Retreating Snow


With wind and rain in the forecast we head out to the sheltered trails of North Douglas Island. The darkness promised by a walk through October woods is the price we are willing to pay for its shelter and a brief glimpse of its storm pounded beach. When the clouds lift to reveal new snow halfway down the island’s mountains I change the plan and head to the alpine thankful that Juneau’s tight topography offers mountain and sea trails within 30 minutes of Chicken Ridge.

I hope to track the first snow of the year but the rain has driven it off the meadow and into a retreat up the bordering mountain ridges.  No rainbow arcs over the meadows and forest this time but we still find color.  A stiff  mountain wind presses down the now golden grass to reveal patches of moss the color of Claret. Three round bog cranberries lay on the moss, still tethered to their tiny green vines. You cannot see the vines until close enough to pluck the berries. I harvest two and enjoy the tartness released with the first bite. Aki leaves the third berry for birds. She prefers the sweeter low bush blueberries. Sadly none remain.

Other tiny plants display fall reds and oranges but except for a few high bush blueberry bushes sheltering along the tree line, the larger deciduous plants stand bare. The exposed blue berry brush, as if chilled by the storm, have darkened to a rich red. Last week we found one or two bog rosemary plants in bloom.  Now their perfect magenta flowers have faded to a dead brown as if mummified by the cold.

Aki doesn’t share today’s agenda with me just continues scanning ahead for smells, She stops to show impatience when I take too long over the pond reflections or some other foolishness. One time she starts to follow a faint trail onto the meadow but stops a few feet in as if by a wall. She pees often to mark our passage. When I stop to make water she dashes to my side to stand guard. Touching, if a little odd.

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