If you love being outdoors in Juneau, then you are familiar with most of the local mountains that are popular day hikes. There’s Mt. Juneau, obviously, then Gastineau Peak, Mt. Roberts, and Sheep Mt. Looking at Douglas Island from downtown Juneau, Mt. Bradley (aka Mt. Jumbo) dominates the skyline, and Mt. Troy welcomes hikers traveling up the Dan Moller trail or crossing over from Eaglecrest. In the Mendenhall Valley no one can ignore Thunder Mt. and Mt. McGinnis. Even Blackerby Ridge and Cairn Peak are now hiked so often a trench like path has formed in places along the ridge.
Yes, I have been hiking. No, I have not been writing about my hikes. I have been approached by quite a few people over the past 11 months (has it been that long since my last blog?), asking me when I was going to write again. People have talked to me in the grocery store, at yoga practice, on the ski trails in the winter and the hiking trails in the summer. Last night at a classical music concert, someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked me yet again. Tomorrow, I answered. I’m going to write a blog tomorrow.
Every time I looked at the weather forecast, I had to rub my eyes. The rain followed by showers followed by more rain was easy to believe. But what was this sunny weather predicted in the middle of the week? At one point the forecaster was bold enough to call for “abundant sunshine”, which remains one of my favorite weather descriptions. Plans needed to be made.
Most of the low lying trails around Juneau involve hiking out and back. We are surrounded by saltwater on one side and the Juneau Icefield on the other, with glacier carved valleys hemmed in by high mountain ridges stacked up and down the coast. I remember my first year in Juneau, when I learned the geography of the ridges and valleys along the road system: Hawthorne Peaks-Sheep Creek-Mt. Roberts-Perseverance-Mt. Juneau-Salmon Creek-Blackerby Ridge-Lemon Creek-Heintzleman Ridge/Thunder Mt.-Mendenhall Valley-McGinnis. Up, down, up, down, up, down, up.
Ah, what a summer it’s been so far. My goal this year as a newly retired person is to get outside and do something active every day, rain or shine. At first I had this crazy idea that I would be skiing, climbing mountains and hiking ridges for hours every day. I was hammering each day like it was my “day off”, trying to get in as much activity as I could. But since I’m not 20 years old anymore that didn’t last long, and I was forced to slow down a bit when I hit the figurative wall.
The weather towards the end of June was cloudy and rainy, with not much hope for improvement any time soon. We squeezed in some good bike rides and hikes when we got the chance, but for the most part we put on rain gear and made the best of it. One rainy, foggy day we loaded up the kayaks and went to Echo Cove. We hadn’t been kayaking yet this year.
One of the methods I use to fall asleep is to hike up the Spaulding Trail and over to Muir Cabin in my mind. I try to be as detailed as possible. If I find that I’ve skipped ahead or missed a section, I backtrack and start over again. I usually get a good distance across the meadows to the cabin before I nod off.
I must have met Sharon soon after she moved to Juneau. She showed up for some weekly evening bike rides I organized through the Juneau Freewheelers Bike Club to encourage women to bicycle and train together. She was a strong rider, not particularly fast, but she could ride forever. I didn’t realize she was training for a long distance solo bike tour until she was almost ready to leave on her trip. She kept pretty quiet about her plans, and I remember I had to pry details out of her.