Against my better judgment, Aki convinced me to bring her Frisbee along on this walk on the Rainforest Trail. The beach will be the problem. The little dog likes to wash off her toy. When distracted by a crow or even a wind gust she lets the Frisbee ride away on the tide. Not this time little dog.
On the forest trail to the beach I look for paper lantern shaped blueberry blossoms but find them still wrapped tight against the cold. We have better luck with the skunk cabbage, which appear as a clutch of boats being pulled across a mossy sea by yellow spinnaker sails. Territorial bird songs and the casual appearance of a robin confirm the death of winter.
The blacks and whites of crows and gulls provide most of the animated color on the beach. Aki holds her orange Frisbee in her mouth as I watch one of her other humans skip rocks on the sea surface. After the last one plunks beneath the water I spot the little dog looking toward the glacier. Between her and the river of ice floats her Frisbee. Thanks to tides and an onshore breeze Aki’s toy is on a course to a nearby beach. We walk over to the most likely landing zone and wait. It takes forty-five minutes for the Frisbee to make the passage. It lands near a beautiful sea anemone. But for Aki’s carelessness, I would have need seen it’s gold-flecked green tendrils.
The trail to Dupont leads to a World War II ruin, not to heaven. But I still feel like a soul in purgatory. Cursed looking tree roots try to catch my feet as I maneuver around hemlock trees that cling to a precipitous slope. Super-slick patches of ice lay between the roots. Aki has no problem with either of these challenges. She scampers up or under or around the hazards and waits patiently for me to work my way through each danger zone.
A mile in we enter a zone of windblown trees, each ripped out by the roots. Rocks that the tree roots had formed around remain stranded in their root wads. It’s been at least five years since we last walked to Dupont. Then, this section of the forest offered a peaceful place to rest and enjoy a filtered view of Gastineau Channel. Now, it is a metaphor for the devastation of war, which makes a kind of sense given where the trail through upheaval ends. Dupont once served as a depository for bombs and other munitions. Today alder trees crowd the ruins of bomb cribs and the old loading wharf that is no longer useable. We catch Dolly Varden trout in the stream that once provided water for the war workers. Aki loves to chase her Frisbee on the flat beach where they staged explosives for loading. If I didn’t know that we would have to pass back through the blow-down zone, I could almost forget that parts of the world are at war.
For the first time in a week, Aki sees her shadow. But, she doesn’t look at her dark self. She concentrates on an orange colored disk that flies along the shore of Mendenhall Lake. After running her Frisbee to ground, the little dog trots up to me. Distracted by a nearby eagle, I give Aki a nonchalant pat. The eagle, an immature bald, perches on a small rock and faces the glacier. I wonder if the big bird is stunned by the glowing river of ice or merely enjoy the warmth of afternoon sun on its chestnut colored back.
The eagle turns its head to watch us. We place Aki on a lead so she won’t disturb the bird and circle around it. But we can’t avoid entering its privacy zone and it breaks into flight.
After visiting a monster-sized beaver dam, we circle back to car but have to pause to let two mature bald eagles bathe in peace in a shallow stream. When other dog walkers approach these birds from the opposite direction they fly up into a nearby cottonwood tree and give us the stink eye when we pass underneath their roost.
Aki, fur plastered by a downpour to her nose, whines. It is a pleading whine, not one expressing misery. Even though rain pounds down on this mountain meadow from clouds that make day seem like night, the little dog still wants me to play catch with her Frisbee. The orange saucer lies at her feet. I pick it up and toss it out over a wet, undulating blanket of fall colors. She dashes after it, sounding her predator growl.
Aki is not the only thing on this meadow adapted to inclement weather. Round, red cranberries lie by the dozen on top of crimson beds of moss. The rain enhances their beauty as it does the yellowing deer cabbage and blood-red bear berry plants. I head over to a pocket pond to check how this heavy rain affects the water skimmers. They ride their’ home water’s surface, bobbing slightly as the rain ripples pass under them.
Aki may not suffer distractions from a mobile device like many of the humans we pass on trails. By plugging their ears with buds, they take hearing out of their toolbox for experiencing nature. They might even miss the shadow of a bald eagle flying over the smart phone they clutch in a hand. Today I learned that her Frisbee has a similar impact on Aki.
We are walking along the edge of Mendenhall River where it enters Fritz Cove. The incoming tide has flooded much of the beach. As usual, a half-a-dozen bald eagles are roosting in riverside spruce. Each watches us pass, perhaps eying Aki as a possible meal. Normally, the little dog hugs the forest edge when eagles take up stations in the tall spruce. Today, as if advertizing poodle meat, while chasing down her Frisbee, she dashes out to the water’s edge and springs like Tigger in the windblown grass.