Aki and I are back on the glacial moraine where only pioneer plants grow. A second ago in geologic time, the Mendenhall Glacier covered the area where we walk. Now willows and alders work to covert poor soil to good. In areas where the moraine has been ice free longer, spruce and cottonwood trees grow close together like they would in a forest recovering from clear cut logging. The path we take has been compacted by previous hikers. If we step off it, we’d sink into deep, soft snow. We stay on the path.
Snowshoe hare tracks cross the trail in many places. Last night a deer struggled through the deep snow to reach the trail and then used it to speed up her trip to a foraging area. Otters left tracks of their undulating movement through the woods. I look for recent wolf tracks but find only those of wandering dogs.
Downtown, where Aki keeps her kennel, rain and warm temperatures have already stripped the trees of snow. But here they still carry heavy burdens of white. The glacier keeps the moraine cool while downtown thaws. Every turn of the corner provides another greeting card image to enjoy. We detour down a side trail that provides a view of a frozen slough. Before it retreated, the glacier dropped a dozen small boulders on the slough in a pattern that would please a Japanese gardener. In summer the rocks rise above water like an archipelago of islands. Snow now blurs the boundary between rock and ice. Odd shaped rocks have become pyramids or domes.