On my penultimate day in Anchorage, I escape with a couple of other students from writers’ school and visit Potter’s Marsh. It formed when the Alaska Railroad dammed off a tidal slough with its raised track to Seward. The grassy wetland is lousy with migratory birds in spring and fall but today local Canada geese, a couple of waders and the ever-present gulls have the place to themselves.
There are tourists who wander an elevated boardwalk with looks of disappointment on their pale faces. Fixed on birds, most miss the pulse of pink and king salmon that glide in the water under their feet. A group of Yupik kids spot the fish right away. They lean over the rail and point at the restless horde of pink salmon as the fish emerge from three highway conduits that have no apparent connection to the ocean. The male pinks, now gray with snaggle teeth and humped backs could be souls scarred by Hell. Their Beatrice might a 15- pound king salmon the color of blood that slips past them and up stream to its spawning beds.At the bend of a marsh steam, a gang of Canada geese shelter from a strong wind under a wall of grass. The wind whips the ocean of grass into waves but we can’t hear it over the highway noise. We surrender and head down the Seward Highway to look for Beluga whales and find three fine-legged Dall sheep, their white coats standing out against a rock face thanks to the strong afternoon sun.