It’s been a long time since Aki and I last walked through the Troll Woods. The trails, pounded out by beaver feet, see few humans. The disintegrating chassis of a VW Beetle is the only sign of our civilization. Proof of beaver presence is everywhere. Every few meters the little dog and I have to step over the trunks of beaver-fallen cottonwood trees stripped each bare of bark.
Still standing cottonwoods bear heavy loads of moss that drips rain water onto the mossy forest floor. Colonies of leaf-shaped lichen cling to the sides of spruce trees like swamp orchids. Moss covers every surface not treaded on by beavers, even glacier erratics—those granite boulders scatter over the moraine by the retreating Mendenhall Glacier.
The blurry whistles of nest building thrush mix with the sweeter tunes of other song birds as we approach a pocket lake. Ice covers all but a tiny portion of the lake’ surface. A brace of bufflehead ducks float on this lake within a lake. Even though we are on the opposite side of the lake, the male duck seems more interested in us than a discordant squeal coming from deeper into the forest. While I try to guess what kind of bird is making the noise, I hear the tinkle of tiny bells. Someone is making a first crossing of the woods on their mountain bike while a dog wearing bear bells patrols ahead.