From my notes:
Friday, 3/3/17 10:30 PM
I saw a wolf tonight.
Geoff and I were getting wood just after arriving in camp. Daazhraii was curled up on my sleeping bag in the tent beside the stove, beat, as he always is, after a cold night ride down here. Geoff had taken down two trees and I had already limbed them when the chainsaw ran out of gas. Seeing no further work for myself for a few minutes, I started walking back to the tent to check on the pup. The tent was only about fifty yards away, so I didn’t even bother to put my overcoat back on.
I was several yards down the trail when my headlamp caught a pair of eyes, green-blue, about as far away as the tent, and seemingly on the trail. Daazhraii? I thought, (his eyes are that color by headlamp), and then immediately discarded the notion: the eyes were much too far off the ground. Vadzaih? Surely it’s a vadzaih, I thought next, but I think I knew better already. The profile had none of a caribou’s boxiness.
It was very still, and I stood frozen for a while, locked into those glowing eyes. I thought I could make out the silhouette of a sickle tail curving down to brush the snow.
“Geoff?” I said, “There’s something on the lake – really close”
“What does it look like?”
“Maybe a wolf. Probably a vadzaih?” I said as I began to back slowly away.
There was more, but it’s a blur: getting back to Geoff and the snowmachine, watching in horror as the animal loped toward the tent and Daazhraii – holding a tight hope that the puppy would stay inside – keeping my eyes on the silent, silky-graceful shadow as it slipped through puddles of moonlight and the dark tree-shadows of the clearing behind the tent – the sudden light and roar of the sno-go as we crashed through flying ice crystals toward camp. I stood on the seat and pointed at the wolf as it casually loped out of sight. Geoff never saw it at all – his memory is of the fear in my voice.
Geoff fired the pistol once after the animal was away, just to be sure to scare it enough that it wouldn’t come back. I held my hands over Daazhraii’s ears on our cot, still shaking from the adrenaline.
We checked the prints later, and there was no mistake – it was a single, large wolf that had come to investigate our camp. It stood and stared at me from about 120 feet away.
I have seen wolf tracks often, especially this winter. There was one memorable incident last year where a wolf crossed my ski-trail within about fifteen minutes of me; I saw the tracks as I was returning to camp and they ran right over my own outgoing tracks. Twice now, I have heard wolves howling. It is eerie and beautiful and strangely welcoming: Join us here in this vast, glorious country, they might be singing. Until tonight, though, a part of me did not believe wolves were beings of substance: certainly they would come to lay prints as wide as my palms in the snow, but they would then disappear as quick a breath, invisible and incorporeal. Just phantoms in the silent winter woods. It was like coming face to face with a ghost.
Strange that the wolf came across the lake while we had the sno-go and the chainsaw running, loud and bright. Strange how it let me get so close and then ran toward the tent and the camp. Geoff thinks it was curious about Daazhraii, and I have to agree. The puppy will not be going out alone tonight.