Aki sniffs tentatively near the bell of an old growth spruce tree. It is one of a small island of mature trees in a hilly second growth forest. For some reason the loggers who had clear cut the forest 60 or 70 years ago let this clutch of spruce live. The last time we visited the grove the little dog found the body of a newly dead bald eagle. The forest seemed full of complaining eagles that day, driven from the nearby landfill by cracker shells. This morning, we only hear ravens calling out to each other as fine snow falls through the canopy.
The snow simplified finding the grove by painting the faint access trail white so it stuck out against the greens and browns of the forest floor. We followed the thick white line as it twisted around standing spruce and wind-fallen hemlock. It guided us through gaps in downed logs, under a canted hemlock tree serving as a nursery for the next generation of trees, and down to the eagle grove.
It was summer when Aki and I found the dead eagle. Broad, thorny leaves of devil club plants hid the trail. We were forced to climb over dozens of wind fallen trees and carefully slip through devil’s club thickets. There was once a decent trail from the grove back to the trailhead but much of it had been washed away during a fall storm or blocked by downed trees. I felt like a shipwreck survivor when the little dog and I finally managed to find the trailhead. Today, the magic white line painted by the snow helps us skirt all the obstacles.
A raven near the trailhead stops crocking to watch me retrieve the plastic bag I had use at the start of the trip to contain Aki’s poop. It calls out to his fellow forest guardians and then flies along with us back to the car.