Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Date: June 1 and 2
Mileage: 39.4 and 12.1
May mileage: 51.5
Temperature: 62 and 57

My parents are coming to visit me next week. This will be their first visit to Southeast Alaska. I thought about pushing the typical tourist excursions ... helicopter tour of the ice field, wildlife cruise to Glacier Bay, etc. But then I thought it would be more fun if I could show my parents Juneau the way I see it. My dad loves hiking, so I have been hitting some of the nearby trails to gauge the progress of the snowmelt and decide how enjoyable they'd be in a week and a half. Today I tried the Mount Jumbo trail. All was clear up to 1,300 feet, but beyond there it was still pretty deep with hollow, slushy snowpack. I made it to about 2,000 feet before I decided I was way off the trail and hopelessly lost, and followed my faint footprints home.

I'd really like to show my dad the best of Juneau. After all, he was the one who introduced me to this place we call the Great Outdoors. If he hadn't hooked me on hiking when I was still a surly teenager, who knows what my hobbies would be today? Knowing what I was like then, I'm guessing they would involve hanging out in coffee shops, going to see oddball art house comedies and blogging about indie music.

I'm pretty sure I met my diverging path in the summer of '96. I recall that time as a rather rough summer for me. I had this horrible job as a “bagger” at the local Albertsons where they wouldn’t even let me wear red shoes. I had a boyfriend I couldn’t stand, although in the typical fashion of a disenchanted teenage girl, it took me most of the hot, stagnant summer to figure that out. I was facing a senior year in high school that I really just wanted to get over with already. And through it all, my dad was trying to introduce me to the mountains.

It’s fun to think back on my feelings about mountains as a teenager. Mountains were there, sure, but they didn’t quite compare to busting a path to the stage at the Warped Tour or the true exhilaration of cruising down State Street in the passenger seat of my friend’s Karman Ghia. But hiking was a great way to burn up a Saturday morning until something better came along, so I started to accompany my dad on Wasatch Range excursions. We took a few short trips together. And then, one day in August, he asked me if I wanted to hike Mount Timpanogos.

Timpanogos was beyond my comprehension. It was 18 miles round trip. I didn’t know the elevation or climbing or technicality. All that mattered was that it was 18 miles, which sounded like a long way to drive in a Karman Ghia, let alone a distance to walk. But in the same way I used to pretend I liked whole wheat hot cereal and Star Wars, I wanted my dad to think I was strong and tough and I said I would go.

I was so nervous when we packed up the car before dawn and made the long drive to the trailhead. I had "race day" sickness - a hole in my stomach that gurgled and churned and didn't stop when we set into the trail, steep from the get-go and chilled in morning stillness. Dad plied me with granola bars I had no appetite for so I stuffed them in my pocket, and up we marched, up as the morning dissipated into a blazing blue sky, up beyond the treeline, up into a granite-walled valley, up the granite walls, up to a point where we crested a narrow ridge and stood overlooking the city of Provo, so far below us that it appeared as geometric shapes sparkling in the sun. I was blown away. Sweating and lightheaded and blistered and sick to my stomach, but blown away. We picked our way to the peak, where Dad fixed me a cream cheese bagel asked me how I felt.

And I remember I felt pretty good.

I remember the date, too, because that night I scrawled a characteristically dramatic entry in my journal, with a cartoon self portrait - shaded darkly in pen, dressed in subtly ironic thrift-store clothing and drawn much thinner than I actually was - standing on a rock outcropping with arms raised straight out. "Today I climbed a mountain," were the only words. Aug. 2, 1996.

Sometimes when I think back to that hike, I believe that was the bottom of what became a future of climbing. And sometimes I think everything I've done since that day will never quite top it, no matter how far I go.

Either way, Dad, all this is your fault.


  1. That's pretty cool.

    As the father of my soon to be 21 year old daughter...I envy your dad for turning you on to the "Great Outdoors"

    My daughter and I spent lots of time in bookstores buying books when she was growing up. I spent just about every extra penny i had on books for her and now she's got a full ride at medical school.

    She never really got into the whole outdoors way of life but I wouldn't change a thing:-)

  2. Hey, I used to hike up Timp solo back in the mid 70s. Sliding down on what we called the Glacier was a blast! My brother and I ran the Bike and Hike store in downtown Provo for a year or two.

