close encounter was with a porcupine. My husband and I spotted this funny looking creature on a tree branch and for the life of us couldn’t figure out what it was. Our best guess was a cross between a beaver and a giant hedgehog =)
As we were driving around the island, we also saw something truly unexpected – a wedding. A wedding photo session to be exact. Apparently the place was chosen by a local couple as the backdrop for commemorating their most special day. I can’t blame them. The haunting, austere beauty of snow-shrouded island makes this place really unforgettable. I truly admired the bride for enduring the January temperature in a wedding dress but the sacrifice was worth it. Judge for yourself – I couldn’t resist crashing the party with my uninvited lens: