Aki and I start up the service road that leads to Gastineau meadows as the fog that had recently engulfed the Douglas Island ridge retreats back to Gastineau Channel. Two people and their dog pass us on their way back to the trailhead. The man, smelling a little of old liquor and sweat, warns me about an icy trail ahead. He and the woman look like they just woke from sleeping rough. Their leashed dog almost pulls the woman off her feet. After they slide on down the hill a chocolate Labrador retriever climbs out of the fog to join us. Later we will meet the lab’s owner, ending his search for the missing lab.
We are still too deep into winter to expect sunshine on the meadow. But, now that the fog is gone, sunrays do reach the forested hills that border it. Sheep Mountain and Mts. Juneau and Roberts are painfully bright from the sunlight hammering their fresh coats of snow. The sun has reduced the fog to a glowing white snake over Gastineau Channel.
I hurry up the icy trail to get a photograph of Mt. Juneau underlined by a strip of fog. Aki and the chocolate lab lead the way. Together they catalogue scents left by animals that passed through during the night. The lab gives off a reassuring sense of confidence that my little poodle mix can never master. Aki can project a bossy demeanor, but she always assumes a submissive posture when meeting strange dogs.
At the highest vista spot on the trail, we stop to watch the fog swallowing up the view. I expect this move will be fatal for the fog, making it easier for the sun to burn it away. But the sun has already slipped behind the Douglas Mountain ridge.
As we descend the trail, the fog obscures more and more of the mountains. By the time we meet the owner of the chocolate lab near the service road, only the top of Sheep Mountain glows above the fog, looking like the stern of an ice-struck liner about to slip into the sea.