Sunday, March 16, 2014

Juneau, again

I lived in Juneau for all of four years, between 2006 and 2010, after one year of living in Homer. I've already surpassed the three-year mark in Los Altos, a number that unsettles me because I'm dangerously close to becoming more of a Californian than I ever was an Alaskan. I also suspect I'll always be more of a rambler than a homebody, but a couple of places just feel like home. Salt Lake City — the place where I grew up — obviously. And Juneau, Alaska.

On Thursday, I boarded another plane and flew home for a visit. When I stepped out of the airport, the thermometer read 39 degrees and a mist of rain wafted on a stiff breeze. I walked across the wet tarmac with the knowledge that this was the last time all week that my shoes would be dry, stopped a moment to blink droplets off my eyelashes, and smiled. Oh, so good to be home.

 The fat bike stayed in Anchorage, so this weekend I struck back out on foot, facing a host of minor physical issues that the the bike allowed me to ignore up until now. My legs just feel tired; muscle aches, especially in my quads, crop up early and stay the whole way. My right shin is still sensitive, IT bands are tight, and the skin on both feet is a mess. Even after just an hour of being wet again, it shrivels up and makes my toes look like mummified grasshoppers, and the bottoms of my feet start to hurt in that same aggravating way all over again. But March in Alaska is not about recovery, it's about cramming as much experience into limited windows as possible. And in Juneau, when it's 30-something degrees and intermittently and sometimes simultaneously raining, snaining, blizzarding, and blasting wind, one does not rest. One hikes!

I got out on the Dan Moller Trail for a rainy day snowshoe through heavy wet slush on Friday. This turned into an 11-mile, 4.5-hour outing when I bumped into my ex-boyfriend Geoff, who was running with a group of friends. He lives in Juneau during the summers but currently spends most of the year in Colorado. He just happened to be in town because a friend of his recently died. I doubled back on another ascent toward the ridge to chat, but turned around when a hard bonk hit and I was starting to fade from the group anyway.

After catching up more at dinner last night, Geoff and I planned another outing today on Mount Roberts with our friend Dan and his girlfriend, Marisha. Geoff and I share a dynamic similar to old friends: We're not close, we only infrequently e-mail each other, and we haven't spoken face-to-face in 18 months. But put us together again and within five minutes we're avidly discussing events that happened in 2003 as though they happened last week. This is probably true of a lot of former relationships, but it's rewarding to learn what remains when all of the hurt and confusion finally fades away. Just like memories of a grueling race — we let time whittle away the excess and keep what's left at the core: Good times.

 Good times like taking a beating in Juneau's infamous Taku Wind. Today's conditions were a little breezy. I am woefully out of practice in both snowshoeing and Juneau-specific hiking, and took an unnerving tumble while trudging uphill at what felt like a 45 degree angle leaning into the crosswind. Lying with my face half buried in snow, I plunged one trekking pole into the crust out of instinct and nearly lost the other to the gusts. I wasn't actually going to blow off the mountain, but it sure felt like it. When the group reconvened again, everyone was discussing the various reasons they weren't necessarily feeling it today. Dan, who is training to run the White Mountains 100, already ran 24 miles before he met up with us. Geoff has health issues that seem to be exacerbated by travel and sleep deprivation, and was feeling downtrodden. I couldn't hear Marisha over the wind, but I cited being "a lot less than sure-footed" as my reason for being perfectly happy with turning around.

Down we ran, back to the iced-over, muddy safety of the Sitka spruce forest. The weather here is so terrible. I missed it, so much. 


  1. You ran into your ex boyfriend on a mountain in Alaska - Wow!

  2. I started reading your blog during one of your hiking binges in Juneau, I can't believe it was that long ago. *mild panic about time moving too fast*

  3. I'm sure right before I die: I want your sporting life to flash before my eyes.

  4. Bumping into Geoff in Juneau, how strange is that?

  5. Nice to see you back in your old Juneau stomping grounds, Jill! I got jealous when I saw the picture of you and Brian.


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