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Showing posts from September, 2008

Golden days on the Golden Circle, Day 2

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Date: Sept. 26
Mileage: 154
September mileage: 788.0

"I guess I lied about it being light at 7:30," Sierra told me as we pedaled groggily toward downtown Whitehorse in the pre-dawn cold. "I swear it was two weeks ago."

"I'm sure it was two weeks ago," I said. Daylight fades fast this time of year; an entire hour can be taken away in two weeks time, and we were already facing more darkness and light. I could tell by the gray pall over the sky that it was significantly more cloudy than it had been the day before. I had planned for rain but really, really wanted it to elude me. This was, after all, my vacation. Not some endurance training death march.

We parked outside a small convention center and lined up at crowded buffet tables, piling paper plates high with pancakes, hash browns and eggs. I suckled caffeinated beverages and juicy oranges and all of the warm fuel I could stuff down. I was randomly visiting Whitehorse on a Friday morning, and managed to li…

Golden days on the Golden Circle, Day 1

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Date: Sept. 25
Mileage: 108
September mileage: 634.0

I stepped off the ferry at 8 a.m. Thursday in a mental fog, vaguely aware of only two things - the morning could not have been more beautiful, and I could not have felt more awful. As the warm light of the sun rose into a bright blue sky, I regarded it with something that was almost like irritation. If it had been pouring rain, I might have been able justify slinking back onto the ferry and hitching a return trip to Juneau. I had slept restlessly Wednesday night on the floor of the ferry's top level, at one point waking up half out of my sleeping bag and completely drenched in sweat. It was as though my body had tried to expel a week's worth of sickness in one spectacular flash fever. It didn't know if it was nerves or if I really was getting sick. It felt like a little of both.

I pedaled through Skagway, stopping at the grocery store to try to cram down some yogurt and granola. I was only able to eat a few bites and had to …

Adventures in solitude

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"So you just sort of go it alone?" my friend asked when I explained to her why I wouldn't be able to attend her gathering this weekend.

"Yeah, that's kinda the idea," I said.

"Why is that the idea?" my friend said.

"Well," I said. "For starters, it's pretty hard to convince other people that riding a loaded bicycle 110-150 hilly miles a day in the cold is a good time. And, anyway, I'll be visiting friends along the way and maybe even talking them into riding some of the route with me. For the rest of the trip, I'll just have all sorts of time to really think about things."

"What do you think about?"

"My life, my goals, stuff," I said. "These tough trips really help me separate what's important from the general fluff. Although, I have to admit, I usually end up spending a bulk of my riding time thinking about food and sleep."

"So are you scared?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm scared. …

Not that heavy

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Date: Sept. 22
Mileage: 25.1
September mileage: 526.0

I loaded my bike today with food and gear and set out to see how she handled. I quickly noticed the extra weight on climbs, but, as usual, started to forget about it as I coasted along the road in the crisp fall wind. I love packing up my bike with everything I need to live. There’s freedom and joy in the knowledge that I could ride to the end of the day and just keep going.

So my preparations are nearly complete for my spontaneous fall Yukon tour. I am starting to feel pretty nervous about it, which is a good thing. To me, being scared is a sign of a worthwhile adventure. The weather forecast for the area is calling for highs in the 40s and lows in the 20s with a moderate chance of precipitation on Saturday. I am hoping any precip falls as dry snow flurries if it falls at all. If I run into freezing rain, I may have to turn back or hole up for a bit.

This trip is the same route I rode in 48 hours in August 2007. During that trip, I clo…

Last day of summer

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I headed up to Gastineau Peak and Gold Ridge today. I did a little meandering and a little dawdling, and ended up burning nearly five hours of daylight on the mountain in the morning/afternoon. I have been consuming a lot of my free time lately in "long" outdoor activities and evenings with friends. I am really starting to feel the fatigue of never being at home, which is interesting, because I have been battling a raging wanderlust that also seems to be burning holes in my contentedness.

But it was a nice day on the Mount Roberts trail, with rolling clouds and flecks of sunlight. There were no cruise ships in port this morning, which meant the tram terminal was closed, which meant I didn't see another soul on the mountain until I passed two fellow "through" hikers (both solo) on the way down.

I did see a coyote, which shadowed me at a safe distance for quite a while. I'd stop and the coyote would stop, and we'd just stare at each other for a few seconds …

Everyday beauty

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Date: Sept. 20
Mileage: 30.0
September mileage: 500.9

My habit of taking a camera on every bike ride has evolved into a habit of taking a camera essentially everywhere I go. Dentist appointment ... grocery store ... going to pick up a friend at the airport ... no matter where I am, there's a good chance I have my little bombproof point-and-shoot in one of my pockets. And although I generally only take pictures when I'm hiking or biking, every once in a while I stumble across a Kodak moment during my day-to-day life. Like this morning, while I was sitting at my kitchen table downing yet another meal of chocolate-flavored Honey Bunches of Oats (they were on sale), I just happened to glance out the window and see a rainbow stretched over Douglas. So I carried my cereal out to the deck and snapped a photo. (And really, how many cheap basement apartments do you know of that have a view like that? Another benefit of living in a city etched into a mountain.)

Then there was the morning ri…

Monkey makeover

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Date: Sept. 19
Mileage: 61.3
September mileage: 470.9

So my dream of riding the Golden Circle next weekend is really starting to take shape. The weather is so far looking like it will be fairly nice (you know, for early winter.) I contacted my friends Anthony and Sierra in Whitehorse and they're willing to put be up on Thursday night and possibly even ride part of the tour with me. (I owe those two enough favors at this point that I'll probably just have to promise them my first born.) Then I started to seriously consider which bike to use. I no longer trust my clankity, creaky touring bike, at least out on my own in a fairly remote part of the world. But it also seemed a little silly to take a mountain bike on a 370-mile road tour. But then I wondered ... what if I turned my mountain bike into a touring bike? I spent the evening in my friend Terry's garage last night wrenching the bike and discussing the logistics. Then, today I dropped by Glacier Cycles to make it reality. …

Photographs of fall

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I set out to traverse the Juneau Ridge today but got shut down, again, by cold and clouds. I can't believe that summer is over and I haven't even hiked the full Juneau Ridge yet, let alone Observation Peak or a Blackerby-Juneau and/or Juneau-Roberts epic. It's definitely been a dud of a season as far as my mountain ambitions go. At least there were good colors today, despite the flat lighting. Autumn is actually past its peak at higher elevations. It won't be long now until snow settles in to stay.

Ebner falls, with autumn just starting to emerge at lower elevations. I mostly took this picture as an excuse to take a break during the lung-busting climb.

Ah, the city of Juneau. Next week will be the last for cruise ship visits. The first day the cruise ships stop coming is always a strange one, because the population suddenly drops sharply, the downtown shops close up all at once, and I no longer ride by tour buses full of people all staring out the window (the people on…