The heat didn’t stop them. The fire ban didn’t either. Neither did the creepy stories continually told all weekend. The heat led to warm summer nights, the fire ban led to sparkling skies, and the creepy stories led to laughter. This trip was all about opening up to new challenges and positive thinking. That’s what this place does to a person. Mission: Wolf is nestled cozily at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, only four hours southwest of Denver, yet it is a lifetime away from the city. A wolf sanctuary built with the soul of a wolf in mind, and the magic to go with it: the magic of howls, of star-kissed skies, of teamwork, of adventures, and most of all, the magic of nature.
Six high school students and two chaperones from Colorado Youth for a Change joined forces with two Cottonwood Institute instructors for a magical July weekend at Mission: Wolf. The magic started with a tour, where they learned all about wolf behavior and each unique story of the 30+ wolves in residence. It continued with the challenge of setting up tents for the first time and meeting new friends, Jeffrey and Rebecca, two inquisitive ground squirrels. As the first day came to a close, the stars turned on and so did the magic. Ten people lying on the ground, eyes riveted to the sky, the quiet so strong that one could actually hear the twinkling from above. A true sit spot, the silence only broken by the oohs and aahs when a shooting star zoomed across the sky. Only the magic of nature could make a teenager apologize for being so quiet because she was overcome by emotions from the beauty of it. Magic.
The next morning dawned hot and bright as the group made their way up the hill to provide much needed service for this non-profit that relies solely on volunteers. They persevered through challenges of cutting up meat, cleaning tools, hauling rocks, working on the greenhouse, and feeding wolves. Then, finally, the reward… a kiss… from a wolf. It is the way wolves greet each other, and it is truly magical when a wolf focuses her eyes on student, saunters over, and gives him a lick on the face. A day well spent: service learning, games of camouflage, veggies chopped for dinner, sit spots, relaxation, and thoughtful conversations. The sun setting off in the distance, the wolves howling with contentment, and the stars calling out their magic once again. It was time to turn in, time to whisper silly, creepy stories, time to laugh quietly, time to drift off to the magic of nature.
Camp packed up, journal reflections successful, hearts full, the vans slowly moved down the road, leaving Mission: Wolf behind; but not the magic. The magic will always follow.
Written by: CI Instructor, April Pishna
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