Ice Fishing – Hegben Lake

Back in July, when we had just officially moved to Montana, I went up to a town called Belgrade to hit on a tennis “wall.”  There were two guys hitting on the court with the wall, so I asked politely if they would mind switching courts. Instead of switching courts, they invited me to join them, and I made my first two friends in Montana. Little did I know that six months later I would be standing on top of a frozen lake with one of them having my first experience ice fishing.

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In the summer this is all water!

Ice fishing…where to begin?  I guess the drive. I met my tennis friend in Big Sky and then we continued to head south, through the corner of Yellowstone National Park, to Hebgen Lake.  I saw a few bald eagles on the way to Big Sky, and then a herd of elk and a moose further south. The drive was beautiful with the snow covered trees and landscape.

What do you need to ice fish? Like many activities, you can probably buy as much expensive stuff as you want…our gear was pretty simple: 2 poles, a scooper (for cleaning out the hole), and a giant nail (I can’t remember what it is called) for chiseling out the hole. For the fish food, meal worms and grubs, and your standard grocery store plastic bag for the catch. That’s it!

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Carrying the “giant nail.”

So we get all set up, and here is the key – when you see your bobber go down, you have to quickly flick up with your pole…not pull up…flick up. Ideally, you want to do this while the bobber is going down. This sets the hook.  I am learning all of this when I see my bobber go down probably twice in the first 5 minutes. I’m too slow to grab the pole, and I kind of got yelled at (more on that later).  Eventually, I get the hang of it.  You also have to keep the pole right over the hole – I mean it – or you will get yelled at then, too.

You have to be ready to grab the pole when the bobber goes down!

You have to be ready to grab the pole when the bobber goes down!

At the end of the day we got our 5 fish, which is the limit. How long were we out there?  I think about an hour and forty minutes. We caught 5 fish, lost 2 or 3, and I definitely missed at least 1. So that means something was happening almost every 10 minutes, which is kind of remarkable. Apparently you can stand around a hole for hours and nothing happens, so it was a good day (I think this is why I got yelled at when I missed the first one – for all we knew that might have been our only chance for the afternoon).

My first one. I told it I was sorry. It was slippery.

My first one. I told it I was sorry. It was slippery.

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So, now I’ve eaten something that I caught. Very Montana of me, right?  It probably doesn’t really count since I didn’t clean it, but one step at a time…

Beautiful smoked trout!

Beautiful smoked trout!

Yellowstone in October

I judged in a homebrew beer competition in West Yellowstone back in October. Since we were so close to the park, we spent some time there. When we were there in June & July, we didn’t have a chance to hangout around Old Faithful or the Canyon areas.

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This is around the Lower Geyser Basin. We always seem to see a herd of bison in the prairie.

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This is infront of the Old Faithful visitor center. There are WAY less people in October vs. in the summer. Check out the next picture.

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Back in June 2015.

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This bison started coming up the sidewalk in between the Lodge and Visitor Center. So, yeah, I decided to walk around and not use that sidewalk.

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I walked back and saw that the bison made it up to the main sidewalk. Those people were really close to that thing…crazy! I was probably 200 feet away on a different walk way.

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There is a path that weaves around all the springs and geysers near Old Faithful. It’s about a mile long and ends at the Morning Glory pool. Elizabeth didn’t get to check it out in the summer… A wicked thunderstorm chased her away when she started the walk. So this was the first time walking down the path for her.

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I took a picture of this geyser, which I don’t remember its name, thinking it was going to erupt more. It didn’t until much later when we were walking back.

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We got there just at the right time that day – SO many geysers were erupting. Everywhere we looked.

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Here is the same geyser, just closer.

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Here is Morning Glory.

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The pool is about 23 ft deep. It’s super clear and the colors look much more vivid than this picture.

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We saw this bald eagle as we were driving out of the park. It was looking over a river.

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Another geyser – don’t know its name.

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Another geyser – don’t know its name.

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Another geyser – don’t know its name.

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I think this one is Old Faithful.

yellowstone-oct-16That is Old Faithful in the background.

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Here is some cool, colorful bacteria.

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Mud Pots

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There are some bison crossing the road.

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Here is a bull elk by the river.

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Here is some moss on the trees by the Canyon.

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Here is the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

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It doesn’t even look real when you are there.

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This is on a viewing platform next to the falls. We have a picture of the falls and you can see the tiny platform next to it.

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The falls are about 300 feet high. If you look close you can see the platform on the right.

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The Yellowstone River is only 70 feet at the point at which it goes over the lower falls.

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Brodie also really likes the falls, too.

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Here are some elk hanging out near the Mammoth area.

Christmas and New Years

Our first Christmas in Montana was snowy, white and cold!

 

Christmas morning “pack” walk in the snow.

We went on a pack walk in the morning and then waited for Jodi to arrive from sunny and warm Atlanta! It was great to be able to face time with family back in Ga and in Pa.

We spent Saturday and Sunday down at Yellowstone National Park. We walked around the Mammoth area and drove into Lamar Valley on Sunday. We saw bison, elk, Eagles, big horn sheep and coyotes (but no wolves). We also saw diamond dust – when the moisture in the air freezes and glitters. The low temperature our car registered was minus 20. It was chilly.

 

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This was as colorful as mammoth got with all the snow.

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I liked this little tree through the steam!

Jodi sporting warm winter wear!

Jodi sporting warm winter wear!

 

All the steam is from the hot springs…

Look at those antlers! Right next to the road.

Honestly, even the Bison looked cold…

Big Horn Sheep and Coyote in this one – can you see both?

Bison on a hill at sunrise

This video is Brodie watching a coyote run by the car…this smart little fellow decided to run along the road rather than try to wade through the snow…I think Brodie was jealous that the coyote’s “parents” didn’t make him wear booties!

December 31st (birthday day) we went cross country skiing with some friends. We are not good, but had fun trying and are certain we could get better with practice! I opened almost all of my presents early, but did get these tasty strawberries from Floriebelle and family!  I also got an amaryllis from a friend in Bozeman, so hopefully in a few weeks I can post some “blooming” pictures.

 

That’s a cemetery on the background. uh oh.

Okay – so I went down this same hill, and I can attest that it felt like I was going really really fast. The video doesn’t really show the rapid speed. Doug is the speck at the top of the hill. Hang in there – it gets good about 25 seconds in…if you have the sound on you can hear our friend laughing (after he sneezes).

Eat within 48 hours? No problem…

 

West Thumb Basin, then Grand Tetons – Day 3 Yellowstone Lake Trip (July 2015)

Day 3 of the trip marked a change of venue. We left the Lake area and headed west to the West Thumb Basin. It is another thermal zone on the west edge of the lake. It’s pretty amazing to think about all the thermal features that are underwater.

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Here is one of the geysers (or hot springs) that is on the edge of the water. It looks really strange.
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We only spent about an hour in the West Thumb area. The thermal features were cool, yeah, but once you see a couple dozen springs and geysers, it gets a little boring.

Boring might be the wrong word, but it is less exciting than …

The Grand Tetons

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It really looked like that except more amazing. These mountains are jagged and seem to come out of nowhere.yellowstone-lake-trip-138We stayed at the Jackson Lake Lodge and it is a great facility. The main lodge has a great room/lobby with massive windows as you can see below. There were a couple restaurants, a bar, and a cafe. You could even sit outside and drink a beer. It turns out that the sun was VERY intense, bright, and hot so sitting outside was unpleasant unless you are in the shade. Sitting inside was fine though.
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We were able to get out there pretty early in the morning since we were on site. Most people must’ve slept in because we were the only people out there for a bit. That was surprising since the courtyard and lobby are filled up, crowded with tourists.

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Brodie looks tame there, but looks are misleading.

On our walk out that morning he caught a crow.

Not the actual crow…But it looked like this. credit: creative commons

Yes, seriously.

The 3 of us were walking down the street, from our room to the main lodge, and there are just a few other people walking around too. Not very many.

We see about 4 or 5 crows on the ground next to the road. There are some shrubs and tall grasses and weeds and the crows are walking around doing crow things. They are cawing a bit and most of them are moving away from us as we get closer to them. Brodie locks on to them, but looks away after an instant.

