When I was a pup, my Montana father would tell me that we had to work hard all year. But if summer appeared on a Sunday, will should take it off to go fishing. Here in the more generous Alaskan rain forest, we can enjoy many more sunny days each summer. Sunshine is hard to find this late in October. But this morning, as the early morning clouds melt away, we have to head for our favorite mountain meadow.
It doesn’t take the little poodle-mix and I very long to reach Gastineau Meadows where early morning sun is already firing up fading cottonwood leaves. The Covid crisis is still keeping school classrooms closed, but it doesn’t prevent homeschool families from filing onto Gastineau. Grand school kids stand in small circles around teachers who share lessons about fading plant life. Younger ones lie half asleep in sunshine as their moms’ fill berry picking buckets with ripe cranberries.
I panic when I spot two of the sun-soaked kids stretched out on the narrow trail. Then I lead my poodle onto the muskeg so we can keep a wide space between the kids and us.
While Aki catalogs the scents left by other dogs, I let the morning’s surprising sunshine warm my face and hands. If not for the need to leave the trail on the return trip to avoid contact with the sun-soaked kids, I wouldn’t have a care in the world. But it can’t be avoided. I just about have an alternative, somewhat dry path worked out by the time we reach the cranberry picking families. But the trail is empty. Thirty feet off the trail the sun-soaked kids have stretched out on a raised chunk of meadow, still stunned by the sun.