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.

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - OUR WILD WORLD - CHARLOTTE GRUNEAU is a Cana­dian wildlife pho­tog­ra­pher liv­ing in Bri­tish Columbia.

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.

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