Every October for the past 14 years, Scott and I travel to a quiet island in the southern Bahamas for a little sun and relaxation. Scott is an avid fly fisherman, I am a certified scuba diver, and we both enjoy a short period of sun and relaxation in between our busy summer work season and the long, cold, snowy winter season. Our primary recreational pursuits in Juneau involve getting out in the backcountry and away from town, so it should be no surprise that we seek the same experience on our vacation.
Scott and I had just returned from our annual fall vacation a few days early (see my previous blog for that story). So we found ourselves with a free weekend and the tail end of a rare October cycle of clear, cold weather.
Fall can provide great hiking opportunities. Thick brush loses its summer energy and obediently lies down, the bugs are gone, and the bears go into hibernation. If we’re lucky, we get a cold snap and the ground freezes. These conditions made a perfect opportunity to traverse the normally boggy Spaulding Meadows all the way over to Montana Creek.
“Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory” - Sri K. Pattabhi Jois of Mysore, India
This week I will be 60 years old. I’ve been thinking about this birthday for a while, as is the trend with those big decade landmarks.
My blogs are often easy to write. I love to share my stories about my adventures outdoors and the words usually flow out on to the page. This one has been very difficult to write. I’ve started and stopped and started over again about half a dozen times over the past couple of weeks
I’m sitting in my easy chair by the fire, thinking about how cold and beautiful it was up at Eaglecrest today. The cross country ski trail was nicely set, with all 5.8 km twisting and turning across meadows, hills, and woods in a lovely pattern. My skis were waxed just right. I felt like I was flying along in perfect rhythm on the groomed classic track. The temperature was in the single digits, but I was warm from the exertion of my steady kick and glide motion.
The heavy rains of the past week kept many Juneau residents inside. I was scheduled to teach cross country ski lessons at Eaglecrest last Saturday and Sunday, so I spent two full days skiing and it wasn't too bad. My students were eager to learn, and when I wasn't teaching I enjoyed the nicely groomed Lower Loop trail, working on both my classic and skate skiing. Scott and I made a few runs on the mountain Sunday morning, but were defeated by the low visibility and wet conditions.
Do you ever make an offhand comment to someone, only to immediately wonder, “Now why in the world did I say that?” That’s the way I felt last week, when I casually suggested to my coworker Courtney that we hike Blackerby Ridge to Cairn Peak. Ideally, I like to spread my ridge hikes out to once every seven or eight days at most. I still hadn’t fully recovered from the 13 mile, +5,700’ traverse I had just done two days earlier with another friend over Mt. Gastineau, Mt.
A friend of mine cautioned me when I told him I was planning to hike up Hawthorne Peak. “The snowpack can be pretty icy up there this time of year. You should take an ice axe with you.” I agreed with him, and I did pack a set of ice grippers and a hiking pole. But no ice axe.