Showing posts from September, 2007

Off my feet

Today's rainfall: .08"
September rainfall: 12.96"

I spent the weekend lying low with foot pain that Geoff pinpointed as a likely case of plantar fasciitis. Basically, it's excessive wear of the tendon-like tissue that stretches across the bottom of the foot. The common term is "policeman's heel." Between that and my "runner's knee," I'm feeling a bit bogged down with overuse maladies that supposedly have nothing to do with my lifestyle.

I think this effectively ends my hiking season, not that the downward-creeping snowline wasn't already threatening to do so. I keep trying to convince myself that it's just as well. It's time to leave the unhindered days of summer behind; time to return to the bike and the more regimented lifestyle of training I have been known to say I miss. But I believe a larger part of me still clings to the hiker's high - the carefree zeal in which I attacked elevation and hoisted myself to the craggy …

Three mountains

Even though I am done training for the Grand Canyon, I'm not quite done with my peak bagging for the year. Today I marched up to three different peaks, including my first Juneau summit over 4,000 feet - Sheep Mountain (Sounds funny, doesn't it? 4,000 feet. The home in the Salt Lake suburbs where I grew up sits at a higher elevation than that. But in Juneau, Alaska, 4,000 feet feels like a real accomplishment.)

At about 12-13 miles and ~6,000 feet of climbing, it was my most difficult Juneau hike yet. In hindsight, it was much too ambitious to attempt one week after walking across the Grand Canyon. I seem to have sustained a tendinitis-type injury on the bottom of my left foot, and it flared up in full force today. The last mile and a half was close to agony, and the whole time I'm just thinking "Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!" I hope this injury doesn't stick around. It's right on the bottom of my foot, which means it's painful to put any weight on it at all…

Three ways

By beach ...

By trail ...

By road ...

Date: Sept. 27 Mileage: 45 September mileage: 475.6 Temperature upon departure: 49 Rainfall: .07"

Looking back, I should have known it was inevitable that I'd come back from the Grand Canyon and feel a little boxed in by my day-to-day life. How could you not? All of that vast and unknowable space really amplifies the smallness of the places I occupy. But I take back most of what I said yesterday. I still have a big world here to explore.

I headed out to North Douglas, again. However, today I took Pugsley and got off the road early. I really dig beach riding, but I seem to be hitting the tides at all the wrong times. Today was one of the highest high tides of the month, and I was skirting it right at its peak. I had to hop a bunch of big boulders, mash my way through fields of squishy seagrass and cross knee-deep streams up high, where they still gurgled and churned over big, slippery rocks. The little sand I saw was heavenly ... like being spit…

Routine route

(Yes, I am still posting Grand Canyon pictures. I've been carrying my camera since I returned from the canyon Saturday night, but ... nothing. Yet.)

Date: Sept. 26
Mileage: 25.1
September mileage: 430.6
Temperature upon departure: 46
Rainfall: .31"

"This is how it works ... You're young until you're not ... You love until you don't ... You try until you can't ... You laugh until you cry ... You cry until you laugh ... And everyone must breathe ... Until their dying breath."
- Regina Spektor, "On The Radio"

Today I rode out to North Douglas. Again. My bike computer was not working. It did not matter. I circled the roundabout at mile .5, sucked air up the hill at mile 2.1, passed the now-broken JEBE sign at mile 3.5, coasted by the Eaglecrest cutoff at mile 6.2, rounded the Douglas boat launch at mile 8.9, labored up the last hill at mile 11, and throttled my wet brakes to a squeaky stop at the end of the road, mile 12.55.

After I blew my nose on a d…

After the equinox

I am back in Alaska. We are building toward inch 13 of our September rainfall. Temperatures no longer seem to climb above 49. The nights are officially longer than the days, and that can only mean one thing - winter training season!

I have been trying to formulate a plan about how I can get into "the best shape of my life" by February, all while maintaining my income and spotty social life, and hopefully avoid burning out on cycling. I am thinking about treating the next six weeks as a sort of pre-season base builder. I hope to focus on speed workouts - maybe see if I have it in me to go fast on a bike - and weight lifting. Late September and October are good months to do this because they are essentially the worst months to spend out in the weather. So I renewed my gym membership today. I wrestled with the decision to do so for most of the month. It seems like a horrible waste of money given my obvious preference for training outside - even out in the weather. At the same t…

Soggy Grand Canyon

You know how there are people who, no matter where they go, always seem to bring sunshine with them? Well, I am just like that, except for with rain.

It would seem that every day, a person, not unlike myself, travels to the Arizona desert in September with a tank top, SPF 50, a camelbak full of ice and a fear of heat that only someone who never sees temperatures above 70 can understand. But it is not every day that this person, not unlike myself, is blasted with nearly a half inch of rain (.47" according to, temperatures in the high 40s and the deep chill that only a person who hikes in a half inch of rain on a regular basis can understand.

This is the story of my trip into the Grand Canyon ... epic by some standards, normal by others. But any way you project it, it is a 24-mile walk through a small slice of some of the most intense country carved into this big Earth. It is life laid bare, a glimpse of blood-red waterfalls cascading down cliffs and a realization that…

Grand expedition

Date: Sept. 19
Mileage: 18.1
September mileage: 405.5
Temperature upon departure: 46
Rainfall: 1.11"

This is a picture of me and my dad at the Colorado River near Phantom Ranch in October 2005. It was my second rim-to-rim hike across the Grand Canyon ... something that was becoming an annual pilgrimage of sorts for us. We had been planning the trip all year ... long before the day I just up and moved to Alaska. So after living in Homer for less than a month, I flew down to Salt Lake to complete this whirlwind epic with my dad.

