A dozen miles north of Seward, the highway crests a large hill known, appropriately, as Mile 12 Hill and then descends in a mile-long sweeping “S” curve to the spruce and cottonwood-forested floodplain of Snow River. It crosses a low boggy area and then rises again on a man-made overpass over the tracks of the Alaska Railroad at Mile 14.
Off to the right, the red steel girders of a picturesque railroad trestle span the river, the kind of trestle not seen much anymore. Downstream of it is a large open area, formerly a materials pit from which gravel for highway construction had been extracted.
At the apex of the overpass, the eye is drawn to this area, not to the mountains behind it that run parallel to the highway across the narrow valley. Instead, attention is focused on a mound of screened gravel, perhaps twenty feet high and three times that long. More specifically, attention is focused at the base of that mound.
|This is an "after" photo.|
That was my destination. A gray overcast that had brought rain for several days was surrendering to a late afternoon sun, leaving remnants of clouds clinging to the mountains.
I turned off the highway onto a narrow one-lane road that led to the double arms of a locked gate. The railroad had posted a “No Trespassing” sign on this gate. I parked, gathered my gear, and ducked under the gate. I was pretty sure nobody would protest my trespass.
Reaching the base of that pile, I surveyed the task ahead of me. I pulled a folded yellow litter bag from my waist pouch and flapped it open. Then I began at one end of the mound and worked my way across its face, picking up the detritus of sportsmen without consciences.
For some years this site has been used as an unofficial firing range and bore the evidence of such. Discarded ammo boxes, plastic cartridge holders, telephone books, plastic bottles, aluminum cans, cardboard boxes, pieces of plywood, a tire, a microwave oven, and other impromptu targets were scattered around the area. All of it pocked with multiple bullet holes. From the highway it looked like a garbage dump.
After working two hours in the still, hot afternoon, I’d filled eight bags with litter and stacked them out of the way so they too wouldn’t be used as targets. I was picking up more litter as I walked back to my truck when an errant breeze brought the mist of a soft summer shower to my skin.
I looked in the direction from where the moisture had come and there, against a low ridge, was a full arched rainbow.
I acknowledged the message.
|The rainbow with the railroad trestle on the right.|
“You’re welcome,” I said.