My buddy Joseph and I were on a backcountry fishing trip and were hammering trout. For anyone who has followed me or my writing, Joseph is the premise behind my book released in March of 2019, “Ten Rules for Finding a Good Hunting Partner”. Though, technically newer in the outdoors, he has made the cut in becoming one of my favorite hunting and fishing partners.
It was a brisk summer morning on a river in northwestern Montana. The pines were lined up along the river as if they were being held back by security, and the morning sun glistened through the dew on the upper branches. It felt as though the trees were paparazzi, there just to capture the beautiful moments of the morning’s fishing exploits. They did not seem to breach a 10 to 15-yard line from the water. The banks were covered in, seemingly, millions of greyish-pinkish and blueish cobblestone shaped river rocks.
Between casting my fly from one eddy to the next, some movement caught my eye through the trees but I was not fast enough to see exactly what it was. My shadow casting began to slow as the thoughts of what sorts of animal may have trotted by. Just then, I caught more motion off to my right through the trees. It looked like a grey tail. “It must be a couple of coyotes”, I said to myself. Minutes later, I saw a lone wolf standing about 5 yards from the edge of the bank, on top of the rocks. It stood like a statue staring at me with ears straight up like antennas.
The wolf was no more than 35 yards from me and though it was beautiful, I was nervous. Even though many people view them as cute and cuddly, they refuse to see the raw strength and viciousness that they can exude. These 125-150-pound dogs have the ability to run at top speeds for miles. If this particular wolf decided to make me its breakfast, then I would not have a snowball’s chance in hell. A few seconds later, two more appear at the edge of the timber and then another.
Joe was about 50 yards down river when he looked over and saw me staring at something. I wish I could have taken a picture of his face when he realized that the thing that I was staring at was a pack of wolves standing 35 yards away staring at me. Even though he has proven his salt in the backcountry, he has a very limited amount of experience in the subject of dealing with predators. He looked as nervous as I felt.
As fast as the wolves showed up, they seemed to disappear. Joe and I came back to camp and all we could seem to talk about were the wolves. We had caught tons of fish and saw so many beautiful sights but what was a close call to us with the wolves was the only thing on our minds. It may have had something to do with the fact that we kept hearing them howl every now and then as we were walking through the woods. Hearing them howl was both amazing and full of excitement, and on the other hand, was very unnerving.
After arriving at camp, we needed to make some executive decisions. Seeing as how we did not have a gun, we decided that it may be best for us to leave the next morning. This decision did not come lightly. I know that I felt like I was giving up and in a big way, felt like a wimp that we were trying to avoid nature at its finest. But I also felt like there are calculated risks and there is “being stupid”. Long story short, I did not want to at least enjoy these wolves so close without some sort of protection.
While laying in the tent we could hear our neighbors screaming throughout the night, and every twig snapping and sound was enough to keep us on edge. Eventually, all of the excitement was enough to tire us to the point of peaceful sleep from exhaustion. During some point in the night, I started to feel a comfortable warmth against my left side but did not think much of it. I thought that Joseph had shifted during the night, but when I opened my eyes, I about defecated myself. Joe had not shifted during the night. I had a large black wolf laying down the length of my body, sleeping as sound as your pet German Shepherd.
“How in the holy hell did this thing get in the tent?” I thought to myself. Upon scanning the tent, I saw that the door was left unzipped. “Did Joe go out during the night to pee or did we leave the door unzipped?” “No. Surely we zipped the door, so it had to be Joe.” The thoughts were racing through my head so fast that I couldn’t control them. I then looked at the door again.
The moon was shining bright through the door with the exception of the shadows of the rest of the pack. Two were laying in front of the door as if to guard us from any outside intruders with one pacing back and forth like a British sentry. This all had me thinking, “We are screwed!” No gun, no bear spray. “What the hell were we thinking?” “We are going to die here in the woods at the teeth of these monsters.”
Having, somewhat of a moment of clarity, I reached over my wolf bed-partner very delicately and tapped Joseph. He raised his head and looked at the wolf sleeping beside us and with wide eyes looked at me silently. I pointed at the other wolves at the door to which he shifted his attention. As if to say “Se la vi”, he shrugged his shoulders laid his head back down. “What the hell?” I thought. “How can he not be bothered by the fact that we have a group of death machines in our laps? Literally!” Eventually, I came to the same conclusion as Joseph. If we were going to die, then I suppose it is best that it happens in the places that I love. I laid my head back down and closed my eyes.
I then opened my eyes again for one last look around and everything was different. “Where am I?” “This isn’t the tent.” I then looked beside me because I still felt the warmth of the wolf and realized that it was my wife cuddled next to me. I was in my bedroom. My heart was still thumping out of my chest as though I was still in the dream. It all felt so real. “Was my subconscious mind trying to tell me something?” So many thoughts streamed through my mind. For the next hour as I laid there in bed, I felt as though I was drinking from a fire hose.
For the life of me I couldn’t find meaning in my life-like dream. Not knowing where the dream came from or how it transpired has left me in preponderance for the past few days. I still am not sure what the dream was supposed to mean for me but what I seem to have settled on is that I believe that I have some sort of inner fears that I need to overcome. Perhaps we all have those fears. Are you afraid of what goes bump in the night? Do you get driver panic or fear of flying? I have a fear of apex predators. I don’t let this stop me from going into the places that they live but occasionally I find myself laying there in my sleeping bag to the point of exhaustion until I can drift off to sleep. This dream, though will be a work in progress, has taught me that I need to live in the moment and not worry about what “might” happen. Chances are that what we are afraid of happening will not come to fruition. I hope that my dream will help others to overcome their fears, relax and live in the moment and enjoy life.