Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Trail Map

Are you sick of our hiking trips yet? Good. Here's a topo map of our adventures.

Green: Our neighborhood
Red: West Glacier Trail and Mt McGinnis Trail
Orange: Salmon Creek Resevoir
Yellow: Grandchild peak via Montana Creek Trail
Blue: Auke Nu Trail/John Muir Cabin route
Purple: Thunder Mountain Trail
Magenta: East Glacier Loop and Nugget Creek Trail
Wine: Lemon Creek Trail
Hot Pink: To Windfall lake via Montana Creek Trail
Each square is approximately 2 miles. My trail markings are totally off - they have us hiking up bowls - but you get the idea anyway.

As you can tell Windfall Lakes and downtown Juneau fall outside this map.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Books to Keep you Cool

The hit movie, "Bucket List" inspired many people to make lists of what they'd like to do before they die. I guarantee you this is really just curriculum for Auburn High School's 10th grade health class. One item from my list of goals written in 1998 is: "go dog sledding in Alaska". The next three books are about dog sledding.

No End in Sight: My Life as a Blind Iditarod Racer - Rachael Scdoris and Rick Steber

Rachael lost her sight as a small child and recounts her experiences growing up wishing her dad would teach her to mush. Eventually, he allows her to run the dogs and she pushes to be allowed to race. Rachael meets the requirements to race the Iditarod and fights the Iditarod beauracracy to have a sight guide to keep her out of trouble out on trail. Great story about perseverance and the love of dogs.

Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod - Gary Paulsen

From the auther of The Hatchet, this laugh-out-loud funny book tells of one man's incredible journey from Midwesterner to Arctic adventurer. He spends summer months literally in the dog house after being sprayed by skunks. He experiences exhaustion induced hallucinations. He rigs up his classic VW beetle as a dog sled and has quite the adventure.

Yukon Alone: The World's Toughest Adventure Race - John Balzar

John Balzar volunteers along the Yukon Quest dog sled race. Learn about the different village checkpoints, the kindness of strangers and the crazy stories from out on the world's toughest dog sled race.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Favorites: Nine books to keep you cool

In the winter, when it's dark and cold, I like to read books about deserts and hot, spicy places. If you need a book too cool off this summer try some of these - my Alaska favorites.

These first three are adventure books with a green undertone. They explore Alaska from the Tongass Rainforest to ANWR to the Bering Sea.

1. Being Caribou - Karsten Heuer and his wife spend five months following the migration of the porcupine caribou herd. They discuss the beauty of the region, effects of drilling in the area, encounters with bears. A story of an incredible journey that will leave you wanting more (try finding the video they made of their trek and their other books/films: Y2Y - the formation of the Yellowstone to Yukon grizzly corridor and Finding Farley - a Cross-Canada canoe trip, their 2-year-old son tagged along).
2. A Long Trek Home: 4000 Miles by Boot, Raft and Ski - Erin McKittrick and her husband decide to hike and paddle from Seattle to the Aleutian chain. They tell the story of the forests of SE Alaska, British Columbia fish farms and the ice of the Lost Coast. An inspiring adventure that has Mr. X eying Alpacka rafts.

3. Shopping for Porcupine: A life in Arctic Alaska - Seth Kantner is a white man who was born and raised in a North Western Alaska grass igloo. His parents taught him the ways of the land and he reflects at how much things have changed in the last forty years. He vividly describes the challenges and rewards of the Old Way. Fantastic writing. Fantastic photography.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Double Ugly

Monday morning we had a date with a friend to go fishing. E has a really fantastic little boat and he's never shy about sharing it with landlubbers like us. We took off from Amalga Harbor - out the road near the Windfall Lakes Trail.

The weather was pretty iffy. Fog kept rolling in bringing wind and rain. We'd find ourselves in some rather bumpy water. A few times while Mr. X was bringing in the anchor, I thought for sure he was going overboard. Then that cloud would pass and the water would be smooth as glass.

