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K. C. Miller

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Bird's Eye View
By K. C. Miller
Thursday, February 06, 2003

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Recent stories by K. C. Miller
· The Traditional Way
· Fall in Alaska
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My family hike the ridge in spring

Bird's Eye View

The partly cloudy and blustery weather doesn't stop my family and I from packing camera, binoculars, water and a light lunch before heading out. Bird Ridge Trail is our target. A short, 25 minutes south of Anchorage on the Seward Highway and we're on the trail.

The beginning of the trail is well groomed, and paved. After making a pit stop at the outhouses, the trail turns to gravel and we ascend through the tall stands of immature Devil's Club, wild Prickly Roses—just about to bloom—and high-bush cranberries. The sight of the fauna brings back memories of musky fall sights and smells when ripe, but I relish the closeness of the greenery. After winter's cold and snowy season, it is refreshing to walk through the canopy of tall spruce, hemlock, birch, alder and willow.

The trail rises sharply and frequent stops to catch our breath allow for one great view after another. Our first real rest stop is near the last trail marker put up by the Forest Service, telling the direction of the trail. We have not traveled far and already we have a breathtaking view of Turnagain Arm in both directions and the noisy Seward Highway some 500 feet below us.

High above a bald eagle traverses a rising air current, flapping only once, circling up and up, in search of a small vole or unsuspecting rabbit, until it disappears from sight. Squirrels' chittering, and red breasted robins' loud warble and chirp compete with the sound the steady breeze makes as it whistles through the high tension electrical wires that cut through the greenery, leaving a fifty yard wide scar on the land as far as I can see in both directions. I sigh helplessly—signs of the world's advancement are beginning to take a toll on Alaska as in the lower forty-eight. We elect to go on however, and find that the trail has narrowed and is steeper than before, if that is possible, and we climb higher. We stop often to enjoy the ever-improving view of the Arm, Mount Alpenglow and Hope across the Arm to the south.

Immersed in the beauty of it all, I am temporarily able to forget the impression man has made on this state, focusing on the magical colors and essence of Alaska’s wildflowers that surround us. There are thousands of reds, yellows, whites, all shades of greens, and my favorite, violet. One such spot has all those colors and more: a mountain garden paradise.

Hundreds of purple lupine centered it, with the droopy red bloom of western columbine and immature fireweed and devil's foot surrounding that. Then the white flower of red-berried elder rimmed the display to the north, all surrounded by rust and gray colored shale and green moss and grass uphill and red and white birch and alder downhill. This beautiful sight, located just off the trail made the whole trip, for me. If I didn't see anything more, I would be happy.

Further up are patch after patch of purple forget-me-nots, mixed in with the similarly colored tall and cylindrical shaped lupine—red and white green leafed birch, occasional spruce and hemlock, willow and alder—ever present. These precious sights along with many brown and gray, white stripped and speckled, outcroppings of shale rock and brown-red fertile soil blend together to fill our souls with their glamour, and at the same time take our breath away along with the exertion of the climb. The only sight that could top all the lush vegetation, was that of the muddy gray waters of Turnagain Arm and the mountains that frame it.

From one of many sporadic openings within the many stands of trees, we drink in the sight of the spectacular Tunagain Arm. To the east and below is the small settlement of Bird Creek, but across the Arm and just to the south sits Mount Alpenglow. Its north facing slopes have snow, but its lower, exposed elevations, show the green of spring. To the west and south is Hope, sitting near the outlet of Resurrection Creek Valley. The city is veiled by the many tall, green-leafed trees growing near it. Farther west is an amazing view of Chickaloon Bay and Gulf Rock out in the distance.

Once we reach the beginning of the snowline on this steep outing, we mutually agree that is far enough. The wind is blowing hard at this elevation, but is warm and has no bite, another sign of spring. We sit to eat our lunch in silence while gazing out over Turnagain Arm, searching the mountains, hoping to see Dall sheep, or moose, or even a bear—as long as it stays at a safe distance away.

Finally we pull ourselves away from the view and begin our trek back through the loveliness of this short trail. But just as we begin our descent the bald eagle reappears, still gliding on the gusts of air, never flapping: a silent hunter, ever watchful as it surveys movement of some kind. It rides the current, taking him back up and out of sight.

I sigh and resignedly follow my family back down the trail through the menagerie of reds, blues, greens and reds, through rock and tree, flower and moss. The beauty of Alaska never ceases to amaze me. Every spring I'm renewed with the same feeling, which seems to grow stronger each passing year, reaffirming why I stay the winter.

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Reviewed by J Howard 5/22/2011
picturesque writing-an eye to follow an eagle -what magic -
well done
Reviewed by John Coppolella 2/10/2009
Lovely mental imagery written here. Thanks for sharing.

Reviewed by Katie Gabrielle 10/29/2007
a wonderful story!! I enjoyed it very much. thanks for sharing!

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