Thursday, December 03, 2009

Into December

Today was December 3, the latest in the year I have climbed to Blackerby Ridge.

The weather was marginal and I had been planning on a three or four-hour bike ride. Yesterday I officially signed up for the White Mountains 100, which means by March 21 I have to be well-conditioned for a long, hilly snow bike century in subzero temperatures near Fairbanks. But this past fall left me with an alpine bug I can't seem to kick, and after several lazy morning hours, I was craving mountains. I only had about four hours of daylight left, so I decided to go up Blackerby Ridge. On my way out the door of the house I am housesitting, I noticed fresh bear tracks ambling up the driveway, circling the locked garbage hutch and disappearing into the woods. I took a few photos and went back inside to quickly send them to my friends, the owners of the house, via Facebook. By the time I came back outside, there were new fresh bear tracks, this time heading back down the driveway. I ducked back inside the house and debated how much I wanted to climb today versus risking contact with a black bear that is not in hibernation and therefore probably hungry. Strangely, mountains still won. I pulled my ice ax off my pack and walked outside, swinging it back and forth and yelling "Hey Bear!" until I reached the bottom of the driveway and jumped into my car.

At first, it was hard for me to fathom why Blackerby Ridge held such an appeal that I was willing to take on a garbage bear with only an ice ax as a weapon. The hike was tough. There was bare trail and patchy ice to 600 feet, followed by a landslide or heavily wind-damaged area covered in piles of downed trees and branches (I don't think it could have been an avalanche, because there was no snow among the piles.) Then there was hardpacked, crusty snow, and then uneven cookie-filled snow, and finally enough powder to strap on my snowshoes at about 1,400 feet.

But as soon as I cleared the alpine, all of the drama - the lurking garbage bear, the landslide bushwhack, the slow snowshoe plod, the job angst, the unease - disappeared beneath a pillow of white silence. Such a tranquil place - Blackerby Ridge in a calm December snowstorm. I gazed out toward the indistinguishable transition between white mountain and white sky, and smiled, because it felt like peace.

Support this blog by buying my book! Signed copies only $11.95 plus shipping.

Buy my book?

It just occurred to me today that it's the first week of December. Only 22 more shopping days until Christmas! I wanted to take advantage of the holidays to order more copies of my book about the 2008 Iditarod Trail Invitational and market it again, but I never got around to it. I placed a big order today and I'm hoping I still have a chance.

To be honest, I could use the "author boost." I have been at work on a second book, a sequel to "Ghost Trails," if you will, about 2009. I feel satisfied with how it's going so far, but the going has been slow. I've been at work on it, on and off, since September, and I'm barely through Chapter 4. Still, I'm happy with the way detail and depth is progressing in my writing, but I'm having a harder time separating myself from the events and emotions I'm writing about, which is crucial. So I come to a hard place and I go away from it for a while, sometimes weeks, and find I always return with renewed perspective. What will happen when and if I finish this book, I'm not sure. Maybe another self-published blog marketing project, maybe the traditional publishing route, or maybe I'll put it in a drawer. We'll see.

Until then, if you like this blog and haven't read the book, now would be a good time to buy it. I wrote "Ghost Trails" about my adventure in the 2008 ITI (the year I didn't get frostbite and finished), as well as the different events in my life that brought me to the starting line. What I set out to communicate in "Ghost Trails" is that you don't have to be an amazing person to accomplish amazing, life-changing things. You just need determination, and childlike awe, and love. It's intended to be an inspirational story, about struggling and achieving joy amid tough physical and mental conditions. It's an adventure story about winter in Alaska.

And now ... it's on sale! I was able to get a good deal through my publisher and can sell it for $11.95, which is $4 off the list price. Shipping is $4.80 extra in the states and $10 internationally. Buying more than one does not increasing the cost of shipping, unless you buy more than three, in which shipping increases to $10 for orders of three to ten books. It would make a good Christmas gift for people who like cycling, adventure stories or Alaska. I should disclose that it does not contain any color pictures. There are a few black and white pictures for the purpose of illustration, but it is far from a photo book. It's a story. A good one, really. I've received a lot of positive feedback in the past year.

The first chapter of the book can be read at this link. If you're interested in purchasing a book and you live in Juneau, contact me directly. I won't charge any shipping and can personally deliver to anywhere in town. Because of lead time, this book will probably arrive fairly close to Christmas - as in after Dec. 20. Keep that in mind when ordering. I'm going to do everything I can to have it delivered by Dec. 25. If you would like me to send it directly to another address than the one you're ordering from, just indicate that in the notes.

Purchase a signed copy(ies) for $11.95 by clicking on the button below. Thanks for supporting this well-fed author. Happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Waiting on the sun

It has been a rocky sort of week, and I have been navigating it with about as much grace as I usually exhibit when riding my bicycle across broken stone beaches (which is to say, I'm lucky I don't have a head wound.) Upheavals at work, downheavals elsewhere. I'd like to believe things will even out soon, but there's really now way of knowing what's around that next band of coastal cliffs. So I do what I always do when I am feeling uneasy - I cling to happy sunshines on the 10-day weather forecast. Right now, there's seven of 'em, starting Thursday afternoon. When Juneau's weather forecast calls for "Sunny with 0 percent chance of precipitation," you can all but take that to the bank — because our default setting is rain/snow and forecasters have no reason to show such certainty unless they're actually certain. Now that I've said it, I've probably doomed myself to seven more days of rain. But I like to choose the path of optimism.

Not that the weather or other aspects of the present have been all that bad this week. Yesterday, Sean and I got out for a relaxing walk on the Dan Moller trail, which I've been running on fairly often recently, trying to build up a little bit of a base should I decide to completely throw caution to the wind and enter February's Little Su 50K on foot (this is unlikely, but who knows — nothing in life is certain.) I expected the trail to be packed by snowmachines and told Sean as much, but they recently closed the gate to motorized traffic and then the trail received a foot or more of unconsolidated snow up high. Not so good for running right now, but a great wallow. Sean is usually a skier, so I think he has just about filled up his annual quota of postholing, hanging out with me. Personally, I like postholing. It's endlessly frustrating and invigorating at the same time. I try to stay out of shallow ski tracks. :-)

Today I did some climbing intervals up the Eaglecrest Road. I've added more high-impact cycling to my rides in case I decide to enter the Susitna 100 with my Pugsley (more likely than running the Little Su 50K, but also up in the air.) To say I lack direction right now would be an accurate statement. It's unsettling, having no real training routine or goals, and that uncertainty stretches into other aspects of my life. I have a home I'm never at, a cat I never see, and three bicycles stored in three different places stretched across 15 miles of town. I'm still drifting. I survived the latest round of layoffs at my place of employment, and I'm not even sure how I feel about that. I mean, I'm happy about it, in general. But when I'm deep into a climbing interval, and my thoughts only register in shrieks and groans, I find myself emerging from the haze with a single question — "What if?"

But the sun will come out tomorrow (or late Thursday, or maybe Friday, or maybe not even until Saturday). Regardless, there will be sun.