Friday, December 21, 2007

Nine hours in photos

Date: Dec. 20
Mileage: 68.4
Hours: 9:00
December mileage: 507.7
Temperature upon departure: 19
Snowfall: 2"

So I hijacked the one-hour-one-photo idea again, because it can be difficult to come out of a nine-hour ride and write anything intelligent about it. Especially a ride like today's. It was relentless. Lots of trail riding on foot-packed (or unpacked) singletrack, lots of climbing and technical descents, lots of fighting loose powder and tweaking all the muscles I've failed to build. The kind of ride that makes you earn every single inch. Snow fell for most of the day. They recorded two inches near my house, but six or more fell out in the Valley, where I spent most of the day. This was probably the toughest single "non-race" ride I've done this year, and I include in that assessment any segment of my 48-hour, 370-mile trek around the Golden Circle. 68 miles in nine hours. This is my reality.

8 a.m., West Juneau. Hitting the road before dawn. Today was the day before the shortest day of the year.

9 a.m., Sandy Beach. I did a few laps around the trails to warm up for all the snow I hoped to plow over today. Sunrise's failure to make an appearance was a disappointment. I realized the day would end up toward the stormy side of the forecast.

10 a.m., Perseverance Trail. Climbing 20-degree pitches over peoples' footprints really helped this trail live up to its name. I hoped to go all the way to the end, but about halfway up I hit this massive landslide that completely blocks the trail. I scouted for a bit out of curiosity and could find no way around it, and it doesn't look like anyone has tried. Seems like a small disaster for the most popular trail in town.

11 a.m., Salmon Creek. Another tough climb. I'm already beginning to feel it, and the day isn't even half over.

Noon, Mendenhall Lake. I sought refuge beneath an iceberg to eat my lunch. Snow was coming down hard. The lake was a fun place to ride ... about eight inches of unpacked powder over a smooth-as-glass surface. It put up a lot of resistance without being too technical. I did a few laps but didn't make any tight turns. No studs. Oh yeah.

1 p.m., West Glacier Trail. I only saw a single set of footprints in the snow that weren't mine. There were a lot of low-lying branches that kept whipping the top of my helmet, and one actually pulled me off my bike. It was crash one of three today.

2 p.m., Dredge Lake. Lots of fun riding through here. It looks like a different place beneath snow ... more closed in and tighter, like an ice maze. I began to feel like the clueless mouse trying to escape. Crash two of three came when I failed to properly negotiate a minefield of clumpy ice hidden beneath the snow.

3 p.m., Montana Creek. My fatigue really started to set in and I was maneuvering terribly at this point. The trail is as wide as a road - in fact, it is a road that's closed to full-sized vehicles. And I was all over it, fishtailing and swerving and jumping the faint canyons created by snowmobile skis. It was a mess. After crash number three, washing out my rear tire, I decided I should probably spend the rest of the ride on roads and bike paths. As it was, with six inches of new snow and a bit of sand in the shoulders, even the pavement riding was strenuous and slippery.

4 p.m., somewhere in the Mendenhall Valley with my genius water system. So I mentioned yesterday that I wasn't going to carry a Camelbak. I got a new nozzle to replace the one I lost. Unlike the old one, this nozzle doesn't freeze too quickly ... but only because it leaks so much water, which then freezes like armor across any clothing it soaks. So today I filled up three water bottles and stuck one inside my coat and two in my handlebar poggies (the warmest places I could think of), figuring that if my water froze, I'd never be that far from a source (given that I was spending the whole day covering the meager winter trail system of Juneau proper.) The handlebar water stayed as toasty as my fingers ... I swear it was almost warm when I went to drink it after eight hours. The water inside my coat froze to slurpee-like consistency and the nozzle froze shut. I realize that while poggie water works wonderfully at 20 degrees, it's probably less wonderful at minus 20. I do still plan to get this Camelbak thing figured out.

6 p.m., El Sombraro. I forgot to take a 5 p.m. picture, so instead I'm ending with my friend Brian's 47th birthday bash at a Mexican restaurant. I gorged on beans, rice and a huge burrito and as well as most of Brian's birthday dessert. It pays to sit next to the birthday boy. Happy Birthday, Brian!


  1. That girl at the burrito shop looks incredibly excited, and that big blue cough drop you are sitting under would be hard to get a tooth into.

  2. "...and no studs, oh yeah."
    You are a ficken stud-ess! Holy moly, what a cool day you had. I love the pic of you and your bike under the glaceir ice. WOW!
    Keep on rolling.

  3. oops, I meant Iceberg.
    my brain is frozen.

  4. You are simply amazing. I wish I had 1/8 of your ambition!

  5. Long time reader...rare to leave a comment.

    Tremendously enjoyed your blog over the past year...great tales, super pics....especially like the
    ".....I sought refuge beneath an iceberg to eat my lunch."

