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Wild Colorado: Mission Wolf

by Traci Salisbury on November 27, 2014

Colorado.  Oh lovely, mountainous, Colorado.  Perhaps you already know the usual haunts of this state: its bomber ski routes in Vail and Aspen, the bison burgers you can eat in Colorado Springs, and the best dispensaries in Denver.  I guarantee however, that you have not ventured to Mission Wolf.  Let’s talk about why this incredible stop must be added to your mile-high travel plans.

What is this wolf place you speak of?

Mission Wolf is a non-profit wolf sanctuary used for educational purposes and to house wolves who had previously led lives in captivity (re: people kept them as pets without success).  The facility is super dedicated to helping teach people about wolves, the environment, sustainability, and community living.  The whole property is solar powered and built using re-purposed materials and low impact dwellings such as tipis.  MW relies on full time staff and volunteer groups to build and maintain the wolf sanctuary.  I had the privilege of leading a group of students to MW in the summer of 2013 and we helped to build fire bunkers for the wolves.

Where is it?

Mission Wolf is in a crazy remote location in Southern Colorado.  Its address is Westcliffe, CO and the two main towns to access it from Interstate 25 are Walsenburg and Pueblo.  It is perched at 9,300 feet, nestled up against the Sangre De Cristo mountain range.  Given the elevation and rugged landscape be prepared for hot, dry summer conditions, and very cold winter temperatures.

Where do I stay?

Mission Wolf offers free primitive camping onsite which I highly recommend as the view of the mountains at sunrise is fiery and unfathomable.  If you have time to spare, consider packing in some food/water and volunteering with the wolves for a week or two.

Why should I go to Mission Wolf?

Have you ever been lovingly tackled by a wolf pup and bravely displayed your teeth in a nervous smile as he licks your teeth enthusiastically?  Didn’t think so!  This is the proper protocol of how to “meet” a wolf.  While visiting MW there are ample opportunities to go inside the first pen of wolves (with trained staff) who are the “ambassadors” of the community and learn to safely, respectfully interact with this stunning animal.

  • Participate in a mass feeding.  As in, learn to cut and prepare donated livestock for wolf dinnertime, and then give it to them.  This means hurling large portions of meat over a chain link fence to the pacing wolves.  If this is a little too much for you, not to worry, you can watch, or choose to opt out and learn about other portions of the facility.
  • Camp underneath that massive western sky.  Given the elevation and remote location, just like Big Bend, TX, Mission Wolf is a stargazer’s paradise.
  • Listen to the wolves howl at dusk and dawn.  This may seem like a foolish reason to go so far off the beaten path.  However, when the sound of 30 wolves howling in unison on a crisp evening pierces across the dirt road, you will understand why you have traveled to visit this very magical place.

Things to consider:

  • Elevation: MW sits very high.  If flying into Denver or Colorado Springs, allow yourself time to acclimatize to the dry, thin air.
  • Rough roads: MW is located up some janky, quasi-marked dirt roads.  Take things slowly, especially if you are taking a rental out there.  I have never visited in the winter, but would imagine extreme caution is in order. Call ahead to see if MW is even taking guests as roads can become impassable.
  • Accommodations: unless you are staying on site as a volunteer for a longer stint, the only option is to tent camp.  Glamping is a no-no.

Have you headed out to Mission Wolf or would you like to?

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