I’m biking across a cement bridge across Idaho’s Snake River. To my right, at eye level, a red tail hawk flies a parallel path over the river. Back home in Juneau Aki might be watching an eagle do the same thing as she travels by car across the Douglas Island Bridge. Would the little dog believe as I do, if only for a second, that she was soaring with a raptor?
Upriver thick, grey clouds block my view of Asotin Washington where my uncle once worked as a sheriff. For the first time in many years, I will have to run from a summer rainstorm in the Snake River valley. While visiting relatives here in the past, I’ve always had to get in my bike rides before the summer heat made it impossible to exercise. On this trip I will postpone at least one ride until the temperature rises above 60. Yesterday I watched three white pelicans swim downriver and learned that they are new to the valley. More evidence of climate change.
Aki and I are time traveling. The mountain meadow where we started this walk is nearing high summer. Bog rosemary plants have formed magenta islands on the muskeg. The early bloomers have already gone to seed. We heard the banshee-like call of a red tail hawk after a mail plane flew over the meadow. Slipping off the meadow and its handicap accessible trail, we follow an old plank trail to the Fish Creek crossing. This involves only a short travel in time.
A craftsman made the trail of hand-split spruce, setting each board in a graceful step pattern. If he used metal nails to secure the plank steps, I can’t find them. But each step holds firm when I descend with Aki to a modern bridge across the creek. From there we follow the Treadwell ditch trail toward Mt. Jumbo and spring.
Along the ditch, blue berry bushes are just setting blossoms. Some of the ferns slowly relax their tight spiral heads to spread their lacy leaves to the sun. Using imagination, I travel back 100 years to the time when Chinese laborers built this ten-mile long flume to carry water for the Treadwell gold mills. It’s quiet enough to hear their ghosts cursing in Mandarin as their phantom whipsaws rip through trailside spruce.
While Aki reads the scents left by dogs and other mammals along the trail, I search a disturbed section of the Gastineau Meadows for insect-eating sundews. The cry of another predator makes Aki cringe and startles me into an upward look. We both watch a red tail hawk continue its hunt across the meadow. The hawk’s distinctive cry, which froze my little dog must do the same to its prey.
I watch the red tail circle over the eastern meadow but rather than dive, it rises higher and higher, shrinking to a brown dot against the clouds disintegrating on the flank of Mt. Jumbo.
It’s too early for the shooting stars to flower but there should be some other flashes of magenta on the meadow. I head up the trail to find some. Aki won’t follow so I turn back toward where we startled a Sitka black-tailed doe. Just our smell was enough to send it running for cover. I wonder if we carry the odor of the meat eater, like the wolves that leave tracks in the meadow snow.
On a morning where events established Aki as possible predator and prey, we return home where the little dog hopes to hunt up some cheese to go with her breakfast of kibble.