Aki’s other care keeper and I took our time leaving the house this morning. It was Saturday morning, our day for pancakes. It takes a long time to make, cook, and enjoy pancakes. It takes almost more time recovering from the big breakfast feast. Aki was squealing when we finally loaded her and our skis into the car and headed out to Eagle Beach.
Snow fell for most of the drive, covering the road with a thin, slippery jacket. Even more snow fell onto the ski track. Aki shot out of the car right after we parked it next to the river. In a minute snow started building up on her fury front legs. Snow also built up on our skis, making them stick to the trail.
I was about to head back to the car when I noticed that snow no longer clung to Aki’s legs. I rapped my skis against a small spruce tree. When done, the skis suddenly slid comfortable on the trail. Aki charged down the trail as heavy snow continued to fall. We had no problem making it to a hard-find-find river shore where newly acquired snow pulled the shoreside spruce trees toward the water.
Aki and are standing on the edge of a shrinking beach. An hour ago, we could have walked far out onto the Sheep Creek delta, passing mallards and crows feeding in the shadows. In another few minutes, the trail we are on will disappear under the incoming tide. The pup and need to move now or have to deal with soaked feet and boots.
The remaining beach lands are still frozen, even sections covered by water during the high tide. We can fly across it. Down the beach two bald eagles seem to pout onboard a floating gold dredge.
They ignore us as we approach the edge of the beach. I secure telephoto lens on a battered peer post. While his friend sits hunched on the tiny dredge, the eagle turns to stare at me. A few hundred years from him, a small collect of mallards float together in a tight, and tiny island. I wonder if the eagles were about to divebomb the ducks when we showed up.
The sun rose in a clear sky and then disappeared into a bank of clouds. I want to tell Aki that the trees and mountains are still beautiful, but they are not. No wind shakes our neighbor’s spruce trees. For the first time this week, we have gray, not blue skies over Juneau. It’s calm and a little boring after the days of sun and wind.
We still go out, driving out North Douglas Island while a slight wind blows. There are few birds, let alone eagles. A few sea lions swim far offshore, to far away to really see. Shafts of light are fading away for a mountain rang across the channel. Patches of brighter light makes the glacier and its mountains sparkle, and fade away.
Wind ripped through Downtown Juneau while Aki and got ready to drive out to Dredge Lakes. The beautiful and enriching sunlight we have been enjoying for days might end tonight. Tomorrow we could return to wet snow days.
After we park near the Mendenhall River, Aki and I head toward Moose Lake, soaking in a beautiful view of the glacier. From here it looks like the river of ice is only a quarter mile away. The intense lighting of the snow covered land is almost overwhelming. Everywhere is stunning, everything looks almost rich enough to eat.
The incoming tide has covered all the beach sand and is now eating into the snow-covered beach. Aki and I are the only ones here if you don’t count a small covey of mallards bobbing about in the beach’s small surf. While she spends her time smelling pee and then covering it with her own, I walk onto Sandy Beach.
Strong morning light is enriching everything, making even the soaking wet logs sparkle as the surf bangs them up and down on the beach. By keeping the stiff wind at our backs we can move in comfort. While standing on a sunny stretch of beach, I look for more ducks or even an eagle or two. None appear until a little golden eye plops into the water just off shore.
Yesterday Aki’s other human and I spent an hour or so shoveling snow off our driveway. It was still snow-free this morning. But it took twenty minutes to free the car before we could drive off. The temperature dropped well before freezing last night. Now thin ice covers the street. We have to take the long way down the hill to avoid a wreck.
We drive out the southern side of North Douglas Highway. Sunshine beats down the mountains on the Northern side of Gastineau Channel. It is still dark on the southern side of the channel. We are hoping to find a snow-covered meadow seven miles out the road. It isn’t at first. But the sun will soon pop out from behind a mountain ridge before slipping behind another ridge.
I think that I preferred the unlit meadow because it seemed to set a stage for the string of mountains rising in the sun on the northern side of the channel. Besides, we were also going to drive over to Nine Mile Creek before heading home. It turned out to be the most beautiful place to visit on this sunny day. We walked along Gastineau Creek which was almost full of salt water. It reflected startling-white mountains on the other side of the creek.
We normally never visit the Eagle River on a Saturday afternoon, especially on the first Saturday of the state’s legislative session. On such day, the road out to the river would normally be jammed with young legislative aides, trying to something to do on their first free weekend.
But this morning, a snow storm dropped on us, hiding mountains and even the little islands that fill Lynn Canal. Aki is still excited to climb in the car. It takes twenty, maybe thirty miles to reach the river. We see few cars on the ride. We are the first one to arrive at the river’s parking lot.
Aki is slow at first, to follow me down the trail. I wonder if she wants to wait for other dogs to arrive. Now that she is 14 years old, she has greeted many of hiking dogs. There is none to greet her as we move down river. The little dog cheers up when we reach the mouth of the river and watch a small catch of ducks burst into flight.
Sunshine this winter is rare. So, when blue sky replaced the normal gray, we headed off to the glacier. Most of Juneau is still unthawed. But a very thin layer of ice coveres the glacier lake, turning the beach flakey.
Even though there is no wind, the thin of lake ice prevents the glacier and its mountains from reflecting anything. There are small spots on the lake free of ice. I lead Aki across a narrow stream and follow her to a small space where currents opened up slivers of calm, clear water.
I loved the photos I took of the reflected mountain sides. But, I will never forget the beauty of a different photo—a shot of mountains rising above the ice covered lake.
Last night a heavy snow fall covered the upper reaches of Mt. Juneau and its mountain cousins. It was still snowing slightly when we ate breakfast. Then, as I was searching in the kitchen for a bag of tea, the sun appeared.
Even though yesterday a sliver of sun lit up a chunk of shrinking blue sky, I expected today to be weighed down by wet, gray clouds. Aki and I left the house as soon as possible to hike up Basin Road so we could see sunlight almost setting fire to the mountain slopes. Mt. Juneau rose out of the shadowy darkness of the Gold Creek valley. My camera was overblown by intense light bouncing off the steep mountain sides. Then clouds returned, eating the mountain light until it disappeared under a veil of grey.
This morning, no rain fell on Juneau. Even though the skies are the color of the most boring grey, I am still hopeful. Tiny streaks of blue sky suddenly appear as we drive out to a beauty beach. We even see a tiny rainbow but it turns grey as I try to photograph it.
Grey seems to dominate the skies over the old village site as we start down the trail. A stiff wind rises. I am tempted to return to the car when a portion of the sky breaks open, letting strong light fly in all directions. Before I can start believing that our bad weather luck is finally dying, grey clouds return to wipe out the drama. In a hour, the rain returns.