Autumn lingers on in the rain forest. Green leaves still cling to some of the understory plants and we found blooms on meadow strawberries. The devil’s clubs got the memo. Their leaves have turned limp enough to hang like wet paper from the plant’s thorny stalks. We find a few leaves on riverside cottonwoods but most of the tall trees have cast off their yellow growth.
While winter delayed fools the plant life, it hasn’t encouraged birds or animals to stay here. The great runs of salmon that pulse up the river set the calendars of eagle, wolf, and bear. Even with the last run of silver salmon now on the upriver spawning beds, I had expected to see eagles and ravens on the river. The eagles must have flow 100 miles north to the braided Chilkat River where a late run of salmon will supply them with food. No telling about Raven.
Normally, I’d be impatient with lingering fall. But this year, its moist grey blanket soothes. After turning our back on the river, we move through the old growth forest, silent except for lecturing squirrels (Aki’s enemies) and the crunch of my boots on leaves. It’s raining but we don’t feel the drops until Aki shoots out onto the boardwalk that crosses a muskeg meadow. Here the rain falls in thick drops spaced far enough apart for a mosquito to pass through without getting wet. A shaft of sunlight rips through the overcast to turn the drops into prisms. Aki hunkers by my side during the lightshow. I expect a chorus line of coyotes to dance down the boardwalk on their hind paws or at least a unicycle-riding bear. But we have only sparkling drops trapped in old man’s beard and electrified moss.