Over morning coffee Aki and I watch winter and spring’s seasonal war for Chicken Ridge. A north wind blew down Seventh Street all night, demoralizing artillery to soften us up for this morning’s heavy snowfall. Enjoying what each season has to offer I don’t have a dog in the fight. My sculptor’s heart loves the way the storm outlines the strong lines of naked ash limbs and mixes whites with spruce’s somber greens. The gardner worries whether our lilacs and the apple tree will ever flower.
Aki hates the north wind but joyfully exploits the rest of what weather has on offer. She strains at the leash as we head up Seventh Street for the Perseverance Trail. A neighbor with dog joins up for a couple of blocks, sharing a recent avalanche warning, agreeing to call for help if we don’t return on time. We both know that avalanche run outs can cover part of my intended trail this time of year. It’s early in the day for avalanches and it takes less than a minute to cross the troubled spot so I don’t change plans.
The tracks of only one car and one person mark the snow covering Basin Road. We use it to pass a string of craftsman houses clinging to the hill side of Mr. Maria and gain the entrance to the old wooden trestle bridge. There we meet the homeless man, smoking his hand rolled cigarette cradled in a shaky left hand. He greets Aki with a kind word but only shows me distain–quickly pulling on his street armor while walking between dog and man.
We follow the homeless man’s solitary track across the bridge and up the old mining road toward Perseverance Basin. This evidence of his purposeful stride reassures me as we approach the avalanche chute as does the low hum of drumming grouse. An animal sound. something a coyote might make while laughing rattled my confidence. This portent of disaster only sounds when we walk. It stops when we do. Is the coyote that hunts this canyon sending a warning or just indulging himself at our considerable expense? Assuming it no more than a tease I join Aki as she follows the homeless man’s tracks on approach to the avalanche chute. There, between battered trees we see a clear trail, find the mountain above silent as we cross the safety.
Shortly after the snow stops and its thinning delivery clouds let in weak sunlight. The melt begins immediately, creating local rain storms under each snow burdened tree that soak dog and man but not the birds, robin and thrush, now singing spring’s victory song.