Just in Time

Aki and I just left Sheep Creek. It is one of the little dog’s favorite walks because it is the favorite walk of many other Juneau dogs.  Aki had to squint into the sun, which made the sides of flying gulls almost painfully white. 

            We skirted the little inlet always haunted by a small raft of mallards. This morning a gadwall joined them. Even though their numbers make them seem as common as dirt, I love the metallic green heads and blue wing patches of the showy males. This morning two of the male mallards gave us hard looks as a hen plunged her head under the water for food. 

            Even though she would rather scout the sand dune for scents, Aki followed me to edge of Gastineau Channel. From there I could see Sheep Mountain emerging from a wall of fog. Recent storms have weighed down it and all the local mountains with snow. Thanks to yesterday’s thaw a slick crust covers the snow load. We should have avalanches if we receive the seven inches of new snow promised to fall tonight. 

            The road from the trailhead to town runs along the bottom of a series of avalanche chutes. In winter it is illegal to stop in this zone. Just before the no-stop section a sign warns us that the road will be closed at noon for avalanche abatement activities. It is now 11:40 A.M. In twenty minutes a helicopter will lower a daisy bell percussion device over areas with too much of a snow load. Sound waves from the daisy bell will set out little avalanches. Some could reach the road. 

            Until recently the state controlled avalanches by firing shells from a recoilless rifle into the upper sections of the zone. The boom of each shot would echo down the channel. After accurate shots the boom would be followed by the crack and crash of  a cascade of snow. 

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