Friday, October 22, 2010


The drive to the wolf preserve in Divide took the line of four cars nearly an hour from our cabins in Manitou Springs. The vehicles were filled with old and new friends, and all were there to celebrate the 50th birthday of mutual friend, L.

Every one of the ladies there loved L, but none so much as V, who put the whole thing together as a surprise. This birthday was special to L in so many ways.

As I followed the car ahead of me, nestled between the yellow line on the left and the white line separating the highway from the shoulder on the right, my mind wandered to the evening before. While all of the ladies pitched in here and there with the dinner preparations, L had revealed that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and had surgery planned in two weeks time.

Some already knew but I was startled with the news.  I watched L as she smiled and joked with everyone, her mood positive with life, and I began to relax despite myself. The margaritas and wine were flowing, the ambiance was joyous, female voices rose in song with the tunes coming from the stereo, and all was still well with the world. L's mood set the tone of the night and I was all too willing to follow. As I continued to watch, L led the group, now sitting or reclining on the assorted chairs and the hollowed-out old sofa, drinks in hand, in singing some old songs everyone seemed to know. Soon, the joyous voices were spent, and the conversation turned to mutual stories, each one more humorous than the last. Filled with liquid spirits and much joviality, the smiles and tear-stained cheeks in copious amounts left us all gasping with mirth. It had been years since I had experienced so much fun with such a wonderful group of women.

The car ahead of me suddenly signaled and turned left, and I turned as well. My car was almost immediately ensconced in a microburst of brown dust billowing out from the cars in front. After nearly a mile of twisting turns, the rise and the fall of the road came to an end in a small parking lot. Nine ladies brightly piled out of the four cars and headed in through the gate and up the dirt packed driveway to the preserve's entrance and visitor center.

Waiting for our tour time turned out to be quite easy as we browsed the gift shop selections of prints, stuffed animals, postcards, and other assorted "green" lupine items. Finally, our tour was ready.

However, before we were allowed through the door, we were given very strict parameters about viewing the still wild animals on the other side. Duly cautioned, the nine of us filed outside with a jumble of other expectant observers.

Before us lay very large fenced areas peppered with tall Blue Spruce pines, copses of shivering-leaved aspens, and stony humps of rock formations. We followed the tour guide carefully throughout the sanctuary, staying away from fences, and quietly keeping to the suggested sides of the wide path. All of us seemed to be in awe of the great regal beasts lounging or pacing their areas with watchful, golden eyes.

Domiciled in the enclosures were Arctic Wolves, Timber Wolves, Wolf-dogs, Mexican grey wolves, Coyotes, and Red Foxes. All of the inhabitants, mostly paired up in each compund, were astonishingly beautiful as well, and completely at ease in their new homes. While walking, we learned that the sanctuary had been started in 1993 when Darlene Kobobel rescued Chinook, a wolf dog (wolf-hybrids were popular back in the late 1980's and early 1990's) and promptly created a rescue center for the unwanted and unmanageable wolf-dogs.
This soon grew and,after some fits and jumps, money issues, and relocation obstacles, she opened the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center in June 2003. It continues to expand with the need for the preservation of, and the education about, these misunderstood - feral, savage, tremendously remarkable and beautiful - creatures.

After walking the extent of the paths, the tour group was soon gathered tightly together by the enclosures near the exit. The tour guide gently asked the entire group to be totally silent for a moment, and to listen to the sounds of the inhabitants of the sanctuary.

Then she softly asked us to follow her lead as she said goodbye to the great beasts we had just visited. Her voice rose in a solitary wail, rising in both pitch and volume, and we heard the lonely return salutation of the coyote in front of us. As our voices joined hers, the most amazing sound greeted us - the bays and howls of all of the wolves, coyotes and foxes in the circle around us, started to rise and fall magically amidst the pine trees and aspens. As the choir of beasts and humans ebbed, we all stood quietly with our breaths held. We had just communed with primeval itself, and our joined voices were lifted off into the trees by the wind.

I still get goose bumps reliving that wonderful day, and of that magical weekend of women, bonded together by our mutual love, and respect for, L.

If you would like more information on the wolf sanctuary, please visit this link: