Monday, November 25, 2013

Howling Passions

by Carol A.

Stephanie's post on Friday made me think back on all the wonderful places photography has taken me in the last 6 years. I'm digging way back in the archives to show you a New Jersey treasure that I had not known about despite the fact that I was born here. On the western border of New Jersey, in a town named Columbia , near the Delaware Water Gap, is The Lakota Wolf Preserve. It was established by a man named Dan Bacon who's passion is honoring and preserving the wolf population. While raising money and awareness of these beautiful beasts, the facility also teaches about wildlife and nature, and gives us busy east-coasters a unique chance to see wolves in their natural habitat.

Because Dan is a photographer himself, he is very willing to design and provide opportunities for photographing the wolves. My local camera shop runs a spring and a winter trip to the preserve each year, with extended and close-up opportunities for photographing through portals in the fencing.

On a very cold , early morning in 2010, I got my chance to visit. After packing up our gear at the lodge near the entrance, we were split into groups of 8 and climbed into vans to be taken up into the preserve. We were dropped off at a central observation area where 4 separate packs' areas converge for feeding. Each of our groups was assigned an area and after a few hours we would proceed to the next. The wolves live in a natural wood that spans many acres, but when Dan and his helpers bring in the food, groups and individuals start coming down into the fenced areas of the preserve. Dan then opens up the portals in the chain link fence so that you can take unobstructed images of the wolves who are just a foot or two in front of you.

The preserve houses Arctic, Tundra and Timber wolves, as well as foxes and bobcats. The wolves were peacefully lounging, playing, hunting, hiding - and I found it just enthralling to watch. What a difference it makes when the humans are in the cage, and the wildlife is roaming free! When Dan comes to throw some meat over the fence - you see their other side - the fierce competition and dominance games that are a part of survival for any wild animal. Dan quietly shares his knowledge as you watch and wander. The wolves are so close that you can hear their breath - what a rush! In the final area the bobcats and foxes hide in tree stumps or come close for a look at us. Dan told us of one photographer who paid for private access. After hours of shooting, he attempted to change memory cards, but his card flipped out of his hand, through the fence and was snapped right up by a wolf! (I can hear my photography friends groaning!) Chalk that one up to experience....

On the morning I went, it was very cold and the woods were sparkly and quiet. After visiting all 4 areas, we were given time to wander around to whatever interested us. I climbed back to the highest point where the snow white Arctic wolves were situated. That's when it happened - one lone wolf started to howl. Shortly after several others in the pack picked it up. I was all alone up there among a howling pack. The howls were very loud and full-throated and just chilling! My whole spine was tingling! What a unique experience in my life!

Later, back at home base, Dan generously provided hot chocolate and cookies for our group and played a slideshow of some of his images. I just love to meet people who have a passion! I love to watch them light up as they talk about it! (think of our Kim and her caterpillars!) There were opportunities to sponsor a wolf, and to volunteer.

In this season of gratitude, I am so thankful for the people who appreciate and preserve the natural world! I am also in love with my state - which allows me to visit the man-made wonders of New York City one weekend, and stand among a howling wolf pack the next! My wish list is not just about places - but also includes visiting people who have a passion. To learn from someone who has spent a lifetime concentrating on a specific subject is always time worth spending.

Will you let us in on some passionate people in your locations? I love to find the secrets of a place  that locals know better than the main stream media machine.

"Come forth into the light of things. Let nature be your teacher!"
                                William Wordsworth



Jeanne said...

What a wonderful experience. Wish you had some photos of that howling wolf. I can appreciate the spine tingling as I once accidentally got in the middle of a group of howling coyotes. Made my hair stand on end.

Dotti said...

I am so happy to see this post here this morning! {**wink**wink**} This sounds like an amazing experience, Carol. It never ceases to amaze me at the countless things people can find to be passionate about. It makes it a more interesting world, to be sure. Thanks for sharing!

terriporter said...

What an amazing experience and how awesome that these beautiful animals are being preserved for our education and enjoyment. Except for the cold weather, I would have loved to have joined you on this adventure! We have a place here called Out of Africa where you can go and see all kinds of big cats and other African animals. The couple who own the park began by rescuing one lion cub and they are quite passionate about the animals in their care. If not for people like this, some animals would disappear from the earth which would be a tragedy. Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos as well as this wonderful story, Carol.

CarolHart said...

Carol these images are stunning! What an awesome experience to see these beautiful creatures up close and to be exposed to the enthusiasm of your guide. Dotti is right, there are so many things to be passionate about in this world. Never a dull moment!

Cathy H. said...

Carol, these are such beautiful images. What an amazing opportunity!

Kim Stevens said...

I'm not sure what to wipe off first, the tears or the drool, lol! Carol, this was so incredible, awesome, inspiring...beautiful photos of such wonderful animals and oh I'm so jealous! I could really just sit for days and watch creatures like this. Such a fabulous opportunity, but I so love his passion and for sharing this with others. It is only through opportunities like this that we can teach people the importance of conservation. Thank you, thank you for sharing this!! xo

kelly said...

magnificent creatures! what an amazing opportunity that must have been. thanks for sharing your adventure with us...a reminder to look for those places that are close to home!

Anonymous said...

Oh wow, what an amazing experience! To be up so close right in the midst of these gorgeous animals in their natural habitat….I can only imagine! People who share the same love for nature, animals and the preservation to continue this life cycle are truly angels from heaven! Thank you for reminding me that what we can't always see right in front of us is still a very special part of life and we (as humans) should never overlook this incredible gift!

susan said...

wow! such beautiful images! it's amazing how close you were able to get to these gorgeous animals!

Jeanne said...

Your post has been so enhanced by adding the photos! LOL! Looks like a wonderful experience!

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