SYRACUSE -- As the sun came up Friday on Antelope Island, it lit up not only the mountains there but also a rare sight: All standing together in one herd were 200 bison.
And the sight, from the back of a horse, was enough to stir Maj. Gen. Brent Baker Sr., the commander of the Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill Air Force Base.
"I found it awe-inspiring to see the bison all together like that," he said. "Usually, they are in onesies and twosies, but to see them all together up close in a group, that was amazing."
Friday was the 27th Annual Bison Roundup at Antelope Island State Park.
There to round up the park's 700 head of bison and take them to their winter corrals were 350 horse riders and 60 volunteers.
As the day began, three large herds had been pushed together somewhat by horsemen the day before, and they had been given fresh hay to keep them interested in staying in groups.
Those who attended the effort to push the bison on horseback said they were delighted with the adventure.
The experience was enough to make first-time participant Susan Hall, of Hooper, wish she'd been born in another era.
"I feel connected to a time when bison ran free and people made their living in the great outdoors," she said.
And there were plenty of reminders of that time Friday.
One participant blew his trumpet as in a call for military personnel to march forward. Others wore period costumes from a time long in the past. Riders of all walks of life and abilities participated.
Some, like Baker, were beginning horsemen who were enjoying themselves as much as those who had ridden all their lives.
"We have some every experienced folks who know what they are doing here to work the bison so we can ride along," he said.
Layton resident Steve Handy said it was his fourth time on the ride and the best experience so far.
"Who could not love this?" he said. "This ought to be on everyone's bucket list."
Handy said the organization of those in charge, which put riders in different groups working together, allowed all to feel like they were a vital part of the effort.
"When you are able to change the direction of a bison herd just by your position at that point, it's just inspiring," said Barbara Riddle, president and CEO of the Davis Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. "It's exhilarating."
Steve Anderson, of Syracuse, said he has been so moved by the feeling of connecting with nature through the roundup that he has participated in 20 of the island's 27 events.
"I've only been bucked off once," he said of his luck on the ride. "I had so many clothes on I couldn't move."
There were experienced horsemen Friday that sometimes had problems controlling their horses as the animals feared getting close to the bison.
Anderson and others noted that Friday's 68-degree temperatures were well above the normal climate for the annual roundup and the warmest the weather has ever been for the event.
Anderson said the effort has changed a great deal over the years.
He said up until five years ago, helicopters were mostly used to herd the bison.
Participant Chris Quartusio, of West Haven, recalled a time in the 1980s before the event was officially organized when he and about 30 other riders helped park rangers, who used old trucks that they'd repurposed to herd the bison.
Quartusio, 61, said he had a lot more fun making the all-day trip when he was younger and more flexible.
But, he said the event then didn't draw people from all over the country like it does today.
"There was every level of ability and every philosophy of riders herding the bison," he said. "It was exciting to see the people and hear the stories."
Organizers said herding the animals completely with horses was both safer for the animals and more cost effective for the park.
Safety was a big emphasis for the event. All who rode in the roundup were required to attend a meeting where numerous rules for safety were outlined.
Organizers also said they learned from last year's event that a safer path to the winter corrals was on the west side of the island and used that path in the final leg of the journey again this year.
Contact reporter JaNae Francis at 801-625-4228 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @jfrancis.