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AN OPEN BOOK: Bliss and Mom, on the hunt for bears

On a recent Friday — the day the East Entrance of Yellowstone opened for the season — Bliss and I loaded in the car for a mother-daughter day in the park.

Charlie, the fat-butted Aussie, came along for the ride as well. Brad, however, declined — asking if he could, “watch it on video” instead. Right ...

We took picnic supplies and even treats — Skittles, Twix and Sweetarts, oh my! And off we went.

Bliss has, since last year, discouraged us from looking for bears. She won't admit that she's afraid of them (even though I've repeatedly assured her that our car will render us safe from bears, grizzly and otherwise.)

Instead, she goes through a litany of reasons why we simply won't see bears (and it worked for at least one summer, much to my disappointment):

“It's not bear season, Mom. They're sleeping.”

“It's too snowy.”

“The bears are visiting their moms,” etc.

This day was no exception, but Bliss was doing little to dampen my enthusiasm for the year's first foray into the park — and she also was unsuccessful in squashing my desire to see bears. Take that, 3-year-old!

As we drove along, she told me jokes and stories that had me giggling long before we reached Pahaska — and made me so thankful to have such a funny little child in the back seat.

I was soon reminded that she's also a kind girl — something I'm also grateful for — when we passed close enough to bison on Sylvan Pass to illicit ear-shattering, tough-dog barking from the back.

“Mom, Charlie doesn't like the buffalo,” Bliss said. “I'm going to have to teach him how to be nice to buffalo.”
And coyotes, and elk, we soon learned.

By the time we reached Yellowstone Lake, it felt like we'd gone back in time several months — it was full-on winter again. So small child joined me for a picnic in the front seat, parked by the still-frozen lake. We munched on chicken and potato and macaroni salad — be warned: if you're tempted to buy any of the previously mentioned menu items at a certain big box store on the west side of Cody, DO NOT do it!

After resuming our travel, Bliss was just about to doze off when we saw it. A huge, silver-tip grizzly was dining on something off the left side of the road. Bliss' eyes widened briefly in apprehension — but it was only a matter of seconds before she realized that seeing a bear at a healthy distance, from the safety of our car, was pretty cool after all.

As we made our way around the loop to Mammoth and out through the northeast gate and Cooke City, we saw another large grizzly, along with a black bear, newborn bison calves, coyotes, elk and birds galore.

The day was a perfect beginning to Mother's Day weekend, and all the animal sightings were just icing on what was an idyllic day spent with my young daughter. I feel blessed to already have found such a good friend in her.

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