Sunday, September 30, 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 tundra that seemed worlds apart from my home, mere miles away.

And now it's gone. I'm more than a bit annoyed. I'm hobbling around like Gimpy McStiff at work, yet again; and the frequency of my limping, I'm sure, has my associates questioning my basic competence as a bipedal human. You can call me whiny, I don't care, but I think my body is being wholly uncooperative and unreasonable. When my knee cried overuse and decided to stamp out cycling for a while, I re-evaluated the virtues of cross-training. Now that the foot has nixed the cross-training (because pretty much all weight-bearing activities fire up the pain), I guess it's cycling or nothing again.

It seems we can't win, in this battle everyone shares, when age is our enemy and experience our friend.

Friday, September 28, 2007

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. I'm guessing, though, that I could still push a pedal.

The top of Sheep Mountain had a fair amount of new snow ... about three inches deep, windswept and frozen to a hard sheen. A thin layer of clear ice clung to the rocks, and the temperature with the windchill was well below freezing. And there I was, still sporting all of my summer gear ... no hat, no coat. Luckily, I found a pair of still-damp gloves in the camelbak left over from a recent bike ride. But wow ... I was underprepared and pushing through an overuse injury. Good thing I am, as my aunt puts it, "low maintenance." Otherwise, I might have been miserable.

But I had a great time. I was wrong about the last cruise ship having come and gone. The last cruise ship of the season came today, and with it, the last day that the Mount Roberts tramway was open. I stopped there to take the cheater/shortcut/tram ride to the docks rather than limp the last two miles of trail. I walked into the building to buy a recovery drink - a tripleshot skim mocha grande - in order to spend the minimum $5 required to hitch a ride down. The barrista insisted on giving it to me for free, because it was the last day of the season. He then plied me with free muffins, ice cream and even a T-shirt (I politely declined the T-shirt, which had a scribbly font scrawled over the image of a roaring grizzly. It was pretty much unwearable, even by the standards of cheese that are acceptable in a tourist trap T-shirt). I caught one of the last trams out. I sprawled out beside a window and sipped my hot drink. From the frozen edge of the wilderness to the lap of luxury in one hike ... it doesn't get much better than that.

The top of Sheep Mountain, looking northwest.

Looking back at Sheep Mountain from the top of Mount Roberts.

Looking back at Sheep and Roberts from the top of Gastineau Peak.

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 out from a washing machine rapid into a calm, clear eddy. Beach riding can be about as strenuous as cycling gets. At one point, I tried to skirt a waist-deep river channel by hoisting my 36-pound bike on one shoulder and sprinting parallel to it across a 45-degree slope of scree-like gravel. The frame of the bike felt like it was slicing into my shoulder bone as I slid down, and slid down, and struggled to keep my speed so I wouldn't slip into the rushing current. I don't remember the last time I had my heart rate so high. But it was fun to see my "routine route" in a new light. Away from the road and the houses, the island became a new place, with the salty sweet smell of rotting sea life and wide-open skies.

After I came home, Geoff and I did a quick mountain bike ride up the Perseverance Trail before he had to go to work. I pulled out my mountain bike for the task because Pugsley is a bit excessive for a well-maintained trail, even one that's rocky and technical at times. Geoff was riding his new 29er and outclimbed me on my baby wheels like I was standing still ... not that he couldn't do that on any bike.

After that, I had several errands to do and decided to run them commuter style, with a messenger bag and everything, on my road bike. I made a quick trip out to Thane to round out my three-bike day. The last cruise ship of the season has come and gone, and downtown Juneau was like a ghost town ... jewelry stores boarded up, T-shirt shops dark and quiet, not a soul on the sidewalk or, most notably, on the road. As much as I ranted against the tourists all summer long, I suddenly felt abandoned and lonely. Winter is truly here.

