Close Encounters of the Buffalo Kind

Before I rattle on about our trip to the zoo (Montana style), I would like to thank Blogger for honoring me with Blog of Note yesterday. I was at Costco all morning having my winter studded tires changed over to my summer ones. When I returned, I checked my email and found that Angie had sent “Congrats on Blog of Note”. Excited, I checked, and sure enough it was true!  Also, I want to say a special thanks to all of my followers. I appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts and congratulations. Now, it’s time for the rest of the story.

The heat is on in Northwest Montana. Seasonal businesses that have been closed for winter are finally opening their doors. Roads and trails that have been inaccessible due to snow, are thawing out or have thawed. We quit wearing our long-johns and took down the storm windows. The grizzlies are out and about and the buffalo have emerged from their winter dens. That’s our signal to gear up for summer and hit the road.

Last Friday, my husband and I announced that we would be taking our annual family trip to the National Bison Range. I’ve started calling it the trip to the zoo as there aren’t any zoos around for hundreds of miles.  We were met with the usual complaints from M & E when we said we would be going to the range. I don’t know why, but they find it extremely boring looking at beautiful mountain scenery and observing wildlife. So, we threw a little geocache adventure into the mix. I’m happy that we did. We discovered spots along Hwy. 93 that we wouldn’t have otherwise, and finding those little treasures (including a geocoin) really helped to round out the day. I was disappointed that we didn’t see any cute critters at “Fox Den” but the arrowleaf balsamroot was dazzling!

The hills near Polson are filled with arrowleaf balsomroot.
Official Fox Den Geocache
Come out little fox!

We were muggled by a tree inspector looking for bark beetle at “That’s Ahh Corny”, and found “The National Bison Range” cache before having buffalo burgers and shakes for lunch. A little ironic don’t you think? Eating buffalo burgers at a roadside diner right next to the Bison Range.

Considering it was such a gorgeous day, visitation to the Bison Range was light. We drove the steep switchbacks of the 19-mile Red Sleep Drive nice and slow. Patience is the key here. The National Bison Range offers excellent wildlife viewing and photography opportunities. Elk, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, deer, bears, birds, and of course bison roam the 18,500 acres of the range. It’s a photographer’s dream with the spectacular 10,000-ft peaks of the Mission Mountains looming as a backdrop. But you can’t rush it. I’m always a little sad for the folks in a hurry who don’t walk the paths and drive the road in haste. They miss out on close encounters with wildlife and the chance to truly experience the refuge.

The self-guided tour of the National Bison Range.  Bison visible along the road.
Don’t be fooled.  He may seem slow and lumbering but can run up to 35 miles per hour.
This serious looking ram spent some time with us on the High Point Lookout Trail.
I just love the way this antelope’s horns form a heart shape.

One experience I can do without though, is ticks! The Bison Range is notorious for them. Despite my precautions of applying Deet to our pantlegs, we found some of the little buggers in our hair. I personally think my husband, who didn’t spray, brought them into the vehicle with him and they somehow jumped off of him and found our scalps. No worries though, it was only a few.

After a long and eventful day, we headed home for the Flathead Valley. I could tell you that we were stopped by tribal police because somebody thought we were driving a little funny, but I’ll leave you with the thought that even though it was a FFO (forced family outing) for my girls, we made lasting memories they won’t soon forget.

I hope you’ll click over and read M and E’s adventure story titled:

How many of you have eaten buffalo burgers?

Till next time,
Marlene

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