Hoping to spot the river otters that hunt the Fish Creek Pond I lead Aki onto the downstream path rather than head directly into the old growth forest that starts just above the North Douglas Highway bridge. Many feet and animal paws have stomped the snow on the path into a thin slick surface. Only the track of a traveling beaver scout marks the snow covered creek—a narrow trough that could have been made by a tiny man pulling a tiny toboggan sled. He explored each small section of open water before making a purposed march upstream.
Not seeing otter or otter sign we backtrack to the trailhead and move onto the upstream trail. Recent snow still flocks the stream side willows some of which block the trail. We soon find deer tracks and follow them past the urban style graffiti covering the bridge pillars and into the old growth.
Here ice replaces snow on the trail so I pull on boot cleats while Aki dashes up and down the trail to read the sign. The deer stopped here recently, digging about in the softer snow before continuing up the trail. To our right Fish Creek runs under diminishing ice, ever widening the patches of open water.
Snow high in the canopy loosens as the temperature rises then falls like a new storm when a breeze rises. It falls with beauty but still soaks Aki’s fur and darkens my rain gear. In minutes we hear a collection of chickadees chirping out their winter work song and I wonder if they are hunting insects recently hidden under the snow.
The trail moves us away from the creek and deeper into the forest where only the sound of plopping wet snow breaks the silence. Preferring the rushing of a moving stream I take a shortcut back to the creek and find a Water Ousel bobbing up and down on a small rock above open water. The bird can walk under water on stream beds but flies away today when it spots us.
The beaver scout must have turned around before Ousel rock because the snow covering this part of the creek remains unblemished except for the tracks of a river otter that recently emerged from a open water pool and climbed to the high spot on a drift before returning to the stream. We have to figure out a way to move with some silence through the woods.