In this deep forest on a dry gray day we look for small islands of beauty. In the film camera days I’d have loaded my old Nikon FM2 with a roll of black and white. As we climb up the Auk Nu Trail toward tree line the small watercourses begin to trickle. Frozen to silence by recent days of hard frost they now ooze water over the board walk trail to make transit tricky.
Aki prances over the ice covered boards but doesn’t show impatience while I slowly find ways to skirt the worst spots. I’d hoped to climb to the John Muir Cabin and enjoy the connected series of terraced mini-ponds in the nearby muskeg. In high summer they provide music, form and color to distract backpackers resting before the final push to the cabin. I am not sure what to expect today.
Glaciated ice covers more and more of the trail as we climb through a series of snow covered meadows. I am head down most of the time, trying to avoid the fall I deserve for taking this risky trail without ice cleats. Several meadows from the cabin I turn us around and begin a slow descent to tree line. Force by conditions to watch the ground I find my pockets of beauty in the ice. Bundles of slender ice pillars force their way through softening mud and water trickling over slender berry bush limbs form frozen candles.
We find the image of a Chihuahua trapped in the surface ice of a pocket pond, its eye a perfect set of concentric circles— iris floating up as if pleading for its owner’s freedom. Given this power to form art out of circumstance I’d have fashioned a wolf in profile not this icon of the dry Mexican plains but I see the humor in the gesture.