Montana Wolf

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Miracles of Boggy Draw

Stark Beauty

I made my way up the miles of gravel road above Dolores, hoping memory would kick in when I came to the hidden turnoff for my aspen-magic loop through Boggy Draw. I have camped there for several weeks at a time; hiked for miles through ponderosa and oak and sat by glassy ponds. It's not one of those "sexy" places with killer views of spine-tingling mountaintops, so it doesn't draw crowds. I like it that way. It makes it easier to meet up with the wild ones.

Trail to Dad

Teak and I jumped from the truck and started down the draw. I immediately saw elk sign: fresh scat, tracks of cows and calves, myriad rubs and chews on aspen. I'd never seen elk here, but I'd never been here in December, when the road was usually closed for snow. The longer I walked, the more elk sign. This was obviously their wintering grounds. I was thrilled, as I continued my several mile loop in reverse. Given that adverse weather was due to arrive, I wanted to take advantage of sunshine and stillness. This meant that I came to the stunning aspen groves first, where I had spread my dad's ashes years earlier; I figured the old Iowa farmer might enjoy the trees he never saw in person.

I had just passed the stately ponderosa where I knew wild turkeys to roost, and was wondering out loud where, exactly, Dad was? The barren winter forest look so different from the lush green where I had left him. That's when I heard a flock of Red Crossbills. I stopped, listened and looked. At my feet were some of the largest elk tracks I had ever seen. On the trees were gargantuan bull elk rubs. I smiled. "Hi Dad," I said, "Hanging out with the old bulls these days, eh?" It couldn't have been more perfect. I mingled with the spirits for awhile, ever watchful for the black bears I knew frequented the draw.

I continued on, mystified by a large set of canine tracks that were following the elk tracks. It was a huge track, the size of my fist... the size of a track I had come to recognize as wolf in Montana. It clearly had claws, which ruled out lion. I ignored it for awhile, attributing my sighting as wishful-wolf thinking. But it kept criss-crossing the elk. I stopped and photographed, laying my large truck key next to it for scale. Large song dog, perhaps, but how I wish it were the lonely howler. O to will the wolf back to Colorado.

My walk ended as the winds grew blustery. I sat by a favorite pond but didn't see the elusive muskrat. I picked up a few beer cans shot full of bullet holes and reluctantly climbed into the truck. I started to drive away but stopped. Three towering aspen, like points of a triangle, beckoned me. I walked over, positioned myself in the center of their silver, stark beauty and proceeded to do my salutation to the four directions, a tai chi-like series of movement and prayer.

3 Graces

A friend of mine has asked me how it is I can walk the same places day after day, year after year, and not become bored. I explain that every walk is different, as nature presents herself in different ways. I have learned that a place takes on the energy of those who frequent her, just as I take on hers. We become one. Georgia O'Keefe once claimed the stunning, flattop mountain, Pedneral, as her own; Boggy Draw is my Pedernal.

Goddess willing, I would return.

Aspen: Note the Elk Chew Line

3 More Rubs 


  1. Love the Pedernal...and your installment in the larger the photos, especially the track...thank you!

    1. Thank you Jyoti... it all came to me on the walk; took notes on an old business card.

  2. Thanks for sharing your walk in the forest and the large, mysterious track. Great shot of the
    Montana wolf. And now, winter in Taos.
    Blessings on your return.


    1. Heart-felt thank you, Phaedra. So good to see you again.