At least his head is facing forward, not towards the crows. However, his eyes are looking in their direction, fixed on the 1 crow that isn’t moving away from us.

We thought we’d get attacked!! credit: creative commons

Brodie pounced onto the crow. The crow was pinned between Brodie’s front legs and mouth. The other crows were squawking and cawing like crazy. We were worried because we recently watched the Hitchcock classic, The Birds.

We commanded Brodie to release the crow and he did. The murder flew away quickly – the crow was unharmed.

We quickly put the leash on Brodie and left the area, fast.

Back Home to Bozeman

We drove out the south side of the park so we could see some other areas around both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The views were really amazing and peaceful.

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Sunrise, Boat Tour, Chipmunk – Day 3 Yellowstone Lake Trip (July 2015)

We woke up really early to see the sunrise. It was colder than you’d expect in the middle of the summer, but the elevation in the lake area is about 7,800 feet. It gets pretty cool at night even in July.

It was worth it to get up a little bit early. The sunrise is slow and gradual compared to places that are further south. This sunrise was way more interesting than the sunset.

yellowstone-lake-trip-111yellowstone-lake-trip-110 yellowstone-lake-trip-115 yellowstone-lake-trip-114 yellowstone-lake-trip-113 yellowstone-lake-trip-112We had another reason to get up early too…

Private Boat Tour

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Not that boat though. That’s just a little one.

We booked a boat that can hold 6 people, plus the captain and fishing gear. We didn’t have any interest in fishing, which surprised most all of the people that we talked to. We got used to telling people that we just wanted to sightsee and get a good look at the lake from a boat.

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It was pretty awesome – a great way to see the lake in a way that most people never will. The hotel was actually designed to be observed from the water. That’s a little silly since most people drive in…

Anyway, our captain was a 19 year old college student that lucked into one of the most interesting, sought-after jobs in the park: Fishing Boat Guide. She didn’t even have much of an interest in fishing or boating…they just needed to have the position filled and her application was on top.

She had about a month of training before the season started and she does it everyday.

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Brodie and a Chipmunk

Star Wars – Opening Day

We tapped into our inner “geeks” and were part of the crowd that saw Star Wars on opening day – in 3D.  There weren’t any huge surprises, and I think for the “older” generation (which – yuck – I think is us) the best parts of the movie were the ones with the original cast members.

BB8 (the new R2D2), reminded us a lot of Brodie, which is a huge compliment.

One of the best lines of the movie – “That’s not how the force works.”

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Picnic, Elephant Back Hike, Gull Point – Day 2 Yellowstone Lake Trip (July 2015)

 

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After we saw the bears and checked out the Mud Volcano area, we regrouped by the Lake Lodge. The lodge has a nice big porch with a bunch of chairs – it can get very crowded in the evenings.

We grabbed a few sandwiches and had a picnic by the Lake. You can see the pollen gathering on the beach which is a little surprising considering it was July.

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Elephant Back Loop Trail

After lunch we dropped Brodie off at the cabin to rest after the morning outing and we headed out to hike. The trailhead was only about a half mile from the cabin so we could just walk there.

I am posing below with some bear spray which we had ready at all times. A park worker was killed by a bear a few weeks later on the trail.
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Once you get to the top of the ridge you are treated to a great panoramic view of the lake. The pictures seem fine, but in person it looks even more impressive.yellowstone-lake-trip-089

We didn’t have engagement photos taken – it’s just not our style – but I bet they’d look like these.

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Gull Point

We joined Brodie at the cabin after the hike and rested up for dinner. We had another picnic lakeside this time at Gull Point.

 

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There was a nice little beach that you could walk out on, and Brodie really enjoyed the sand. He even found a stick!

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Grizzlies, Dragon’s Breath – Day 2 Yellowstone Lake Trip (July 2015)

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Here is the Lake Lodge which is set back from the Lake Hotel a bit. It has the tradition National Park “log cabin” feel.

Searching For Bears

After we narrowly avoided becoming a headline for the Peabody Awards, we wanted to check out some bears.

