Thinking that the ground might be frozen enough for a dry crossing of the swamp of misery, I follow Aki onto it. The little poodle-mix flits down the boot-chewed trail, her frame too slight to break through the icy crust. Distracted by the way frost feathers brightened the swamp’s stunted trees, I let my right boot crunch through to wet slurry. She looks back when I say something impolite but keeps a straight face.
An informal trail leads into the old growth forest that covers a line of ocean bluffs. We drop down onto the beach, now being hammered by two-foot surf. A humpback whale spouts off shore in Favorite Channel. I’m thinking that is it the same stay-at-home guy we spotted a couple of weeks ago in Fritz Cove. Then two more whales appear. Why aren’t they in Hawaii procreating?
Farther across the channel than the humpback, I can’t see whether the new guys have the tall dorsal fins of killer whales. Their spouts are rounder than the humpbacks so maybe they are part of the transient “wolf pack” that preys on marine mammals. That could explain the presence of the five sea lions that now hang in the surf just off shore of this beach.
Screams of two bald eagles draws my attention to the edge of the bluff where they race each other to a spruce tree perch. When I look back to the channel, the sea lions are gone. But I can still see the lone humpback whale, now working the closer-in channel waters.