It was already
midday when I entered a picturesque bay dotted with islets. The
water was calm and black -- the bay was asking to be photographed.
However, the tide was high and I had to press on if I were to get up
the creek at bay’s end before the shallows and the rapids would make it
totally impassable. Paddling up the creek, against the current, I squeezed
through several shallow areas, likely impenetrable at
low tide. The tide was already ebbing when I got through the last shallow,
against a powerful flow, finding my way between large rocks, some
exposed, some submerged. This rapid was likely completely impassable
except at high tide. Even now, there was barely enough water to get my
through without scratching the bottom or getting wedged between the
Valley of the Wolves Entrance
current had eased and I entered a narrow valley, where the creek
expanded into a lake covered with small grassy islets. I was
moving ahead very cautiously: the water was shallow and logs, branches
and rocks were visible beneath the surface. I had almost reached the
other end of the lake when a movement some distance away caught my
eye. A gray animal was crossing the lake, moving through the
shallow water from one inlet to another. Based on the size, this
could only be a wolf!
soon as the wolf saw me, instead of running away it rushed a few
steps toward me, paused as if to get a better look and remember all the
details, and then completed the crossing disappearing into the forest.
Almost immediately, a howl reached me from the shore, soon
picked up by the rest of the pack on the opposite side of the lake. For
a while, the howling was going on. Judging by the sound, the separated
wolf was moving ahead of me along the shore, toward the rest of the
pack. Soon, with the pack reunited, the sound reached a new high. I
had a strong feeling that they were telling me in no uncertain terms
that I was an intruder trespassing on their land, and that I was not
I explored the rest of the lake searching for a creek
entrance and found that I could not continue up the creek any further:
it ended with a waterfall. I started looking for a campsite on the
lake. Soon, I found a large grassy islet with a small patch of trees at
its highest point, and a flat area among them, just enough for my
little tent. Old bear poop in the area reminded me to keep my food well
away from the camp. After settling down and enjoying a well-deserved
dinner, I fell asleep in anticipation of a day ahead.
next few days, I explored the lake shore and the creek above the
waterfall. Apparently, the grassy islets were actually deposits of
rocks and silt covered with soil and overgrown with tall grass. The
grass was hiding nasty holes between the rocks, some at
least waist deep. An animal trail from the waterfall and up along
creek was well-developed, with frequent deposits of bear poop
indicating its current user. This good trail ended at a large slippery
crossing the creek, with water rushing below.
Log Bridging the Creek
would have used this natural bridge to cross over, if I had claws like
a bear. I did not, and so I returned to the waterfall.
Coho salmon was jumping up the
creek, trying to get through the waterfall, and I spent some time
observing and photographing, never stopping being amazed
by their determination.
Coho Salmon in Flight
some point, I was sitting on a log on a shore, with another log
in front of me, used as a support for my camera. I had not realized at
that time that I was almost invisible behind the log.
Suddenly, something large and gray jumped in front of me: a wolf!
Wolf Blocking My View
it did not see, smell or hear me: most likely, water rushing through
the waterfall had overpowered other noises, while my smell did not
spread in the air saturated with moisture. The wolf crossed the creek
in front of me and started exploring the water, checking pools for
stranded or hiding fish. With its tale between the legs, it looked like
a submissive animal, definitely not head of a pack.
The Wolf Checking the Pools
kept photographing, and after a couple of minutes the wolf had finally
noticed me. No rush to run away: same as the wolf I had met before, this one
took its time to check me out, then moved into the forest and soon the
pack's howl spread all over, overpowering even the waterfall.
The Wolf Had Finally Noticed Me
morning, the nature treated me to a beautiful dense milky fog
covering all of the valley and creating picturesque images.
Fog in the Valley of the Wolves
had stayed in the area for a couple more days, hoping to meet the
wolves again and record their howling. Unfortunately, I did not get a
chance to see them, although was hearing the howling from time to time,
at a distance, too weak for a proper recording.
I have visited
the valley again. No wolves, although the signs of their presence,
headless carcases of salmon, were all along the creek. At the end, I
had given up, packed up and was ready to depart when I had
finally heard a lonely wolf in the bushes, likely no more than 30
meters away. Apparently, this time the wolves had not been aware of my
presence until this animal discovered me and alerted the pack. The
voice was near and clear, and I had recorded this farewell message from the masters of the Valley of the Wolves.
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