Friday, January 11, 2008

So much beauty it'll make you cry

Date: Jan. 10
Mileage: 65.4
January mileage: 238.2
Hours: 8:45
Temperature upon departure: 22
Precipitation: 0"

Disclaimer: There are a particularly gratuitous number of pictures in this post. It may make the post seem obnoxiously large. You have been warned.

I didn't have many goals for today's ride. I wanted to spend at least eight hours outside, slowly as I am trying to ween my knee back into long rides. I wanted to spend most of the day riding trails and check out some new trails. But I have to admit, I wasn't that particularly excited about it the prospect of an all-day bike ride.

My mood kicked into manic mode at the first sight of blue sky after breakfast. There's no way to overemphasize this: There's really nothing like a (partly) sunny day in Juneau. We all spend so much time slogging through downpours that even I sometimes catching myself wondering why anyone would take a job here, buy a house here, commit themselves to living here for any amount of time. But then the sun comes out, and every lingering speck of S.A.D. disintegrates. We have great selective short-term amnesia, we Juneauites.

I knew, looking across the Douglas Island bridge first thing this morning, that the day was going to be beautiful.

Even the commute was nice.

Temps were in the low-20s ... preferable to the soggy mid-30s by any Juneauite's standards, and absolutely ideal in my mind.

The Mendenhall Glacier was looking very azure this morning.

The Mendenhall Lake was covered in a little more than an inch of fresh snow resting atop glare ice. A great day for speed. Not a great day to make figure 8s.

As I crossed the lake in the light mist, I heard this low, loud howl. "It couldn't be," I thought, but I made a U-turn toward the sound anyway.

Sure enough, I caught a glimpse of the black wolf called "Romeo" as he loped along the shoreline. The story behind Romeo, by local legend, is one of a lone and lonely wolf who was somehow separated from his pack (another story has his entire pack killed by wildlife officials.) So now he lives on the outskirts of suburban Juneau, looking for dogs to be friends with (another story has him looking for dogs to eat.) Either way, he is regularly sighted near the lake, but he still takes my breath away every time.

I soon made my way over to the north end of the valley. This is what I imagine the pre-Alaska Range Iditarod landscape looks like.

Pushing my bike up the Lake Creek trail was completely exhausting. Most of it was a steep sheet of glare ice covered in a very meager layer of snowmobile-chewed snow. One would imagine that, when training for a bike race, it would make the most sense to ride one's bike. But I've found that my most valuable training comes in taking my bike for long, steep walks. I'm never working harder than I am at 1.5 mph.

I sweat a bucket and a half while slogging up there. But when I reached the wide-open trails of Spaulding Meadow, I knew the ice climb was worth it.

Totally worth it.

Totally, totally worth it.

Back to the lake by sunset, making a few more loops on the ice before hopping over to the nicely foot-packed trails of Dredge Lake. I had hardly noticed the day had slipped away.

And just like that, it was nearly 4 p.m. Even though I absolutely had to be home by six, I had a hard time peeling myself away from the trail. I felt completely strong. My knees felt completely strong. I wasn't even hungry. It was like I hadn't ridden a single minute the entire day.

I can't believe I let myself count these rides as "training."


  1. Beautiful. Thank you.

    That's all I can say, as even the sound-byte challenged can be rendered wordless at times. :)

  2. Thank you for sharing! Posts and pictures like these make me count down the days until I move to Alaska! Lately I have been freaking out a little about moving 4,000 miles away. New state, new job, new climate, new apartment, new everything. But you remind me why I decided to go up there in the first place. Thanks!

  3. The photos are always amazing. I put you in for best photos in the 2008 bloggies,

    Amazing how you managed to take that first one just as that cyclists head explodes.



  4. Is it hard to get back up to speed the next day if its one of the soggy, foggy, gray ones?

  5. Your pictures *totally* blow me away.....

    Thanks for the 5 minute vacation:-)

  6. wow, wOW, WOW!
    You had me at "so much beauty..."

    I did detect just a tinsy tear in my eye.

