STRIVE Prep – Montbello middle school had just let out for the summer, but the following day nine students, two of their teachers, and three Cottonwood Institute instructors loaded up in vans and headed out to meet the wolves. There were feelings of fear, excitement, and curiosity being exchanged during the drive to Mission: Wolf, a gorgeous and isolated retreat in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. We arrived just in time for the feeding of the wolves. A wolf can eat up to 10 pounds of meat (about 40 hamburgers) in under two minutes! Everyone understood first-hand the meaning of “wolfing something down.” We set up camp nestled in a pine forest downhill from Mission: Wolf.
In the morning we went up the hill for our service project. We were asked to do some maintenance to Farah and Apollo’s enclosure; there was much we had to understand about wolves before entering their home. A key to interacting with wolves is to be quiet and be aware of your body, feelings, and interactions with others, and to be slow. This can be a hard task for middle schoolers on their first day of summer break, but they did an amazing job! They talked softly and stood silent when they saw that the surrounding wolves were watching them. We pulled invasive species, cleaned their water bath, fixed the fire bunker, and picked up old bones for a couple of hours. When our task was finished we decided to give howling a try and to our surprise they began to howl back at us; a glimpse of wildness in us all.
We returned back to base camp for lunch and then played with fire! One of the Cottonwood instructors led the group in a lesson about how to start a fire with a bow drill set. Starting fire with friction is an experience contrary to how most learn to build fire with lighters and matches; it demands patience, determination, and control. We followed that with some easygoing flint striker and Vaseline-covered cotton balls. After all of this action we headed back up the hill for the opportunity to touch the wolves and meet the founder and wolf whisperer of Mission: Wolf, Kent.
We sat down with eagerness to meet the ambassador wolves: Abraham, Magpie, and Zeb. Kent spoke about how the wolves teach us how to communicate and how to be in this world where we have forgotten our connection to our wild roots; and why the wolves are important. He reminded us how to interact with the wolves. We walked in and sit down on the logs, where the wolves began to go down the line. We did as we are told: we reached our hands out to touch their chests, looked them straight in the eyes, and let them smell our teeth. Magpie sat on the outskirts; Zeb went along the line and greeted most; and Abraham, the Alpha wolf, played down and let us scratch him all over. It was beautiful to be so close to a species that is so important to the survival of our ecosystems and so discriminated against throughout history.
“I just want to bond with the wolves and find my inner peace with them” – Nadia, 8th grader
We left Mission: Wolf with mixed emotions. We had sleepy passengers at the beginning of the ride, as not much sleep happened the night before—late night tent giggling echoed throughout the valley. As we began to see the Denver skyline, the music got louder and the van dancing continued until we returned back to the school parking lot. They unloaded the van with high spirits, big smiles, and new perspectives!
Thank you Mission: Wolf for teaching us about wolves and giving them a home!
A special thanks goes out to all of our supporters and funders that help make our partnership with STRIVE Preparatory Schools possible this school year, including: Ladd Foundation, Larrk Foundation, and PeyBack Foundation.
Written by: CI Instructor, Marissa Sieck
Want to see more photos from this trip? Visit our Shutterfly share site! Click Here.