Aki seems content to stay home this morning. She must know that it is raining. Unless we have a little luck, we are both going to get soaked on any walk. Normally, I’d drive us over to a heavy forest where the trees would give us a little protection from the storm. But I have a feeling that migrating birds might be taking a feeding stop at Fish Creek. We have a chance to see birds that will spend the summer up north.
If Aki could speak English, I’d try to convince her that we need to visit Fish Creek. That won’t be necessary. The little poodle could throw on the brakes when we reached the trail. But she won’t. Even at 14 years of age, she still feels responsible for keeping me safe in the rain.
We didn’t see any people on the trail but there were plenty of traveling birds. A handful of green wing teal ducks ignored us as we neared them. They were too busy hammering food from a shallow pond. Soon, they will move further north. A gang of five lesser yellow legs hunk and peck food nearby. They chose to ignore us as well.
We picked Auk Nu Beach for this mornings’ walk. The huge, old growth spruce crowding the trail keeps most raindrops off our parkas. It would have been a great idea if we had the place to ourselves. New leaves were exploding open on ever alder tree. But it was hard to enjoy it because of the long line of little grade schoolers chuckling on the beach.
I wouldn’t leave the woods for the beach on any other wet day. But after the parade of beach kids passed us, I walked with Aki across the beach gravel toward a gang of golden eye ducks and scoters feeding just offshore. Mergansers and mallards would have drifted into deeper water as we approached. But the scots and golden eyes ducks just ignored us. They were too busy harvesting the shallows.
Deep snow covers the trail to Sandy Beach. It’s dense enough to has enough to support Aki’s weigh. But, I have to keep on the narrow trail to avoid wearing myself out on the soft, deep snow that borders it.
The beach is lined with dark and naked tree trunks. They still look pleasing but I am wondering whether spring will ever arrive. Then I spot one willow tree displaying a cloud of white. It’s not snow, but cotton-like flowers called pussy willows. I should take photographs of the blooms but don’t want to tromp my way through many meters of deep snow to reach them. Believing that there are more blooming willows, I follow Aki toward the beach’s end.
None of the other willows along the beach are blooming. I wonder if the flowery one is a wise predictor of winter’s end, or a short-lived fool. Then I leave the beach and climb a steep trail toward an eagle’s nest. One of the nesting birds calls out on our approach. But none of them make themselves visible from the trail.
I didn’t really want to leave the house today. I wasn’t looking forward to splashing under heavy, wind-driven rain falling out of clouds that cover the mountains along Gastineau Channel. It’s a day of grays, not blues. It’s the time for catching up on a good book. But a poodle like Aki is owed a small adventure a day so we slide into the car and head out to north end of Douglas Island, where the heavy forests can protect us from the worst of the rain.
When just a few miles from the trailhead, I spot gangs of sea lions hammering herring just off shore. Two whales do the same out in the middle of Fritz Cove. I park the car and step out. Ignoring heavy rain bouncing off my parka, I take photos of the hungry and aggressive sea lions.
In a few minutes I switch and watch the two whales conducting a similar hunt out in the cove. I think they are humpback whales, who sometimes winter over in the rain forest waters. A little gang of sea lions run just in front of the whales. The sea lions must be snatching at the herring being chased by the humpback.
I get back into the car before rain soaks through my parka. We drive to the end of the road and walk to the beach, now flooded by the high tide. Just off shore surf scoters have tightly tucked themselves into a tight raft. Are they stumbling over each other to harvest food or just enjoying a tight hug? In a few minutes they disburse as Aki and I head back to the car and then home.
Last week more than five inches of rain fell here. We probably received another five inches in the last three days. Aki and I dressed in our best rain dear and headed out to Auk Rec Bay. I hope the forest will protect us from the rain.
We don’t need any protection when we arrive at the trailhead. The grey skies aren’t dropping any rain. It almost makes me shout joy. I don’t. I might be tempting the rain to return.
The beach is almost empty of pups and their people. Maybe this is why tight knots of surf scoters and Barrow golden eyes work the surf line. In seconds, one of the groups disappears by diving into the water. Seconds later the ducks pop back up, tiny fish already settling into their stomachs. They the heavy rain returns.
Rain but no wind driving it. Hoping that the wind isn’t about to rise, Aki and I head over to Sandy Beach. The forest we must pass through to reach the beach should protect us from being washed away by the rain.
We work our way through the woods. I’m grateful that the rain has washed the trail clean of ice or snow. The rain has also powered up the normally puny streams and filled a half-filled pond. The last time we were here, ice covered it.
We see no birds or animals in the woods. But a soaking-wet bald eagle is eating something on to roof of an old mining vent. It turns around to get a good look at the dog and I. Is it expecting me to deliver some tasty dessert?
Last night one of those five-inch-rains deals started. This morning it is still a storm, not a rain shower. Strong wind shivers the car as we drive out to North Douglas. It turned out to be a bad choice.
A few thousand feet into the forest, we hit the first problem—ten feet of flooded trail. Aki started to cross it first, slowly planting each step. He seems to think that if he slipped he’d be carried downstream by the little flood. This slowed me down, allowing more water to slip into my boots.
We had to pass through many similar puddles, each one soaking Aki’s fur and my boots. The rain soaked my parka and Aki’s head and back. It drove away most of the ducks and gulls. But we did spot the little trio of harlequin ducks nestled near a pile of rocks on the beach.
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
This morning Aki is outside peeing in the rain when I start preparing for our walk. After doing her business she comes back inside the house. I should dry her off and let her find a comfortable place to sleep through the storm. But that would mean skipping our usual little stroll.
After giving her a quick rub down, I secure her in rain gear. Together we walk out the backyard and onto the street that will take us to Downtown Juneau. Thirty seconds later Aki throws on her breaks. She refuses to move until I turn back for home. Then she pulls me up to our house’s front door. I can hear the sound of a strong wind blowing rain against our windows as I follow my little dog into the house.
Okay. The trail is flooded. Every leaf is weighed down by rain. Aki doesn’t mind. She dashes up and down one of the few still-open trails, filling her memory with fading scents. She doesn’t notice that the surface of every little pond is shattered by rain drops.
I wasn’t expecting anyone else on the trail. Then an old man and his young husky dog appear. As soon as I spot them, I move twenty feet off the trail. The hiker leads his husky twenty-five feet in the opposite direction. Aki dashes it to meet and greet the big dog. In response, the husky pup’ owner shouts out that he parked his bicycle a quarter-mile up the trail.
Later, after finding our common trails flooded out, I tell Aki that we will head home. The hiker, now riding his bike, suddenly moves past us. In a few seconds he and his big dog reach the flooded trail. After chanting his desire for a floatation device, he dismounts and pushes his bike into the flooded trail. Aki and I use one of the few remaining paths to return to the car.