Rain, snow, and cold skies are returning to our little fjord bound town. “Wait,” I want to shout. “Wait until at least six months before bringing back the ice and cold.” This morning the temperature is already in the 50’s. Aki is running between our her human and I, making sure that we are both keeping pace as we ski along Montana Creek.
According to the weather experts, wet clouds will hide the sun over Juneau tonight. Rain and snow will hit the next day. There is no hope for the sun’s return for at least a week.
I stop often as we ski along the creek. Sometimes I halt to take pictures of sparkling creek water rushing under and around snow covered boulders. Other times, I just stop on a sunny patch of softening snow to listening to the rushing water while strong sun warms my face and raises Aki’s attitude.
(The first four swans we’ve seen this year, feeding along the shore of Auk Lake.)
The first person we met on a North Douglas Island trail was an old man. He moved slowly toward me, weighed down by a heavy back pack. Twenty steps behind him, a woman of the similar age carried a similar burden. Shafts of morning light threw long shadows from every tree and bush they past. Aki and stood ten feet off the trail so they could safely pass.
We ran into more campers on a trail that rarely has any. They stayed all night even though the temperature dropped to around freezing. Many were still snugged in their tents. Two men sat in folding chairs where they could catch warmth from the morning sun. They looked fragile, like men do when feeling the morning sun after a night of cold. A bottle of whiskey sat just beyond their reach.
It’s 60 degrees F. We are walking along a small lake covered by a cloud-free sky. A very thin blanket of ice still covers the southeast portion of the lake where Aki and I stand.
Many of the waterfowl birds are taking advantage of the sunny day to sleep on the grassy beach along the northern lake shore. Having winter ice on the lake’s south side but not on the north makes me wonder if the little dog and I wandered into the Southern Hemisphere.
It’s a rich day for bird viewing even if you ignore the ducks. Two geese flew past us on the beach as did a heron. Just before returning to the car I walked to the auto bridge and spotted two other Canada geese standing together on the creek shore. One looked fine. The other had an odd looking tail. Was it damaged or just catching the light in an odd way.
The song birds arrived this week. Trails once dominated by silence and not overwhelmed by opinionated jays, junkos, and robins. They just arrived at end of the last storm, like they were blown here by the wind.
On today’s walk I saw many other birds, but only for a second at a time. They would fly off just as I focused the camera on them, chirring as they moved off. I never got their names.
The weather report I read before going to bed last night promised cooler weather and overcast skies. That seemed fair. We have had a nice series of warm, sunny days during which all of our crocuses bloomed and the snow in our yard disappeared. The sky is graying up right now, but was charged with sun when Aki and I walked along Sandy Beach.
It was a morning for watching gulls, but not eagles or even ducks. That didn’t really matter to me. My eyes were draw across Gastineau Channel where sunlight splashed sections of the mountains. Weak clouds lost control of sunlight shafts. Some lit up miles of beach and then disappeared. Others threw patterns of shadow and light on the snow covered mountain sides.
Our car claims that the air is currently 61 degrees F. But we still have to use a lot of caution to work our way down the ice-slick trail along Fish Creek.
There’s lot of reasons to believe that it is spring. Gangs of robins bounce about the meadows. I Even spotted my first varied thrush of the year. It’s low tide so there is a long of ground exposed between our trail and the ocean water. We watched two eagles leave their spruce tree roosts and glide out to sea. One just misses a mallard. The other eagle snatched a fish from the water and carried it to the beach to eat.
People in this tiny, Alaskan capital city are had a dogs. Folks who haven’t owned a puppy since their own childhood started buying them when Covid force them to work from home. Today, a six or eight month old pup accompanies every human walking down Eagle River.
Perhaps to teach all the new dogs a lesson, Aki ignores them. I try to do the same. It’s low tide so a great deal of the river delta is exposed. For this reason I am surprised to see hundreds of Canada geese feeding nearby.
Aki and I leave a river meadow and walk a little closer to the geese cubby. Several 100 feet down the river, I spot an immature bald eagle sleeping on the beach. It’s just a few feet from the river. Many dogs would charge the goose, Aki ignores it. I swing wide around it rather than get too close. Eagles need their space. As I watch it, a human couple with a dog on a leash, walk close enough to the eagle to wake it up. It still doesn’t move, which makes me wonder it is sick or undernourished.
I tell the human couple that eagles need more space than they are currently giving this one. One of the humans smiles and says that always give eagles this much space. They continue walking towards the ocean, flushing geese and ducks into flight on the way. I apologize to the eagle and tell it that more invasive couples would soon be walking past it. It appears to stare at the couple but doesn’t fly off. I take a few more photos and turn my back, When I turn around again, the immature eagle is gone.
In a minute or two a patch of geese that the friendly, if obtuse humans flushed off the beach, fly back to their original spot. As Aki and I sit where we can enjoy the sunshine, a series of hikers with dogs walk toward to geese. When a new couple approaches, the geese takeoff, honking, as they had when the first human/dog gang approached them. A few minutes after those people pass, the geese return to their spot. This happened three or four times before there is a break in human visitors. No wonder the Canada geese population seems to be exploding. They are wise, like a fox, but hide their wisdom by sounding like fools when they fly away.
The sun is back and it brought warm skies. Juneauites are walking around with happy faces, like children entering Disneyland. Aki and I drop off of Chicken Ridge and head toward the humpback whale statute. One raven watches us approach, jerking his body side to side as if tossing out a threat. When I come nearer it flies in front of the dog and I, makes a snap turn, and passes behind our backs. After we walk twenty feet away, the raven returns to where we first saw it.
Aki and her other human joined me on the Dredge Lake trail this morning. Aki’s humans had talked about using the cross country skis but decided just to walk. By now the recent stretch of warm weather should be melting the trail free of snow. Boy, we were wrong.
After parking near the trail head, we slipped and slid our way along Mendenhall River, happy not to find clouds covering the glacier and surrounding mountains. But a grey mist covered most of the other mountains. We could hear geese and noisy gulls flying overhead, out of sight. We passed areas containing robins and what sounded like swans. But they never broke out of the grey.
The temperature finally ramped up into the high 40’s, enough to tell Mt. Juneau it is time to shed all its heavy winter snow. This afternoon, I could hear, for the first time this Spring, the sound of a white river of snow powering down the mountain. It was so warm that I didn’t have to slip a jacket on to keep from getting too cold when I went out to watch.
While the snow shower continued, two American Robins landed on a nearby tree. They stared at me as I stared at the mountain avalanche. Then they turned up their beaks in judgement, as if I had failed to give them a proper welcome to the neighborhood.