WOLF PRAYERSby Steve Timm on 07/26/17
When I was thirty-five years of age, I traveled to the northern Yukon Territory. The object of the adventure was to hunt for Dall sheep and walk in a totally unexplored area of the arctic wilderness.
The hunting and exploration was beyond my wildest dreams, but the aspect that stands out in my memory was experiencing Wolf Prayers for the first time.
INTO THE MOUNTAINS
The exact scene of our hunt is easy to find on the map. It’s within spittin’ distance of the Arctic Circle, on the border of the Canada’s Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories. The area was deep in the Selwyn Mountains and was probably the most hostile wilderness on the planet Earth.
It was a place where a single mistake could easily kill a man, so my mountain guide, Rudy, and I planned for every possible challenge.
We were about two weeks into my hunt when we decided to climb the highest peak we could see from our temporary camp. If nothing else, the walk would allow us to see new country and, with luck, we’d get the ancient Dall ram that we’d found so elusive.
We spent an afternoon loading our packs with lightweight camping gear, what little we had of our remaining food and our sleeping bags. As a last minute addition, Rudy threw in his brand new backpacking four-man tent.
We left our camp at about four o’clock the next morning and by three in the afternoon, we topped out and were literally “on the top of the world.” The view was stunning, unnamed mountains and glaciers running to the horizon in every direction.
Then, it started to snow and within a few minutes we were in a total whiteout. The snow got heavier and, to make matters worse, a dense fog settled in … and it got colder.
Rudy was the first to realize we were in serious trouble. He said, “Steve, my friend, we cannot go down the mountain because we can’t see. There are simply too many cliffs and we’d die. And we will SURELY DIE if we don’t get my tent set up, crawl into our sleeping bags and wait for the snow and fog to quit.”
Rudy added one last comment; “Once I was in the Northwest Territories, walking out of the bush, and I experienced a situation like this. It was a full week before the storm let up enough for me to continue my trek … but, at least I’m alive to tell the tale.”
So, we set up Rudy’s new backpacking tent and found that the Chinese manufacturer had grossly overstated the four-man capacity. Our two heavy down sleeping bags totally filled the tent and we both had to sit up (still in our bags) to cook noodles and such.
So there we were, on the top of the highest mountain around and in a total whiteout. And, the two of us spooned together in our sleeping bags … and did I mention that it was cold? Yeah, probably zero degrees; maybe colder.
Hey, we were alive and we’d just have to wait for as long as it took.
Every half-hour or so, one of us would unzip a window and look to see if the snow and/or fog had abated. Once every few hours we’d have to leave the tent to answer the call of nature and we quickly learned that we couldn’t see the tent from fifteen feet away.
Eventually, it got dark, very dark, and that’s when the Wolf Prayers began.
I’d dozed off and was awakened by wolves howling. It sounded like there was an entire pack of wolves right outside our tent.
Then, after a while, the wolves became quiet and another pack answered “our wolves” from a different direction. And when the second pack became silent, a third pack took up the howling. Eventually, we guessed that at least a half-dozen packs of wolves were participating.
Rudy said, “Steve, old friend, this is what the Stewart Indians call ‘Wolf Prayers’ and, indeed, that is precisely what it is. Wolves use their senses of vision, smelling and hearing to hunt and these conditions rob them of all of that.”
Rudy went on to tell me, “The Indians say that when wolves cannot hunt, they pray to their God, the Creator of All, for the weather to change. The Stewart Indians believe this to be true and so do I.”
I had to admit that it was a really cool concept.
The Wolf Prayers continued literally all night. By dawn, the wolves became quiet, the snow had ceased falling and the fog was rapidly lifting. Then, about eight o’clock, the sun … the glorious sun … came out and we crawled out of our tiny cocoon to survey the scene.
The mountains and the snow were beautiful beyond words and there were wolf tracks all around our tent. Later, as we worked our way slowly down the mountain, we cut wolf tracks in many places. Without a doubt, some of the tracks we saw belonged to packs of wolves that had participated in the Wolf Prayers.
Because of the gorgeous, sunny day, Rudy and I were convinced that the Wolf Prayers had been answered.
Friends, we cannot see, hear or smell God, but every single one of our human senses are capable of recognizing God’s Presence.
It was obvious to me that the howling of the wolves was the very essence of the Arctic wilderness. But, in a deeper and more spiritual sense, the Wolf Prayers were God’s Way of showing Rudy and me that literally all of His creatures are in constant need of his assistance.
As for me, one of the most beautiful Reflections of God I have ever experienced happened on a remote Yukon mountaintop … it was that wonderful night of listening to Wolf Prayers.
May God Bless You