One Man's Paradise

A silent encounter

After our work was done for today we took a little hike celebrating another great day. First we followed snowmobile tracks to minimize breaking through the soft snow. I took some pictures of the sun peaking through some spruce trees above Puntilla Mountain. In the shadow the snow was corny. Animal tracks were visible all over the place. I followed in the foot steps of a caribou that were a few days old. The low sunlight made those tracks stand out beautifully. At one point I thought I saw an otter track. It looked like bicycle track. Just a straight line, barely visible foot prints. I took some pictures, fascinated by the variety of tracks. So much life in those cold hills! I also noticed that my friends had chosen a different path. I was by myself.

After a while I started heading back. This time straight down to the lake. The closer I came to the frozen lake the more alders were hiding underneath the snow. In places I would break in, hip deep. My bunny boots filled with snow, which slowly melted, resulting in cold feet.

Looking for the best way to get out of this mess, I noticed some motion not too far from me. Within a split second I realized what I see: a grown wolf! Yellow with a dull red and gray, a big, bushy tail. No question, bigger than a German shepherd. He or she just trotted through the underbrush, in no hurry, without making a sound, effortless.

How long had this magnificent animal observed me, struggling through the snow? Was it a lone wolf? Don’t they always travel in packs? What if? Did I stand a chance? I just had a camera, not even a pocket knife. Movie clips went through my head. I watched my back.

The silent encounter lasted for a second or two.

I am happy for this brief moment.


3 thoughts on “A silent encounter

  1. Nothing charges the Alaskan atmosphere like the opportunity to view such majestic wildlife in the wild! I haven’t seen any wolves around Talkeetna but I have seen them in Denali NP&P. I was within ten feet of a large Timber wolf while camping at the Teklanika campsite in the Park back in 2000. I was first up one morning and was getting breakfast organized for my tent mates. I was boiling water and when finished I put some instant coffee in a mug, added hot water and mixed it. I left it on the table and went back to rummaging around to locate the oatmeal. I turned back to see if the coffee was cool enough for a sip and within ten feet of me was a large albeit rangy Timber wolf with the most incredible yellow eyes; he was wearing a large collar and was sniffing towards my coffee. We observed each other for what seemed like minutes but most likely was just seconds; I then slowly turned away to grab my camera and when I turned around he had vanished. Later a ranger told me he was the alpha male of one of the packs that den around Teklanika; the collar was a radio transmitter the naturalists use to track the wolf’s location and range. Strangely I felt no fear during the encounter; just awe and wonder to be so close to such a magnificent apex predator. I’ve since seen wolves in the Park and heard them while camping in Kachemak Bay State Park in the southern Kenai; you were most privileged to see such an amazing mammal!

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