An engaging diary of a wolf-finding expedition in Transylvania.
When Sparks, a 45-year-old high tech professional, takes an early retirement package and re-invents his life, he decides to pursue wolf research in the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania, Romania. Why? “For me,” writes the author, “could anything surpass tracking wolves in the thick forests and deep snow of the northlands, in the wilderness somewhere away from all the high-tech drudgery, the congested traffic and sprawling suburbs, the bustling rush to nowhere? Working to comprehend a different world, a wild world, and maybe helping to protect it as well.” Sparks pursues this adventure after finding a website for the Carpathian Large Carnivore Project, firing off an e-mail and ultimately convincing the project director that he should be allowed to extend his “eco-volunteer” experience well beyond the traditional few weeks. The remainder of the book is essentially comprised of diary entries that provide rare insight into the behavior of wolves, as well as a close-up look at life in the backcountry and small towns of the Carpathian Mountains. The author’s experiences tracking wolves, combined with the people he meets and his descriptions of the locale, make for a compelling and invigorating story. Sparks writes well, even eloquently at times, generously sharing his observations as he learns of the similarities and differences between wolves and dogs. The reader intimately witnesses the relationships the author builds with some of the wolves he studies. And Sparks’ bits of philosophical contemplation brought on by his solitude add depth to the tale. The text is supplemented by excellent color photos that bring all of these elements to life and offer visual validation of the adventure. As wolves have made a resurgence in parts of the United States in recent years, their proximity to humans has lead to some controversy. Sparks’ tale becomes all the more interesting as a documentary of how wolves are viewed in another part of the world.
A thoroughly enjoyable read for animal lovers and explorers alike.