Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Reprint from My Blog Archives

Papa Pea and I just got back in from a look around the duck, geese and chicken houses checking to see that all our feathered friends were safe.

We've spotted a timber wolf on our property a few times in the past several weeks, and this afternoon we saw him coming up our driveway, make a turn and go toward the area where the poultry is kept.

From there he seemed to disappear (where he went, we don't know) but nothing in that area was harmed or disturbed.

In the years we've lived in northern Minnesota we've had a few encounters with and lots of sightings of wolves.  Below is a reprint of a post I wrote a year or so after I first started blogging.  The post was called:

Setting A Land Speed Record On Skis

The 80-acre homestead we first lived on when we moved up here to Minnesota was a bit remote.  There were two other families in the same area but the closest lived about a mile away via the gravel road.

We had ski trails all through our woods that we used a lot in the winter time.  Our daughter got her first pair of cross country skis when she was about four so when she was nine years old, and the following incident occurred, she was already a competent skier.

One year shortly after they moved into the area, our nearest neighbors and good friends and we decided we should all work on making a trail through the woods from our house to theirs.  Then we could ski back and forth in the winter without having to go along the gravel road.  We cut trees and cleared brush for a couple weekends that fall and by winter time had a nice trail that connected our homesteads.

At the time they had two milk goats and we also had started our small herd.  It was natural that we would do each others' milking and animal chores when one family needed to be gone for a time.

The other mom and I frequently went on ski outings during the day when the kids were in school and husbands off at their jobs.  The rule was that we always left a note on the table saying what time we left the house, where we were going, and what time we expected to be home.

Okay, back to one winter day when we were in charge of doing the neighbor's evening chores.  Papa Pea had a meeting after school so our daughter took the school bus home and she and I were going to ski through the woods to the neighbors, do their chores, and be back home before dark.

I can't remember what I was involved in but I wasn't quite ready to leave as soon as daughter got home, changed her clothes and was ready to go.  At any rate, we left a smidge later than planned.

We skied through the woods, milked and fed the goats, fed their chickens, collected eggs, gave fresh water to everybody, and checked the house to make sure all was well.  Not only had we gotten over there later than planned, but chores, for some reason, took longer than expected.  It was getting dark fast and I knew we weren't going to make it all the way home before dark.

I was not a well-prepared woodswoman that day.  Daughter and I were both dressed warmly enough but I had neglected to bring any kind of a head lamp or flashlight along on the journey.

We no more than left their homestead and entered the woods than we lost all natural light.  We could hardly see the ski tracks on the trail.  But that wasn't the worst of it.  From not too far off in the woods, we could hear the howling of wolves.  There was a healthy population of timber wolves in the area that winter and it wasn't unusual to hear packs "talking" back and forth to each other. 

I gave some thought to turning around, going all the way across our neighbor's land and out their long driveway through more woods to get to the road and walking or trying to ski home via the plowed gravel road.  Daughter and I had a short conference.  I explained to her that it would be more than twice as fast to ski home via the woods trail and that's what I thought we should do.  We frequently saw wolf tracks on the road so that way didn't guarantee a wolf-free trip either.  I wasn't feeling very big and brave at the time but tried to convince her all would be well.  She hesitantly agreed to my suggestion of skiing through the woods.

We tied our hats on securely, put our ski pole straps around our wrists and got ready to push off.  I asked her if she wanted to go first or follow behind me.

She replied, "I don't wanna go first!"

So I told her I was going to go as fast as I could but to just yell if I was getting too far ahead of her.

It was so dark I truly could not see the ski trail in front of me.  The good thing was that we had used the trail a lot and had defined tracks that our skis could follow.  The bad thing was that we had to go up and down a couple of fairly steep hills.  And, oh ya, there was the continual howling of the wolves that commanded much of our attention.

I know it was adrenaline that spurred my nine year old along that night but I don't think the front tips of her skis were more than 6" behind the back tips of mine the whole way.  She was bookin' it!

