Timing is important during these days of freeze and thaw. The little dog and I need to be on the moraine just as the strengthening sun softens the trail ice into something I can walk without slipping. That same sun will eventually weaken the snow crust. When that happens my boots will make six-inch-deep holes with every step.
This morning we might be a tad early. I’m slipping on trail ice every fifth step. The lighter, more compact dog has no problems. Recent snow fall and a series of cold nights have opened up areas of the moraine we rarely visit. I plan on taking advantage of this after we take the traditional dog walking trail to the Mendenhall River. I’d face a mutiny if I veered off the normal path now.
You’d think we in a dog park the way Aki is dashing around. But we have not seen so much as a cockapoo on the trail. The little poodle-mix has always valued personal encounters with dogs higher than a chance to sniff their pee. Today, she is all about the nose.
Aki shows no reluctance to follow me off the trail and onto Moose Lake. It’s the first time in years that I’ve chanced it. Just last year swans and ducks feed on its waters in early April. Now we are walking across it. It’s as trilling as sneaking onto a baseball diamond when the stadium is closed. The trail has softened while we were on the lake. Aki and I take the spur of it that leads to Mendenhall River. I’m occasionally breaking through the crust but we still make good progress.
After admiring the reflection of Mt. McGinnis in a river eddy, I walk up stream to a spot that offers a good glacier view. A trumpeter swan family watches our approach. They are the same swans we saw on previous cross-country ski trips down the opposite side of the river. Mellow birds, the swans soon return to their feeding.
We turn around and head back to the car. Rather than dig her little paws in the snow when I walk past the trail we took to get here, she dashes in front me as I continue down a large, snow-covered gravel bar. A few meters ahead, she dives onto a patch of sun softened snow and squirms, a ridiculous smile on her face.