Diana and the Four Elements – Air

The WOLF TRAIL

12 Months of Solitude ( May 2020 )

Wolves traditionally hunt as a unit, and during winter months evidence of this pack behaviour is easy to find. On Rabbit Bay this past spring I stumbled upon the skeletal remains of a deer, which was most likely corralled onto the open ice. With legs that are not at all adapted for slippery surfaces, this doe became easy pickings for a pack of razor fanged carnivores.

The continued presence of wolves within our forest preserve near Dorset is incredibly important to me as they represent the apex predator of this ecosystem, after the Eastern cougar was driven to extinction. In an earlier time, before humans entered North America, the Saber Toothed Tiger would have also roamed our forests looking for prey.

Protecting wolves on our land is critical as this elusive species ensures the balance of predator and prey which is so important to maintaining a fully functioning ecosystem. While rarely seen, these pack animals are often heard on summer evenings, their calls filling the air as the landscape darkens.

The Wolf Trail within our forest preserve begins at the Diana Monument. The arched trellis, which will create a threshold onto this walk, angles upward toward the summit of the one of the highest points on the property. It’s there, that I will be creating a symbolic sculptural landmark dedicated to the wolf.

The relationship of the wolf sculpture to the Diana Monument is important since the two are intricately connected, both literally and metaphorically. Diana was associated not only with the dog, which is derived from the wolf species but also to the moon.

Our forest preserve is adjacent to the picturesque Algonquin Provincial Park, which for decades has provided a stronghold against the extinction of the wolf in Southern Ontario. It is estimated that there are currently fewer than 500 mature individuals in the Algonquin Region. Each year the park hosts a summer evening event called the “Wolf Howl” which continues to draw crowds who howl back to the wolves as they fill the evening air with their cries.

The Wolf Trail is the most physically strenuous of the three paths on the property, and following it leads to one of its highest points.  At the summit, views can be afforded across the forest below and out onto the distant landscape beyond. 

The path, while not axial, is focused on a clear destination at the top of the rocky ridge which can be seen from the Diana monument.  In this location I am placing the Wolf Sculpture. To express the “directness” of this route, select vegetation between the Diana Monument and the Wolf Sculpture will be removed, creating an unobstructed view between these two elements.

The wolf hunts with its eyes focused forward and not by surveying the landscape as is done by most prey animals.  Prey animals are inherently defensive and must continuously scour the landscape all around them to avoid danger, but the focus of the wolf is forward. In a similar way, the view from the Diana Monument is directed towards the destination at the top of the hillside.

Navigating the pathway to the wolf sculpture, hikers encounter a shear rockface that fortifies the higher destination.

The path leads to a “fork in the road” allowing hikers to proceed up the steep incline or choose the less tiring gradual route to the summit. The wolf sculpture remains a talisman and reappears only when hikers wind their way up the hillside and reach its peak.

While the Wolf Archway of the Diana Monument is cloaked in the darkness of the enclosing coniferous forest, the Wolf Sculpture will be set atop an outcrop of Canadian shield covered with lichen and moss. From this vantage point, night hikers can marvel at the panoramic view of the surrounding landscape as the moon arcs across the blackened sky. During the day, guests can look down into the forest toward the Diana Monument to find their bearings in relation to the oval where their journey began.

This location provides geographic clarity on your position within the larger Muskoka landscape.  From here, views are broad and extend beyond the site, over Rabbit Bay and the rolling hills of neighbouring townships. Hikers may position themselves in relation to the Dorset Fire Tower, a local and popular landmark.

At this hilltop promontory, the otherwise introspective “secret garden” reaches out to the wider world and hikers can position themselves within this larger context.  In this way the Wolf Monument and its connection back to the Diana Monument affords an outward view.

My late Aunt Diane was in a similar way my family’s connection to the outside world in an otherwise insular existence. A small cabin to be located at the top of the hill will be a pleasant surprise for hikers in search of a rest stop. Its design will be inspired by my Aunt Diane, and it will be decorated with images of her and the rest of my family.

Moving further along, this trail follows the edge of the rocky ridge, with views into the Berley Valley and the Bear Trail. Across the valley, hikers can spot the Moose Trail where other explorers will enjoy a separate experience that will culminate at the meeting point of the Shirley Temple.

At this location hikers can utilize the compass iconography of this sculptural piece to decide whether to explore the trail around Carl Rideout Lake or take one of the other two routes (Wolf or Bear Trails) connecting the Shirley Temple to the Diana Monument.

The reverence for our nature preserve and the care that we are taking in creating these pathways to enjoy it, is centered on the protection of the animals that inhabit this land. Our guests will be invited to explore this beautiful landscape while minimally affecting the natural ecosystem. As dusk approaches, we will howl at the moon – and the wolves will echo our calls.

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