None of it worked out the way I planned. First there was the Subaru parked next to the Peterson Lake Trailhead, disgorging two women and a spotted dog. Etiquette prevented me from joining them. Then our car got stuck in new snow at another trailhead. By the time I dug it out the spotted dog had had time to get far up the trail so I backtrack, park the car and strap on snow shoes.
Aki wants to follow the spotted dog because she doesn’t have my need for solitude. We turn away from the main trail. Being a loyal thing, Aki ploughs along behind as I break trail on the meadow leading to Peterson Creek. Last night’s storm added six or eight more inches of snow to an already well endowed land so its a tough go.
Big gray alders line the meadow, their limbs carrying a heavy load of snow. A stir of wind turns day into night by lifting clouds of snow from the trees. We reach the creek, only lightly covered with snow. It ran free before last week’s cold snap. Thin gaps in the stream ice reveal open water and we hear it gurgling over gravel under the ice we stand on. Any colder or warmer and I would stick to the meadow but I’ve fished this stream and know we could survive a mild dunking if we broke through.
We move easily at first and spot a water ousel bobbing next to some open water. Aki shoots ahead, trotting carefully around any ice breaks. Sometimes the ice cracks beneath a snow shoe soaking boot and binding. After a good submersion I abandon the ice and start working through the mixed devil’s club and elder berry brush lining the stream. It’s slow going. Seeking easier passage through a spruce thicket I move behind a wall of snow bent limbs wrapped in Spanish moss and backlit to beauty by morning sun. Minutes later Aki throws on the breaks and gives me a hard look and I wonder if she remembers our slog through this same mess last fall. That also ended with wet feet and exhaustion.
Thick, tall spruce now surround Aki. Some are real monsters. A woodpecker pounds out a tattoo on one. Taking this as a sufficient award, I concede and we retrace our steps to the car, crossing fresh tracks of a small deer on the way.