Return of the Light

Give me the light—five more minutes a day.

Spring in Alaska. It’s a seduction game. Frozen nights, thawing days, another snowfall, and the cycle starts it all over again.

I love/hate this time of year. Progress measured by inches of snow slipping away every day, grimy berms yielding a winter’s worth of debris. Summer’s almost here! But, no, not quite. I also want this messy season linger. Delay the inevitable frenzy of summer just a bit longer. Enjoy the anticipation of summer. The plans, the dreams, the unrealistic goals of what we want to achieve in this all-to-brief season.

Our trail today follows the coastline along the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet for some eleven miles. But we are not that ambitious. A round trip of four miles is enough for today. Once a construction corridor for building the railroad and later the Seward highway, this trail is a sheltered favorite, protected from the harsh Cook Inlet winds.  

This may be our last hike here for several weeks, though. The path is mostly solid, but a step off to one side or the other plunges you into knee- or thigh-deep rotten snow. A few more days of warm weather and the trail will devolve into oozing muck and deep brown puddles.

Off the trail, the snow reveals foot holes from foraging moose. It’s been a tough year for them. Record snow fell early this winter and stayed, burying the willows and small bushes they need to sustain their massive bodies through the winter cold. White scars high on tree trucks mark their desperation to strip off some meager nutrition gleened from the bark. We take the massive animals for granted, find them annoying—threatening our lives by crossing dark winter roads, refusing to give ground on our walking paths and school grounds, mowing down the trees and shrubs in our yards. But, soon they will have to contend with bears on this wildlife highway. Humans, beware. Travel in groups and pack your bear spray.

At the end of the steepest climb of our hike, we step out into the open to reap our reward—the view: gray glacial waters of Cook Inlet, gleaming white peaks of the Kenai Mountains, and black ice looking deceptively like solid rock flowing with the tide. Behind us, the sun, blessed sun, warming our backs. I give thanks for this warm spring day and rejoice in the company of these beautiful women.  

Blog: Return of the Light
Turnagain Arm Trail