A Dangerous Coat


Aki and I head out to the moraines, trying to squeeze in a visit before a promised Pacific storm slams us with high wind and heavy rain. Already the leaves of our cottonwoods weaken from green to yellow to brown. This afternoon’s storm could strip some of the moraine’s trees bare.

On the drive out I think briefly about bears. A sow and cubs have been feeding on salmon spawning near the glacier. We should be ok, a half-a-mile away on the moraine trail. Even if we come near bears, they shouldn’t be interested in a little dog and her scruffy master. But, I haven’t factored in my fishy coat.


Without thinking about anything other than convenience as we left the house, I pulled on the coat I used on yesterday’s fishing trip. A person with a sensitive nose might detect the faint odor of herring rising off its sleeves. But to a bear in autumn, the jacket must smell like an unguarded fish market.


Ten minutes into the hike, Aki growls and makes a faint into the woods. The branch of a trailside alder quivers above her head. Suspecting she is flushing a bird, I call her back. We walk on, enjoying reflections of yellowing leaves of willows and cottonwoods in the moraine’s pocket lakes. Far from the quivering branch, Aki growls again and breaks into the woods. Another branch quivers. After I call her back, a bear lets out three huffs and climbs ten feet up a spruce tree.


We divert into the troll woods and swing a wide arc around the bear visitation spots. At home, I drop the herring coat into the washer.


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