Taking advantage of the ebbing tide, I lead Aki onto the expansive Eagle River flats. My little dog is reluctant to follow. If she could understand English, I’d tell her that there is still more than thirty minutes before low tide. We will have plenty of time to explore the flats before the flood cuts off retreat.
Eagle River formed the flats with gravel and silt carried from the terminus of the Herbert and Eagle glaciers. The silt sections are covered with tiny clamshells, pink and splayed open. I suspect that the Canada geese and other waterfowl that hunt the flats during low tide made meals of the clams. We walk over the shells toward Lynn Canal and the low, forested hills that separate salt water from the Chilkat Mountains. Last night’s fast moving storm flocked the hills with snow that sparkles in the morning sun.
Feeling it is time to retreat, I turn around and spot the blue ice of the Herbert Glacier winding between Ernest Gruening and McGinnis Mountains. The little dog and I head over to the river and approach a small squadron of Canada geese that had been flushed from the Boy Scout Beach meadow by hikers. The adaptable birds have made themselves as common as rats in many populated areas but I still love to see them fly with out stretched necks and the characteristic white patch wrapped around the bottom of their heads.
Before we can approach near enough to the geese for a good view, a happy, chatty couple follow their two bird dogs onto the flats. The geese explode into the air and cross the river. The couple might be new to town, maybe only in Juneau for the four-month legislative session. This might be their first chance to explore on a sunny day. We exchange greetings and Aki plays tag with their dogs. Then, they continue out onto the flats. Later I will wish that I had made sure that they knew about the tides. They might not have realized that in three hours the place where we had met would be underwater. They will probably figure it out before the path of their retreat is covered with water deep enough to spill over the tops of their shinny new rain boots.