Finding a place where the wind can’t hit me, I pull off a heavy mitten and use the bared hand to frame a photograph of a beaver house reflected in pond ice. “Click.” I swing the camera toward a ridge of saw-toothed mountains rising above the forest at the north end of Cowee Meadows. “Click.” Hand cold, I return the mitten and search at my feet for Aki but find only snow and glare ice. As she has since lunch when our hiking partner gave her some tasty treats, my little dog is hard on his heals.
They are fifty meters out on the pond ice. Squinting out the glare, I think I see Aki looking back to make sure I am okay.
I’d forgive the dog if she asked. She’s earned it. For two hours she bounced in and out of our snowshoe tracks or leaned into a wind that has already scoured trail ice clean of snow. She joined our approach to a beach being hammered by forty-knot winds, winds so cold that I could only stand for minute to appreciate Lion and the other peaks surrounding a riling Berner’s Bay. Then she follows us to this beaver pond, her exposed rear chilled by the wind.