Have we dragged these photos out long enough for you? It’s a bit much, I know. But this is my virtual scrapbook so you’re stuck with it if you visit.

We weren’t expecting to see Grizzly bears, particularly not up close. We pulled over to a rest area because it looked busy and would probably yield an animal sighting. However, since Dale and I are dopey we thought everybody was looking up at two giant birds mating in the sky. We started at them until they flew out of sight and then looked around, realizing that was but a side show to the main attraction.

Located just down a slight slope from up–and quite near an outhouse–was a mother Grizzly and two cubs. To quote Dale, “That’s a motherf*ckin’ Grizzly!”

Indeed! And she was rooting around the ground, looking for food for her cubs. I was pretty transfixed but also quite nervous. Occasionally, the bear would pause and turn to look at the crowd. Not afraid of us but just to be sure we were staying put on the hill. Needless to say, I was staying put.

Frankly, I was calculating the odds. At one point, the bear pushed her paw into the largely frozen ground and dug a huge patch of dirt up with very little effort. I knew enough to know that I could be that patch of grass and I basically turned to Dale and said, “That was cool but I’m out.”

I ducked back into the car, behind the crowd. Dale, for his part, was calculating the odds as well.

He watched the bear closely and opted to stand behind a man who had a leg brace. Surely the bear would take the low hanging fruit first, yes?

At some point, the bear came closer and Dale booked it back to the car. Apparently his calculations had been off. The guy with the brace was safely in his car well before Dale got back to ours.

At any rate, it was amazing to see the bears up close! They were adorable and beautiful and pretty seriously majestic in size and presence.

So as cool as it was to see the giant animals? I was probably more excited about the ground squirrels. I’m a dork, I know this. It’s not news. And ground squirrels are unlikely to kill me. That helps. They are also about as cute as it gets. They are bigger than chipmunks but a little smaller than wild squirrels. We sat near a stream and watched them frolic for about an hour.

They ran and played with the chipmunks–there seemed to be a combination of playfulness and competitiveness among the tiny animal population of Yellowstone. I wanted to bring this guy home in my pocket! Just LOOK at that face!

I had so much fun watching animals that we really missed a lot of random things–like the mud pots. I seriously told Dale to keep driving. What cute animal would hang out near hot mud?.