Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Jumbo-vision

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 if not nonexistent on a Tuesday morning. It's also close enough to October that nostalgia dictates the expectation of some chainsaw-wielding hockey-mask guy or a face-paint zombie to jump out from the shadows at any second. When that didn't happen, I was admittedly disappointed.

Finally emerging from the cloud into the bright morning felt strange, like waking up from a long afternoon nap. But it didn't last. Thick clouds kept rolling through; one minute I'd be squinting in sunlight, and the next, groping through fog. Changes in elevation revealed themselves in startling windows. When they closed, I focused on the ground, only to be startled again.

I am always so excited to discover my first fresh snow of winter.

In this landscape of hemlock and spruce, the best fall colors happen at ground level.

At the peak, I had nearly reached to top of the highest cloud. The window was large enough to open up the expanse of blue sky.

Staring out into infinity felt like snow blindness. I couldn't look for very long.

About 30 minutes from the peak, back in the midst of the rolling clouds, I met the only other person on the trail, a solo woman with a mean-looking dog. I told her it was at least another 30 minutes to the top. "I can't believe I hiked all the way up here and I can't even see a thing," she said. "I guess I'll probably just turn around now."

"You should keep going," I said. "I'm sure this cloud will move through before you get to the top."

"It's not worth the chance," she said. As I continued down the mountain I could hear her footsteps squishing behind me, until I couldn't hear them any more.

12 comments:

  1. You live in a great place. Congratulations. Your pictures makes me dream about that country.

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  2. Another beautiful batch of photos, Jill. And another adventure on the trails. What more could we want!

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  3. Beautiful writing and pictures. Too bad the other woman didn't have the perseverance you have!

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  4. Anonymous6:47 AM

    I just found your blog and am totally drawn into it. That bike must weigh 40 pounds! I love your pictures as well.
    www.charitableendeavors.org/blog
    Mike

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  5. What kind of camera do you use? I LOVE your pictures and your writing, I tune in almost everyday for my piece of Alaska!

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  6. Anonymous6:53 PM

    I went to work sunny Tuesday morning and lasted less than an hour. I told my boss "I have to go climb a mountain." He did not argue with me. I thought I was the only one on the mountain - just me and the mean -looking dog who is afraid of the popcorn popper. After all, I had broken 2 spiderwebs on the way up - meaning nobody had been there yet - OR are they really fast spiders?
    Jill - it was such a shock to run into a real live person as crazy as myself - thanks for the photo from the VERY top! That storm cloud did make me a little nervous after traversing
    planks with running water coming down them, and taking huge steps through tree roots while untangling porcupine-chaser's leash from said roots. You took the exact same photo I did of the sun shining beaming through the trees at Paris Creek! That was cool, huh?

    Diane

    P.S. Jim - I didn't see you up there at all.

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  7. Diane ... sorry about the comment about your dog (I guess you never know who's going to stumble across your blog.) For the record, I'm terrified of dogs and usually assume they're mean; I'm sure he's as nice as can be, and he didn't smell at all. :-)

    I thought when you I didn't hear you behind me anymore, it was because you decided to turn around and go back up. Ah well.

    I took a big spill on the wooden planks ... legs up in the air and everything, and landed flat on my back. I almost broke my MP3 player. Those planks are a hazard. They should just rip them out.

    I don't know how many more nice days we'll have this fall, but if you ever feel like some hiking company, send an e-mail my way. I can go most any morning. I work afternoons. jillhomer66@hotmail.com

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  8. Amie ...

    The camera I use in an Olympus Stylus point-and-shoot. There's really nothing too special about it, except for it's bombproof. It really is. I've had it completely submerged in water and I've dropped it from my handlebar bag at 18 mph. I would have broken a half dozen cameras this year alone if i owned regular cameras. So I have to go with functionality over picture quality when it comes to cameras.

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  9. Anonymous10:07 PM

    Too funny - my only bruise is from that exact same fall! ha ha - Flat on my back on the slippery planks because I looked up at the view and started walking faster - THWONK!!!
    Did not mean to bust you out about about the mean dog comment -I was only making fun of the dog - he THINKS he is scarry - and DOES scare most people needlessly - sorry! He likes to think he is protecting me, which is why I sometimes borrow him - but it is precarious to handle a leash on unstable terrain.
    Thanks for the offer of hiking along with you - I'll give a shout when I next escape the office - I still want to do McGinnis before it's snowed in - weather permitting - and perhaps dogless would be a better way to travel. He does slow me down. I see the forcast is rain for the next 10 days.....hmmmmm
    diane.anderson@alaska.gov

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  10. Oh, your blog is making me miss the woods, though yours are much nicer than mine were!

    I must go ride for a few days on the peninsula...

    Thanks for the dream-help!

    Craig B.

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  11. Anonymous8:10 PM

    heya from Wichita kansas, retired as a flight attendant and decided to be a scrub tech and work in the o.r. thinking of coming to Ketchikan i have been to Ankorage many times but never Ketchikan is it realllly small or does it get irritating from all the cruise ship traffic? I really enjoyed the pictures and conversation!

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