Teenagers

I use my camera for taking notes.  Today the media card failed rendering the camera useless. Instead of snapping pictures without discrimination I have to stop and memorize things of interest on the trail.

With the snow pack failing in this part of the forest this might be the last chance to walk the breadline trail before it melts into a boggy mess. After pulling on ice cleats I head down the steep but short drop to “U” shaped creek valley that is still in darkness on this sunny day.  Aki halts at the near edge of a rough hewn bridge with a six inch wide strip of snow rising one foot above its wooden deck. I must cross first to convince her of its safety.

After the bridge it is a short climb up to a muskeg meadow now flooded with sunlight. Snow covers most of it so Aki lightly paws my leg in hopes that I have brought her frisbee. She would settle for a stick to chase but snow covers all. In seconds she dashes down the faint trail and follows it into a grove of old growth hemlock trees. I join her and wonder how nature crammed three such different ecosystems in the short distance from trailhead to ocean bluffs.

The hemlocks flourish in a large protected swale that ends where the bluffs drop vertically to the beach. To survive the trees send out their tough roots up and down the hill.  They form  spiderweb like tangles on the steepest portions of the trail.  Even small boulders wear a mesh of their roots. Large spruce and alder trees grip the edge of the bluffs by sending roots into the hillside and bluff face.

Thanks to a complex of cliff side alders we find safe passage down the bluff to the beach. The tide recently turned from ebb to flow so we have lots of area to explore.  I am drawn to a flat section that extends far enough away from the bluff face to escape its shadow.  Most of the rocks in this sunny space offer nice places to sit. Unfortunately tiny periwinkle snails, just formed, cover the surface of them. I do find one snail free perch near the water.

Offshore a sea lion slides it’s head sideways out of the water at a 30 degree angle then slides back into the water. He repeats this several times until another sea lion head rises with his. Then a third one joins the spy ring. With Aki leaning up against me I wait for more.  These are young sea lions — the teenagers of their kind. Like human teenagers they get bored, take chances, and quickly change their minds. I am counting on these traits to bring them closer to the beach.

While the tide rises closer and closer to our resting rock the sea lions continue their cautious closing on our position. Just before we have to move to drier ground one of the lions breaks the surface 50 feet away, stretches out his body and swims by on his side before diving.   That is last we see of any of them.

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