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Showing posts from December, 2009

Endless summer

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Juneau has yet to experience a very deep cold snap this winter, and we haven't had much snow. This is following a near-record-dry fall and what I have been told was a record-warm summer. Our pattern since mid-November seems to be a couple of (relatively) warm and very wet days followed by so-extended-they're-almost-disorienting periods of sunlight and what can really only be described as light freezes. Yes, I realized temperatures in the single digits and teens is more than a light freeze. But in direct sunlight, when you're pedaling or climbing so hard you can feel the heat thrashing its way out of your clothing layers, this winter almost feels like summer.

This is the forest at 1,200 feet above sea level on Dec. 30. By this time of year, this elevation should be a few feet deep in snow. But this year ... happy green plants, bare dirt, sunlight glowing on ice-free bark ... what month is this? It's really quite odd. Global warming? Or maybe just timing. This is my fourt…

It only took a month, but

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I finally got all of my book orders out today. Thank you again to everyone who ordered one, and stuck with me after the frustrating Fed Ex delay. If you don't receive your book(s) in the next few days, please e-mail me because it should be on its way. Even with a handful of cancellations, I still nearly sold out of a fairly hefty order.
This whole Christmas book sale experiment, while frustrating, has actually given me quite a bit of a boost for my new project. After my small disaster in the 2009 ITI and break-up with Geoff, I had pretty much put "Ghost Trails" behind me. But a trickle of Amazon.com sales throughout the year and this recent surge puts my total sales over 1,100 — not bad for a self-published book promoted solely by the author on a single blog. Given that royalties for self-published books are pretty hefty, that number divided by the amount of time I put into that book is almost an income - almost. But it does give me confidence to work on a new project, b…

2009 in photos

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2009 has been a volatile year for me. I committed to leaving Juneau and at the last minute decided to stay. I took a more demanding management position at my place of employment. Then I flew to Anchorage for the Iditarod Trail Invitational, where I made the grave misstep of dunking my leg in a lake and pushing onward for seven hours in subzero temperatures, slowly freezing my right foot. I paid the price for my mistake in both the deep disappointment of dropping out of an adventure race I had poured my heart and soul into on the first day, and the surprisingly long recovery from frostbite that nearly took the tips of my toes. In April came the abrupt break-up with my companion of most of the past decade. I took leave from my job, traveled south and spent the summer reconnecting with my family and commiserating with my bicycle. In June I headed to Banff to start the Tour Divide, often touted as "the longest mountain bike race in the world," feeling lonely and underprepared an…

Joy to the snow bikers

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All is quiet on Christmas Day. The city is dark. The roads are empty. The trail is dusted in a fresh layer of White Christmas, packed only by the tiny paws of a single dog team. I have to leave Canada on Boxing Day, go back to a place where Christmas is gray and 39 degrees and heavy rain. But everything in Whitehorse is still holiday card perfect: minus 10 degrees Celsius, light winds, and hints of winter sunlight trying ever so cheerfully to peek out of the thinning snowstorm clouds.

Sierra, Anthony and I set out for a snow bike ride. Sierra is fairly ill and Anthony admits that the night before contained too many ribs and glasses of wine, but the conditions are too perfect to pass up. I met Sierra and Anthony at a 24-hour bike race in 2007. That was the race I discovered kindred spirits in Yukon mountain bikers - people mad about cycling and yet totally lax about it at the same time, just like me. Since then, they've adopted me as sort of an American cousin. Now, every so often I…

Christmas Eve climb

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Whitehorse is my kind of place in nearly every way. The mountain biking is amazing in the summer, and, if you can get around that fact that it's 0 degrees out, it's also amazing in the winter. Snowmobile trails form an elaborate web of possibilities for many dozens of miles in all directions. Walkers and skiers pack down hard singletrack trails all around town. Snow is light and dry and winter thaws are very rare, so nice trails tend to stay that way. And, if you're feeling up to it, you can ride away from town and climb ~3,000 feet to the top of a 5,000-foot-high mountain. Weeee!

Anthony and I set out late in the morning to climb Mount Mcintyre. I managed to show up for my Christmas snow biking vacation just in time for the first fresh snowfall here in weeks, but on the bright side, it "warmed" up, which means it's 0 to 15 degrees instead of -20. I'm kind of bummed I missed the bluebird clear skies those temperatures tend to bring, but even under flat l…

Brief holiday escape

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I am in Whitehorse for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day - a short trip with a lot of traveling, but worth it. I have never been to the Yukon in the winter, and what I saw (and felt) on White Pass before darkness fell was simply breathtaking - and unphotographable because of bad light: Black spruce painted white with rime, big mountains and hard blasts of wind. The wind chill was forecast to bottom out at 39 below. I don't think it was nearly that cold, but I guess it's possible.