    Holy smokes, how many of us can say we sought refuge under an iceberg to eat ???!!?

    Great holiday

  6. Wow. Great pics. Keep those wheels turnin'!

  7. These are my favorite pics yet. Keep on bikin'.

  8. Amazingly amazing photos from an amazingly amazing ride in amazingly difficult conditions. You ARE amazing Jill! : )

    Also amazing? That BLUE ICE! Wow! Is it really that blue or is that because of a special digital camera setting ;-)

    Anywho, thanks again for sharing your spectacular rides with all of us. It's a wonderful treat to view those spectacular vistas, read your beautifully crafted prose and then dream about an Alaskan Winter Vacation on my own Pugster. (one day Dave, one day)

  9. Hey Jill,
    Just found your blog and I'm lovin' it. Keep on keepin' on, sister.

  10. Um, may not be aware of this, but the water around an iceberg is a little warmer than elsewhere on the lake. It IS still possible for them to flip! Rule on the lake is stay away from the face (one lady fell through last year not realizing how unstable ice is there) and stay off of the icebergs because if they flip you don't stand a chance in that hot place down south (yes that would be Fla.)of getting back out. If we lost you what would we read?? :-)
    Cynthia in the Valley

  11. That was my first thought too, those icebergs still flip even in the winter! Be careful!!

  12. Sorry to just echo everyone else's comments, but I have to agree, that picture of you against the iceberg is friggin' cool. I can't even imagine doing something like that on a routine bike ride near my home. Alaska is amazing.

  13. Love the El Sombrero pic. We have a Mexican joint of the same name here. We call it "The Hat" and it's a staple post-ride eatery. Love the ice pic too! Oh and Sandy Beach? Yeah, anything with that name should include sun, bikinis, and of course a temp north of 70! :P

  14. Beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing your rides with us. Sitting here at my computer on the North Carolina coast, I have my own version of SAD, festered in the minimal shift of seasons. Your photos and blog have been a great escape...I miss snow! Say 'hi' to the sea lions for me...Best of luck!

  15. Jill, I've been meaning to ask this question; how the heck are you photographing your self portrait pix? Mini-tripod? Rock outcropping? Glacial outcropping? Camera savvy squirrel?

    I've never found a squirrel who is up to speed with picture taking, but I use the self timer activation setting quite frequently and always have fun dashing back to the camera just in time for the shutter to click. One day I'll capture myself doing a face plant after tripping over large tree root.

    During your mad dash back to the camera, you might capture yourself being flipped under the lake by one of those big blue sleeping giants. This, obviously, would not be good(!) so please listen to your friends advice and keep your distance from those huge blue beasts.

  16. And here I've been griping about 45 degree weather here in Santa Barbara, CA.

    LOVE your blog!

  17. Great pics
    The mendenhall glacier
    is a land locked glacier.
    She is pretty safe.

  18. The ice really is that blue ... freshly calved from the glacier this summer. The color what makes it so enticing. I've heard a better reason to stay away from the bergs is because ice freezes unevenly around them and it is more likely you'll break through and plunge into the lake, for the same reasons you're more likely to fall through close to shore. I saw a lot of ski tracks and foot prints around this one, so I assumed the ice was fairly strong. As far as bergs flipping over ... a definite threat, but a bit rare isn't it? Avoiding them for that reason would be a bit like avoiding all mountains all the time during the winter because of avalanches. But I'll concur. It could happen.

    All I do with the self portraits is set the self timer, set the camera on the ground, and go about my business. That's why the angles are always low. Mostly, I like having people in my pictures once in a while, even if that person is always me. I really need to find some more cycling friends who would be willing to ride with me in the conditions I enjoy. Fat chance of that, though.

  19. Way to go, Hard Core Alaska Woman!!! You so rock, Jill, and you totally motivate me! I just got back from a night ride on the trails near the UAF campus on my Hardrock. No, it's not a Pugsley, but it will have to do for now.

    You take marvelous photos! We all love them...keep 'em coming. Way to train hard, Chica!

  20. your bravery & badass-ness inspire me to fear less & enjoy more.
    Happy Holidays!

  21. if you carry water bottles upside down, then the tops (which are now at the bottom) won't freeze first, the bottoms will. so you have a much better chance at drinking all your water. it works with nalgenes; i'd think it'd work with your bottles too.

  22. Jill, I've been reading your blog, catching up to this point now, and loving it, great stuff! Today's was a great entry, and, as other's have said, I loved the line, "I sought refuge beneath an iceberg to eat my lunch." Awesome.

    It was certainly not as cold as your condtions, but I had to hide behind a rock to warm up for a while with only about 1.5 miles to go during the Mt. Evans (at 14er in Colorado) hill climb race many years ago, as I was so cold I couldn't hold my handlebars :) So, here's to seeking refuge under large natural obstacles.


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