A pair of ravens live in our neighborhood. When upstairs, I often hear them climbing around on our metal roof. This morning, when Aki and I leave for a downtown walk our ravens are nowhere to be seen.
The streets and sidewalks are mostly empty. As she also does, Aki takes her time moving through the neighborhood. She pees often but sniffs more. Two ravens greet us at the bottom of Gastineau Avenue. Most will be perched on the top of the library building or a tiny park.
We work our way down ice covered stairs and walk onto the dock. Just before reaching it, we spot a crowd of wax wing birds feeding in a tangle of deciduous trees. Fall colored leaves still cling the tree branches even though we have already had a week full of cold and snow.
The dock waters are empty of birds but near a little picnic area we can spot a raven playing with an empty plastic food container. Aki approaches the big bird, her doggy tail wagging, her posture held like she does when about to play with another dog. The raven continues playing with the food container even though he is less than a meter from Aki. I wonder, with good cause, whether this raven is one of the pair that lives in our neighborhood,
This morning, Aki’s other human and I drive out the mouth of Eagle River. I wish that we had brought skis or snow shoes for the planned walk up river. Not enough people have used the trail to pack down the snow. We could have glided along effortlessly on skis. Fortunately, a wide strip of compact river ice had formed a parallel trail fifty meters away. After sludging our way through soft snow, we reached the sold, if icy trail.
Aki broadened her search of the river bank, looking for scents. She tried to climb the snow-soft slope along the river boarder and sank in it up to nose. Each time she tried to climb out, she slipped further under the snow. Fortunately, Aki’s other human managed to pull her out before she sank too deep.
I didn’t expect much when we left the house this morning. Recent weather changes made the snow-covered trails slick. I solve that problem by wearing metal cleats on my boots. Thy will make the walk to Sandy Beach safe for me. Aki won’t need them. Her nails bite nicely into the slick trail.
We walk through the Treadwell Ditch woods where much ice still clings to the trees. Chunks of clear chunks lay where they fell from tree branches during a recent thaw. But much of the transparent ice still clings to alder branches and even to the tops of brown leaves.
It’s low tide when we drop into Sandy Beach. One bald eagle is sleeping on the top of the old mine ventilation shaft. He doesn’t wake up until a minute while I wait near the foot of the shaft. Then he turns toward Aki and I, looking as bored as a student during a biology class in high school taught by a teacher with no sense of humor.
Last night the temperature dropped to well below freezing, making the snow covered trail a little icy. Aki can move back and forth on it like she has magic paws. I can’t. But we manage to safely move through the woods toward Point Louisa.
Through openings in the woods, I can make out a small gang of walrus, feeding just off the beach. Nearby, gulls and harlequin ducks also track food.
A wind picks up as we leave the woods and walk across the open portion of the point. A large collection of gulls flies away when we approach but land close to the beach. In seconds most return to the snowless portion of the beach. Another gang of walrus passes the gulls on their way around the point.
I expected the Sheep Mt. beach to offer us the best of a grim set of hiking options. Last night’s snow storm early this morning but a layer of clouds still covers the top half of the local mountains. So, the sight of sunshine hammering to the top half of Mt. Roberts is a great, unexpected treat.
Mallards and gulls are the only birds we can see if you don’t count the ravens and crows. Two ravens tease Aki until she chases them away down a stretch of the beach covered with snow. The last high tide cleared snow from most of the exposed beach. This increases Aki’s opportunities for sniffing. It also makes it easier for me to walk the end of the creek delta, where we can watch the clouds return to cover over Mt. Roberts.
“This is the worst snow storm I’ve seen here in forty years.” That’s what my neighbor told me while resting on his snow shovel. Several of us were working to clear our little roadway.
During last night’ snow storm, the temperature rose above freezing for a few hours. This melted the snow. Before the moisture could drip to the ground, the temperature plummeted, turning tit into a thick, transparent coating on our lilac branches and leaves. Six inches of new snow already covered our yards. The quick change in temperature transformed it into a rock-hard mess. We could walk on the surface without sinking in. We had to work very hard to shovel it away.
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.
Every time we come to the False Outer Point beach for sea weed, we enjoy a little dance with the resident raft of golden eye ducks. As I carry two empty buckets down the steep path to the beach, the ducks, who are feet from the gravel, swim away in tight formation.
By the time we reach the beach itself, the golden eye contingent moves first toward the tip of False Outer Point and then paddles together into Fritz Cove. While Aki sniffs and pees, I search for piles of loose seaweed along the waterline. Most of the time I have to walk to the end of the beach before finding what I am looking for. After filing the buckets, I start up the beach for the car. Just before starting up the hill, I pass the golden eye pod, as they return to their beachside feeding grounds.
Aki and I are using the whale boardwalk to cross wetlands in front of Downtown Juneau. Eagles used to roost on the barren spruce trees installed to serve as bird perches. In no time the ravens and crows chased the eagles off.
Now, the crows still fly off when my little dog and I approach. But the ravens, they act like we had been sent there to entertain them. They fly low in front of us and then, in twos or threes, land in one of to the barren trees. One might even drop on the boardwalk in front of to seduce Aki to chase it. My dog no longer takes the bait.
Today rain has kept most of the people off the boardwalk so the ravens pay us special attention. After one tries to induce Aki to chase her off the boardwalk, it joins two other ravens on a nearby barren tree to preen.