Even though wet snow was falling and Aki was cuddled up under her owner’s bed, I wanted to go with her on a walk. In a few minutes, we’d be getting into a friend’s car for a drive out to a beach trail. Aki eventually crawled out from under the bed and let me dress her in outdoor gear. But when we walked out the front door she looked board and even tried to circle back into the house. Then our friend drove up.
Aki, who thinks him her best friend, dashed to his car. She was already set up on his front seat by the time I sat in one of his second row passenger seats. Aki was the only one not wearing a covid mask.
Sunshine broke through the clouds by the time we reached the beach trail. It lit up the storm fragments formed over Stephens Passage. A streak of thick sunshine hit the ocean water and lit a thick line across the bay and onto the snow-covered beach. Then clouds returned, eating up the sunlight in the process. But we had seen and enjoyed the sunny moments provided by the shifting clouds.
Because no ice or snow covered our street, I didn’t bother putting on my ice cleats when Aki and I left the house. Two blocks later, we ran into two friends. The first thing they asked was whether I was wearing my cleats. When I admitted to walking without them, they told to be very careful. I could hear their ice cleats scrap the sidewalk as they walked back home.
I was fine for another block but began struggling when we passed the last house and started into the Gold Creek Valley. Aki, whose claws help her move over ice, still waited patiently for me to creeped my way across the old wooden bridge then worked my way toward the cross of Gold Creek. Halfway we met two woman walkers who warned that their cleats slipped on some of the trail ice. Rather than push my luck, I turned back and recrossed the bridges. The slick trail required me to move slowly, which gave me more than enough time to study the growing ice formations that lined the road.
Tomorrow starts a five day stretch of snow. But we have sunshine today. We haven’t been there for a while, so Aki and I drive out to Dredge Lake trail head. Six inches of snow cover the trail. But the Mendenhall River and most of its tributaries still flow.
Bright, winter sun makes the snow sparkle. But it softens the borders of the mountains that line the river. I’d like to be able to walk onto ice-covered Moose Lake to get a better view of the surrounding mountains. But breaking through the new ice would allow the lake water to soak through my jeans. They might be frozen by the time I return to the car.
Aki loves to walk around this lake, no matter the weather. She has already touched noises with several canine noses and at least one rear end.
A pair of ravens live in our neighborhood. When upstairs, I often hear them climbing around on our metal roof. This morning, when Aki and I leave for a downtown walk our ravens are nowhere to be seen.
The streets and sidewalks are mostly empty. As she also does, Aki takes her time moving through the neighborhood. She pees often but sniffs more. Two ravens greet us at the bottom of Gastineau Avenue. Most will be perched on the top of the library building or a tiny park.
We work our way down ice covered stairs and walk onto the dock. Just before reaching it, we spot a crowd of wax wing birds feeding in a tangle of deciduous trees. Fall colored leaves still cling the tree branches even though we have already had a week full of cold and snow.
The dock waters are empty of birds but near a little picnic area we can spot a raven playing with an empty plastic food container. Aki approaches the big bird, her doggy tail wagging, her posture held like she does when about to play with another dog. The raven continues playing with the food container even though he is less than a meter from Aki. I wonder, with good cause, whether this raven is one of the pair that lives in our neighborhood,
This morning, Aki’s other human and I drive out the mouth of Eagle River. I wish that we had brought skis or snow shoes for the planned walk up river. Not enough people have used the trail to pack down the snow. We could have glided along effortlessly on skis. Fortunately, a wide strip of compact river ice had formed a parallel trail fifty meters away. After sludging our way through soft snow, we reached the sold, if icy trail.
Aki broadened her search of the river bank, looking for scents. She tried to climb the snow-soft slope along the river boarder and sank in it up to nose. Each time she tried to climb out, she slipped further under the snow. Fortunately, Aki’s other human managed to pull her out before she sank too deep.
I didn’t expect much when we left the house this morning. Recent weather changes made the snow-covered trails slick. I solve that problem by wearing metal cleats on my boots. Thy will make the walk to Sandy Beach safe for me. Aki won’t need them. Her nails bite nicely into the slick trail.
We walk through the Treadwell Ditch woods where much ice still clings to the trees. Chunks of clear chunks lay where they fell from tree branches during a recent thaw. But much of the transparent ice still clings to alder branches and even to the tops of brown leaves.
It’s low tide when we drop into Sandy Beach. One bald eagle is sleeping on the top of the old mine ventilation shaft. He doesn’t wake up until a minute while I wait near the foot of the shaft. Then he turns toward Aki and I, looking as bored as a student during a biology class in high school taught by a teacher with no sense of humor.
Last night the temperature dropped to well below freezing, making the snow covered trail a little icy. Aki can move back and forth on it like she has magic paws. I can’t. But we manage to safely move through the woods toward Point Louisa.
Through openings in the woods, I can make out a small gang of walrus, feeding just off the beach. Nearby, gulls and harlequin ducks also track food.
A wind picks up as we leave the woods and walk across the open portion of the point. A large collection of gulls flies away when we approach but land close to the beach. In seconds most return to the snowless portion of the beach. Another gang of walrus passes the gulls on their way around the point.
I expected the Sheep Mt. beach to offer us the best of a grim set of hiking options. Last night’s snow storm early this morning but a layer of clouds still covers the top half of the local mountains. So, the sight of sunshine hammering to the top half of Mt. Roberts is a great, unexpected treat.
Mallards and gulls are the only birds we can see if you don’t count the ravens and crows. Two ravens tease Aki until she chases them away down a stretch of the beach covered with snow. The last high tide cleared snow from most of the exposed beach. This increases Aki’s opportunities for sniffing. It also makes it easier for me to walk the end of the creek delta, where we can watch the clouds return to cover over Mt. Roberts.
“This is the worst snow storm I’ve seen here in forty years.” That’s what my neighbor told me while resting on his snow shovel. Several of us were working to clear our little roadway.
During last night’ snow storm, the temperature rose above freezing for a few hours. This melted the snow. Before the moisture could drip to the ground, the temperature plummeted, turning tit into a thick, transparent coating on our lilac branches and leaves. Six inches of new snow already covered our yards. The quick change in temperature transformed it into a rock-hard mess. We could walk on the surface without sinking in. We had to work very hard to shovel it away.
Snow has started falling. It was only raining when Aki and I finished the Outer Point Trail. But the weather folks warn hikers to expect colder temperatures and a trail accumulation of snow before midnight.
The trail’s forest protected us from wind on our way the beach. But there, nothing blocked the heavy gusts. Thirty knot winds had turned the bay’s normally placid waters into lines of hungry surf. The local mallard ducks were huddled on the beach when we broke out of the woods. Our presence forced them into the ocean. Usually the ducks would automatically move into the deeper water of the little bay. Today, the wind and waves forced them to swim close along the beach