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If you think the only way to see a wolf is to watch Dances with Wolves, think again. Two top-tier North American predators, the Alaskan and Mexican wolves, have dens at the California Wolf Center.

Nestled in the mountains four miles south of Julian, 32 gray wolves are staging a comeback. A few feet from the enclosure, our guide described the wolves’ personalities and distinctive habits.

Saturday was our lucky day: it was in the 40’s, foggy and drizzly, and it was feeding day. With bouncy gaits, the curious wolves cruised over to the edge of the enclosure for numerous looks. They seemed to flow over the terrain more than walk. They came in pairs, cruised around, occasionally “marked” their territory and tossed inquisitive glances at our guide, Ashely Ward. (Where’s my food?)

Prior to the wolf encounter, we were treated to an informative lecture about the 30-year history of CWC. They’ve enjoyed success in breeding and releasing both Alaskan and Mexican gray wolf packs back into their natural habitat. Although they work closely with US Forest Service and other government agencies, the Center is completely funded through private donations.

After walking with wolves, an afternoon visit to Julian was in order. Lunch was necessary only to get to the apple pie. We ate at a local favorite, Julian Grill (760-765-0173), a house-turned-restaurant near the center of town. The salads and Reuben sandwich were great.

The Julian Pie Company and Julian Café and Bakery (760-765-2712), both on Main Street, are highly recommended as both places use fresh apples and make their crusts from scratch. What the heck, top the heated apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. You can walk off the calories touring nooks and crannies of the village.

Reservations are required to visit the CWC. Be prompt, as the caravans leave from the entrance to the center on schedule. Regular price is $20 for adults and $10 for kids. Leave extra time for the drive up the two-lane mountain road – slow traffic can add stress to a nice day.

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