Above Tree Line

Aki is staying at home today. It’s a good thing. She wouldn’t have liked this porcupine. She hasn’t liked porcupines since one of them flung a shower of needles into her face. I can’t blame the porky. It didn’t know that Aki wasn’t a mean spirited predator. 

            A friend and I are above the timberline on Mt. Roberts. We took the tram up from salt water and then climbed up through a thin line of timber before reaching the alpine. On a clear day we could see up and down Gastineau Channel and across the Douglas Island ridge to Admiralty Island. This afternoon, obscuring mist opens and closes off views from the mountain. Any disappointment from the lack of views is made up by this chance for a close up observation of a baby porcupine. 

            It hangs from a tangle of alder branches like a jungle sloth, nibbling on tender shoots. A cruise ship tourist joins us and expresses intent to stroke the porky’s spiny back. We move on before the disaster happens and in minutes stumble on a willow ptarmigan in its chestnut summer plumage. It freezes in place until startled to flight by two tourists who never knew the bird was there.  

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