My friends here have a big Christmas dinner planned. I spent most the evening helping my friend Sierra assemble several complicated and stress-inducing Norwegian delicacies. I finally perfected the Lefse by pretending I was making tortillas. We made three kinds of increasingly complicated cookies, which Sierra admitted were really all just elaborate versions of the sugar cookie I grew up frosting with food-dye powdered sugar paste. "Really," she said as she held up a pillowy wafer of batter th…

Solstice with wolves

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Sunrise came at 8:45 a.m. on the shortest day of the year. The highest mountain peaks glowed apple red in the morning light as I drove my car to Foreign Auto to finally get my studded tires installed. I dropped off my car, hoisted my backpack and hoofed a half block over to Heritage Coffee. The frosty dry air outside hit me like a wall. "Dang, it feels like Anchorage out here!" I thought. It was probably single digits. Certainly not cold enough to cancel, well, anything ... but the air inside of Heritage swirled with warmth. I cradled my massive cup of coffee, nibbled a cheese bagel, and wondered about the simpler joys in life ... like spending a lazy morning lounging at a coffee shop while holiday shoppers and harried commuters and school children suffering through the short days before holiday break all moved through the hard air outside.

My friend, Bjorn, shattered my comfort illusion by walking in the door. We ducked into his car with the ice barely scraped from the windo…

Snowmobiling, sans motor

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My friend Abby and I were planning to go for a hike/run today. Because of recent snow, wind, avalanche concerns, her lack of snowshoes, etc., we planned to head up the well-traveled Dan Moller Trail. She called this morning with a sore throat and cancelled, but since I already had my head set on that trail, I decided to head up there anyway, with my bike.

Juneau has but two areas where people can ride snowmobiles, and one of them is the Dan Moller Trail. As a purely human-powered winter enthusiast, I am actually pro-snowmobile, within the realm of responsible use. Modern-day machines aren't the gas hogs they used to be. And yes they're loud and yes they smell, but only when they're fairly close to you, which they don't tend to be for very long. And snowmobiles pack down great bike trails. Great, fun, swoopy, powdery bike trails. Trails that don't leave a permanent imprint on the backcountry, unlike summer bike trails (which I also support, of course, within the real…

Book update

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I wanted to thank everyone who bought my book recently. I wanted to update you all on the status of shipping, which is unfortunantly not working in my favor right now. My bulk order shipped out on Dec. 6 via FedEx (I deeply dislike FedEx. I believe my bike Pugsley, which once spent two weeks wedged in a corner of the Juneau depot, would vouch for that company's uselessness in this region). The package arrived in Anchorage on Dec. 10, and I have yet to receive it five days later. I've been trying to track it down, to no avail yet. I'm optimistic that if I receive it by Friday, I can still get packages out to people in 2-3 days via the much more trustworthy U.S. Postal Service. Canada should be pre-Christmas as well. Anyone outside of there is pretty unlikely at this point. I'm very sorry about the delay. I will post again if I don't get the package by Friday. I can issue refunds to anyone for whom this might be a problem. Just e-mail me at jillhomer66@hotmail.com. Y…

The bender ender

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(Note: A bookend morning of sunlight gave me one last day to bask in the mountains before a forecast storm dumps several inches of heavy snow on a really rotten surface layer, thus creating avalanche conditions that I'm not equipped to deal with. I snowshoed up the Grandchild Ridge with Sean. It was a fun, beautiful day, but this point, it's probably best left to short photo captions. So I'm including the first draft of my Empire Outdoors column with the photos. Now, time to sharpen up the snowboard and finally get down to bicycle training for the White Mountains 100. Who wants to go to Eaglecrest on Saturday?

Sean follows wolf tracks up to the Sun Bowl.

SAD? Winter joy just a matter of perspective

By Jill Homer
Juneau Empire

The extended week of Dec. 4 to Dec. 12 was perhaps one of the sunniest I have ever experienced in Juneau.

It didn’t matter that it was out only for six hours a day, hovering low on the horizon and casting long blue shadows between intermittent flecks of gol…