Saturday, June 09, 2007

Perseverance

Date: June 8
Mileage: 31.8
June mileage: 156.2
Temperature upon departure: 58

As I rounded a sharp corner of Mount Juneau switchbacks, I nearly collided with the rear end of a mountain goat. At the time, all I saw was a bulk of white. My knee-jerk reaction was that I had run into a trail hog of a hiker, but then she turned to look at me. It's a strange experience, looking into the eyes of a wild animal standing at arm's length. I wondered if the respective reflections of ourselves would come to haunt us later -the way I could almost see my shadow framed by mud-streaked dreadlocks of white fur and wicked looking horns, flickering in the depths of those dark brown eyes. It's hard not to speculate about what the animal may have seen in my eyes; did she see the strands of broken connections that could have made us siblings in another life? Or fear? Or just a faceless threat? Not that it matters. It was a fraction of a second, and then she turned and sprinted up the trail, scaring out of the bushes a slightly smaller version of herself as they retreated together. By the time I wiped off my own stunned inaction and wrestled my camera out of my shirt pocket, they were far up the trail ... much too far for the money shot. But that eerie portrait remains.

I took my mountain bike up the Perseverance Trail this morning. First time this year. Near the trailhead, I passed a group of three women hauling telemark skis on their backs. As I was wondering, "What are they going to do with those skis?," they were probably wondering, "What is she going to do with that bike?"

I'm becoming better at my late-season snow biking ... but June 8? This is getting ridiculous. There's no accounting for elevation, and since there isn't, I thought I'd see what the south-facing side of Mount Juneau looked like.

I made it up about 1,200 feet before the snow fields really started to become thick. I know from past experience hiking with others that my own gage for perilous snow crossings is set pretty high, but after the first one I didn't see a single set of footprints that weren't hoof-shaped. It was just me and the goats up there - me clinging to the slush in my bike gloves, them hopping up boulders with the kind of grace I will always envy.

I almost believed I could be that invincible all they way to the peak, but I finally came to a snowfield I wasn't willing to cross - 15 feet high with a waterfall raging through the hollowed-out space below. Like I said, my gage is set high.

Back on my bike and flying down Perseverance as it hugged the precarious ledge of lower Mount Juneau, I couldn't shake the thought that I never really had anything to fear. Haunting brown eyes ... thin shells of snow ... everything fades into safe memories as life rushes forward. And I can't help but think that this ...

This is why I'm a happy person again.