On October 18, 1867, after purchasing the Alaska Territory from Russian, US government officials raised their flag over Fort Sitka. Government and bank employees get today off from work to celebrate. Rather than contemplating how different their lives would have been as Russian citizens, most of the freed employees are walking up the Perseverance Trail. In full sunlight we climb with them to the top of Gold Street and walk along basin road, past the old craftsmen style houses that cling to the side of Mt. Maria, and onto the trestle bridge.
It’s windy, blowing with enough power to strip the mountainside willows and cottonwoods of yellow. We follow the creek bed where yellowing leaves still stir in a wind that carries the sweet scent of cranberries ripened by last nights freeze.
Tired of overheard voices—a helicopter mom’s one last checkup call before walking out of cell range, good friends comparing marriages, harsh laughter, a dog’s name called in anger—I lead Aki onto a back trail. We meander along a loose connection of deer trails, otter runs, and access routes to a homeless campsite, pleased that nothing can be heard over the low roar of Good Creek except the rustle and crunch of Aki and my footfalls on crisp, downed leaves With the canopy of cottonwoods bare, the sun sends shafts to the understory. One beautifies a clutch of dying leaves. Does nature provide northerners such things on crisp October days so we can weather the storms of early winter?