On the Alaska Marine Highway, the ferries always depart at inconvenient times. Today we left Juneau on the MV LeConte at 7 am. While that hour may seem reasonable, we still had to leave the house at 5:30 in order to get the car in the proper loading line. It’s sunny but cold making it bard to spend much time on the deck. I make an exception for the Eldridge Rock Lighthouse, so isolated in the middle of Lynn Canal. The little block house structure sit on the apex of a rock bare but for a small spruce, probably planted by a previous lighthouse keeper. Today it can hardly compete with the sunlit peaks of the Chilkat Range that rise skyward behind it.
It takes six and a half hours to make the trip from Juneau to Skagway, Alaska — all of it beautiful in the sun. I don’t bother looking for whales who are still in transit from Hawaii. We do see one lively Dall Porpoise streaking down the waterfront nears Haines.
From Skagway we drive up the steep road from sea level to the Canadian border, passing through several active avalanche areas with signs warning drivers not to stop, With heavy snow loads above the road and warming temperatures I feel like a gambler. Just past Canadian Custom we stop near the terminus of the Chilkoot Trail and ski on rolling trails through a lodgepole pine forest. Some times we drop onto flat pocket meadows which offer views of pure white peaks. Some have captured their own cloud, which rides low over their summits as if pulled down to guard against the harsh sun. Many of the pines lining the trail have big patches of red needles, usually a sign of victimization by bark beetles. Will this whole forest die in the coming years? In 1898 men hungry for gold slayed the trees’ ancestors by the thousands to keep them warm while waiting for Lake Bennett to break up. Then they journeyed down the Yukon River to the Klondike Gold Fields. They cut down many other pines to form the rafts they used for the trip. From the looks of the needles on these trees I wonder if the insects will destroy what the avarice gold seekers could not.
Near the end of our ski I spot strange tracks in the snow. They must have been made by a bird, perhaps a raven, who strolled through the soft snow, made a sharp turn and pressed his breast in the snow. So secured, he reached out gently with his winds and made a light scratch with each of the four or five feathers at the tips of his wings. Susan called it a raven’s snow angel. It just confuses me.