Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Hope Mountain

It's always a joy to discover a mountain or hike you have never been on. While I make no claim to have explored every inch of the Chugach Range, it is a special day when I can go into the mountains and get a truly novel view. This Saturday, Andrea and I, and Larry, Sandra, Teeny, Ray and Pat hiked up Hope Mountain outside of Hope. Because Hope is on the other side of Turnagain Arm from Anchorage, at the top of the mountain, you get a very rare view of Anchorage from the south. It was interesting to see the mountains along the Seward Highway from that perspective. All the peaks we usually climb and trails we run look so much more steep and sinister from that far away.

As hikes go, Hope Mountain is a beauty. The trail takes you from almost sea level to over 3,500 feet in the span of about three miles - the pitch is relentless with little opportunity to rest. We were hands to thighs all the way up save a middle saddle we gained about five-hundred feet from the summit. There was a patch of snow there held over from winter and Emerson was able to cool off before the final climb to the summit. (Long alpine days are hard on dogs if the sun is out because there is little to no water in the high mountains.)

On the descent, we watched a bore tide come in from Cook Inlet. The bore tides in Turnagain Arm can come as a three foot wall of water and travel as fast as a car. From our lofty viewpoint, the wall looked less ominous, a fine white line traversing the length of the arm, slowly fading from existence as it collided with the massive sandbars that the low tide had left in its wake.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The solstice came and went

We had plans to spend the evening of the solstice on the summit of Flattop, an Anchorage tradition that usually involves hibachi grills, a polka band, and the slow arc of a lazy arctic summer sun across the sky. We scaled the peak, and packed the sausages, but, alas we were rained out. After an arduous climb up Flattop's south side (it was easier in the winter), we tagged the summit and headed for the car in the pouring rain. In true solstice style, though, we ate dinner at midnight in broad daylight.

And to remind us that we are now on the steady downward slope to winter (yay!), this morning I could see from my office termination dust on the mountains outside of Palmer and Eagle River. So reminds the solstice, apres moi le deluge.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Summer solstice is tomorrow

Tomorrow is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. The sun will rise at 4:20 am and set at 11:42 pm but because the arc of the set sun is so close to the horizon, we are genuinely approaching 24 hours of daylight. What does this do to you? It gives you energy, it lets you sleep only 5-6 hours a night. But if you are training for a marathon, working hard, and have a full day job? This much sleep ain't gonna cut it...so we are exhausted. The cure? Climb Flattop Mountain and grill sausages - more to come...

Monday, June 19, 2006

Crow Pass Trail

On Sunday, Andrea, Chester, and I did the last 10 miles of the Crow Pass trail as an out-and-back 20 mile training run. It was definitely a different experience from the last time I did the trail, which was during the race in 2001. That year, Eagle River flooded and there were sections of the trail as long as 2 miles that were completely submerged. Add to that a poorly marked trail and more than one false turn. My time that year was 4:56 - it was a character building experience, to say the least. Ouch. Besting my Crow Pass PR shouldn't be too hard.

Particularly considering the trail is in GREAT SHAPE right now - well marked and largely water free. All three of us ran much better than we thought we would - 20 miles in 3:25. If we run this well in the race, I will be really happy.

By the way, they rescheduled the race from July 15 until July 22. They didn't tell us. Don't get me started on this - at least we didn't show up at the Crow Pass trailhead at 6 am on the wrong day! The good news is that Chester will be back from Mongolia so he will racing with us!

One final note - there is no way to take a camera on these runs so all the pictures are from the "finish line." Well, better than nothing.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Peak 3 Friday night

We did a quick hike up Peak 3 after work on Friday. With the solstice coming next week, our days are long and you can hike until past midnight! The clouds on Peak 3 were amazing and there was still enough snow to glissade.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Kettle Moraine, WI

Last week, we were in Wisconsin visiting Andrea's family. Crow Pass training continued and we decided to do our long run in the Kettle Moraine State Forest . The Northern Unit of the Forest encompasses about 31 miles of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail --a trail that winds through Wisconsin (currently 600 miles long) and approximates the terminal edge of the most recent continental glaciation. It is a beautiful and well-maintained trail that crosses both open and forested areas and travels through a lot of farm country (at least in the sections we have traveled in SE Wisconsin). A great place for our first 21 mile run this season!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A few pictures from Wisconsin...

After a week's hiatus, a few pictures from our trip to Wisconsin to visit Andrea's family.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Who is Rick Gunn? or Why you should head for the horizon

About a year ago this month, Andrea and I graduated from law school. Before starting our bar studies, we did a bicycle tour down the Pacific Coast from Eugene, Oregon to San Francisco, California. Along the way we met some interesting characters and managed to travel with various other bike tourists along the way.

Our last night before hitting San Francisco, we camped at Samuel P. Taylor State Park just outside the city in Marin. We had stopped in Olema to pick up groceries for the night and met two guys outside the grocery store who were doing an overnight tour of Marin. One of the men was Rick Gunn. Rick was riding a Haverty touring bike that his friend Matt Haverty had made for him and he was doing a "kick the tires" ride before starting on a tour that would circle the globe.

We camped with Gunn and Haverty that night and said goodbye in the morning, anxious to finish our almost 800 mile tour. We both kind of forgot about Rick and his crazy bike tour plan -- to be honest, neither of us thought he would make it beyond the U.S.

Well I emailed Rick the other day (almost a full year since we met him) and he is in Turkey after having rode across the U.S. and through Europe. Rick is calling his ride the "Wish Tour" (he is raising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation). On his website, Rick says he was inspired to do the tour by his mother's death at an early age:

I spent a good portion of my youth in hospitals with my mother, who suffered from a degenerative kidney disease. As the disease progressed, she had made one last attempt to see the world by traveling to Europe.Unfortunately, when she arrived her health declined and was forced to return to the states where died shortly thereafter. I learned two powerful lessons.The first is to appreciate every moment of this incredible gift we call life, no matter what it brings.The second, to live your dreams despite your fears.Twenty years later, on July 1, 2005, after much hard work and deep personal sacrifice, my dream of seeing the world is coming true.This journey is dedicated to the memory of my mother, Carol Ann Gunn, who was taken from this world far too early.

Granted, there are no shortage of people doing life changing things, inspired by life changing events. It is a sad comment that in this world of extreme sports and media drenched super adventures, these stories of personal adventure start to feel somewhat banal.

But the reason I am writing about Rick is because of how impressive it was to meet him. He was so totally unpretentious and personable; he was on the edge of a huge adventure and you got the sense upon meeting him that he had no idea what he was getting himself into while at the same time you were infected by his faith that he would accomplish his goals. I am much more moved by Rick's adventure having met him than if I would have just heard the story.

Looking back on this year since law school, I have dona lotot of the things that I promised myself I would do. I have spent more time in the mountains, I have skied a TON, and there is still an Alaskan summer waiting out there. I am enjoying what I do but making sure I check in with myself often just to make sure I am still happy with my job and the way my life is running. That's one of the beautiful things about Rick's trip -- he saw something was missing, and he turned his life upsidedown.

Rick is still a long way from the finish with the hardest parts still ahead (his last email mentioned all kinds of troubles with visas). But he is out there doing it and I guess that is the best part: he took out a second mortgage, put his life on hold (well, or you could say he started living his life), packed his cameras and gear, and took off. Its the ultimate expression of freedom -- your entire life packed in bags and balanced on a bike. We should all be so free...

Rick's trip diary is here.