If I hadn’t mistaken high for low in the tide book we’d be on the flat beach trail but I would never have found the bluff trail along the mouth of the Mendenhall River. Someone has marked it with eagle feathers and we can hear the big birds complain as we walk behind their beach side roosts. It takes us past the hemlock tree that burned during our last visit. The tree still stands, charred and smelling of smoke. Stubby green needles still fan from its twigs and branches. But it will die a slow death as its needles brown and fall.
We walk past the tree and then drop to the beach beyond the point that would have blocked our path on the beach trail. A tongue of fog moves at walking speed down the channel. It silences the shotguns on the wetlands beyond the river by providing cover for their targets. I have never been on this beach at high tide. Most walkers would wait for the ebb tide to open the beach trail. Maybe that is why the eagles complain so loudly when they exit their old growth tree perches.
I hear a boat before we see it break out of the fog. It’s an 18-foot wooden hull with the conformation of a Kuskokwim River salmon skiff. The boat driver backs off on the throttle and points his boat toward us on the shore. Those in the boat wear hunter’s camouflage. Dressed in black, I worried about what I look like in the fog—perhaps a curious bear so I wave my arms. They come closer, like the pair of seals we saw earlier approached the beach to figure us out.
“Yah, just wanted to make sure you know I wasn’t game.”
“Were here for ducks. Which way are you walking?”
“We’re going this way and will soon be out of your hair.”
We heard the pop of their 20 gauges and had the cordite smell of expended shot as we climbed back to the bluff trail.