Recently a judge made a controversial decision: to allow helicopter landings in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness for collaring of wolves. The reasons given were that this will provide invaluable information on wolf behavior and travel patterns. You can justify anything these days.
Beyond the question of allowing helicopters into an area that is supposed to remain forever free of the noisy, fuel-guzzling machinery that has taken over the rest of our lives, I wonder about the necessity of knowing where the wolves are. The Frank is a wild, sprawling place, an untamed river running through its heart. It's rumored that a few secret grizzlies haunt the fringes. You can hike for days in some of the highest, untrailed places and not see anyone else.
I think that the not-knowing is the best part of wilderness. Not knowing what we'll see around the bend in the trail. Not knowing if we can cross the river. Not knowing where we'll sleep. Not knowing where the wolves are. In our normal lives, there are directions, diagrams, ingredient lists. There are help desks, customer service centers and FAQs. Why can't we have some mystery in our lives? Why do we need to know every little thing?
Leave the wolves alone, I say. Let them slink through the shadows, drink from the rivers, howl at the moon. They remind us of how we want to be, how we used to be, free and unknown.