  7. Wow! I can see why a day like that does give selective amnesia...Great photos and sounds like an awesome ride! Cheers!!!!

  8. You live in an amazing place! Those pictures are absolutely beautiful!

  9. Incredible photos. Good luck with your training.

  10. I bow my head at the majesty. wow...

  11. Hey Jill,

    Happy New Year!

    I always love your photos but these ones were some of the best. The first photo is now my computer desktop. Now
    I can't wait to get out and ride this weekend.


  12. Great pictures. It makes me want to move to Alaska (despite your warning of SAD). I just found your blog ... thanks for the posts.

  13. It's amazing what a little bit of sunshine can do for your mood and your energy isn't it?

    I was out snowboarding on a sunny day last weekend and didn't feel tired, or hungry, or thirsty, until the sky grew dark.

    Your mood lifts with the sun, and it just feels so amazing to be out you don't want to miss a thing.

    I've been following your blog after hearing about you on the Bryant Park Project radio show, and I love the photoes you put up. You inspire me to want to come to Alaska even more than I had initially thought I'd like to go.

    Keep on trucking.

  14. Great! You are finding the way.

    Angel Pasos

  15. WOW! Thank you for the "mini" vacation to Alaska. What a glorious place to live. I LOVE the picture of the Wolf. I can't imagine the wonder you had in seeing him. I love the beautiful pictures you have taken!

  16. I discovered your blog recently. I've always had a fascination with Alaska, but your pictures are just beautiful and are making this fascination a need to see for myself. I admire your love for the outdoors and your bike.

  17. I read your blog all the time. I used to live in Cordova, Your pictures really make me miss it. Even the pictures don't start to do the beauty of it justice. I promised someone up there that I would return and I didn't. Maybe someday soon. Thanks

  18. Jill...Once again thank you, and please don't ever feel the need to apologize. Your photos, as always, are beautiful. I have a hard time imagining what it would be like to actually be there. In the mean time I continue to live vicariously through you and your wonderful writing and photos.

  19. Great self timer shots jill!

  20. Wow. Beautiful. I really need to get out for a winter adventure in the mountains...

  21. Great selection of photos Jill,your chasen lifestyle is to be envied.I'm not sure how I'd cope with the extremes of weather you face,it's much milder here,where I live in Wales.

  22. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    Mellan :)

  23. Great photos - you should incluede more on your posts.

  24. My husband has been lurking on your site for months now, ever since I showed it to him after I stumbled upon it. We've been to Juneau and recognize some of the places you go - but they sure look different in winter. Just stunningly gorgeous! Your photos (as you've heard repeatedly) are fantastic, and you remain a source of inspiration to us.

    Thank you so much for sharing your amazing, unique life and lifestyle with us - we who can only sit down here in Oregon and drool over it all. ; )

  25. All photos are fantastic, but the one with Romeo is wonderful...

  26. Not only are the pictures amazing, but your writing is what keeps me coming back to your blog... it is the only blog that has held my attention.

    You're going to rock this race. I do hope you will post some video footage on you tube for us to cheer you on from around the world... Can't wait to see you kick some snowy, icy, freezing cold conditions' ass in the race. :-)

  27. They say home is where the heart is. Your pictures remind me where a big chunk of my heart dwells...thanks for it all!

  28. Fantastic photos. Your stamina for continuing this blog and your amazing adventures is absolutely awe inspiring!

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  29. Jill those photos are absolutly amazing.....I love coming to your blog too day dream:)


  30. Hardman stuff. I was complaining about the cold in Zurich until I saw your blog. Nicely done.

  31. jill

    you have really learned to take beautiful pictures
    if you are not careful
    you might become a photographer
    what would your writer friends say about that
    I am sure it is like water and oil
    sure they store in the cabinet together
    but that is about the end of it



  32. Wow - I grew up and Juneau and haven't been back since 93, but it is always on my mind. I had no idea one could access John Muir in the winter. I intentionally have been planning a summer trip to hike McGuiness and spend the night in Spaulding Meadows. Your blog is fantastic, and opened up the winter possibilities for me. A wolf at the glacier? WOW!


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