  3. Great post Jill! I enjoy your recollections of past experiences, especially significant life changing events.

    Hope you have a wonderful visit with your folks with good weather to boot (for Juneau that is). Take lots-o-pix!

  4. Donut: that's great about the books and the medical school. Jill: what a great turn for your life! I only hope I can get my kids interested and wrapped up in the pleasure I feel out in nature. I never feel closer to God than when I'm on a mountain.

  5. Jill: come on over to mdoncall.blogspot.com

  6. Some people really get it. They appreciate nature and the outdoors and constantly groove on it when they're in it. Other people tolerate the outdoors and enjoy being led on scenic excursions but would never think to pick up a map or guidebook and execute a trip on their own.

    I have come to believe that it takes opportunity AND innate qualities to be One Who Gets It. For example, my older brother grew up with a very similar set of outdoor experiences as I did including a 21 day Outward Bound course in North Carolina when he was 19. That was fine and dandy but he is not into the outdoors today. I loved playing outside as a kid and I did the same Outward Bound course at 19. But that was my moment on top of Mount Timpanogos. From that point on I was a self contained adventure monger who explored remote places by foot, bike or boat and no amount of mosquitoes, bad weather or other obstacles would dampen my enthusiasm. My wife is also an example of One Who Gets It. Her siblings had the same experiences growing up with a true outdoorsman dad and they enjoy the outdoors but when they’re out there they are not soaking it in with wonderment like their big sister is and they’re only there because someone else organized the trip.

    I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with people who enjoy the outdoors but don't seek it on their own or drink it as deep when they're there. I'm just saying that those who do were probably given a great opportunity to be in the outdoors at time in their lives when they were ripe for it AND they have something special deep in their bones that make them One Who Gets It.

  7. What a great post. Yesterday, my youngest son decided to ride bikes with me, instead of going to a movie with a group of friends. One of my proudest moments to be sure. There is nothing better than that feeling you described of the first hike. Thanks.

  8. My little five year-old loves to bike. Every time I hit the trail she wants to come (never mind the fact that she just got her training wheels off).

    Often after my rides we cruise around the block or down a short paved trail so she can go biking too.

    And just the other day I was imagining her as a teenager and hoping against hope she'll still want to ride with me then.

  9. Very inspiring Jill. Your description really made me feel what it was like to be there.

  10. I like your perspective.

    Have fun with the rents!

  11. I really liked this post. The summer between my junior and senior years of high school my Dad suddenly decided we were going to do some hiking and hike we did. We hiked Mt Elbert and Gray's and Toreyes and Long's peak. It was a great summer and 30 years later your post gives a fond memory of my Dad here around Father's day. I have had the pleasure of enjoying the outdoors with my kids here in RMNP over the years.
    Thanks, Jill

  12. What a great post! I just discovered your blog and have been enjoying it. You write very well. Thanks.

  13. Thank God you decided to take up hiking and bicycling instead of being an indie chick. I don't think I would want to read about "101 ways to braid your armpit hair", "Free the world from capitalist tyranny, support free market coffee beans", or "How to dress in all black, act aloof, and pretend to be an artist".

  14. As a local Utah male thank the maker you didn't stay on that path because we are flooded with them now and it seems that they have become angry that they run people off.

    I am rather new to your blog but love the perspective you offer, keep up the good work.

  15. Yeah, we blame our parents for everything!
    I know my kids do, so it must be hereditary.

    I'm sure I'd be happy to read what you write no matter what the subject, emojill. LOL

    When you have children, emoj, remember to give them some room. It's not just the doing, it's how much heart you put in it.

  16. It's always good to thank your parents for what they have done to help shape your life. I bet your dad was proud and happy to read this post. Have fun with Mom and Dad in Juneau! Julie

  17. Hi Jill, I've been reading your post for some time now, thanks to Fatty's blog, and this one really hit home. I live in Indiana but have been blessed with a family house in Estes Park, CO, so I've been climbing mountains with my family since I was a kid. Nothing makes me happier than to climb in the mountains. Mountain biking is a very close second, so I've really enjoyed living vicariously through your posts. It's not easy finding other women in Indiana who enjoy the outdoors like I do. Thanks for the fabulous writing!


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