Register for Youth Camps or Wilderness Trips!

snow covered ground

Clear Night on Wolf Lake: A Short Story

February 1, 2018

By Wolf Ridge Naturalist

Sam was from the cities, where there were maybe one to ten stars showing up on a clear night. Even so, she loved the sight of the downtown lights across Lake Harriet at night, a reminder of how close nature and humans could truly be.

Sam and her classmates arrived on the bus to Wolf Ridge right around lunchtime, and there had been a lot of waiting around for things to happen. Listening to her liaison was a blur, though she distinctly remembered the words “lunch” and “dorm”, and being ready for dinner or a nap. The bus ride was filled with sixth-grade interpersonal drama, Danny and Elise were now “dating” and they sat in the same row but with different bus buddies. A game of “Zap!” was going on but no one was brave enough to give each other a peck on the cheek.

Sam was sitting with her friends half invested in the drama, and half trying to look cool and above it all. Neither her or her friends could imagine completely what Wolf Ridge would be like. “Maybe they’ve got an actual wolf!” Syd exclaimed.

“Nah, that’d be pretty dangerous. I bet we’ll just go cross country skiing.” Elana, the voice of reason, replied.

The sixth graders gathered again for their evening program. Jacob and Eli were wrestling on the ground of Education 6, while there were a few crowds of girls and boys huddled in various spaces talking about who did what when where and why. Night hike had been written on the board by their liaison, and a small blue bag was hanging on the wall with a map of potential routes.

The adult chaperone shepherded everyone to the center, and announced the route and that they would be going silently down to Wolf Lake. There are shouts of dismay, and sighs by the children frustrated in the lack of opportunity for chit-chat. But off they went in the dark, whispering until they got to the trailhead.

Their teacher was unusual by city standards. She wore tall mukluks, a long baggy anorak from the north, and the class liked to goof off with her but knew to be quiet when they read her face. The chattering stopped once they got to the trailhead, as the teacher waited for their attention. She announced that the kids would be going one at a time, silently down to the lake. Once the lake was reached, they were instructed to find a space away from the rest of the class and lay down on the fresh snow.

One at a time, the students started their pilgrimage down to the lake. When it came to be Sam’s turn, she noticed the dark spruce and fir bows, pillowing the sound of her snow pants swishing and her footprints. The stars show bright in multitudes above her, and the snow illuminated her path. As she stepped onto the frozen lake, she could see where the wind blew ridges into the snow on top. It was as if a snow globe was suspended overhead. The sky seemed almost brighter than a day with stars. Sam found a spot on the snow and laid down and admired the show the sky had seemingly put on just for her. She felt small in looking at the vastness of the sky and thinking about the wolves, moose, snowshoe hare, and other beings in the dark woods circling around. But looking up, she felt part of the world.