On winter mornings when the sun slumbers still and drifting snow hides all the muskeg holes and snowmobile tracks, maybe you should take the bicycle path to work.
On the darkest part of the year, particularly if it is a Monday (garbage day) you step to the back porch and stop to listen. You've only surprised a black bear once, but that was enough. (Plus there is that Richard Burton movie Ice Palaces filmed here in Petersburg where a black bear attacked our hero in the middle of a snow storm.) You make final adjustments to your winter gear, turn on your flashlight, down the steps and off to work. But, you stop before entering the street. A passing car will reveal whose garbage got tipped over and chase away any lingering Ursus Americana.
When you hit Mitkof Highway, vehicles might be huddled up to board the ferry. Passengers will get off the boat to walk nervous little dogs that suddenly freeze up at a noise in the frozen forest or an odd scent on the chill breeze. The ferry terminal is lit up like a runway. In the dark a beautiful park hides on the water side. In front and beside the terminal is a well lit parking lot.
Next Tonka Seafoods, a great place to work if you get furloughed. Then that small place the TSA guy use to live in; famous was for his chainsaw art; mostly black bears. Then a nice couple with objects de art in the front along with amazing Nasturtiums in the summer. Then someone’s little-used summer palace. At which point nothing but you and the (Wrangell) Narrows.
Things start to change. Petersburg Creek (across the way) joins the Narrows framed by wide muskegs. On this side shaggy Ravens Roost Ridge pulls from the water allowing more light to drift in through the fog and clouds to brighten the area. But that’s after the sun rises over the ridge at 10am.
It happened here for the first time. You just left town behind. In the darkness and cold you walked by the abandon summer-palace and passed the eddy formed by it. A noise erupts out on the dark water. Sea Lions do attack people! But, tide is low and the riprap under the bicycle path high. Another noise; a fin slapping the water. Another; a bark! A bark? It is a pod of friendly seals. They will accompany you every time you walk this stretch of the shore in all the winters a come.
Author - William Moulton