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That’s a big paw. This is Erysse’s small hand over a fresh bear track in Yellowstone National Park. We’ve waited until now to tell our bear encounter story. Here it goes.

Late last fall, we went hiking in the park with Kim Hoberecht just before the Grizzlies went into hibernation. Our guide, who didn’t seem like the musical type, was singing constantly.

“Works better than a bell,” he said.

“A bell?”

“To scare away bears,” he clarified.

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The frightening thing about our two-hour trek through the grasslands isn’t that we saw no evidence of other humans. That’s fairly normal in Yellowstone.

No, it was the fact that we saw plenty of evidence of bears.

The tracks we saw were very fresh, Hoberecht said.

We don’t carry firearms. I’m not sure if our guide was armed. But had we encountered a hungry bear along the path, I’m not sure if we would have known what to do, city slickers that we are.

“I’m not worried,” Kari said. “I don’t have to outrun the bear.”

“You don’t?” I said.

“I just have to outrun you.”

Ha. Ha.

Not so funny when the sun is starting to set, and the tracks are getting … fresher.

We didn’t see any bears that day, but we did a few days later, deeper in the park. Fortunately, we were far away when we did.

Have you ever had a close encounter with a bear in a national park?