“We usually don’t see waves,” I shout over the onshore wind and wave crashes. The couple are petting Aki so I don’t know if they heard me. It is hard to tell where they are from. He wears a ball cap made from high-tec fabric and they both have good quality raincoats. His is a British Commonwealth accent, not Canadian but not London Brit. Neither seems afraid even through they will be alone on the North Douglas trail when Aki and I turn into the woods—alone with the wind and the rain clouds it is blowing towards them. Halfway back to the car, I am tempted to turn back and find the couple and give them enough information to stay out of trouble. But they managed to find the Outer Point Trail on their own. Hopefully, even with the trail system’s lack of directions signs, they will find their way home.
Aki may not suffer distractions from a mobile device like many of the humans we pass on trails. By plugging their ears with buds, they take hearing out of their toolbox for experiencing nature. They might even miss the shadow of a bald eagle flying over the smart phone they clutch in a hand. Today I learned that her Frisbee has a similar impact on Aki.
We are walking along the edge of Mendenhall River where it enters Fritz Cove. The incoming tide has flooded much of the beach. As usual, a half-a-dozen bald eagles are roosting in riverside spruce. Each watches us pass, perhaps eying Aki as a possible meal. Normally, the little dog hugs the forest edge when eagles take up stations in the tall spruce. Today, as if advertizing poodle meat, while chasing down her Frisbee, she dashes out to the water’s edge and springs like Tigger in the windblown grass.
This morning I ate pancakes made with the blue berries picked near sea level on July 2nd. To get our winter supply, since then we have had to move higher and higher into the mountains to find ripe berries. This is all for the good as far as Aki is concerned. Berry picking is a family affair.
Aki joins her other human and I halfway up a ski run where blue berries hang heavy and ripe. Her humans take turns throwing her Frisbee while we pick a gallon and a half of blues. Some berries drop when we touch them and I wonder, for the thousandths’ time, why birds are not hammering them. Wouldn’t birds do a great job delivering blue berry seeds in their scat? They would drop them here unlike the bears, who eat so many berries at a time that thousands of berry seeds are concentrated in each bear scat.
Carless for the past few days, Aki and I have been limited to trails that begin and end at our front door. Our walks on them reminded me that even in our benign little town, there are winners and losers. The winners whistled or even smiled at my little dog as we walk past them in the rain. One young African-American man called out a hello followed by, “Stay white.” While pondering this possible mixed message, I passed the rubble of a homeless camp and the avaricious jewel merchants of Lower Franklin Street.
Today, again having wheels, we head out to the North Douglas Island trail that leads to a beach view of Shaman Island. At the end of a warm, wet summer, the fungus are winners here. So are the tall displays of devil’s club that thrive in forest opened by wind-felled spruce and hemlock trees.
I not sure whether the two kingfishers we spot consider themselves winners or losers. The hunker on rocks just offshore apparently waiting for a fingering to expose itself. A clump of gulls huddle along the mouth of Peterson Creek. Otherwise the little bay is empty. No eagles or ravens complain. No rafts of scoters or ducks bob in the mild surface.
Fog. It covers Mts. Juneau and Roberts. The temperature difference between Gold Creek and the air above it produces more fog that rises in ragged strips like souls floating to Nirvana. The fog allows me to focus on the cottonwoods that are already dropping their yellowing leaves. Leaves of maples and thimbleberries join the cottonwood rubble on the flume trail. Aki doesn’t recognize the significance of the leaves that she sniffs for dog sign. But I know they always start to drop before the fall monsoons.
Standing in full sun on the side of a Douglas Island mountain, I realize how cleverly we rain forest dwellers can honor days of gray. During the recent wet spell, I took comfort in a day’s lack of gale force winds or, when that didn’t apply, that the rain was warm, not the chilly cold of November. Yesterday, it was enough that the pavement was dry when I woke up. Today, we have sun, warmth, and little wind. In other words, it’s summer.
Aki has four humans to herd up the trail. When we break into pairs and space ourselves out on the trail, the little dog runs back and forth between her groupings like a border collie herding sheep. Maybe, given the la-la feeling produced by the weather, we need herding.
Today Aki and I check out improvements on the Treadwell Ditch Trail, which follows the wood lined ditch that once carried water ten miles from Fish Creek to the mill works at the Treadwell mine site. Chinese immigrants dug the ditch over 100 years ago, cutting down huge, old growth spruce trees and busting a path through their roots. We don’t hear grunts or Chinese curses today, just the crunch of my boots on gravel and, when Aki spots another dog on the trail, her excited barks.