We came to the top of the last steep hill before we crossed the frozen creek and came out into one of our fields.  I stopped at the crest and told her we had to go down separately so we didn't crash into each other.  (Secretly, I was hoping there wouldn't be a moose standing at the bottom that one of us would crash into.)  I again asked if she wanted to go first but she said no.  I told her to wait at the top and I would yell as soon as I got to the bottom and she could come on down then.  I no more than stopped at the bottom and was turning to call to her when I saw her dark shape coming down in a beautiful tuck position like a bullet in a down jacket and ski pants.

Once out in the open of the field we could see a little better plus our house in the distance was lit up like a Christmas tree.  Papa Pea had arrived home, found no note and couldn't figure out where we were.  He knew we had planned on going to the neighbors to do chores but didn't know why we weren't home yet when it was pitch dark out.  He was close to getting back into his car and driving over there when we clomped up onto the back porch.

I know the wolves were most likely never anywhere close to us but when we were in the middle of those thick, dark woods, they sounded plenty near enough.  These many years later our daughter vividly remembers that ski home, and I still remember the speed record we both set getting there.



Laurie said...

Wow! That would have scared the bejeebers out of me. I would have set a world record that night. Glad it ended well, but what about now? What will you do about the one on your property?

Sandy said...

Mama Pea,

Great post! Glad to hear you both made it back okay. I'm guessing the moral of the story is to bring a light source, and something to protect yourself from critters (2 legged and 4 legged).

DDD said...

Very scary!
Glad you are well to tell the story!

Kristina said...

This was a wonderful (yet scary) story that should be part of a book. Glad you both made it home safe.

Susan said...

I tell you, my hair was on end through this whole story! I am SO glad the two of you made it back in one piece. Holey Moley!

Rain said...

I know that feeling, but with me it was a black bear siting, hiking alone in the Appalachians. I SAW it turn and go the other way, but I was a few miles from the welcome center of that particular National Park and I had that dreadful feeling the whole hike/run back. Same thing happened when I was walking in the woods one day and a big wild Tom ran at me...I comically remember it but I was scared as heck. He was only protected his woman lol...but still the idea that he could pop out of nowhere drove my imagination wild with fear!

Mama Pea said...

Laurie - It's not unusual to see a wolf or two occasionally. After all, we are in the north woods and they were here before us. We'll keep our eyes peeled and not leave the granddog out side of the fenced in yard. He may move on (eventually) or become a bother in which case . . . well, something would have to be done.

Mama Pea said...

Sandy - Yes, I was really at fault that time in not being prepared in a couple of ways. I learned!

Mama Pea said...

DDD - Thanks, but the scary-ness turned out to be mostly in our imaginations! Even if the wolves had been close to us, they probably would have just stood, looked and wondered what those strange creatures were!

Mama Pea said...

Thanks, Kristina. We had many adventures that I've been told would make a good book. Maybe someday when I don't have anything else to do, I'll write it. ;o}

Mama Pea said...

Susan - We probably had more of a chance of getting hit by a logging truck walking on the gravel road than being attacked by a wolf that night skiing! (But I'm sure we made the ski home faster than ever before!)

Mama Pea said...

Rain - Oh, for sure seeing that black bear would give me a fright! And the wild tom turkey jumping at me would stop my heart for a minute or two. Up here they say there's never been a documented attack on a human being by a wolf . . . but I've never been eager to become the first statistic!

gld said...

That was a scary story! Down here the most we have are brown bears and supposedly mountain lions. I have never seen either in person. We do have very large bobcats that I have seen.

I might be carrying a very small handgun if I was taking anymore north woods ski trips!

Mama Pea said...

gld - We have black bears up here which are really more dangerous to encounter than wolves. The bears have very poor eyesight which makes them a bit more "jumpy!" Also, there have been many sightings of cougars over the years but we've never seen one.