Jun 22, 2011

Solstice Wolf

I spent a whole summer up here and never saw a bear. Or a wolf. Less than two months after getting up here this year and I've got both of them in my sights, plus a mamma moose and a baby moose and a bull moose. Ever since I saw those dark black wolves skipping across two feet of snow on Squirrel Lake at about 80 mph back in Wisconsin, I've been yearning... aching... for another encounter with the canine rex of the woods, and on the longest day of the year, my wish was granted.
Click pic for big version

I was out in the remotes, driving a hiker to the far end of the park, when we came around a corner and saw it running directly at us, up the roadway... It's a baby moose, was my first thought, but it quickly stopped it's trot and wheeled to the north, escaping our sight up into the brush... And there was no question, that was the closest I'd ever been to a timber wolf, and it was a lunker. I stopped the truck where it ran in and whispered out... here, chip chip. whoo whoo whoo...

Nothing. The woods shimmered, we're hiding him, get along, so long, so long.

So we proceeded, never got a picture, goose-bumps both. I told the hiker, most folks never get that close, I've not done it, no, that's a rare thing you just experienced... I rolled down the window and gave a loud yip into the wilds. That's something most don't get to see, that's a good omen for your hike. We both smiled... We knew it was special.

I marked the mileage and on my way back through I stopped on the spot... a straightaway a mile past a moose pond. No track though. No sign. A ghost like all the rest, probably... A long gravel road and just me and a truck and the silence. Three miles back to the turn, 14 miles to the road home. Nothing. Maybe he was watching me. Nope. Alright let's go... 

I took a sip of coffee and put the truck in gear, went around probably three corners and then I saw him again, running in the same direction but away from the truck this time. He was at least twice as far away this time, but you could still tell how big he was. A tall beast. Lanky. His head would have reached up over the front of the truck, easy. The legs on this thing... an easy trot, gliding west.

But this time it held the road, finally turning back and looking at me, idling in the road. I got my camera out and fired off a few shots, blindly out the window, mesmerized. Smokey mixtures of grey with red shoots out of the back, it gazed back at me with a calm curiosity, then trotted off to the north again... hiding out until the roadway was cleared... The same wolf twice! Or maybe it was a different member of the pack, if there was a pack on this long and rainy day, this solstice, noon exactly.
Nice print, notice the next step in the upper right.

I caught my breath and pulled up to where it dissolved into the woods, put the truck in park and got out, leaving the door wide open. Up ahead I caught the tracks in the shoulder of the forest road, big wolf tracks, almost as big as my hand out-stretched. There was moose tracks on the same line, too. Was my boy following the moose? Coincidence? Hard to say. Back to the truck and home, full of hope, excitement, coffee. Back darkness, today we appreciate the light.