First Encounter With Wild Wolves
My first encounter with wild wolves was back in the 2004 in Ontario Canada.
Tori, Lupis and I packed our bags in our Jeep and headed up the highway to a remote park just north of Kingston Ontario. About a six hour drive from where we lived in Niagara Falls.
The drive up the 401 Highway in Southern Ontario was thankfully uneventful. Arriving around 09:00hrs I unpacked the gear.
I checked into the ranger station and got the usual “You aren’t seriously going out there for two week without shoes are you?”
“Of course not” I lied. “I have them in my pack for later”.
The morning sun shone brightly through the bright blue sky. Sunglasses protected my eyes and my black boonie hat gave shade to my shaved head. The powdery ground felt soft under foot. The heavy pack held me fast to the ground with no chance of floating away.
“Wruff”, “Wruff” Lupis barked, with a glint in his eye, and large green pack strapped on his back. He was raring to go as it was only the second long trip of the year.
Leaving the security of civilisation behind, the area quickly led to beautiful wilderness. The trail led me to a large canyon with fragrant mosses, and giant boulders strewn about. Trees jutted up along the moss-covered canyon walls.
The canyon gave way to a boardwalk as the ground started to feel soggy. The old, worn wood felt cool under my feet. Up ahead along the trail, a giant rock, the size of a pickup truck sat near the trail. The current trail, curled around it.
Approaching the large boulder, Tori remarked “Look at that!” pointing to the base of the rock. “The old trail is still under that rock!” she examined bunch of boards stuck under the rock. Some time ago this large boulder must have come loose from the canyon walls and rolled into place overtop of the trail. “Imagine how cool it would have been if we were near here when it came loose” Tori said.
The trail snaked through more lowland swampy areas which felt cool to the touch, and somewhat squishy between the toes. There was a unique aroma of cedar from the area.
Large birch trees reached for the sky from the damp, forest floor. Several of the trees looked like they had an hourglass shape cut into them – beaver marks. Very common around swampy areas. The air was thick and warm.
During long hikes, one of the more fascinating things to notice is changing terrain. Starting out in large forests of poplar, larch, and pines the forest give way to open grassy fields. These led into canyons filled with large rock crevices and moss.
Trees and forest changed again to a large open field with a giant rock sticking out of the countryside. After a long, 6hrs of traversing valleys, moving through fields and climbing hills, I decided it was time to stop for lunch.
The afternoon sun had warmed the giant rock, which was covered in thin, multi-coloured mosses and gnarled trees devoid of leaves. The silence was beautiful. No cars, no aircraft or farm equipment, just total silence except for Lupis’s panting and our own movement. I removed my and Lupis’s pack, then sat down to relax. Tori prepared lunch. The scenery from the large rock was incredible. Vast forested areas dotted with small lakes were all that could be seen, right off into the horizon.
With Lunch eaten, I packed all my gear, put Lupis’s backpack on and hit the trails. The other side of the hill led to my first glimpse of a large, clear water lake.
Approaching the lake, I realised that it was actually two small lakes which lay in the middle of the woods, and came together in a small area like the silhouette of a young couple kissing. The clear water was beautiful to behold, and shimmered in the afternoon sunlight.
A plank bridge had been built over the narrows between the two lakes. The water looked fairly deep and was still. I took my first step over the wooden plank, and to my surprise the plank sank beneath the surface of the water! The floating plank bridge could not support the weight of a fully equipped backpacker. I had hoped that it wouldn’t sink too deep during my traverse.
My thoughts on the predicament were interrupted by a loud splashing sound as Lupis jumped headlong into the water beside the plank bridge and swam across the narrows. His tail moving like a rudder to keep him straight, while his backpack and it’s contents flooded.
I stepped onto the plans and they sank down a good 40cm into the water and thankfully stopped there. I waded across the bridge hoping I wouldn’t fall in and waited on the other side for Tori to attempt her crossing.
Tori completed the crossing and the plank bridge bobbed back to the surface, sending ripples into both lakes. The bridge lay in wait for it’s next victim like a crocodile. Silently hoping some unsuspecting hikers will come close enough and haphazardly step onto the bridge and go for a dip.
The long days hike came to a close as the forested, sandy pathway led to a large open area with a small diamond shaped plastic sign with the outline of a tent on it. “We’re here” I said out loud. “Good, because I’m beat” Tori remarked as she dropped her pack onto the picnic table.
I set up the camouflaged dome tent with the door facing the beautiful, calm lake. The view out the door was breathtaking.
Unzipping the tent, Lupis rushed out to do his morning business and I climbed out and had a stretch. Tori was still passed out in her sleeping bag from the night before.
I wandered over to the picnic bench and sat on the top, with my feet on the seats, looking out across the bay. I never tire of the beauty of nature.
Lupis hopped up on the table, and I put on his collar and long 3m lead for the morning.
Lupis’s ears came to attention, his mouth closed and he took a very alert posture. I looked out to see what had caught his attention to see the most unusual thing I have ever encountered.
Across the bay, as silent as the sun hangs in the sky, six wolves appeared. They were all large, with mostly grey fur which glistened in the early morning light.
Seemingly oblivious to our presence, they each moved silently to the waters edge and took a drink. The water ripped across the small bay and each wolfs tongue lapped up the clear, cool water.
I sat in total silence in awe of their magnificence. I didn’t move, I didn’t breathe – I just watched.
One of the wolves looked up across the bay and caught sight of Lupis and I sitting on the picnic table. As quick and silently as they appeared out of the woods, they were gone. In the blink of an eye they appeared and disappeared. Ghostly apparitions representing the essence of the wild. The experience lasted no more than a minute at most.
Sitting in awe of the experience was almost mystical. They moved as a group with such grace. They made almost no noise.
Tori had just poked her head out of the tent to see the last wolf leave the bay and disappear into the woods. She said “Was that a wolf just drinking across the bay?”
“Yes” I quietly replied still trying to compute what I had just witnessed.
The rest of the two weeks in the wilderness of Frontenac Provincial Park were uneventful compared to the first morning. Encountering wild wolves a very, very rare occurrence. Hikers and outdoors people rarely get a glimpse of these magnificent and awe-inspiring creatures of the wilderness. It was an experience that few people are fortunate to have in an entire lifetime.