Date: Oct. 23
October mileage: 377.4
It's been a good week for Pugsley. Not only did I recently promise him many, many hours of quality training time this winter, but the hurricanes that deluged Juneau in rain dumped a fair amount of snow in the mountains. There was even a small break in the weather today. Time to head up.
I saw the sun bursting through this small sucker-hole near the base of Eaglecrest Ski Area and actually stopped for a few minutes just to stand in its path. It's the first hit of direct sunlight I've had since I walked out of the Grand Canyon on Oct. 11.
The snow conditions were predictably bad - dense powder covered with a thin layer of wind-scoured ice. Beautiful when I could stay on top, but mostly I just sank in. The riding became much better atop the mid-mountain fields, where I managed to stay on top of the crust for healthy distances. The swamps and bogs were frozen solid. Large blocks of new terrain had opened up overnight. This is what I love about winter cycling. The regular barriers of mountain biking break down.
But winter cycling is also harder. I always forget just how much more time and effort the exact same routes can consume in winter compared to summer. I guess it makes sense - heavy bike, wide tires, bulky clothing, cold temperatures. But it's almost more than that, and it's difficult to describe. It's like, if summer cycling were like skipping along the beach, winter cycling would be like skipping along the beach just off the shore in waist-deep cold water, with quicksand under your feet. Oh, and there are sharks swimming around. It's hard. Maybe I'm just not used to it. But I love it just the same.
All afternoon I encountered intense snow squalls broken by calm periods of sunlight. Strange weather. After checking out the open terrain near the road, I left Pugsley at the top of the ski lift, about 3,000 feet up, and hiked to the ridge. A storm moved through shortly before I reached the top, but I continued upward anyway. As soon as my head peaked over the final horizon line, I was hit with a windchill so intense that it took my breath away. I just wasn't expecting such an extreme shift in temperature. The upper crust was covered in fascinating rime formations, but I didn't take any pictures because I was somewhat worried my hands would flash freeze if I removed my mittens. It was a white-out anyway. Quickly down I went. Not long after that, the storm moved through and it was beautiful again.
I stuffed that balaclava in my Camelbak almost as an afterthought. I was lucky to have it, because that PVC rain jacket and my wet wool socks really weren't pulling their weight. It continues to be tough to dress properly for longer rides this time of year. It was still raining at sea level.
But tonight, as we were having dinner with friends, the snow moved low and already there's a couple of inches on the ground. Good things to come. A good time to be Pugsley.