You know, to raise the stakes with a very large animal that can bite or scratch you rather than merely charge you.

For that, we decided to head north of the lake to Hayden Valley.

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This flower was covered in flies.

For that, we decided to head north of the lake to Hayden Valley. The valleys have the best opportunity for spotting bears at a long distance and that’s the distance that you want to see them.

 

Of course Brodie was with us and he knew he could get too close to the bears after the whole bison incident.yellowstone-lake-trip-049

You can tell where there is wild life when you see a lot of people around, cars parked on the side of the road, and a traffic jam.

They call the traffic jams “Bear Jams”.

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We saw the sign as we approached the Hayden Valley. Now, it was a bit late for seeing a bear, about 9 AM, and we expected to see some bison or elk.

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But we heard there were bears!

So, I grabbed my camera and ran across the road and up a hill. Sure enough there was a crowd all looking one way at two grizzley bears.

 

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You can really see the shape when you zoom in.

If I had to guess, I would say the bears were a mile to 1.5 miles away. It felt like a safe distance and it was almost too far to make out.

There was a small herd of bison just next to the hill where all the people were watching the bears. It looked amazing in the morning sun.

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Sulfur Caldron

 

After we saw the bears, we felt very good about the outing. We started to head back south to some other geothermal features.

There are hot springs and steaming vents all over the place. They can pop up nearly anywhere or active features can stop all activity for seemingly no reason.

Here is the edge of the caldron. It was pretty huge and apparently it was filled will sulfuric acid, or at least the pH is 1.3.

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Basking in the sulfuric steam.

Remember how features can pop up? Well, this steam vent showed up in the middle of an asphalt parking lot. It weakened the surface so they had to block it off.

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In case you didn’t know, Yellowstone is a huge volcano. Read more…

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Mud Volcano Area

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This thermal area is one of the park’s most volatile regions. The Mud Volcano has not arrupted since 1871 when the US Geological Survey Team encountered it.

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Elizabeth really liked the steamy spring called Dragon’s Mouth Spring.

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Thanksgiving 2015!

One of the first things I did after waking up this morning was check the outside temperature…1 degree.  Oh my goodness – Happy Thankgsiving!

A winter storm moved through the area Tuesday and Wednesday.  I’m not sure what the total snowfall amount was…maybe around 4 inches?  It’s our first substantial winter weather of the season (since we were in Georgia for most of November).  We’re a little surprised that the roads aren’t in better shape.  In fact, a car slid off the road right in front of our apartment.  We noticed because we saw the police lights blinking outside…it didn’t look like anyone was hurt.

The below video is Brodie on the porch right when it started to snow – the road in the background is the one that a car slid off!

We haven’t been in the car yet, but will be heading out later this afternoon to do Thanksgiving dinner with some friends that we’ve met up here.  We should be okay as long as we drive slow and careful!

Here are some pictures of the morning walk and the snow!  We are very proud of how Brodie is adjusting to wearing his winter boots, though we do have to keep an eye on him because he will lose one if we aren’t careful!

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Brodie getting his boots on in the hall before we head out in the snow.

I’m very proud of how used to the boots he is getting!  He looks very cute walking around, but he does trip quite a bit, and we need to be careful about all the ground squirrel holes that he doesn’t hurt himself!

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Even in the snow, Brodie is on the look out for a good stick!

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Those are our apartments in the background

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Do I look cold? The new winter coat and boots are working out well!

Brodie and Doug!   The videos are so short because my hands were freezing!

Foolish Couple & Dog (almost) Gored By Bison Duo at Fishing Bridge, Yellowstone – Day 2 Yellowstone Lake Trip (July 2015)

Have you ever tried to do the right thing, and it just didn’t work out? Well, we almost got run down by a couple angry, ginormous bison while we were innocently walking Brodie one morning near Yellowstone Lake.

Bison have been getting some bad press this year after goring several people. There are sign everywhere stating that you should NOT get close to the wildlife. I want to say all the people in that situation are just stupid, and most of them are. But, maybe some of them were trying to do the right thing.

Here is a story of a lady trying to take a selfie, then got gored.

