Date: Dec. 24
December mileage: 658.4
Temperature upon departure: 23
My boss gave me an unexpected day off today. Geoff had to work. I finally put Pugsley back together after getting a new free wheel installed, and managed to mangle the chain during a particularly bad case of chain suck. Now I'm going to have to order a new one. Lately, Pugsley's been sick more often than he's been healthy. But there wasn't much I could do about it on Christmas Eve, so I went for a hike.
I worked hard to reach the Douglas Island Ridge, and decided to walk along the spine for a while and see if I could make it to sunset. Low clouds on Admiralty Island promised the possibility of some spectacular colors, and it seemed like the ideal Christmas Eve situation: Watch the sunset at 3,000 feet, sprint down the mountain in the twilight, and ride home beneath an emerging pattern of stars, all while scanning the sky with that same kind of childlike anticipation that my sister and I used to feel when I snuck into her room and we stayed up late on Santa Watch.
That would have been ideal it if wasn't for the awful wind. It was hard to tell from lower on the mountain how bad it really was up high, because the slopes had been scoured clean by earlier winds and there wasn't much powder blowing around. But when I reached the top, I discovered the surface snow was as hard as concrete, and even still, 50-60 mph gusts would find loose grains of frigid, dry powder to blast right in my face. I wasn't dressed warmly enough for that kind of windchill - with an air temperature of 13, it was probably close to 10 below - but thought I could hang for 45 minutes if I kept moving, knowing I could always retreat back down to the wind-protected basin.
I couldn't hang. I started to feel uncomfortable, and then concerningly cold. I turned my back on sunset and blasted down the steep slope in long, loping strides (a lot like beginner powder skiing without the death wish.) I had to enjoy the subtler reflections of sunset on the eastern peaks, but was happier for getting myself out of the wind.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good ride.