Aki and I are driving north to the end of the Juneau highway system. It’s a holiday weekend so the side of the road is lined with parked cars at each beach. I hadn’t intended on driving far. But each trailhead parking lot is jammed. Thirty-eight miles out, we reach the Cowee Meadows trailhead. Even though the trail leads to three forest service cabins, there are only two cars in the parking area.
After pulling on my mosquito repelling shirt, I lead Aki onto the boardwalk trail. Not wanting to overstress her injured leg, I tell myself that we will only walk a mile or so, to where the trail swings out of the forest and onto a flower-covered meadow. The little dog seems fine when we reach the meadow so I continue on, hoping to reach the section dominated by will iris. While there, I think about the marmots.
Just a mile more and we will reach the mouth of Cowee Creek where a colony of marmots hang out. Looking like oversized Guinea pigs, the marmots stand as rigid as bowling pins on the tops of glacier erratics (boulders) to watch us pass.
No clouds block the sun and its calm. The little dog starts to pant. I divert over to a small stream so she can help herself to water. She wades in chest deep, letting the stream cool her down. I forgot to bring a water bottle and could use a drink. But the marmot village is only a kilometer away.
A shrill warning whistle lets us know the marmots are near. But they don’t show themselves. I search each time we hear another whistle, but see nothing but wild flowers and sparrows trying to draw us away from their nests.
On the return trip to the car, I carry Aki over awkward sections of the trail. She acts surprised at first but then stops and waits to be picked up each time the trail is complicated by exposed tree roots and mud.