listening for God (or how to outrun a bison)

So the second day was a looooong drive. I spent a good portion of the day in North Dakota, and learned a couple of things:

1) it is very important (judging from the number of billboards i saw proclaiming such) to "stop aquatic hitchhikers." (?!?!)

2) North Dakota is home to the largest metal sculpture in America. (I did not stop to see it.)

I did, however, after driving for hours, get off at Exit 1, because there was a sign for a rest stop with a scenic overlook, and yesterday's had been so amazing. So I took the exit ramp, and turned at the end of it - directly into Theodore Roosevelt National Park! (who knew?) ok, maybe if I'd been looking at the atlas, i wouldn't have been quite so surprised. :)

The view was absolutely incredible. The colors, the play of light and shadow - it was breathtaking. Maybe even more so because I hadn't expected to see it - I had no clue that I would turn a corner to a view like that...
I spent a good half hour just wandering, looking out over the Painted Canyon, taking pictures, listening to a ranger talk about the canyon with a group of tourists. And then I found a trail. I'd been in the car for two days. Who wouldn't go exploring in a place like this?

I will say this: there was a sign. It said all the usual things about drinking enough water and wearing proper footwear. It also said that bison are dangerous and that one ought to keep one's distance, and to never approach wildlife, even if it appears friendly.

I looked at the trail, and I looked at my tevas (the flip flop variety). I thought, "that doesn't look very difficult, and well - I can always come back for my hiking boots if it's too tricky." I wasn't thirsty, and the trail sign said it was only a mile loop trail. I'd be fine without water for a mile. So off I went. Enjoying the scenery, the sudden absence of tourists (no one else seemed to want to take the trail), snapping pictures of canyon flora... I heard someone at the top of the trail call to what I assumed was his family, "Hey! There's a buffalo down there at the end of the trail." Oh cool, I thought. God, it would be really cool to see a bison out here in the wild. I kept hiking through the bushes, and then the trail split. One way led back into the brush. The other led out onto a flat ridge and then down into the canyon a bit further. I opted for wide open spaces.

The view from that ledge was amazing, and I stood there for a minute, enjoying the sunshine and the beauty of God's creation, noticing the interesting hoof-shaped tracks in the dirt, and thought, wow, that's odd. i thought that sign said "no horses..."

And then the Holy Spirit said something to the effect of, "Hap, turn around and go back. NOW." And I felt this odd sort of panic - not fear-driven, just a very strong internal insistence that I should turn around and go back. So I did, and I'm doing my usual internal questioning routine, "ok, was that really God, or did I just panic because I was out on this ledge on my own, and I'm a dork?" And I was about to arrive at the conclusion that I'm a dork (which is entirely possible) when I looked up, and I kid you not, probably less than 30 yards away, was a bison. I'm not sure which one of us was more surprised - it, or me - but it certainly noticed my existence, and started trotting my way.

I'm not sure I have ever run so fast in my life. I literally sprinted up the canyon wall. I did, however, stop once - ostensibly to see if it was still following me (it was) and to take its picture. (I'd never seen a bison outside of a zoo, and I had no idea I'd see about 2 dozen more the next day. Plus I knew I would need one to properly illustrate this story.) So here you are:



Mike said...

I'm sorry Hap but I really laughed when I pictured you sprinting back up the hill with a bison in hot pursuit. I guess that you should be careful what you ask God for huh?

happy said...

lol - exactly. :) no need to apologize. it was freakin' hilarious (being as how i'm not dead or maimed or injured in any way). that said, i did discover that 33-year-old slightly asthmatic lungs do not recover from an experience like this quite as quickly as they might have once... :P

Amy said...

Happy, I laughed too! Not sure where you're headed, but if you drop down to Colorado, let me know!

Happy said...

oh, i wish i'd thought of that!!! i almost *did* end up in Colorado, but i decided to head home a couple of days earlier... shoot! maybe the next road trip, God willing. mmm - that would be fun... touring the continent, meeting most of you - leaving my car in California and flying to Australia for a long weekend... lol. that's more than a road trip - that's... oh, i think i could manage it in about 5 years, saving up enough. and hopefully we'll all be driving those cool air-pressure driven cars that don't need gasoline by then, so it'll be *really* affordable... :D

(they're "only" $16,000 in France right now, and you can drive for *almost* an hour... or so i heard...)

seriously - it's been years since i've been to Colorado, and it's soooo beautiful in the summer... maybe next time around. :) i'm already thinking about going back to Yellowstone next summer (more on that in a future post).

Brad said...

Yo Hap! Thanks for the comment, thought I'd return the favor. I love the pics on this post. Hopefully saturday we'll get to talk a little more about your trip, I'm curious...Did you find what you were looking for?

Happy said...

that's a very good question... (what was i looking for again?) :)

T said...

Great pics. When my fam & I stayed in Yellow Stone we woke up to a Bison eating right in front of our tent door. We waited the bus sized beast out - and when he left - he also deposited a "bison patty" right in front of our door. Man, when they's HUGE!!!


Amy said...

It would be great to meet you in person, Happy! I happen to be partial to Colorado, but it is beautiful. We just got back from Estes Park last Friday, which is just all-around phenomenal.

Ahhh...I miss the days of road trips. We're moving that direction, but with the three kids in tow we don't get anywhere fast!

Mary Allen said...

Hap, I loved yesterday's genesis and the photos were awesome. I've experienced that awareness of smiling when no one else but God is around. It feels like completeness. But, this was too funny! Bison are closer than they appear! I can't wait to read more.