Rumbling over a semi-4WD rural Colorado road, I wasn’t quite sure if we were ever going to get to our destination before nightfall, even though it was late July and the sun would probably linger until 8:30 or so. JRS was vocally displeased and would’ve been more so if she wasn’t with one of her good friends, A. My friend and A’s mom, L, told me they’d never been on this unpaved, pock-marked road before but she was sure this led to where we wanted to go. We also had to crawl along, because L’s niece and son were following along in a much smaller coupe that probably didn’t have the all-wheel drive that my minivan had.
Our vehicles jostled and rocked through a winding and ascending forest, until it crested over an intersection on a plateau. The road ahead traveled along the a ridge until it looked like it would descend. The crossroad headed further up on one side and to unknown terrain on the other. We still weren’t sure where to go, but we figured since our destination was in a valley, we should probably keep going straight.
If we were lost, at least it was scenic along the way:
Luckily, our choice proved correct. In the next fifteen minutes, we arrived at Mission:Wolf, a sanctuary established to rescue wolves and wolf-dogs from owners who were unable to care for them or outright abused them. Presently there are 52 wolves housed in spacious natural setting pens. One of its founders, Kent Weber, is still on site taking care of these beautiful creatures, along with a volunteer staff from all over the world. Because of its remote location, the prospect of starting this sanctuary seemed like a “Mission:Impossible.” Thus, the adapted name of “Mission:Wolf” was born.
Our crew stayed in one of the onsite tipis, which was a few steps above staying in a tent, because it was roomy enough for the six of us, plus probably a few more. It also included worn but comfortable mattresses and platforms, along with comforters for warmth.
We arrived, but rainclouds were gathering above. Being the good Coloradans we are, we told ourselves, “Yeah, it’ll probably rain, but it won’t last long.”
Well…let’s just say our dinner was more watery than we wanted, but we managed to have some s’mores before the fire literally extinguished.
The next morning, we had a much better (and sunnier) day for breakfast:
Later on, we toured the pens and went into the particular one that has the most “domesticated” wolves. These three – Magpie (aka Maggie), Abraham and Zeab – provide an interactive element to the educational programs Weber and his volunteers offer around the country. We were part of a larger than normal crowd that carefully walked into the pen, sat in designated areas, and waited for the wolves to approach us, hands open in front. If they seemed to like and trust someone, they would come closer and lick their faces and their teeth. That’s why we had to keep our mouths open in a forced smile – otherwise, they could take any gesture that deviated from this as a threat.
Although I went in to the pen and petted all three of the wolves, I just couldn’t bear to have my teeth cleaned by a wolf tongue. Luckily it didn’t happen to me, but it did with L’s kids, A and J.
Here are some more pictures of the three “ambassador” wolves:
If you do have a love for these wondrous animals, Mission Wolf is located near Gardner, Colorado, about an hour southeast of Westcliffe and due east from the Great Sand Dunes National Park, over a few fourteener mountains. It is worth the arduous drive to see these wolves and the work the dedicated staff commit to.