Empty Spaces

Without boot cleats this trail is impassible. It is worst where it runs along a long shelf cut into a steep hillside. Great gray stalactites of ice cling to the uphill side of the trail. Water seepage flows over them and then onto the trail, making it even slicker. Most of the columns cling to the face of flat granite rocks embedded in the hillside. A squatting spruce appears to be giving birth to an ice column in a cavity left when the soil eroded from between its spreading roots.

I chose the trail because it provides access to broad tidal meadows often frequented by Canada Geese.  We find the first meadow empty except for one raven that sings us a song while flying to the other side of the river.  After Raven leaves we reach a small grove of young spruce. They are pioneering a point that pushes into the river. Half of them lay on their sides as if jerked out of their natal soil by a giant gardener. He left long sections of their young roots exposed so I help myself to some. When peeled and carefully split lengthways they can be wrapped like manila rope to bind things together. I use these split spruce roots to secure the carved piece of a halibut hook to the flat piece that holds the pointed barb. The Native Americans of the Northwest Coast used the hooks to catch 100 pound flat fish. Mine just hang on the wall.

Passing the tumbled spruce we drop onto large tidal flats now exposed by the ebbing tide. Aki dashes about, drunk on so much open space. She, who lives on a mountains side really appreciates this desert flatness. We walk along ways out then turn around to see the Herbert Glacier forcing its way through a wall of snow white peaks.

The flats are as empty of life as the tidal meadows so we turn back. Just before climbing up to the icy trail we hear a large flock of geese rising up from across the river. They fly across it and head to the place where Aki and I had been 30 minutes before.  We lose sight the flock when they land on the flats. Still, like the raven, they gave us a parting song.

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