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.

11 comments:

  1. Wow. You're really starting to make some real strides and progress. It's almost a mirror image of my injury. I was hurting, HURTING, hurting...and then not so much. Here's hoping you're well on your way back up the recovery road. Ride on, chica!

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  2. Simply stunning.

    I'm envious of the mountain goat proximity. When we visited Banff several years ago to hike the many mountain trails, I so hoped to get close enough to really see and photograph the big white beauties. But they stayed high up and elusive.

    So glad I stopped over today - well, I'm ALWAYS glad when I stop over to your blog. A feast for the eyes and heart.

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  3. Beautiful thoughts and great pictures. You have a way with words and pictures that makes me not only see what you see, but gives me a glimpse into your heart, too.

    Toledo, OH

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  4. This is a good entry. It's funny how snowline there is 1,200 feet - it's basically the same as 10,000 feet in Colorado right now. Have you ever read the book "One Man's Wilderness" by Dick Proenneke. He's the dude who built a cabin at Twin Lakes and live there alone for 30 years. His adventures in and around the mountains sort of reminded me of this entry. I think there is an accompanying video too - "Alone in the Wilderness" that is pretty good.

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  5. Oh yeah, the muse and you are getting along real good.

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  6. I want to be you when I grow up....great column today!

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  7. "Perseverance Trail" - that has to be the coolest name for any trail ever. :-)

    Great entry. I love it when you run into wildlife like that out on the trail. I literally almost rode into a black bear once on the trail that bridges over from Palmer Trail to the top of our housing community here once. That was cool, but also a little frightening. We just stood there staring at each for like 20 seconds, neither one of us knowing what to do. Finally, I slowly turned my bike around, walked it back around the bend, then rocketed back down the hill I had just climbed up. I then had to go down Section 16, one of the more technical trails around, as the sunlight was fast fading away (it was dusk at the time). When I get back down to the intersection w/ the Intemann Trail, I stop to call my wife to see if she can pick me up over at the trailhead over on 26th Street. As I'm starting to dial my cell phone, I hear a rustling above me to my right. I look over, and there's another black bear staring down at me, about 10 feet away! I just put the phone back, and made my way across Intemann, riding the rest of the way home in the dark, with no lights.

    Of course, on the mtn bike you at least half expect stuff like that. Once, on Vail Pass, I encountered a black bear on the (paved) path while on my road bike. That was weird...

    By the way, great pics of the mtn goats!

    -Fonk

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  8. Jill, I didn't know what to say when I saw your picture and read your post today. Do you know what BERGZIEGE means translated into English? Mountain Goat!! (For all that don't know, "Die Bergziege" is the title of my blog)
    The reason's why I choose that name are various. It's in German because I am German and I read up about mountain goats but I have never seen one, other than on pictures.
    Good to know that they have brown eyes, like I do:) I don't think you had to fear anything...

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  9. What a great place to live!

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  10. trails like that would make anyone a happier person..

    beautiful

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  11. Looks like you have a pic of Ebner Falls. Truth to tell, Perseverance trail always scared the xtra tuffs off me. I lived in Juneau for many years and confess that when I saw the reference to Perseverance, I was thinking of the theater and my old stomping ground rather than the trail. Thanks for showing me pictures of home. It reminds me I need to come up for a visit to my friends and family...preferably in summer...maybe a trip on the ferry and a jaunt to Tenakee. Need a nice hot soak.
    Julitasoup

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