Urban Beavers

1

It’s six a.m. I’m riding through the internationally-mixed neighborhood of Mt. View, passing Pho shops and a Hawaiian plate lunch place. The restaurants are closed and I can’t find anyone on the street to ask for directions to the Ship Creek bike path. Ignoring my instinct to head toward Downtown Anchorage, I veer onto a side street. A woman of Indian origin stands in the middle of the pavement. She wears a sari covered by robes as white in the strong morning sun as a J.C. Penny’s sheet. One hand gestures toward a road dropping sharply to my right. Seeing no clues that it will connect to the bike path and wanting to avoid the sharp climb out up the street if I have misread her message, I peddle forward until she gestures again. This time I take the drop and find the bike path entrance.2

I am not surprised that she knows her way around the neighborhood. But how did she know my intent. Was she an apparition or fakir? I pass a sign, decorated by street art hearts, that warns of a narrowing path. It does constrict before climbing over train tracks and creek gravel bars covered with sulking gulls. The path corkscrews off the bridge and takes me into a land of factories and junkyards. Bordered by a covered pile of crushed cars and other industrial waste, a tribe of beavers have made their home. One of the toothy rodents swims across the pond to a den constructed of sticks stripped clean of bark. To make this passage, it must cross the reflection of an excavator parked above the den.1

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