Today is Aki’s tenth birthday. We celebrate on the glacial moraine. A favorite trail is almost empty even though it’s sunny and frost feathers cover every stone, fallen leaf, and blade of grass.
Wafer-thin ice covers Mendenhall Lake except where Steep Creek flows into it. At least four late-run sockeye salmon recently entered the stream. Three have taken up station on one end of the first beaver pond. A fourth is dead at the feet a bald eagle that is busy ripping off strips of salmon flesh with its orange beak. In seconds three other eagles land. The first bird chases off one but the other hangs about. Two magpies flutter around the feast but have to settle for scraps that have landed a safe distance from the eagles. Soon raven will push away the magpies and reach a détente with the bigger birds.
Aki, she ignores the bickering birds but not the scent of something she catches after we have moved away from the lake. At first oblivious, I trod on until I sense her absence. Turning, I see her standing stiff, noise wrinkling in caution. A line of what looks like wolf tracks lead from her to me. I back track and take an alternative way to the car with my little protector.