Walking with the Wolves

Gunflint Lake is ideal right now for walking. The ice is at least sixteen inches thick, and it only has a smattering of snow on it. Traction is excellent in most places, but in a few spots I need to watch more closely, as it is smooth as glass beneath the dusting. Walking on the lake in these conditions is a great opportunity.

Greg and I took advantage of that on a recent afternoon outing. The sun was out, but we did have a bit of a north wind. We bundled up and took off with binoculars and camera. The first wildlife we noticed was a deer, carefully making its way south from Canada. I imagine that walking with those sharp little hooves is a bit like being on the spikes of high heels. I'm glad that my mukluks have a solid rubber footprint with plenty of texture. Luckily for the deer, we didn't see her fall. But when we later studied her tracks, it did look as though some spots were a bit slippery. It is to her advantage at that point to have four legs.

We hiked on land some, and visited a beaver pond on the old East End trail. I hadn't been there since before the fire in '07. It was wonderful to be back. The lay of the land is so different, since the fire. But the pond itself still had a serene feeling about it. I recalled skiing by it one year, and seeing three otter slides--one nice and clean (the living room?), one strewn with food bits (the kitchen?) and one that was quite clearly the bathroom. There were no visible signs of otter this day, but I hope that they still frequent the area.

On the return trip, we had the good fortune to spot a couple of wolves on the ice. They were coming out from the shoreline just to the east of our place. Then we could see three more coming, and it got exciting. They seemed to be running in our direction, so we dropped down to our knees, in hopes of looking less intimidating. Shortly, a sixth one joined the others, and they began to frolic and tumble in the snow. Greg was watching through the binoculars, and at one point he laughed. "Dogpile!" he said quietly. Even though the wolves were still far off, we didn't want to chance losing the moment by making human noise.

Doesn't everyone have a photo or two like this? "See those two dots? Those are wolves!" or moose or deer....whatever the wildlife. I did my best to photograph and crop the photo, to try and make the wolves more clear. This is the best I can come up with. I was watching intensely, with camera ready, in hopes that they would come closer. No luck, as they eventually became a bit suspicious of us, and decided it was time to head to Canada. Off they ran, the pack of six. It was exciting just to see that part happen.

We got up, dusted off our cold knees, and headed for home. There's nothing like having winter back and being able to see and hear the wolves again.