On a trail picked only for its handy location we find some surprises this moist morning. Ten minutes in we spot the moss covered body of a 60‘s vintage VW Beetle boxed in by trees. It makes me think of Harry Potter and also of an abandoned Tlingit village. That the VW appears to have become one with the woods makes me think of Harry Potter’ enchanted Ford Anglia skulking about the Forbidden Forest. That an alder shoot may soon pop up through the sun roof reminds me of the abandoned village I once reached by kayak.
Before Aki. I was paddling with a friend from the west coast of Prince of Wales Island to Sea Otter Sound. We stopped for lunch on a smooth beach. We didn’t realize the beach once served a village until we spotted the platforms of two long houses reaching from the woods almost to the beach. Those who peopled this village believed in allowing totem poles to age to nothing while standing in the spots they were first raised. At that time I dreamed of finding such totem poles.
When the boxed in VW Beetle drove around Juneau, Tlingit and Haida people began moving the old poles to climate controlled buildings where they could be preserved for future generations. The last pole had been moved from this village site the winter before my visit but we did see platform homes scattered about the old village site.
Each home had been fashioned with hand adzed boards. Some were little more than raised platforms but one still had its wide flat board with an oval opening through which people once entered the home. It also had a vertical wooden panel at the center of where the rear wall once stood. These boards had supported alone a center beam. Luck or providence had encouraged a young spruce to grow up through the floor boards until it supported the weight of the center beam as it rested in a fork formed by trunk and upper branch. One end of the beam rested gently on the vertical front panel.
After musing for a few minutes about the village I start to explore the VW further but Aki shows impatience so we move deeper into the forest covered moraine. Three blasts from a 12 gauge shotgun sound as we approach Moose Lake. Aki follows me cautiously to the water where we see the wakes of ducks swimming from the hunter. No dog splashes after a downed bird so he must be used every shell in his chamber without gain. There is a strange beauty in the sound of a 12 gauge being fired over water but Aki doesn’t appreciate it. At her insistence we abandon the lake for a path through a thick willow copse and enter a land flooded by beavers. The trail is now under water so we do a work around through the surrounding troll woods.
After regaining the trail on higher ground we take it to the paved road to Mendenhall Glacier, which we cross and then enter some woods we have never traversed. Suckered in by its open appearance we soon find ourselves in another forbidden forest. Our goal, to reach the Powerline Trail, proves hard to secure. The terrain turns hilly and each low spot is choked with tangled alders. We cross a small water course with no business being there. Lower alders reach across it and thick moss cover the rocks I must use for the crossing. Aki crosses first, flying from my hand to the ground on the far side. I follow but only with help from a strong overarching alder branch.
The terrain changes after the creek crossing—opening up in a mossy land where small fields of white lichen grew as if in planted fields. We find an empty beer can while still far from road or trail. Otters use mossy country like this for their picnics and I wonder if they have a taste for cheap beer.
Aki disappears just before we reach the trail and returns with the look of a dog wishing for the familiar. She gets it minutes later when we find the car.