Apparently bruised by a week of hard frost, these huckleberry bushes glow in maroon tones. You really notice it on the bushes growing on downed hemlock trunks covered with electric green moss. The high bush cranberries put on a similar subtle show but in reddish brown. Aki flies down the forest trail past all this beauty. She only has eyes and nose for the noisy squirrels that taunt her from the safety of high spruce branches.
Even in this flat gray light the forest is a place of contrasts—islands of brittle ice in muddy paths, evergreen moss sprinkled with dead brown leaves, a single raven croaking to break the silence. We find a sheet of stream ice weathered into the shape of a tree fog and along the river an inch deep black bear track, frozen and half full of snow.
Reaching the riverine meadow Aki is startled by a raft of bufflehead ducks sheltering against our near bank. One must have nerves of steel or an attention disorder for it is feeding, feathery rear in the air when the others break into a low flight of escape. Another seems to be water skiing on one leg, the other tucked away for flight.