There was a bittersweet tinge to the trip, an understanding that it was the end of an era. My dad and I have always been able to connect through hiking. When I was 16 years old, he convinced a very reluctant teenage version of myself that I had it in me to make the 18-mile trek to Timpanogos Peak and back. I wore my brand new hiking boots, a concert T-shirt and some jeans. He carried frozen Gatorade bottles in a bulging backpack and stopped every few miles to ply…


The weather holds me hostage. With fresh snow already coating the high mountain ridges and winter barrelling down, I can no longer justify spending a nice day - even if it's "sunny" only in the meteorological sense - lingering at sea level. So when that little yellow circle shows up on the forecast, I have to somehow carve out four solid hours to climb yet another mountain.

Today was Mount Jumbo. The trail begins virtually in somebody's front yard, in a neighborhood that today was enveloped in thick morning fog. I arrived early enough to meet a group of children waiting for the school bus. As I was packing up my gear, soft headlights pushed through the haze. "There it is! There it is!" one girl squealed. "It's appearing out of noooowhere."

The trail itself had a spooky woods feel, with semi-solid air and ground saturated in the 4 inches of rain that fell during the last storm. It's late season now and the presence of other hikers is scarce i…

Monster truck'n

Date: Sept. 17
Mileage: ~20
September mileage: 387.3
Temperature upon departure: 49
Rainfall: .75"

Pugsley and I had quite the adventure on Douglas Island today.

We bounded over barnacle-coated boulders, skimmed beaches of soft sand, crushed through mussel shells, squished across fields of seaweed, crossed shin-deep creeks, teetered on rickety bridges, passed crumbling Gold Rush structures, thrashed through the ghosts of old trails, spun up impossibly steep hillsides, and then turned around to do it all again.

I felt like I could go anywhere, climb anything, see everything. Pugsley pressed forward like an army tank with no scruples. I love my Pugsley. It is (sniff, sniff) the perfect bike.

Well, I did notice a few things that make it just a tiny bit less than perfect. It is heavy - quite the beast to hoist on my shoulders, an action rough terrain calls for often. It's also slow (but really, who cares?) And it corners like a bus with a flat tire (but as long as I'm going slow, who…

Gimme a P!

Date: Sept. 16
Mileage: 25.1
September mileage: 367.3
Temperature upon departure: 48
Rainfall: .97"

The wait was nearly unbearable.

The pieces trickled in - an eBay item here, a remnant of an old bike there, all placed in a dark corner of the house as I waited for the big picture to emerge from the black hole of Parcel Post. The weeks passed. The big wheels began to gather dust. The sheen on the steel frame became dull in the waning light of late summer. Over two long months, the elephant in the room started to fade into the wall decorations. Two long months, and I nearly forgot I was harboring the disjointed fragments of the coolest bike ever to grace the shoreline of Southeast Alaska.

Now, the wait is over. The brand new handlebar finally arrived in the mail last week, as did the extra rear disc brake for the front wheel. Geoff finally came home from vacation and added the finishing touches. And suddenly, all those pieces - those obese wheels, those tangled cables, that dusty frame, t…

Before the storm

Date: Sept. 14
Mileage: 39.6
September mileage: 342.2
Temperature upon departure: 53
Rainfall: 1.42"

I managed to get in a mountain bike ride Friday before another wide swath of nastiness moved through. I told my friend Geoff Kirsh that I'd meet him and his friend, Ethan, at the Herbert Glacier Trail at 12:15 p.m. I lulled through my typical morning routine until, at 10:30, the thought occurred to me that riding a mountain bike 27 miles was going to take a bit longer than the commute by car.

I stuffed a stack of gear in my camelbak that, regrettably,
did not include lunch, and darted out the door at 10:35. The sheer unlikeliness of my punctuality, combined with images of my friends waiting impatiently at a trailhead, propelled me swiftly forward. I was amazed to find that I'm no slower on a mountain bike than I am on my road bike. This probably says a lot more about the quality of the road bike than it does about my prowess on a mountain bike, but, either way, when their car pas…

Juneau Ridge

Date: Sept. 13
Mileage: 8.0
September mileage: 302.6
Temperature upon departure: 49
Rainfall: 0"

I am so in love with these places, these ridges, these gravel-strewn mountaintops that stretch like fingers from my home to the icy unknown.

Today I hiked the Juneau Ridge. The climb from the Perseverance Trail was rougher than usual; I was on the verge of quitting before I even reached Mount Juneau. I spend so much time on bikes that it's easy for me to forget the importance of shoes. Today I learned that when embarking on a 12-mile hike with extreme elevation changes, choosing one's shoes based on the observation that they are probably the "driest" - only because they haven't been worn in months - isn't the best idea. I had horrible blisters after mile 1. But once I arrived at the ridge, I became so lost in the sweeping scenery that I forgot about my foot pain.

The summit of Mount Juneau is only the beginning.

One last look at the Mendenhall Valley.

Some amazing …