Sunday, September 30, 2007

Off my feet

Today's rainfall: .08"
September rainfall: 12.96"

I spent the weekend lying low with foot pain that Geoff pinpointed as a likely case of plantar fasciitis. Basically, it's excessive wear of the tendon-like tissue that stretches across the bottom of the foot. The common term is "policeman's heel." Between that and my "runner's knee," I'm feeling a bit bogged down with overuse maladies that supposedly have nothing to do with my lifestyle.

I think this effectively ends my hiking season, not that the downward-creeping snowline wasn't already threatening to do so. I keep trying to convince myself that it's just as well. It's time to leave the unhindered days of summer behind; time to return to the bike and the more regimented lifestyle of training I have been known to say I miss. But I believe a larger part of me still clings to the hiker's high - the carefree zeal in which I attacked elevation and hoisted myself to the craggy tundra that seemed worlds apart from my home, mere miles away.

And now it's gone. I'm more than a bit annoyed. I'm hobbling around like Gimpy McStiff at work, yet again; and the frequency of my limping, I'm sure, has my associates questioning my basic competence as a bipedal human. You can call me whiny, I don't care, but I think my body is being wholly uncooperative and unreasonable. When my knee cried overuse and decided to stamp out cycling for a while, I re-evaluated the virtues of cross-training. Now that the foot has nixed the cross-training (because pretty much all weight-bearing activities fire up the pain), I guess it's cycling or nothing again.

It seems we can't win, in this battle everyone shares, when age is our enemy and experience our friend.
Saturday, September 29, 2007

Three mountains

Even though I am done training for the Grand Canyon, I'm not quite done with my peak bagging for the year. Today I marched up to three different peaks, including my first Juneau summit over 4,000 feet - Sheep Mountain (Sounds funny, doesn't it? 4,000 feet. The home in the Salt Lake suburbs where I grew up sits at a higher elevation than that. But in Juneau, Alaska, 4,000 feet feels like a real accomplishment.)

At about 12-13 miles and ~6,000 feet of climbing, it was my most difficult Juneau hike yet. In hindsight, it was much too ambitious to attempt one week after walking across the Grand Canyon. I seem to have sustained a tendinitis-type injury on the bottom of my left foot, and it flared up in full force today. The last mile and a half was close to agony, and the whole time I'm just thinking "Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!" I hope this injury doesn't stick around. It's right on the bottom of my foot, which means it's painful to put any weight on it at all. I'm guessing, though, that I could still push a pedal.

The top of Sheep Mountain had a fair amount of new snow ... about three inches deep, windswept and frozen to a hard sheen. A thin layer of clear ice clung to the rocks, and the temperature with the windchill was well below freezing. And there I was, still sporting all of my summer gear ... no hat, no coat. Luckily, I found a pair of still-damp gloves in the camelbak left over from a recent bike ride. But wow ... I was underprepared and pushing through an overuse injury. Good thing I am, as my aunt puts it, "low maintenance." Otherwise, I might have been miserable.

But I had a great time. I was wrong about the last cruise ship having come and gone. The last cruise ship of the season came today, and with it, the last day that the Mount Roberts tramway was open. I stopped there to take the cheater/shortcut/tram ride to the docks rather than limp the last two miles of trail. I walked into the building to buy a recovery drink - a tripleshot skim mocha grande - in order to spend the minimum $5 required to hitch a ride down. The barrista insisted on giving it to me for free, because it was the last day of the season. He then plied me with free muffins, ice cream and even a T-shirt (I politely declined the T-shirt, which had a scribbly font scrawled over the image of a roaring grizzly. It was pretty much unwearable, even by the standards of cheese that are acceptable in a tourist trap T-shirt). I caught one of the last trams out. I sprawled out beside a window and sipped my hot drink. From the frozen edge of the wilderness to the lap of luxury in one hike ... it doesn't get much better than that.

The top of Sheep Mountain, looking northwest.

Looking back at Sheep Mountain from the top of Mount Roberts.

Looking back at Sheep and Roberts from the top of Gastineau Peak.
Friday, September 28, 2007

Three ways

By beach ...

By trail ...

By road ...

Date: Sept. 27
Mileage: 45
September mileage: 475.6
Temperature upon departure: 49
Rainfall: .07"

Looking back, I should have known it was inevitable that I'd come back from the Grand Canyon and feel a little boxed in by my day-to-day life. How could you not? All of that vast and unknowable space really amplifies the smallness of the places I occupy. But I take back most of what I said yesterday. I still have a big world here to explore.

I headed out to North Douglas, again. However, today I took Pugsley and got off the road early. I really dig beach riding, but I seem to be hitting the tides at all the wrong times. Today was one of the highest high tides of the month, and I was skirting it right at its peak. I had to hop a bunch of big boulders, mash my way through fields of squishy seagrass and cross knee-deep streams up high, where they still gurgled and churned over big, slippery rocks. The little sand I saw was heavenly ... like being spit out from a washing machine rapid into a calm, clear eddy. Beach riding can be about as strenuous as cycling gets. At one point, I tried to skirt a waist-deep river channel by hoisting my 36-pound bike on one shoulder and sprinting parallel to it across a 45-degree slope of scree-like gravel. The frame of the bike felt like it was slicing into my shoulder bone as I slid down, and slid down, and struggled to keep my speed so I wouldn't slip into the rushing current. I don't remember the last time I had my heart rate so high. But it was fun to see my "routine route" in a new light. Away from the road and the houses, the island became a new place, with the salty sweet smell of rotting sea life and wide-open skies.

After I came home, Geoff and I did a quick mountain bike ride up the Perseverance Trail before he had to go to work. I pulled out my mountain bike for the task because Pugsley is a bit excessive for a well-maintained trail, even one that's rocky and technical at times. Geoff was riding his new 29er and outclimbed me on my baby wheels like I was standing still ... not that he couldn't do that on any bike.

After that, I had several errands to do and decided to run them commuter style, with a messenger bag and everything, on my road bike. I made a quick trip out to Thane to round out my three-bike day. The last cruise ship of the season has come and gone, and downtown Juneau was like a ghost town ... jewelry stores boarded up, T-shirt shops dark and quiet, not a soul on the sidewalk or, most notably, on the road. As much as I ranted against the tourists all summer long, I suddenly felt abandoned and lonely. Winter is truly here.

At least I have three bikes to keep me company.