Finding a spot to pitch my tent was difficult; foot-deep holes lined with the shredded root-ends pockmarked the banks of the North Fork of the Flathead River just outside Glacier National Park’s west entrance near Polebridge.
Grizzlies had undoubtedly found this spot as beautiful as I had, and bountiful to boot.
The light was fading fast, but it wouldn’t be the first time we had set up a tent in the dark. While Matt and I continued with the assembly after a brief pause to snap this photo, I heard a strange music swelling above the rustling of coated nylon and clanging of tent stakes.
We stopped. So did the music.
After a few perplexing seconds of silence, save for the din of the river’s flow, the sound swelled again from the meadow beyond a stand of burnt trunks and spry new growth.
This time the haunting sound of a single wolf’s howl echoing down the valley was unmistakable. To call it a song would be to diminish it’s wildness. But to describe it simply as power measured in hertz would be to deny the wolf’s raw musicality.
We never heard it again on our trip.
Yet, whenever I look at this underexposed photo of an artificial management border through an otherwise continuous landscape, I remember how the sound transcended that division both physically and symbolically. Now, I also realize that it transcends space and time each time I look at this photo as the sounds continue to vibrate the hairs on my neck to attention and moments later, the corners of my mouth to a grin.