By Kerry Wolfe
A single howl pierces through the still Colorado air. You pause, listening as it echoes throughout the mountainside. More howls begin to join in, creating a bone-chilling chorus more spectacular than a well-practiced symphony. You huddle in your tent, just listening as the howls resonate through the night.
For some, spending the night amidst a stark mountainous landscape surrounded by the calls of wild animals is a scene straight from a hellish nightmare. For others, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime to reconnect with nature and enjoy the simplicity of the natural world.
Mission: Wolf, a non-profit wolf sanctuary located in the Wet Mountains of Colorado, allows visitors to observe wolves in their natural habitat. The sanctuary strives to create a safe, pristine home for wolves, as well as offers experimental education and camps on living sustainably.
Visitors to the sanctuary can expect to be completely immersed in the raw natural environment. The overnight stay includes sleeping with only the thin walls of a tent as shelter from the cool Colorado night air. Camping is free (donations are encouraged), and visitors are invited to pitch their own tents or reserve space in the sanctuary’s community tipi.
“Roughing it” may be an appropriate term by U.S. standards. The sanctuary is situated 9300 feet above sea level in mountainous terrain, so the weather is often unpredictable. Intense storms, strong winds and precipitation are common throughout the year. There is no place to charge your iPhone, nor are there TVs, showers or Internet.
Overnight guests do have access to a fire pit and picnic tables, as well as the opportunity to explore the mountains surrounding the sanctuary. Visitors must supply their own food; a limited supply of drinking water is available upon request.
The organization offers free daily tours to the public, where people are given the opportunity to learn about the history of wolves and the sanctuary. Mission: Wolf also offers photography tours, which allows the public to explore the sanctuary and photograph the wolves in their natural habitat. The photography tour is free, but donations are encouraged.
Those visiting Mission: Wolf on Wednesdays and Saturdays are invited to participate in the sanctuary’s “big feed,” which is when workers throw large amounts of meat into the 50 acre wolf enclosure. Visitors are welcome to volunteer by either partaking in daily feedings or helping with other general projects.
The sanctuary places a large emphasis on sustainability. Its facilities are entirely run by solar and wind power. Many of the structures are made using recycled building materials, and most workers grow their own food, composting as much as possible.
Mission: Wolf aims to provide its canine residents and human visitors with an experience as wild and as close to natural as possible. The nonprofit’s goal is to one day put itself out of business by working towards a society that no longer feels a need to keep wolves in captivity.
About Kerry Wolfe
Kerry is a sophomore at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, where she’s working towards a BA in magazine journalism. She loves to travel, and plans to spend her career exploring the world and writing about the people and places she encounters. Kerry’s also a huge animal lover, and the only thing she loves more than visiting a new place is spending time with her horse.
Photo by ethanbuete