Sunday, April 12, 2009

First hike

Date: April 11
Mileage: 34.2
April mileage: 425.7
Temperature upon departure: 43

I finished out my monthlong membership at the gym on Friday, rode for a couple hours Saturday and got this idea in my head that I really wanted to go for a hike today. I haven't hiked since before the frostbite incident. I still have a lot of soreness in my toes and they haven't taken all that kindly to shoes yet, but I've survived a few "hike-a-bikes" OK, so I thought a bikeless hike would work fine. I even brought my hobble sticks (some people call them trekking poles. I only tend to use them when I'm injured, so they have that association for me.)

The snow on Douglas Island is in great shape right now ... too soft for biking and too wet and condensed for skiing, but just right for snowshoeing. I worked hard going up the mountain because I wanted to cover a lot of terrain and hiking, after all this time spent almost exclusively biking, felt strangely slow. Even with just a single polypro layer on, I was dressed way too warm for a partly sunny Easter Sunday, and I was soon shedding a steady stream of sweat all over the snow. I could hear songbirds chirping. It's the first day this year that I can honestly say felt like spring.

But it didn't look like spring. Above treeline, I found myself traversing a naked ridge through rolling clouds. I had this sensation of snowblindness, scanning for the contrast of white on white until I had to shut my eyes, because I couldn't see. It's a disorienting condition, and somewhat scary when I was trying to stay in the center of the wide ridgeline to reduce my presense in possible avalanche zones. I couldn't tell whether I was walking on flat terrain or about to step off a cliff into a white void. Then, just like that, the cloud would roll away and I could see many dozens of miles into the distance with sharp clarity. It got to the point where I would just stop walking when a cloud rolled through, and continue forward when blue sky returned, knowing it would be fairly easy and safe to follow my own tracks back whenever I finally turned around.

When I finally did turn around, the skies were really clearing up and I had been walking for a long time. I still felt great, but I hadn't really planned for the fact that steep downhill hiking in shoes happens to put a lot of pressure on toes. After about a half mile I was in quite a bit of pain, leaning hard on the hobble sticks and limping slowly down the mountain. A couple of snowmobiles passed me and I resisted the urge to hitch a ride. I knew I was going to be fine. This pain isn't really a cause of long-term nerve damage; it's more of an effect. I'm already feeling much better - but it did take what felt like an eternity to wrap up that hike.

It's funny how when you are concentrating on your mP3 player to take your mind off a painful task at hand, all of the words in all of the songs seem written just for you. I think I've found my new theme song for the time being - "Extraordinary Machine" by Fiona Apple:

I certainly haven't been shopping for any new shoes;
And I certainly haven't been spreading myself around.
I still only travel by foot, and by foot it's a slow climb,
But I'm good at being uncomfortable,
So I can't stop changing all the time.

I notice that my opponent is always on the go;
And won't go slow, so as not to focus, and I notice
He'll hitch a ride with any guide,
As long as they go fast from whence he came;
But he's no good at being uncomfortable,
so he can't stop staying exactly the same.

If there was a better way to go then it would find me.
I can't help it, the road just rolls out behind me.
Be kind to me, or treat me mean ...
I'll make the most of it, I'm an extraordinary machine.


  1. I love that third picture. So fascinating, but also disturbing.

  2. Poor Girl, If you only could ride your bike in nice weather. Some days I can't take looking at your riding conditions. They simply make me depressed.

  3. THe third picture -- has a total Zen thing going. it's really great.


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