When my younger brother Bryan and his family came to visit from Iowa, they made it clear that visiting Yellowstone National Park was a priority.
They were, of course, also coming to renew relationships with cousins and aunts and uncles, but meeting a bear or two, some bison and maybe a few moose was a priority.
So we made a plan. We would go with them as tour guides since it had been about 20 years since my brother had been in the West, and his wife, who's from the East Coast, had never been.
We filled the car with gas, picked up a current map and headed out for the weekend, they in their rental car and us in our SUV.
When we checked in at the ranger's kiosk, I showed the back of the flier about encounters with the wildlife to my sister-in-law.
"Look, Patty," I said. "It says here that despite the stern warnings they give to tourists, every year there are injuries from animals who charge tourists who get too close."
She was intrigued, but I'm not sure the message registered, because a little later when we found a pair of mother bison sitting across the river with their calves, she complained because they were so far away.
"Frankly, I'm glad they are clear across the river," I said. "I think mama buffalo are pretty sensitive about people getting too close to their children."
Patty took a bunch of pictures and we drove on.
We found a mother eagle and her eaglets in a nest high atop a big tree down the road.
Again, Patty and Bryan were somewhat dismayed that the nest was so high off the ground, and the rangers had roped off a big section of the road so you had to hike to see the eagle family instead of drive up close.
Throughout the day, we stopped repeatedly for bison sightings and elk and antelope and the occasional deer.
We even saw a couple of moose again, in the trees across a wide river.
Twice, Patty was elated when she was able to get up close enough to a buffalo to catch his curious expression on the camera's digital memory.
Toward the end of the second day, we parted ways because we wanted to get home before dawn and Patty and Bryan were still on vacation time.
They headed toward Hayden Lake and we headed toward bed.
"Remember," I said, "don't get too close to the bears and stuff." (I thought I was joking.)
Much later, when they reached our house, they were excitedly relating their experiences.
"We saw a bear, lots more bison and this one moose. He was so close I could almost reach out and touch him," Patty said.
"What?" I asked in alarm. "That's too close. Moose are mean. They charge and they're big and they can do a lot of damage."
"Oh, I know," she said, unconcerned. "But it was all right. He let me take his picture and then just as he turned around to look right at me, Bryan drove away."Oh. OK. I guess a rental Aveo has the advantage over a raging moose especially if you're flooring it.
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