Aki moves along a low berm, just high enough to protect her from the storm. I walk behind her, feeling the full force of the wind. It rushes along soft particles of snow that stream across the trail. I used to love leaning into the wind, little dog. Aki can’t hear me over the sound of wind and the surf hitting the Eagle River bar.
Off shore, beyond the surf line, a dozen gulls harass a harbor seal. It gives the noisy crowd a classic stunned-seal expression. Three other seals ride up and down a standing wave in the middle of the river. They must be searching for the salmon smolt that slip down Eagle River to the sea this time of year. I hope to find geese or ducks sheltering from the storm along the river bank. Four mallard drakes do waddle into the river and fly a wide arc around us.
Feeling cold, and a little cheated, I lead Aki back to the car, leaning into the wind the whole way. We drive over the Peterson Lake salt chuck where Aki and I saw a trio of river otters last fall. The otters have a dugout condo on the north side of the chuck. But none show themselves while Aki and I explore.
A small raft of mergansers dive on salmon smolt in the ocean just off the chuck. They remind me of the importance of salmon to nature’s economy. In a few months the first of three waves of adult salmon will leap and power their way up the rocky salt chuck and into Peterson Lake. They will be the lucky ones. Many others will have already ended up as food for seals and sea lions, orcas and human fishermen. Once they have rested in the lake, the salmon will move into Peterson Creek to spawn or be eaten by bears. The bodies of those who manage to spawn will feed eagles, ravens, crows, and gulls or serve as fertilizer for the rain forest.