Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Thank You, 2012.

Thank you, 2012. It was a wonderful year.

The ski touring in Spaulding Meadows was exceptionally good last winter

We started the year by skiing and skiing and skiing some more. The Eaglecrest lower loop cross country trail held together well into the spring, and I skied a full loop over the entire trail as late as May 17. The mountain was even more amazing. A friend and I skied from the top of the East ridge all the way to the base of Ptarmigan chair in soft spring snow on June 6.  There was so much snow that in January I did my all-time favorite nighttime cross country ski trip on my beater waxless skis, skiing from the door of my house, down the unplowed street about a ½ mile, and then to the end of the Airport Dike Trail in a blizzard.

Night skiing on the Mendenhall Refuge by the airport

When the snow finally started to melt off of the trails, I started hiking. Some people claim it was a particularly wet, rainy summer. I guess it did rain a bit at the beginning. I remember starting out slow, with short hikes to Point Bridget and the Salmon Creek dam in rain gear and rubber boots. Once I got used to the idea that it was o.k. to be out in the rain and that I wasn’t going to melt, I became bolder and went for longer outings in my waterproof gear, including several loops from Spaulding trail over to the Muir cabin.

Wet stairs on the hill climb to the Salmon Creek dam

We started getting some breaks and I was ready. We celebrated the first dry day of summer with a Mt. Juneau ridge hike, glissading off the ridge into Granite Creek in a personal record-breaking time, and then slogging out through knee deep snow down to Perseverance Trail. When Scott made the mistake of leaving town for a few days on business, I took off for a solo Gastineau-Roberts-Sheep traverse, again traveling so fast over the snowpack on the ridge that it felt more like a short, easy day hike than a 12 mile mountain ridge route. Then I started getting more ideas for hikes.

Firm snow along the Juneau ridge made for fast hiking in June

I ran up Sheep Creek trail to the summit of the Powerline Ridge and peeked over into the Sheep Fork valley and up at Hawthorne Peak, filing away plans for future adventures. We had a beautiful day up on the Grandchild Peaks with a friend, and thanks to the snow we were able to get all the way around to the highest point along the ridge. Mt. McGinnis was next on the list, although we almost didn’t get started due to the fog and clouds. But we went anyway and got so close to a group of mountain goats near the summit we could have hit them with a pebble.

This mountain goat didn't seem to mind while we took his picture

Another favorite summer hike is Mt. Jumbo. We used to do it every 4th of July, followed by partying with the crowds in Douglas. This year I went near the end of July and was amazed to find myself mostly alone on the mountain on a beautiful, sunny day.

Looking at Juneau from the summit of Mount Jumbo

We took a business trip to Utah in August and hiked up hot, dry mountain trails that started at 7,000’ and left us gasping for air and water. When we returned to Juneau, a chance encounter with a friend led to a crazy adventure the very next day scrambling almost 5,000’ up a virtually unmarked route through thick brush and steep slopes to the summit of Mt. Bullard.

A crazy hike with crazy people on Mt. Bullard

I felt the short summer season closing in at the end of August and decided to go for one more classic ridge hike. We picked an epic traverse on a blue sky day – hiking up Blackerby Ridge, over Cairn and Observation Peaks to the Mt. Juneau ridge, then out Granite Creek and Perseverance trail, almost 17 miles and over 8,000’ of total elevation gain.

Observation Peak

I think that one finally did me in, as I came down with the crud that was making its way around town and I felt sick with a bad cough for a few weeks after that. But I rallied for a hike with Scott up Twin Summit Ridge on the last day of summer to celebrate our wedding anniversary.

Twin Summit Ridge

We returned from our annual fall vacation a few days early thanks to Hurricane Sandy. That gave us the perfect opportunity to take advantage of a cold, sunny day. We quickly put together a plan to go up Spaulding trail, across the length of Spaulding Meadows, and out the Montana Creek trail as a final note to a busy hiking season.

Looking at Windfall Lake from the far end of Spaulding Meadows
2012 ended exactly the way it started, because five days after our late October hike, I started skiing and haven’t stopped since then. I skied especially hard the past few days, carving turns on my fat boards in the fresh, deep snow in the mornings and hitting the cross country trails for an afternoon workout, until finally my legs gave out and demanded a day off.

Floating through new, soft snow on the west side of Eaglecrest
So I’m starting the New Year by enjoying a day of rest, and dreaming of new adventures in 2013. I am extremely grateful for my health, my family, my friends, and for this beautiful place that I am lucky enough to call home. Here’s to a safe, healthy, Happy New Year to all!

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