Back in the early 1970’s, a girlfriend and I decided to try and climb Mt. Bullard, which is the first big mountain to the right side of the glacier as you are looking from the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. We went up the West Glacier trail, crossed the Mendenhall Glacier and camped on the low shoulder of the mountain. The weather was hot and sunny, and this being the early 70’s, we did not know much about proper hydration and sun protection.
It all started innocently enough. The weather forecast was perfect and Scott and I had the day off together, so we decided to go for a hike up Blackerby Ridge. If we started early enough, we could easily get up Cairn Peak and then over to Observation Peak, which I had never climbed. This was the plan – a good effort, a new peak for me, and a beautiful late summer day spent high in the mountains.
Eighty minutes. That’s all the time it took Scott and me to go from our ordinary, everyday routine of work and home projects to a cross country skiing paradise. One hour and twenty minutes of easy hiking on packed snow through the woods up the Spaulding Trail gave us full access to rolling, open meadows just begging to be skied and enjoyed. Sometimes the trip is faster, but we had all day so we were in no rush.
This year’s hiking season has had a slow start. First I was distracted by all the skiing that I could do well into May, and then family obligations took precedence over recreation. When I was finally ready to get out on the trails and just hike, I couldn’t believe it was still snowing up in the mountains and raining hard below. On Saturday, the first of June, I decided enough was enough. I put on all of my rain gear and waterproof boots and headed up the Lake Creek trail.
Every once in a while I like to go for a solo camping trip. My favorite camping spots are above tree line, somewhere with a great view in all directions. During the most recent stretch of good weather, I decided the time was right. I juggled my work schedule a bit and picked out a place I’d been thinking about for the past few years – Grandchild Peaks ridge.
This summer has been a challenge when it comes to hiking, yet somehow I have managed to have almost more than my share of local adventure. I've been creative in my choice of places, and I'm lucky in that I can choose odd days off in exchange for working weekends. This past week I had the extra benefit of having the same day off as my favorite hiking partner, my husband Scott. I knew that if I wanted to take full advantage of good weather and a willing partner, I needed to pick somewhere special. That gave me an easy solution - Grandchild Peaks ridge.
My favorite hiking partner, Scott (who also happens to be my husband), was going to be out of town for a week and the summer weather was finally looking like it might give me a break. I had a day off coming up fast and I had to make a quick decision. The hiking traverse starting from the Mt. Roberts trail head and up to Gastineau Peak, Mt. Roberts, Sheep Mountain, then out Sheep Creek valley trail was on my mind as I hadn’t done it in a few years. Scott and I had just hiked the Juneau ridge a couple of weeks earlier so I was physically ready.
After a little over three hours of steady hiking we were just below the summit of Mt. McGinnis, but the only way we knew that was from the elevation reading on my GPS watch. The fog was so thick that all we could do was focus on the steep dirt trail that winds up the final ridge. We kept hoping the fog and clouds would lift when we started out that morning, and for the most part they did, but only to about 2,000’. So, alas, there were to be no views from the summit for us today. Should we keep going anyway?
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher
Six years and two months ago, I was out for a sunny afternoon bike ride when a car suddenly turned in front of me. I smashed straight into the passenger side, flew up over the roof, hit the trunk and landed flat on my back on the pavement. The damage total was a severely broken forearm that required two metal plates and twelve screws to repair, a broken collarbone and shoulder blade, and six broken ribs. Ouch.
There is a special place up on an alpine ridge above Granite Creek basin. When I sit there, I feel as if I am at the center of the world. I can look around and see two of my favorite ridge hikes – the Gastineau-Roberts-Sheep ridge and the Mt. Juneau ridge. I can look up at Mt. Olds on one side and Clark Peak on the other. Hardly anyone comes up here. It’s somewhere I can always go when I want to enjoy the mountains and have them all to myself.