Trail Tale: Encountering A Wolfpack

A Midwest reader runs into a full wolfpack in Isle Royale National Park

Can you spot the wolves?

Sometimes a reader comes to us with a backpacking tale that reminds us all of why we venture into the wilds in the first place. While on an 8-day trip through isolated and rarely visited Isle Royale National Park, Nina Asunto ran into an entire pack of wolves coming down her trail. (She had a lot of luck, but read our Isle Royale wolf-spotting guide to better your chances).

I'll let her tell the story:

"There were at least five wolves on the trail ahead of us. Afraid I would scare them away, I crept forward as quietly as I could. (...) Before I had caught up, he witnessed two wolves dart into the woods from the trail. Three were still there, and of these, a big gray one was clearly the leader. He looked directly at us and stepped forward on the bridge. It looked to us like he was ensuring that his pack could cross the bridge behind him into the safety of the woods while he kept an eye on us. Another gray wolf ran behind him into the trees, then a tall brown one moved forward to stand behind the first one. The two of them simply stood there and watched us.

Here be wolves...

No one had any idea what to do – including the wolves, it appeared. Everything we had heard and read said that wolves avoid humans and will run when they get wind of people. Fleeting glimpses are all anyone is usually lucky enough to see. There are specific things hikers know to do when encountering bears in the backcountry, but what about a wolf pack? What is the etiquette in this type of situation? There was no passing lane; who had the right of way? Do we offer intel, like an indication of where we saw that lone moose the day before, as a kind of bridge toll? Should we get out our wallets and show them pictures of our dogs? It was unreal, and we just stood there dumbfounded."

To find out what happened, read the rest of the encounter on Asunto's blog page. And if you've had a similarly singular or inspiring moment in the wild, let us know.

—Ted Alvarez

Black Coffee At Sunrise