Wednesday, August 06, 2008

And then summer came out

Date: Aug. 5
Mileage: 12.2
August mileage: 81.8
Temperature: 64

It's hard to explain the stream of emotions that trickled through my mind as I awoke this morning and squinted out the window. Disbelief, disillusion, dumbfoundedness, and finally, delirious elation. There wans't a cloud in the sky. Not one. Even the little poofy strings of water vapor along the ridgeline were fizzling in the sun. I had slept in until 8:36 a.m. and I didn't know if I could forgive myself for wasting so much dazzling daylight. I slammed down some breakfast, slathered on the SPF 50, and raced out the door, determined to soak in all of the rays the Juneau Powers That Be were willing to send my way.

I raced my mountain bike to the base of Mount Juneau, and in my typical way-too-excited-about-a-nice-day style, I burned a lot of matches getting there. I have to admit I was pretty fried just six miles in, but I had so much ground to cover and so little time to do it, I couldn't hold back. I locked my bike and launched into the climb. I had power-hiked for about 20 minutes when I was suddenly overcome by a freak allergy attack. I started sneezing violently and couldn't stop, and I dropped to my knees in the dirt as tears gushed out of my eyes, which I couldn't open. All of the July rain must have held back the pollen of whatever I am allergic to out here, and so weeks worth of allergies mauled me all at once. I was a sputtering, sneezing mess for about five minutes, and when that finally subsided, I felt strangely depleted. Like I was sick. But I decided that the worst was over, and I was not going to let it get the best of me.

Mount Juneau is a mean, mean, nose-to-the-dirt kind of hike, and I was dripping sweat and guzzling water like it was summer, actually summer. And even in my hot, sneezy discomfort, squinting because I forgot my sunglasses and panting in the warm air (70 degrees? Could it actually be 70 degrees?), I was happy. I'll admit that I felt just this side of awful, but I was happy.

I took a quick glance at my watch on the peak and decided I had 40 more minutes to skirt the ridgeline before I had to dart back as quickly as I could move my legs just to make it to work in time, and this was already accounting for a planned sailor shower and no lunch. I began to jog as a cool wind brushed my face, and all I wanted to do was stay high forever, and why couldn't it be Thursday, and why were there clouds already crawling in from the north?

I caught a large group of hikers who couldn't stop raving about the sightlines ("I bet you can see a hundred miles from up here!" one woman gushed, even though the horizon was already looking pretty hazy.) I admitted that I was minutes away from turning around, and they tried to coax me into following them across the ridgeline and down Granite Creek Basin. "I can't. I'll be late for work," I said. "Oh, what time do you work?" the group's leader asked me. "Two," I said. He looked at his watch. "Um, it's noon now." The other hikers just looked bemused, like I was delusional to think I would be sitting in an office desk a mere two hours later. The Juneau Ridge, set apart by snow and tundra, feels like its days away from the world below, even as concrete and traffic hug the mountain.

I made some effort to walk/slide down the trail, but I twisted my knee once to the point and searing pain, and that scared me back to my usual downhill method of inching sideways slowly, which always takes longer than the climb. When I finally reached a strip of level ground I shuffled through my GPS screens. I should take a GPS on more of my hikes. It was fun to look at the stats. As for today's numbers, the mountain biking really dilutes the total - I gained about 800 feet in the first six miles of biking and 4,000 feet in the next 3-4 miles of walking. It also inflates the average speed. But overall, it's a good gauge for future efforts. GPS stats:
Total mileage: 18.74 (12.2 cycling, 6.54 walking).
Total elevation gain: 4,833 feet
Top elevation: 3,576 feet
Average speed: 4.21 mph
Average moving speed: 4.75 mph

I'm always happy to round the corner and see my bike, because it means the downhill pounding is over and it's time to coast home. That die-hard rear fender finally broke; I taped it up with packaging tape for now, but it still wags a bit, like a puppy dog tail, which makes it seem like it's happy to see me. It's hard to explain the aftermath of a morning like this, so brutal and yet so refreshing. My eyes are still watering and my knees are still throbbing, but there's a few new freckles on my forehead and a smile on my face. A good day. Like money in the bank ... and I think I'm OK for at least another week of clouds.


  1. "Beautiful" doesn't do it justice

    Way to take advantage of the day from 836am+

  2. That opening picture is fantastic. Good eye. Is it you or is Juneau just that photogenic?

  3. Hi JIll,

    I'm a rec winter commuter in Ontario and I was so happy to find another winter lover! I love reading your stories and your pictures have inspired me to try and move to Whitehorse. Incidentally, the Whitehorse Star is hiring layout, M-F. I hear it's one of the driest cities in Canada ;-)

    Ha ha anyway, thanks for such a wonderful resource.


  4. Yay Summer!

    I feel like I'm actually seeing Juneau for the first time through your pictures today. I never fully understood how socked in by clouds you are all the time until now.

  5. Great photos. I spent last week in Anchorage, Seward, and Denali (my first time in Alaska) and the gorgeous sunshine and clear skies -- and views of Mt McKinley -- on the day we took the train to Denali made the whole trip worth it.

  6. Wow, what beautiful pictures. And its sunny again today! I hope the nice weather continues through your days off!!
    :) Elizabeth

  7. We had sun today in Wasilla (even while it rained in Palmer). I just feel goofy now when we get sun. Mushrooms are everywhere.
    Great photos, Jill!

  8. Jill,
    Yay! So happy for your sunny day!
    Thanks for the great pics. They even brightened my day in a long stretch of rainy weather here in Maine!

  9. Summer on!!

    Nice shot of the airport : )


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