05 Jul, 2009 The Long Hike Back

The dreaded day has arrived, breaking camp, and fully reloading our gear, to begin our way back to the camp, twenty kilometers away. Dreaded, because, even though we have been eating enough to shave our weight down a bit, our packs are still way over limit. A couple of hours later, Carl and I were still strapping on the last items as we struggled to our feet. Even though we split our gear into two trips on the way in, we wanted to go as far as possible in one load. Once we stepped away, we didn’t want to be coming back. Five hours passed, and with many stops along the way, we set up camp along Lake Hazen. We had covered good ground and were satisfied. As we where preparing to turn in, Carl’s eye caught something at the base of the bluff. An arctic wolf staring at us and our yellow tent, no more than a hundred feet away. He was quickly joined by a second and a third wolf. As they approached us and split to each side of the tent, I grabbed the camera while Carl grabbed whatever defenses we had. They moved silently, sniffing, stopping, coming to the tent, trying to figure us out. We were filled with a sensation of mixed fear and wonder. Beauty and beast all in one, they moved on as if never here. What an experience, Carl and I stood quietly for a while, soaking it in. After a while, when the elations subdued, we figured we had better turn in. But not yet! One more show before bed. A lone wolf cruised in to check us out. As she was leaving I tried a feeble howl directed towards the large wolf. She stopped, looked back at us, and answered with four majestic howls that echoed off the mountain walls. Then silence… she padded away through the arctic terrain. As we turned in for the night, we lay in our sleeping bags, finding it difficult to sleep, after such an unbelievable encounter.

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