Spending some alone time with a pack of wolves
When Charlotte Gruneau set off into the wilderness on her own, she ended up with a life-changing encounter.
Everything got soaked, I couldn’t get a fire going and there was no phone signal.
Photography and connecting with nature have been my salvation during a lifetime of anxiety and depression. After a particularly challenging period last year, I felt inexplicably compelled to step outside my comfort zone. I decided I would hike alone into the bush at the northern end of Vancouver Island, in search of a coastal grey wolf. I had never seen one before and had always dreamt of it.
To begin my wolf pilgrimage, I walked for hours with nothing but the thoughts in my head and the sound of my breath. My pack was heavy and, never having done anything like this before, I felt slow and inexperienced. Honestly, I was terrified.
The first night was pitch black, with a torrential downpour. To keep my pack light, I only brought an open tarp – no tent. I remember laying there, thinking: ‘what am I doing?’ Everything got soaked. I couldn’t get a fire going and there was no phone signal. Still, despite being uncomfortable and afraid, I kept telling myself this was something I needed to do.
The next morning, as I looked out onto the beach, what happened next was nothing short of miraculous. A pack of 10 wild wolves marched towards me like a band of guardians. As I sat in the treeline equipped with my camera, knife and bear spray, I was no longer scared. I felt more alive than ever before.
I watched the wolves ‘dance’ and run along the beach, many of them pausing to look at me. One wolf stopped, curiously titled its head and took a few steps towards me. I said “Hey” in a calm, confident voice. We both stayed still and stared into each other’s eyes for quite some time. I felt drunk with adrenaline – like falling in love.
The pack eventually moved down the beach, while two stayed behind and began howling to each other. The morning sun lit up the sand with piles of washed-up kelp, ocean mist and a rainbow appeared in the distance. I couldn’t believe what had happened. It changed my life. Overnight, I went from terrifying self-doubt to a feeling of strength and assurance. That was the day I was accepted into the wolf pack.
Some of the coastal wolves seemed just as interested in Charlotte as she was in them.