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The day was shining like springtime, although the calendar read December.  I was hiking alone through a meadow outside of West Yellowstone. It was dotted with clusters of trees, and a blanket of snow covered its ground. My first clue that they were near was a mystical chorus of howling. Hearing it made my heart jump. They sounded so close-could they be? I stopped to take in the splendor of their voices. In a few minutes the meadow was quiet.

I started to walk again, I could never have imagined what I was about to experience. I was looking down, navigating my way through a rocky spot, and suddenly I had an urge to look up. I did, and I was entranced. Just a few hundred feet in front of me was one of the most beautiful animals of which I had ever been in the presence, the gray wolf.

I stopped stone-still. There she was walking across the meadow. Slowly I lifted my binoculars to look closer. She stopped and turned her head, filling my binocular lenses, looking right at me.  She stood there still, for how long I do not know. Looking into her eyes I saw a wonderful creature, who's greatness and peace seemed to enter my soul. I was overwhelmed.  Soon she turned her head back to the direction she was traveling and walked on into a cluster of trees.

I was changed. I had always been fond of the wolf, and had read the latest books on their reintroduction to Yellowstone Park. But now I knew more-I had witnessed a small taste of the magnificence of this creature. If only everyone could experience what I had.

The bond between Canis lupus and me is sealed. I've always been an animal lover, but this goes beyond that. I now visit the park at least two times a year, but never have I been as close to one of my "friends" as I was that first time in 1997. Still, the admiration remains.
One of my favorite things is watching them in the spring, hunt and travel back to their den to bring food to the pups. Their loyalty is insurmountable.

I can read and study about their behavior, make my voice heard to protect them, and search the horizon to see them, but I will never be able to put into words, justly, how the enchanting eyes of the gray wolf impact my spirit and bring me such delight.

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Sarah Snapp is an avid wolf watcher in Yellowstone, returning from her home in Bellevue, several times a year to search for wolves.  "The Magnificent" is based on the sighting of what was likely a Chief Joseph wolf, possibly one of Wolf 16F's clan that was in the area in 1997.


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