Trust is fragile in the heart of a dog. I fear I’ve broken Aki’s. She stands defiant at the trailhead watching me walk with snow shoes toward the outlet of a salt chuck. From there she only sees me and deep snow. She must remember yesterday with its snow laden meadows and tangled stream side trails. I return, lift her over the snow berm and drop her onto a packed trail. Bursting forward she gallops a few steps and turns with tail wagging. Trust restored.
The chuck looks like another spruce lined lake but I know salt water mixes with it on flood tides. This calls for caution on warmer days but it’s 10 degrees Fahrenheit and no overflow of water marks the snowy surface. At the outlet open water flows onto a cascade then to the ocean. Small waves slap the rocks beneath our feet. Aki watches gulls and eagles patrol the air over off shore net pens full of infant salmon. Those that survive until summer will start their perilous life in deep seas.
Backtracking we bend into the wind until the trail breaks into the woods and loops back over a hill to a pocket beach. I forgot to dry out the snow shoes after yesterday’s dunking and the now frozen bindings won’t fasten properly on my boots. The snow free beach offers a welcome chance to kick them off.
The salmon nets are just off shore so resting eagles perch on the spruce lining the beach occasionally calling warnings to their competitors. We walk with caution to a near headland formed by a tumble of rectangular rocks. Those rocks near the high tide line are treacherous with thick glazes of frozen sea spray. Above we find an Aki sized world beneath wind stunned spruce. Aki refuses to follow me from her hidey hole onto the next beach until I walk out of her line of sight.
While waiting for her to yield I find the trail of a large river otter and wonder that Aki wasn’t drawn to the smell. She appears above me, having found the better way home through another pocket forest. This one is decorated by squirrel and otter tracks. From there we drop onto the salt chuck and slog to the car.