Hummingbirds, Aki and Heavy Rain

We have a taste of Fall today with 40 degree temperatures and heavy rain. In the kitchen I try to ignore Aki’s plaintive stare and fantasize about spending the morning drinking coffee and watching Italian soccer on the TV. Then I spot the hummingbird, a Rufus, taking sustenance at our neighbor’s feeder. He manages to suck the red sugar water from the feeder even as it sways in the wind. The bird shames me into action.

These tiny hummingbirds migrate great distances to feed on our columbine flowers. A Ketchikan legend has them riding north while burrowed into the feathers of strong geese. It is easier to see the tiny birds (3.22 grams) hitchhiking north on snow geese than actually flying the thousands miles on their own.

Wrapping myself in rain gear and Aki in a red cape we drop off the ridge to explore Gold Creek. Juneau’s European founders followed a path of gold in the creek to Perseverance Basin which contained enough of the shinning mineral to make Juneau one of the most productive mining districts in the world. We start in Cope Park, skirting the ball field and tennis courts and enter the old growth spruce forest allowed to grow along the creek. This is the best sort of urban planning — ignoring   what can not be improved upon.

From the park a seldom used trail crosses Gold Creek and then meanders through alders up to the flume trail. At first Aki doesn’t follow me up the trial. Turning around I see her, now completely soaked in rain. She wears her “you have got to be kidding look.” I know there is a snow field ahead, which she will love, and chances for dog encounters so I push on. Loyal thing that she is, she follows.

Today’s heavy rain accelerates the snow melt and the creek runs full with it. The sound blocks out bird song until we reach the flume trail. From then until we return to Chicken Ridge we hear the robin and the thrust and the wren singing melody to spruce grouse’s percussion. (a drum played the first time by a carpenter — the rhythm of hammer driving nail.).

With grey skies and clouds obscuring mountain tops I am thankful for the new balsam poplar growth that brings a rich fall like color to the forest. A few of the trees stand like brilliant yellow-green candles above avalanche snow covering the trail.  Aki gets a bit wild here, dashing up and down the trail, rolling her face in the snow. 

After crossing the snow field with its trees shattered by avalanches we drop down to the creek and walk a trail now lined with dark green horse tail reeds. In a flooded area of the forest islands of blooming skunk cabbage rise out of the water.  Their rich yellow and green colors stand out against the still dormant grass of last fall. Like the hummingbird, they are creatures of spring and summer. 

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