There are many reasons why we don’t visit Fish Creek this time of year. All of them are linked to salmon. In a normal year, hundreds of king salmon would be splashing in the creek’s pond. These draw crowds of fishermen trying to snag the big fish with weighted hooks. Chum and pink salmon should be holding in the creek, ready to move upstream to their spawning grounds. They bring the attention of bears. But today, perhaps because of the disappointing salmon returns, there are no cars or bear scat in the trailhead parking. These absences, plus the fact that the low-gas-warning icon lit up five miles ago cause me to pull into in the empty lot.
Two ravens guard the footbridge over Fish Creek, hopping slowly down the railing as Aki and I start across the bridge. I look down at a gravel bar for the expected dog-salmon carcasses and find none. The ravens must be here to attack a garbage bag that hangs partway out of a waste bin. Above the ravens, an eagle screams.
A king salmon, already robbed of its silver color by time in fresh water, rises on the pond surface, drawing the attention of an airborne eagle. Nearer to us, two other eagles perch on pond-side spruce trees. The one with the chestnut and dun feathers of an immature bird appears to take interest in Aki. I think about putting the little poodle-mix on her lead but in a minute we will be back in the trees where she will presumably be safe from eagles.
A minute later, while we walk down a forested path, the immature eagle flies low over our heads and lands clumsily thirty feet up a nearby spruce. We watch each other for a while and then I follow Aki away from the pond toward the creek’s mouth. This eagle will follow us to the mouth and back to the pond—with the purposeful casualness of a spy, not the focused intensity of a mugger. After the third eagle flyby I clip Aki’s leash to her collar as the immature eagle settles onto another spruce branch.