Seven women climb up a trail in the Chugach Mountains on a sunny April afternoon. Temperature in the forties. Trail conditions: slush, ice, occasional patches of mud. On our feet, each person wears a different version of cleats, spikes, or studs—anything to get us through the icy spots in the shade and up and down steep slopes. We follow the South Rim trail high above Campbell Creek in Chugach State Park. The sound of rushing water carries up the canyon. Though the creek appears just a ribbon of white below us, the creek must be flowing freely beneath the ice.

Our pace is quick, though we stop for occasional pictures.

“What’s that bird?” asks Betsy. A large brown bird perches atop a tall spruce. White patches on its back and head, hawk-like in silhouette. No one thought to bring binoculars. It’s too early in the season for serious bird watching. Below us, four adult bald eagles cruise the canyon floor. Another sign of spring. It’s unusual for so many eagles to congregate unless there’s a food source nearby. A winter moose kill? When the bird in the tree takes off, the size of its wingspan and the white on its tail confirm that it’s a juvenile bald eagle.

The trail gains elevation and we strip off our jackets. For the first time in months I hike without coat, hat, or mittens. Warm sun on my head, cool breeze on my face, feet firm on the ice. I rejoice in the company of women who ignore aching hips, knees, and hands just to share this spring day in the mountains with each other.

Someone spots an unusual set of tracks, small pock marks in the snow, arcing into a hole plunging beneath the crust. We pause, take pictures, speculate. A vole hopping to a hole? Good title for a children’s book. After inspecting from all angles, we can’t solve the mystery. Surely a small creature that, just like us, surfaced for a chance to feel the warm sun on its face after a long, dark winter. Or a trickster who poked the tracks with a ski pole, hoping to stump gullible hikers like us.

Blog: Tracks