Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Pack

Whiteness. That's all I remember for much of that night. Just the white that covered the road, the van and all the other vehicles on the highway. It hung in the air and when you opened the window, it invaded your throat making you gasp at the iciness of it.

It was a strange winter storm for the lower mainland in British Columbia but it wasn't unheard of. What was unheard of, was the fact that I was in it, sitting in the van beside my step father. He had ventured out before the storm to pick me up for my weekend visit and while it had threatened to snow before we left; we never expected it to be this bad.

The traffic, already crawling at a snail's pace, ground to a halt as a road block of RCMP officers stopped everyone. They were bundled up in thick parkas and gloves, but they still looked like they were freezing. My step dad rolled down his window and he asked, "What's wrong officer?"

"The main highway to Hope has been closed. We are telling people to either turn around or go up the alternate highway."

"That's still open!"

"Last we heard it was. The storm hasn't reached it as badly yet."

I kept quiet but prayed he would turn around and just take me home. The last thing I wanted was to be trapped in the middle of nowhere in this weather. My step dad ground his teeth in thought and then turned to me, "Do you want to try?"

Being only 14,I simply nodded to keep him from being disappointed. As he pulled the big, yellow van onto the ramp to the back highway, I turned to the window and rested my forehead against it.

I breathed out, my vision obscurred with a thick fog before I watched it slowly disappear under the heat of the vent. I stared at the few taillights that pushed through the thick snow; the road nearly invisible. Other travellers who were braving the near white out conditions.

I spent the drive in silence, waiting for something to happen. I peered into each car we passed that had slid into the ditch and made sure no one was trapped in them before I tore my eyes from ditch, praying that we wouldn't find ourselves in it.

Finally, my eyes grew heavy as the miles slid by...

"Sirena, wake up."

The voice was sharp, urgent and it pulled me from my sleep instantly. I jerked awake, grabbed the door and feared for the worst - maybe our van was sliding into a ditch, maybe something even worse was happening.

What I saw took my breath away and this time, as I leaned my head against the cold window, I held my breath, terrified that I would lose sight of this enchantment.

I wondered if I was still dreaming but I knew it was real and tears stung my eyes at the emotion choking my throat.

The snow had stopped falling but the frost still hung in the night air like diamonds twinkling in the moonlight that was pushing through the cloud cover. We were alone on the highway, our headlights breaking through the darkness but beside us the snow caught the moonlight and glowed with an eerie beauty.

Panting through it were 15 wolves, their heavy gray coats glistening with the melting snow, their strong feet landing directly into the footsteps of the animal before them. They panted as they worked, their tongues lolling, their ears perked forward and their tails held straight behind them.

I was only watching them from behind a car window but I felt drawn to the wolves as they pushed through the stretch of flat snow between the road and the forest. Despite the cold, the loneliness of the highway, despite what had driven them from the forest, all of the wolves look happy. I wanted to have my step dad pull over. Wanted to get out and watch them for a while but before I could even ask, we were already pulling past them.

I craned my neck, trying to watch them for as long as I could and when they finally faded from sight, I realized that my cheeks were wet from my tears.

You may be wondering why I started this post with that story but it is one of the first times I had ever seen a whole pack in the wild. I grew up in some pretty âmazing places and while I had seen lone wolves before, I had never seen a whole pack. I felt truly blessed that day because I saw something so beautiful and so spectacular. I think it was that moment that I fell completely in love with wolves and they are my favorite animal to this day.

In fact, I used to have a reoccurring dream about wolves that started shortly after that fateful night but I will save that for tomorrow. For today, I just wanted to share my wolf story with you to get you interested in what I will be sharing in the next few days and that will be my visit to the wolf centre. As you can imagine, it was the highlight of my vacation and if I could have spent more than one day there, I would have.

So a story today, a dream tomorrow and then the experience of seeing the wolves at the wolf center shortly after that.

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