The Juneau Church of Powder and Shot has gathered with their weapons this morning at the gun range. They share a parking lot with users of the Montana Creek cross-country ski trails. Aki and her two humans, unbelievers all, walk away from the gun range. Each shot makes the little dog jump, as if they were aimed at one of us. She will calm down as soon as we start skiing. But I still wonder if it was mistake to bring her along.
We have to walk for a quarter of a kilometer on bare pavement or ice before we can ski. Just after clipping in my skis, I spot a man and woman slowly walking towards us. A makeshift sling immobilizes the woman’s left arm. She thinks that she separated her shoulder when her skis slipped and she fell. The grimace of pain on her face confirms her prognosis. The man holds her close to prevent another fall, like he might escort a wounded soldier from the battlefield. They walk toward the sound of booms and bangs of rifle shots.
I ski on until we reach a little hill covered with gray ice. Thinking about the woman, I take off my boards and walk to the bottom of the hill. We ski just past the three-kilometer sign and return to the car. The noisy creek obscures the gun sounds, the sun softens the snow. We can relax now that the ice has been turned into corn snow by the day’s growing warmth. But this is definitely the last time we will ski Montana Creek until next winter.