Showing posts from January, 2015

January heat wave

It's been a productive week-plus, but more time than I care to admit was spent coughing up gunk that was still lodged in my lungs, and fretting about all the reasons why I maybe should just cancel the plane tickets to Unalakleet and not embark on a Bering Sea coast tour in March. For all the potential this bike trip has to be an incredible and intense experience, that meek little voice keeps reminding me that yes — it will be an intense experience, and yes, there are a lot of intimidating unknowns, and yes, I'm not all that strong, and yes, I'm not overly confident in my mechanical skills, and yes, that doesn't matter anyway because the terrain is going to be so exposed and the windchill so extreme that I'll be lucky if I can stop long enough to eat and drink. Even fixing a flat tire will be out of the question if the weather's horrendous, which is to say if there's typical weather.

It's funny that I'm so dubious about this trip. If it were a race…

Things that last

The shortness and breath and lung congestion persisted, so I couldn't go snowboarding on Monday — as had admittedly been my hope. My mom urged me to take at least one rest day after the 29-hour fat bike ride that often left me winded to the edge of hyperventilation. She wasn't wrong, of course. 
"But I'm only in Salt Lake for a couple more days," I protested. I won't be coming back this winter. "These opportunities are rare."
Monday's weather made the right decision easy, with more than an inch of rain that reportedly fell as sleety snain up at elevations where I couldn't breathe anyway. I retreated to the basement to go through several boxes of old things. Since my parents both retired last year, they've begun downsizing. I needed to decide what was worth keeping. It was easy to cast aside the old books and toys, but I lingered longer on the photographs and news clippings, the high school artwork that still reflected dreams of becoming…

Pursuit of experience

Between the high-pitched moan of the wind and the rasping of my lungs, I didn't hear all of the air burp out of the rear tire, again. It was sometime around midnight along the spine of the Continental Divide, amid blasting wind, dagger-like snow, and fog. The curtain was so thick and opaque that, when illuminated by a headlamp, it had the strange effect of making midnight look like a very gloomy, gray day. A dreadful place to have a flat. I didn't notice at first, either, while churning the pedals to propel my two-wheeled tank over a soft carpet of snow. The effort was always hard, and a completely flat tire made it only incrementally harder. Only when the dark spots appeared in my eyes did I think to stop, because I had to, because I couldn't breathe. When I checked the tire, as had become my habit over the day, I discovered that I had been rolling on the rim. 
Tubeless tires and snow bikes. It's an idea that could work, in theory, and that main reason I was here on …

The magical land of Tolovana

Oh, these high latitudes and their irresistible magnetic pull. Hold up any compass and the needle will point where I want to be, at any given time. Sure, I appreciate that I am not a compass and can set my path in any direction I please, and value my freedom to reside in one comfortable place and visit many others. But there's something alluring about North. I have yet to define what continues to draw me up here, or capture the specific sensations so I can carry them home. But that something clings to these places like hoarfrost, with an enchanting sparkle that never fails to incite happiness. I feel it when I walk across the Styrofoam snow of a friend's driveway at 20 below, or pass by the heat-blasting fans in the entryway of Fred Meyer, or pedal through a boreal forest in the 4 p.m. twilight. I may not live here; I might not have ever lived here. But I'm home. 
I have a wonderful, accepting family in Utah, and I think they understand why we go "home" for Chri…

Slow snow and 35 below

In Fox the thermometer read minus 14, which I think boosted the spirits of every Californian in the car. We'd been told by Fairbanks locals to expect "great weather" during our holiday visit. "It might not even drop below zero the entire time you're here," said Ed the weather guy. We'd flirted with minus ten on Christmas Eve, but now a Chinook weather pattern was on the way and the forecast was so warm that I didn't even bother to pack my down pants, Gore-Tex shell, or big mittens for our three-day trip into White Mountains. Six inches of fresh snow on Friday was a surprise, as were the double-digit minuses on Saturday morning. I was excited. The air was sharply clear and the low sunlight was magic. This is what winter tourists crave; we get more than enough "great weather" at home.

At the trailhead, I worked quickly with bare hands to strap a bivy bundle and seatpost bag to the fatbike I borrowed from my friend Corrine. After driving hom…

2014 in photos

I've fallen behind in blogging but didn't want to miss out on the "Year in Photos" review that I've been posting since 2006. It's always fun to pick one favorite photo for every month of the year. However, as I scrolled through my blog archives here at Sea-Tac airport, there was a sense of disappointment about this past year's selection. "I need to diversify my repertoire," I thought. "Too many variations on the small people in big places theme." But this is what 2014 was for me — a year of ambitious adventures coupled with feelings of insignificance in bewildering expanses.

The above photo is my favorite from this past year, as those who have seen my blog banner might have guessed. I took it in late February during the Iditarod Trail Invitational, in a region near the South Fork of the Kuskokwim River known as Egypt Mountain, while Beat and I dragged (and I mean dragged) sleds across a barely-frozen swamp. Beyond this day being one …