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Cold and the Taku winds bring a harsh beauty to the rain forest and I want to experience it by seeing False Outer Point at first light. Aki is slow to join me at the door this morning where I wait dressed in full winter regalia—insulated overalls, heavy coat, the wool hat with ear flaps that I only put on in times of wind driven cold.

The road takes us through a mixed spruce and hemlock forest then runs along Lynn Canal where the sun, still below our horizon paints the glacier in pink alpine glow but leaves the sea gap between it and Douglas Island in darkness. Sunrise colors dominate breaking clouds to the east at the trail head. Slick compacted snow and ice cover the trail and I’ve left the ice grippers at home.

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While Aki charges ahead I move slowly through old growth woods ignoring the beauty being revealed by a rising sun to concentrate on where boots meet ice. It’s 10 degrees but seems colder because of the breeze reaching us here in the forest. With feet already numbing and my right camera hand losing feeling I can’t afford a debilitating slip on the ice.  Reverting to the careful tundra walk I learned up north I safely follow Aki to the beach where thick ice covers tide pools and spray delivered in a series of high tides has frozen thick on any rock of size. Little chunks of ice ride ashore on waves, their still sharp angles providing counterpoint to the icy roundness of the beach’s permanent residents.

Rounding a point we find a gang of gulls and two ravens. The gulls ride waves just offshore while the ravens huddle nearby. They and all the beach are in a gloom made darker by the bright whiteness of the glacier and its consort mountains now standing in full sun.  This is one of the few places the birds find food during the winter famine.

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n days the world of man will indulge in the wonderful excess of Christmas while these birds, like the eagles and deer will continue their annual search for survival scraps. The thought deepens my appreciation of family and the gifts given and my admiration for the creature of sea and forest so well equipped to thrive in this place of cold beauty. I call Aki into the woods, leaving them peace and space to get on with making a living.

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