Zoe was bred to be a water dog. And she is true to her breed, following her nose to any body of water large enough for a swim. But in Alaska, she mostly swam in fresh water and did not have many opportunities to be an ocean beach bum. She was blissful during our week on Hunting Island–salty, soggy, and smiling–with twice-daily romps in the waves–often with no one else around.
We all spent most of our time on the beach. It was about four miles long and wasn’t just an ordinary stretch of sand. The more we walked, the more we discovered. The campground was near the north end of the beach and a walk to the north often meant solitude.
After about half a mile the beach ends, curving around into the tidal estuary. There were lots of shells, and some sand dollars and sharks’ teeth. We saw a few horseshoe crabs, which intrigued Zoe.
Where the campground abutted the beach, there often were several people shore casting and they were actually catching fish. So were the dolphins, which trolled back and forth offshore, accompanied by gulls, in what looked like fertile fishing grounds.
Heading south on the beach, there was a sandy expanse inshore with a minnow-rich marsh pond, a resident egret, scores of crabs, and deer and raccoon tracks crisscrossing the sand.
But the most intriguing part of the beach was the drowned forest, where the sea has encroached on the trees, leaving a ghostly landscape of the skeletons of palms, pines, and hardwoods surrounded by sand and water.
The path’s tall trees were full of woodpeckers and one day while watching the birds, I startled two good-sized beetles rolling a dog turd down the center of the path, trying to navigate the roots. I felt like I was watching a Nature Channel show on African dung beetles.
It was utterly fascinating. They worked together quite effectively and had gnats hitchhiking on their backs, apparently waiting for their turn at the table. We found that quite a few people at Hunting Island did not clean up after their dogs. A shame, but, in this case, it made some beetles and gnats very happy.
The path was short, leading back to the beach and the Hunting Island lighthouse. A black and white beauty–it’s open to the public for a bargain price of $2.00.
During the week we were there, the caretakers were trying to kill wasps that had nested on the top near the light. As we ascended the steps the smell of insecticide got stronger and the surviving wasps were still swarming around the outside walkway at the top. It made the trip up a little extra exciting. George ran up and down the nine flights of steps for exercise several times during the week.
Emerging from the lighthouse area, there are many more miles of beach, strung right along the dense palm and pine forest. It was just stunning.
We never made it all the way to the southern end of the beach.