At least I have three bikes to keep me company.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

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 devil's club leaf and rubbed the road grit from my eyes, I wondered exactly how many dozens of times I've put that ride together. Many dozens. Dozens and dozens. All the way down to the details ... the tarp teepee that shelters stacks of logs, the fence built 30-feet high completely out of old skis, the apartment building parking lot that is constantly hosting junky garage sales, the boats still trolling the channel, the porcupines still lumbering across the street. There is nothing new, nothing left to explore. I am officially bored.

I have been wondering when this would begin to happen. Wondering when I would begin to lose interest in weaving together the 80 miles of pavement and 25 miles of bikeable trail that is everything I have to work with. Could this be that moment? The last day of my yearlong Juneau honeymoon? Had I hit the dead end - both literally and figuratively? What would life be like from here on out? Cycling without adventure? The existential equivalent of eating tuna noodle casserole for dinner and fruitcake at Christmas? Again?

Bicycling for me is much more than a way to stay fit. It is a way to stay sane. Bicycling helps satiate my often overwhelming wanderlust. It keeps me happy with the desk job and the chore routine and the life cemented in a place where traveling more than 40 miles from home means taking to the air or sea. If I lose interest in North Douglas, the next step is losing interest in Thane. And then the Mendenhall Valley. And then Berners Bay. And then I'll have nowhere left to go.

I turned around to face the headwind and horizontal rain. I passed the waterfall at mile 14.5, crossed Fish Creek at mile 17, skirted the pothole minefield at mile 22, watched one of the last tour buses of the season roll by at mile 24, and made my way home. As I pulled into the driveway, the beads of condensation beneath my jacket had already begun to seep through my shirt, inviting the chill of the morning through my last layer. The heat of hard breathing beat against my nose and cheeks until it broke through the numbness, warming my skin. I could feel the release from hard effort. I let the sensation wash over me, like ice water, calming and exhilarating at the same time.

And I remembered, again, why I keep doing these rides. Nothing is certain; therefore, everything is a surprise.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

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 time, I spent all of last winter out in the weather, and paid for it with a long-term overuse injury. This winter, I am going to do some squats.

In November, I'll launch into endurance training ... slowly increase the hours I burn each week until I'm only marginally holding onto my income source and no longer have even a spotty social life. Hopefully by then there will be enough snow on the ground that I can spend more of that time building my spotty snow-riding skills ... even if it means hiking my bike up steep hills and white-knuckling the handlebars all the way down. There aren't a lot of maintained winter trails around here, but there are plenty of slopes. I have a hunch that Pugsley can plow through a lot when gravity is on his side.

I am really looking forward to winter training. It has been a while since I have had a goal, a real goal, to work toward. Goals always seem to make all the random adventures and myriad mishaps and glassy-eyed gym sessions swirl together toward some sort of greater meaning. What that meaning is ... I'm not yet sure. In the beginning, maybe a way to pass the time. In the end, survival.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

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 weather.com), 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 to battle the elements outside is a simple task when compared to the battle with demons within.

I made the Grand walk with my dad and my aunt Jan. It was walk number four for my dad, number three for me, and Jan's first. She had trained all summer, but she was fearful of the scope of it all. And I'll be honest ... I was feeling a little overconfident. I assumed that I could skip across this trail in my sleep, unless the heat took me down. I was not going to let the heat take me down. I packed my arsenal ... my sunscreen, sun glasses, hat, ice, electrolyte tablets, a bag of easily digestible Power Bars. The rain jacket went in almost as an afterthought.

We started on the South Rim and worked our way north. The cloud-streaked sunrise gave way to quick morning heat. By 8 a.m. it had climbed past 80; in the direct sun, it felt like 450. I clinched my fists and geared up mentally, chanting my mantra: "It's only heat. Only heat. Drink, drink and be free."

Ominous storm clouds built over the northern horizon. Dad and Jan were worried about thunderstorms, but rain was not even in my thoughts. I could not imagine a situation of rain in the desert that would be bad enough to bother me. And, anyway, rain in the desert is a few drops and some thunderbooms. Maybe a downpour if you're really unlucky. Either way ... eh.

