Friday, June 06, 2008

Good day exploring

Date: June 5
Mileage: 53.7
June mileage: 159.2
Temperature: 51

I read an interesting article today about a study that tracked 100,000 undisclosed cell-phone users in an undisclosed location outside the U.S. Besides the obvious ethical dilemmas involved with nonconsensual tracking, the scientists in this study noted that nearly 75 percent of the people being tracked never ventured further than a 20-mile radius from their home in six months. Half the people stayed in a circle little more than six miles wide. I know this is "outside the U.S.," far away from American car culture supposedly, but I wonder how many Americans mirror this lifestyle. How many Americans rarely see the spaces more than 20 miles from where they live?

It's interesting to me because this is my biggest issue with the place where I live. I have a somewhat-smaller-than-20-mile radius to explore, and beyond that, I can't go anywhere that I can't reach with my own two feet (or arms, if I had the courage to paddle out of here) or rather expensive mass transit. There are no roads or trails to lead me out of this place. I'm trapped, and sometimes I feel that way. As much as I love day-to-day life in Juneau, this aspect of living here is difficult for me. Travel was always such a huge part of my life when I lived in the lower States. Nearly every weekend, I set out across a piece of my own radius, back then probably 300 miles wide and sometimes more. It's definitely good that I drive *much* less now, but I still miss those new spaces and adventures. Especially now that I realize bike travel can easily extend into the hundreds of miles, a car wouldn't even be required.

I set out today in a light drizzling rain with my large pack and bike lock, because I had a bunch of errands to run. I picked up a few things and stopped for a lingering lunch, where I read about all those people who aren't trapped where they live and still never venture more than a few miles from home. I hadn't intended to do any recreational bike riding today, but when I stepped outside after lunch, the sun had broken through the clouds and I was conveniently located in the Valley, where all the best trails are. So I set out for a little trail riding that turned into a lot of trail riding, with a big pack, books and a few groceries on my back. It's been so unseasonably dry that the trails were almost dusty, such a rarity here, and I was able to bomb over a several lines of singletrack that are normally too muddy to bother with. The lower Montana Creek trail led to the upper Montana Creek trail, where the dry track allowed me to climb beyond the old road and onto entirely new trail (Windfall Lake?). I followed it for a while, even though it was way beyond my skill set - shin-high roots, collapsed bridges, plenty of cliffhangers and hike-a-bikes that were barely walkable (you know, the kind where you have to hoist the entire bike on your shoulders and hope you don't slip because you are going to tip backward off a cliff with a only a steel bicycle to break your fall.) But it was new trail, and I was really excited about that fact, and when the riding was good it was amazing - sometimes a whole 100 yards at a time.

So after that adventure I had to check out the Lake Creek trail - which is a great winter riding trail but I suspected was nothing in the summer. I was right. The Juneau Snowmobile Club did a great job of laying gravel over the first mile, and after that it just disappeared, completely, into a muddy bog. I slopped over several yards of the swamp to see if more solid trail reappeared in the woods, but in the process was attacked by about 1,000 mosquitoes. I nearly forgot to grab my bike as I sprinted back to the gravel and high-tailed it out of there. But for that short stretch it was fun to see old winter haunts in full bloom.

After that I was in a pleasant mood and hit up my favorite trails, Dredge Lake, West Glacier, etc. I ended up with a fairly long day - hard to say how long after my shopping and the lunch stop, but probably at least five hours of riding. You know it's a good day when you arrive at home, the sun is shining, and your commuter pack is splattered in mud. It helps me feel better about my small space, because within are so many spaces I have yet to discover.

Late edit: Interesting NYT article about the Juneau Road. (Thanks, Fred) For the record, I'm an agnostic about this road. It is an expensive project and environmentally dubious and still goes to "nowhere," as far as state connections go (Skagway is about 800 miles from Anchorage.) I'd probably be more firmly against it on days that I'm not so wistful to leave town.