The last time that Aki and I stood on this Mendenhall Lake beach, a raven huddled at the base of a nearby alder, driven there by an angry arctic tern. This morning, neither raven nor tern are present. Last time, a cloud of terns hung over their nesting site. Today, we won’t see one of them.
We walk to Nugget Falls without seeing another dog or human. I wonder if the little dog is bored or as relieved as I.
On a normal summer day, I wouldn’t walk this trail. Most days last summer, hundreds of cruise ship passengers clogged it or posed for selfies in front of the falls. Other tourists paddled on the lake in oversized canoes. Today, only a piece of eagle down floats on the water.
On the way back to the car I spot a pair of nice folks blocking the trail. Their brand new, high-end raid gear marks them as out-of-towners. I could pass the guy while keeping six feet between us. But the woman stands in the middle of the trail, talking on her cell phone. I smile and wave my hand gently to the right, asking her to move far enough in that direction for me to safely pass. She looks startled, as if I had said something to her in Swedish. Her phone has transported her brain to the sun-soaked place where the other participant in the phone call stands. A second hand wave brings her back to Alaska and she moves aside to let me pass.