We hit the Colorado River at 9 a.m. Looking up from the bottom, the Grand Canyon does not seem like the gaping chasm that we gawked at from the top. The Grand Canyon becomes a small place at its heart, swallowing the echoes of the roaring river and pulling inward until I find myself wandering through my own tiny world.

It was shortly after the river crossing that Jan started to struggle. She became nauseated and stopped eating or drinking. After a few miles of this, she felt bad enough to complain. Dad and I plied her with any solution we could think of, but in the end, everyone feels differently about battling the vicious cycle of the bonk. She looked up at the distant rim many thousands of vertical feet above our heads, that unmistakable look of bewilderment splashed across her face. And I felt awful about it, because I remember what it's like the feel that way; the fear is even worse than the pain.

We convinced her to drink some Gatorade, and then stopped for a lingering lunch. After our long rest, she said she felt much better. Still, she didn't eat much. She was digging deep into her energy reserve and we had a long climb ahead. That's about the time the rains came.

A swift wind down the canyon foretold of something ominous, but I really had no idea. We stopped to pull on rain gear just in time to be blasted with the kind of thick, pelting downpour that can only hit the desert. It was like we were blasted with a fire hose, continuously, for about 10 minutes. The dry desert floor rejected the moisture immediately; it came cascading over the cliffs in ketchup-colored waterfalls and covered the trails in deep puddles and wet clay.

I was frightened of the downpour, but when it tapered into a gentle, steady rain, I really perked up. I realized that I was just given my final free pass out of the canyon. This was exactly everything I had trained for ... walking up steep, muddy slopes in the cold rain. Without meaning to, Juneau had prepared me perfectly for the Grand Canyon. I felt like I had nothing left to fear.

Jan continued to struggle, but she soldiered on without muttering a single complaint about the weather, the walk or the rain. I made a couple of stops along the climb to make sure we all stayed together. I paid for it with a chill. Then it became a deep chill, and I knew then my only choice was to keep walking or let my body temperature keep dropping. But I wanted to stay with my group; I had come all this way to spend time with my family.

Watching Jan quietly marvel at the waterfalls, even after she had fallen deep into her hurt phase, was inspiring. It made me want to look inside myself for the reasons I felt joyful: for the yellow aspen trees fluttering in the wind; the patter of rain on the flooded trail; the sudden intensity of the red on wet sandstone; the elevation that turned the canyon into a deep chasm again; my dad and aunt marching up the trail beside me; my mom, aunt and uncle sprinting down the trail to greet us.

And I looked over the edge of the north rim to the fog-shrouded Grand Canyon as though I was seeing it for the first time.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

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 me with chewy granola bars. We marched into the August sun until I could see my pain, in spots, spinning in the sky. But on the crest of the mountain, looking out over Utah Valley with the chill of raw wonder pulsing through my veins, was where my life of adventure really began.

My dad and I did a lot of hiking in the years that followed. We were always trying to top our epics ... traveling to Nephi to hike Mount Nebo, traveling to California to hike Mount Whitney. In 2004, he invited me to hike the Grand Canyon - which, at 26 miles, with roughly 7,000 feet in elevation change and temperatures that range from 32 degrees at the rim to 100 degrees at the river, was arguably our most ambitious plan yet. So when it went off without a hitch, we talked about making it a yearly event. The next year, when I contemplated moving to Alaska, one of the activities at the top of my "things I'll miss most" list was hiking with my dad.

On Thursday, I head south for trip No. 3, the Grand Canyon now being "the" hike, the only one worth making the commute for. This one is especially looking fun because my three aunts, my mom and my uncle are going; one aunt trained to make the hike with us, and the rest are along for the ride. Beyond the epic-ness of it, it's going to one big, strange family reunion. Strange because, at age 28, I am still the "kid."

I feel good about the hiking I've done this month to prepare. I think I am as ready as I was ever going to be, knee injury, bike-obsessed lifestyle and all. Most of all, I am really looking forward to hiking with my dad. Maybe I can even talk him into carrying the frozen Gatorade.

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.