Mr. X caught a rock fish, a halibut and a double ugly. E caught a couple halibut, a double ugly and lots and lots of tom cod which he threw back. I was in the boat, but without a license, I was eating twizzlers and listening to the Coast Guard channel on the radio. Listening for the rescue out in Icy Straits.
At the end of the day the guys tried snagging chum at the hatchery stream but had no luck there. One man was leaving the spawned out fish for the birds. A tender was working the bay collecting the fish for the hatchery. Mr. X said it was smaller than the one he was on in Kodiak.

E taught Mr. X how to clean the halibut and then gave us his catch. I'd say we have four months worth of fish in the freezer right now. Not bad for a fun morning on the water.

Wildlife: eagles, seagulls, ravens, murrelets, sea lions, seals, humpback whales

Windfall Lake: Saturday

I have to say that my favorite things about the Windfall Lake cabin are these: the canoe, the outhouse and the heater. None of the other FS cabins have had such an efficient stove. It heats the cabin right up so we were able to sleep comfortably using our long johns for pillows. It's also propane so we don't have to hike with fuel; the FS helicopters a tank in to the cabin each year. The canoe is fun - I just wish there were two paddles this time around. And the outhouse. Have I mentioned this here before? The outhouse is a solar evaporative toilet. This means that there is a fan running quite continuously drying out and maintaining the pit. The building itself is made of cedar so the only scent is cedar. Two thumbs up!

Saturday morning, the sky opened up and poured down on us. We knew that is wasn't supposed to stop raining for several days. It made for a lazy morning. Mr. X napped until noon. I read a book and sat on the porch watching water birds on the lake.

We had chicken salad sandwiches for lunch and then a group of five hikers and a dog showed up. Since the cabin is also a warming shelter, we invited them in but they declined. Maybe the fact we were still in our pajamas had something to do with it.

Devil's Club

Rather than staying for a canoe paddle, trout fishing and bonfire, we packed up after lunch and began our trek back to the car. Honestly, the rain wasn't trouble. That actually felt warm compared to the pools of water on top of the blueberry bushes. I'd shake the water off with my pole before walking through, but I was still drenched. The sleeves on my wicking shirt were heavy and I could feel the water running down my legs into my boots. About half way I stopped, removed my boots, wrung out my socks and insoles. About a half hour later, with numb fingers, I gave up on my long sleeved shirt and cap opting for my rain jacket and winter hat.

About 1/2 mile from the car we met a couple walking their five dogs. The man stopped to talk to us and ended the conversation with, "beautiful day for a hike". Something like that.

Miles: 10
Elevation: 700
Wildlife: bear scat

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Windfall Lake Cabin

Yellow Circle: Windfall Lake cabin

We took Friday off work, and for some reason Mr. X thought that meant we should hike all day. It was his kind of hiking too, with lots of bushwacking through blueberries, ferns and devil's club. The scree fields and slippery planking were just a bonus. We could see Grandchild peak over our right shoulders as we hiked through the "meadows". I say they were "meadows" 'cause that's what the book said, but they sure looked like muskeg to me.

We stopped at the Windfall Lake cabin for lunch and to dry our shoes. I did take a fall on the blanking planking down to the cabin, but I'll spare you the details.

Mining car at Herbert Glacier Trail

After lunch (still carrying packs) we hiked the Windfall Lake trail, Herbert River Road, dodged gravel trucks on the highway, and took a short jaunt on the Herbert Glacier Trail and back to the cabin. About a mile back in to the Windfall Lake trail a bicyclist passed us, forcing us off the trail. When I just about fell over he started laughing...he's lucky my trekking pole didn't end up in his spokes; I was at mile 20, not mile 1.

As we were approaching the cabin we were worried about water. The Herbert River was silty, the lake water is like heavily steeped tea, the canoe paddle to a spring is considerable and there was only one paddle. Mr. X found a reasonable solution - a fast flowing stream of clear water in the middle of a mucky, usually stagnant pond. We hustled to filter the water as the mosquitos ate us for supper.

Once back at the cabin we stretched, dried our shoes, made our Mountain House dinner and went to bed.

Miles: 22
Elevation: 700 feet
Wildlife: porcupine, winter wren, stellars jay, raven, eagle, mallard+ducklings, merganzer