Monday, September 03, 2007

Blackerby Ridge

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Date: Sept. 3
Mileage: 9.1
September mileage: 40.7
Temperature upon departure: 55
Rainfall: 0"

Another day, another hike. It's a little rough to do two of these two work days in a row. But in Juneau, you have to take the nice weather when it comes.

I think Blackerby Ridge may be my favorite of all of the Juneau hikes I've tried so far. The trail isn't so much built as it is eroded into the steep, heavily forested mountainside. All of the exposed roots create a natural staircase that's as punishing as a walkable climbs can be. But it's to my advantage - I get all of that boring forested hiking out of the way in just over a mile (a really sweaty mile.) After that, it's all high mountain meadows and beautifully bald ridgeline.

The best aspect of Blackerby Ridge is the devious way it coaxes me forward. Once above treeline, I had an incredible view of all the surrounding ridgelines and their topography - which, from my vantage point - looked hikeable all the way to places I have dreamed of going ... the 5,000-foot Observation Peak, the Juneau Icefield, and beyond that ... Canada. Could I reach it if I tried? I don't know. I intend to try someday.

But not today. I stopped just short of the final ascent to Cairn Peak ... and that was too far for the time I had as it was. I was already running nearly an hour late, and that was assuming it would take me the same amount of time to hike down as it had to hike up (so far, descents have always taken longer.) But it was so hard to stop. I wanted to go onward into the unknown.

After I turned back to familiar territory, I notched up the volume on the iPod and let the swirl of sound engulf the landscape. Even though I stayed up until 2 a.m. last night downloading and sorting tons of new music for my tired old iPod, I spent most of the hike cycling through The New Pornographer's latest album, "Challengers." So great. Just as Sufjan Stevens always evokes images of the frozen Susitna valley, I think "Challengers" will always be Blackerby music to me:

On the walls of the day
In the shade of the sun
We wrote down ...

Another vision of us
We were the challengers of
The unknown ...

"Be safe" you say
Whatever the mess you are you mind okay
That is the custom
On down.