July 4th Escape

We Americans make too much noise celebrating Independence Day. In Juneau it started last night with an evening of amateur pyrotechnics that ended with a professional display at midnight. Firework rockets exploding over Gasteneau Channel appeared to set the clouds on fire while echoing canon fire off the walls of Mt. Jumbo. It sends Aki into a frightened confusion that only ends with the last bomb blasts.

This morning there was more noise made by the downtown parade — Scottish and American marching bands, honking trucks, grinding mine vehicles, and the whine of two cycle miniature car engines driven by Shriners in funny hats.  Not being a big fan of noise for noise sake, I think we would be better off celebrating the holiday reading the Declaration of Independence from England, signed July 4th, 1776.

Looking for some quiet time Aki and I drive out the road to a salt chuck meadow. Seeing two not before noticed boards laid seductively across a road side ditch I park the car and lead Aki across the portal. A green field awaits beyond that sports creamy arctic cotton, purple lupine and spikes of the hooded ladies tresses orchids. There is silence here. No cruise ship horns, helicopter noise, airplane roar reaches. We wander about, crossing a barrier of spruce trees then entering another meadow dominated by an orchard of crab apple trees just now setting fruit. Nearby Aki finds a large patch of orange colored moss that has been disturbed here and there by a foraging bear. She  rolls on to her back and squirms with pleasure on the soft moss.  I’ve never seen her look happier.

Following animal trails we make our way to a gravel path that leads over a small coastal hill to a pocket beach. Large ferns crowd the trail but we have no problem making headway.  Two eagles break from the trail side spruce when we approach then we hear a series of low warning whistles from a marmot. The big cavia stands erect and as gray as the granite rock he stands upon. Rounding the corner we spot his mate looking out from the door of their tree root home. He issues one more shrill warning whistle and then both marmots go to ground. Only then does Aki decide to bark, bless her. 

Skirting the beach we take a lightly used forest path to a pocket beach with plans on continuing on to another cove. It’s just high tide, which will block further passage for another 20 minutes so we find a comfortable outcropping of rock to wait.  I doze then awake to see a seal break the surface just off shore. We watch him slowly approach our perch, rise a foot or so out of the water and then sink under the water. They are such curious critters. 


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