White wolf, Alaska

A hand on my ankle was shaking me awake. It was early, or late, or maybe I had only been asleep 20 minutes. The light barely changed overnight and the sun barely dipped below the horizon for sunset, turning everything a creepy orange-gray for a few hours.

Michele in a direct but quiet voice, “Wolf.”

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This is not our midnight wolf, but it is a wolf I shot earlier that week in Alaska.

I sat up quickly, 80 percent still asleep. I shuffled my bottom to the small opening in the tent and Michele slowly made room for me to poke my head out. I expected to see a wolf in the distance, on the opposite beach from the tidal river in front of our camp.

What I saw was a white wolf directly in front of me, six feet away or less, standing facing me squarely, staring right back at me with amber eyes.

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For a moment completely frozen in my memory, every single thing on our beach was still. No crickets, no flies, no birds. Just us. Staring.

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And then with nothing else to say or do, the wolf turned and slowly and confidently trotted away down the beach.

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I flopped back into the tent, immediately falling back to sleep. My last thought was wondering how many times that week we had been under surveillance from a distance, never knowing we were being watched.

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