Thursday, April 17, 2008

Juneau multisport

Date: April 17
Mileage: 21.1
April mileage: 376.9
Temperature: 30

When I woke up this morning, a swirling blizzard was raging outside. Of course I was thrilled about this development on a Thursday morning. "What should I do today?" I asked myself as I hurried to gulp down my Special K so I could get outside before it melted. "Should I go for a bike ride? A hike? Maybe try to do a snowboard run?" Then it hit me. Why not do all three?

I don't really have the gear to just ride my bike with a snowboard on my back. I tried to stuff the board in one of my larger daypacks, but its angle and height made my shoulders ache something fierce - not to mention the way it caught the 15 mph headwind like a giant sail. My original destination was Eaglecrest. I made it about eight miles past my house, just shy of the cutoff, before I decided that there was no way my screaming shoulders could survive the climb. I turned around with a new destination - the Douglas Ski Bowl.

I parked my bike on the snowmobile trail just as the powder started to become soft and deep, and strapped on my snowshoes. The storm had moved on and the clouds were starting the clear out. I could see strips of blue sky above my head, and something strange, something bright ... could it be the sun? I could hardly believe it.

In the walk up, the presence of that alien orb made everything feel superheated. Sweat poured from my scalp. I only had about 30 oz. of water with me, no sunscreen, no sunglasses ... but I was all but bounding up that trail, just happy to be awake and alive and bathed in sunshine.

I reached the ridge and looked out over Admiralty Island for the first time since January. I miss that view. I live my life in the shadow of the Douglas Island ridge, when all that time this horizon stretches just beyond my grasp.

As I traversed the ridgeline, a wicked north wind tore off the slopes. I put all the clothes I had brought with me back on, and still the chill cut through. As the frigid wind gnawed at my cheeks, I wished for a face mask I didn't have. I went to drink the last of my precious water out of my Camelbak. The valve had frozen completely solid. The fact that had happened made me smile. It was April 17. But being amused by frozen water didn't change the fact that my body was headed that same direction if I didn't get out of the wind. I hated to leave the ridgeline and the view, but then I remembered: My fun was only just beginning ....

I dropped into the canyon, paralleling someone's high-line snowmobile trail in a soft cloud of powder. The whole world disappeared behind silence and weightlessness, falling and flying at the same time. When you spend all of your time on a bicycle, you forget what that feels like. I was completely in awe. I stopped in the bowl and climbed up for more. I couldn't figure out why I hadn't just spent my whole winter powder boarding. It took me a couple more runs to remember ... I'm really much better at cycling than I am at snowboarding. Everything's beautiful until you take a nosedive, then it's just bounce, bounce, followed by a lot of exhausting swimming.

On the way down, I swerved to miss a big knoll only to realize I had nearly run over the Dan Moller Cabin ... normally a two-story structure that sits at about 2,000 feet elevation, still completely buried in snow. It was a somewhat painful reminder that hiking season is still a long, long time away.

But that's OK. Winter can stay.


  1. Wow- great storm, blue-sky day - very little to say here - I get it. Thanks so much for the share, and the photos! Just, wow.

  2. A two story cabin! Completely covered! That's incredible.

    Ahhh, I can't wait to be in wonderful Alaska and see all this stuff for myself.

  3. F**king amazing. you live life well!

  4. .....................speechless :)

  5. wowowowowwowowow Some of your best photos ever wow!!! Can you tell me more about Dan Moller cabin?

  6. If you are looking for extra money I would contact Tourism Alaska for a job. You make Alaska seem like the best place on earth!!!

  7. awesome, awesome site. your photo's are of superb quality, both in definition and content.

    this is a stunning blog - a favourite if ever there was one.

    its my desire to visit alaska one day - hold thumbs for me!


  8. FREAKIN LOVE the pictures! The first one with you and the snowy surreal backdrop is FABULOUS!

    Super FuN!

  9. Awesome photos Jill. I love the board looking into the valley shot. :)

  10. Sweet fun! In need of some good dry trails head to the East coast. The heart of spring is in effect with blossoms and perfectly dry trail conditions.

  11. god I would LOVE the ability to all these amazing activities in one day straight from your front door. sooo cool. how do you force yourself to go to work?

    Love the pic!

  12. The photo with the nearly buried 2-story cabin is pretty impressive. Guess it ain't winterized, is it??

    Carolyn H.

  13. It always gives me another perspective to read your blog...personally I was so disgusted at the sight of snow on April 17th, coupled with the distressing news about AEL&P that I didn't even notice it was pretty out yesterday. I did wonder what that bright thing in the sky was and why I felt blinded....

  14. Jill, your pics and story are the highlight of my day today!!

    I see your pics turn up on other people's blogs and I hope they are asking your permission first!! They should at least credit you!!

    I will need a roomate in Anchorage in August if you ever feel like moving up that away!! LOL!!

  15. These are some of my favorite pictures of yours. Sounds like an amazing day. You're awesome Jill.

  16. The idea of taking shoes and board on a bike is pure magic. If I lived closer to the mountains (than 80miles) I would have done it by now. A few years back I took a long ride in winter with my long wooden (50s)iceaxe, an empty external frame backpack and my gear in my panniers. The bike i depended on had no suspension was steel and of 1990 Specialized vintage. I was to catch up with friends (who had headed into the Southern Alps of NZ a few days earlier) after I finished mid year exams. I got off my bike at 5am after riding since 10pm (the exam finished at 5pm) and put a plastic sheet over my bike, shoes and emptied panniers. Then, hoisted my weighty old frame pack to proceed on the hike for 5hrs and walla, a hut and a 1 hr sleep before avalanche tranceiver games with mates in the sun and snow at 1300metres. I began the trip at sea level.
    A couple of days later after playing around on glaciers, I had to rendevous at 7pm in a southern city for a 21st party. Walking at 6am biking by 9:15 for 70km and hitchhiked 350km to get some nice clothes on and party.
    The life is good! Hiking with a board is fine. Your local views are stunning!
    Oh and P.S. My commuting acts as great interval training for hilly races...but i live in a dry climate and my office is in the open outdoor no worries about sweat. Been indoors in the past but gave it away. I now commute on the Rockhopper I used in the above adventure (2003)...and am treating it to an upgrade from cantilever to V-Brakes today! woohoo! :)
    Seeing as you share so well..
    My pics can be seen at

  17. Cut that board in half..split it baby, yeah!

  18. Jill,

    I've been reading your blog for about six months now. I've been hooked. I found your link via subarctic mama via Jill the musher. Anyway, My name is Kate and I just moved to Juneau from Minnesota. I'm here serving in AmeriCorps for SAGA. After this I'm moving to Fairbanks. Currently, I live out by Amalga Harbor with 30 other folks. I'd love to meet you and have a meal sometime if you'd be up for it.

    email me or call me. 907.789.7078

    My blog is nowhere near yours!

    I am a huge fan.




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