Tuesday, September 29, 2009

September I'm in love, still

Frost-crusted silt crunched under our boots as we walked along the Mendenhall Lake shoreline. It was nearly midnight; the sky was washed in stars; the orange tint of the setting moon cast a warm glow over the water, sparkling with the night. Mountains cut massive silhouettes through the encompassing shimmer. I glanced upward in wonder, startled by the simple vastness of the moment, sandwiched as it was between two mundane workdays.

We lingered late by the fire and set up camp atop a thickening layer of frost. I own but one truly warm sleeping bag. It's rated to 40 below zero - my favorite piece of gear. I curled up in my own private mountain of 800-fill down, billowing heat and perfect comfort, lulled to sleep by the vast simplicity of life.

We were up at sunrise, a direct consequence of the mundane demands of a Tuesday, but the world stayed still for a moment, frozen in ice.

First snow, first frost - the drum beat toward winter. It makes me feel excited and anxious, content and alive.

I still had several hours to kill before I had to be at my own job as the morning brightened into the kind of day that touches on the sublime. Some northern municipalities have "powder days." In Juneau, we have "sun days" - those days where all of your co-workers call in sick; people wave as they pass you on the street; commuters grin from their cars. Everyone wants - no, needs - to get outside, even if they have laundry to do, even if their leg muscles feel slightly shredded and they have to eat Twix Bars for breakfast because they haven't been grocery shopping since August. It doesn't matter. Sun days trump all.

I hiked up Mount Jumbo because it's convenient, fast, and I've climbed it so many times that I understand the obstacles well enough to jog on the way down. Plus, it's west-facing and washed in sunlight.

Temperatures rose quickly, into the mid-50s, but the ice of the morning still clung to the trail. I moved with speed and purpose and didn't slip once - one of my smoothest mountain traverses by far.

An awesome way to wrap up an awesome month.