Monday, September 17, 2007

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 cares?)

My shoreline ride was a morning-long expedition that carried me - maybe - four miles from the end of Sandy Beach. But what it lacked in distance, it made up for in pure adventure, the wide-eyed awe of discovering surprising details in a new place.

My initial joy with the effortlessness of plowing over big rocks and floating atop sand quickly tapered when I came to the first big creek. The smoothest crossing looked to be at least waist deep, and could have just as easily been over my head. As I scouted upstream, the water roiled and churned and seemed to create an insurmountable obstacle. But eventually, I came to a waterfall, and above it, something that looked and awful lot like a bridge.

I had to hoist Pugsley up a cliff to reach it. The bridge looked like it hadn't been maintained since the Treadwell area was a bustling gold mining operation. It was too narrow for Pugsley's pedals to slide directly through. As I began to thread the bike through the swaying structure, I wondered if the creek swim wouldn't have been the safer option. But it was too late to turn back now.

Beyond the bridge was something that looked marginally like a trail. I learned the hard way - by falling sideways into a tree - that Pugsley doesn't tackle wet roots any better than any of my other bikes. I started to think about the possibilities with studded 4" tires. That would truly be a bike without barriers.

On the way back to Sandy Beach, I came across some newer infrastructure that didn't seem to lead anywhere. As I stood contemplating this bridge, I heard a loud whoosh and looked up to see a helmet-clad person flying almost directly overhead. I was so startled that it took me a few seconds to realize there was a zip line up there, and these strange bridges were the access trail.

I only skimmed the tip of what there is to explore around here, even in the limited area of south Douglas Island. Pugsley opens up so many possibilities (granted, these are all places I could access on foot, but that's just boring.) I will be back soon; and maybe I can find some lesser bikes to run over and crush while I'm at it.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

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, those rusty old Snaux Bike parts - merged into the beautiful black-and-gray beast you see pictured above.

I will call him Pugsley, and he will be mine, and he will be my Pugsley.

Now all I have left to do is go for a ride.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

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 passed me with less than a mile to go, I felt like I had just won a race.

We did a really mellow ride out to Herbert Glacier. Geoff's friend Ethan admitted he hadn't been on a bike since he was a teenager, and it was funny to watch him navigate the smooth gravel trail ... lots of erratic swerving, frantic pedaling and long periods of coasting on the flats. They say you never forget how to ride a bike, but that must include a fairly liberal definition of "riding." I stuck to his wheel for two seconds and nearly took a dive. After that, I hung well back, barely pedaling myself.

It was all in good fun though; it's not always about the bike. Mostly, it's about the bike. But sometimes it's about spending time with your friends, too.

The windy rainy nastiness moved in during our ride back. We didn't escape without getting wet. The weather effectively wind-blasted our barbecue plans; it's hard to accept that summer is over. Today Geoff and I spent the morning working on Pugsley, and then I went for an hourlong swim before work. I haven't been swimming in months. It was interesting to discover that I am in much worse shape for it now than I was when I could barely walk. It's a great workout, though. I'd integrate more swimming into my routine, but I already feel like I have a lot going on.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

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 singletrack ... if only I could get my bike up here somehow.

Looking out toward Blackerby Ridge. Salmon Creek reservoir is a little sliver in the center.

The remnants of last winter meet autumn.

Observation Peak. If I was a faster walker or had an 12-hour+ day to work with, I could connect the Juneau Ridge and Blackerby Ridge via this 5,000-foot peak.

This lake was almost completely frozen the last time I was here, Aug. 8. It won't be long now before it's frozen again.

Descending into the Silverbow Basin, back to reality.

....

Do you ever think about places where, after you die, you might like to leave your ashes? I always imagined my friends and/or family carrying my earthly remains deep into Canyonlands, Utah, and tossing them into the desert wind. That way, I could spend eternity drifting with the sand and lingering against sandstone walls in the red shadows. But now, I don't know ...

I may just have them save a few spoonfuls for the tundra above Juneau.