There are some cases where it sounds like the people aren’t really trying to get close to the bison. You see, sometimes the bison are right near walk ways or trails and you can’t walk anywhere else. Most of the time, people are just being dumb and get WAY too close to these animals.

Our story is a little bit like that… We really tried to do the right thing.

Let’s look closer at this beast called bison.

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Bison Facts

Bison are one of the major attractions at Yellowstone, and you’re almost sure to see a herd if you spend any time in the park. There are about 5,000 in the park, making up the largest herd on public land.

They are massive, weighing in between 1,000 to 2,000 pounds! Somehow they can run up to 30 mph. Read more Yellowstone bison facts here.

We took this video right next to our cabin. The bison are everywhere!

Fishing Bridge

There is a section of the park called The Fishing Bridge near the Lake. Back in the day, people used to fish off the bridge for cutthroat trout. The population of cutthroat is in danger nowadays and invasive species are threaten them so you can’t fish of the bridge anymore.

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After breakfast, we headed over to the bridge area with Brodie for a morning walk. It was pretty early so the crowds and traffic were light. We got out of the car and started walking across the bridge. We noticed 2 bison on the other side of the bridge laying on a hillside.

Then they got up.

 

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We were on the sidewalk on the side of the road, to the left on the guard poles in the image above. The bison seem to use the road often (as you can see from the “Share the Road” PSA). We were about halfway across the bridge when the bison started to head over.

Same-Roads-borderThe decision was quickly made to head back towards the car. We have seen the bison walk along the roads a lot.

The cars just go slower and give the bison the right of way.

 

These bison hopped in the right lane and headed in our direction with a line of cars behind them.

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We got to the other side of the bridge, then decided to head down a trail to the right of the road, right next to the river. At that time, the bison were midway across the bridge, moving fairly fast, and they were 200 feet away. We were at a safe distance and I was able to take a some great pictures of the bison crossing the bridge.

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Look! There is a bird on his back!

yellowstone-lake-trip-069 yellowstone-lake-trip-068 yellowstone-lake-trip-066We were still standing by the river with Brodie when the bison got to the other side of the bridge. We expected them to keep on going straight…

Why? I am not sure. He was in the right hand lane and cars were behind him. I guess he didn’t follow the rules of the road.

We had a problem. He stopped and turned our way.
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He looked even harder with his buggy, predatory eyes. He turned his head and body.

We saw both bison were sort of looking our way. We were looking right back – starting to panic.

yellowstone-lake-trip-073Then, it hit me! Bison aren’t predators!

Bison are prey.

Wolves are predators and Brodie looks like a mini wolf. Brodie has been staring them down for a minute – The bison knew it.
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I asked Elizabeth if she could scramble up the hillside behind us. She didn’t understand at first, but realized she had to go NOW. The hillside is dotted with trees and provided some cover and that’s what I wanted. Of course, the bison could simply run up the hill like it was nothing, but the trees would provide some obstacles for them and cover for us.

 

 

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They were still staring at us when we were heading 30 feet up the hill. It was sandy, rocky, and the footing was terrible. Brodie was confused since he wanted to watch the bison more. We finally got to a spot that had several trees so we stopped.

We made it out alive…

Right then, the bison ran across the street in the other direction! The ran up the opposite hill on the other side of the road! They were FAST and didn’t even slow down as they scaled the hill.

After we talked about it, we decided that the bison probably thought Brodie was a threat, like a wolf. They are natural enemies. (Check out this video on YouTube. Beware it is really graphic.) It escalated when we sat there and stared at the bison when they looked down our path.

The Bridge

The bison left and we went to check out the bridge again.

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Here are a couple bald eagles chowing down on a fish.yellowstone-lake-trip-077 yellowstone-lake-trip-076 yellowstone-lake-trip-075

The Bison Retreated

While we were on the bridge, the bison came back down the hill, crossed the road, and went over to the hill where we took cover.

If you have a dog, don’t let it look bison in the eye. The bison don’t like it very much!

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Here is a clip from a documentary I watched earlier this year, and it’s the reason I thought Brodie made the bison take note of us.