Footprints

The dock was empty minus one small fishing vessel and her skipper diligently cleaning the morning’s catch. Manipulating his knife skillfully through the flesh of a monstrous lingcod he seemed hardly phased by the sudden arrival of a group of gawking onlookers.

Today we were benefiting from a standing friendship between our captain and the local Chief, permitting us to visit the all but abandoned island. The wharf brought us to a characterless dirt road soaked in dejected September sunshine. Along the road we crossed paths with a pickup truck sporting the logo of the fish farm operating just outside the harbour, the only sign of any local economy. After 10 minutes or so we turned off the dirt road and were pulled into the bosom of the great coastal earth mother. Uh, I mean, we entered the forest, but there was something spectacularly welcoming about this trail.

The mossy tunnel of lush vegetation was lined with gnarled, burly trees. The thick canopy overhead filtered the late morning sunlight, dappling the forest floor with warm golden highlights. Fungus and ferns decorated the fertile soil of the narrow winding path. As we neared the end of the trail we were greeted by the rhythmic sound of crashing waves shaping the islands shoreline. The cloak of lichen covered branches and thick salal opened up to a view of the Pacific ocean splayed out before us, pounding at the sandy crescent bay. The tides have diligently framed the beach with driftwood, kelp and washed up flotsam. We spread out into the open air of windswept shoreline.

The fine grey sand in the shade of the looming trees, rugged and resilient from years of being pummelled by ocean storms, was disturbed only by a trail of crisp paw prints. The palm sized tracks lead us further into the open, exposed beach where they were joined with another set of tracks. These two creatures soon met with a whole crowd of much smaller prints. The tiny paws of pups intermingled with those of the larger animals leaving behind the signs of playful greetings. The recent canine rendezvous carried on along the sandy shore between the tumbling surf and the storm ravaged trees. Images of playful wolf pups and somber elders combing the beach animated the wild isolated beach. The prints drifted apart before reconvening at the edge of the salal bank where, among the wild strawberry vines, they were joined by the prints of an unfortunate deer.

On an island with no permanent human inhabitants, miles from the nearest town, coastal wolves reign over the natural kingdom. Our bipedal footprints may have stained the picturesque pocket of remote coastal paradise but even here are reminded of our supreme presence and domination over this planet. Plastic bottles, marine floats and bits of trash tried unsuccessfully to blend in to the line of drift wood and seaweed. Even here in the kingdom of the wolves we are reminded of the implications of our imperial reign over everything. Eden is littered with our trash.

As our visit to the island came to an end and we cruised out of the quiet harbour a lone sea otter basked confidently in the calm sheltered bay knowing we wouldn’t be disturbing him again.

 

 

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