Saturday, June 30, 2012

Thunder Mountain

Saturday, we got together with Brad, G and J to hike Thunder Mountain. This was the first time we'd tried the DOT side trailhead. The trail was difficult to follow, was muddy, and definitely needed planking through the muskeg!

I was pretty wiped out from out trip the day before so I was slogging along. Brad even called me a "Debbie Downer".

When we got to the shoulder, we saw 7 mountain goats checking us out. Mr. X and I filtered fresh water draining off the snow sheets for everyone, and then we summitted only to find, crystal clear water at the top, oops.

We wandered around the mountain, sat down and had lunch. Then we attempted Heitzelman Ridge.

I scrambled up after everyone else and then decided I wasn't interested in going farther. J and I hiked back down into the Thunder Mtn bowl. Mr. X, Brad and G continued up the ridgeline, traversing a 30 foot climb with only a piece of rope tied to an alpine scrub keeping them from falling over the edge. Mr. X then felt sick (calories) and turned around to check on me.

With G enthusing about the ridgeline, Brad and she hiked the ridge to the farthest point without snow, while we watched reclining on cushy, sun baked heather (if you look closely you can see them on the ridge in the picture - they are the specks on the right side).

Since it was late afternoon we decided to hike down. We slid down as much of the snow as we could and then hiked quickly through the trees. We made the correct turn down to the DOT side trailhead, and followed tagging until we realized we were lost - following the wrong tags. Thankfully Mr. X and Brad were able to deduce where we were using GPS and we bushwacked the last .40 miles through skunk cabbage, devils club and rotting nurse logs.

When we got back to the car, the temperature read 88 degrees. Suffice it to say, Saturday was a record breaking weather day. Brad suggested we buy popsicles so we went to the store. I bought Mr. X a carton of vanilla ice cream, which he ended up eating all by himself - an easy way to get alot of calories. The rest of us enjoyed banana popsicles.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Echo Cove to Berner's Bay

The Weatherman  said we were headed for 80 degrees on Friday and Saturday. Thursday afternoon when it poured rain, I didn't believe it, but by 3:00 pm it was heating up, so I hurriedly asked for Friday off work - and then noticed that half the people in my office had done the same thing.

Friday morning we drove out the road, pausing briefly as 2 sitka deer and a marmot decided whether to cross the highway. At Eagle beach, we learned the Miller Construction was blasting rock to improve the road for the next four miles, so we'd have to wait for the pilot car. Not a bad place to be stuck for a few minutes.

We drove through the construction zone; the dump trucks backing out of our way as we came through.

We spotted lots of bear scat along the road, but no bears.

Once at Echo Cove - also the end of the road - we loaded up the rafts and hiked down the beach. The first part of the hike was easy on sand and rocks. Then we had to boulder which, trust me, is difficult while carrying a paddle. It was low tide so we easily crossed the cliffs on the blue mussels/barnacled rocks. We spotted whales feeding just off shore.

For lunch we stopped next to a crystal clear stream running right into Echo cove.

We put the boats in at Cascade Point because there as a small cove which sheltered us from waves. As we came out of the cove we were confronted with 3 and 4 foot swells, which is always a little unnerving. We paddled toward Berner's Bay and eventually the tide whipped us into the bay. Concerned about the tides, we turned around and paddled back to the boat launch at Echo cove. We were grateful that the whales were now feeding of Bridget Point, but a seal popped up a few times to check us out. We enjoyed riding the rolling waves back to the boat launch. With great luck we rolled up to the construction zone just as the pilot car was pulling away. An full day of good fun.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Happy Solstice: Auke Rec

We'd been told to expect three more weeks of rain, but the sun appeared on Wednesday evening, just in time for the Solstice. Mr. X and I took the rafts out to Auke Rec for a little paddle around the inlet and around Point Louisa. The fish were jumping and we joked about what we'd do if a fish landing right in our laps. It was a nice, relaxing evening, until we landed and were swarmed with bugs.

The sunset was remarkable, at least for Juneau.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Saturday, we went sledding with friends at Eaglecrest. We hiked up the mountain about a half hour and then spent the next two hours sledding down.

It was the first time we used our flying carpet and we decided it's too short for adults. Mr. X climbed in our friend's sled and went for a terrifying ride down the slope. He's got bruises to show he actually came somersaulting out of the sled. I think he had a great time.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Got yogurt?

Saturday afternoon Mr. X and I sat down and listened to Radio Lab. This week's story was on "Guts". The whole program was good but this particular piece was particularly interesting. Medicinal yogurt? Yum.

Sunday was a doozy of a day. It included a biting, snotty two-year old, me yelling at a member of the bishopric and a solid punch into the squishy part of my friend's chest.

Feeling pretty pathetic by bed time, Mr. X and I were talking in the living room, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement in the front yard. I jumped up from the couch to watch a bear turn over the garbage can, shake out his selected bag and drag it to the neighbor's yard (Juneau recently switched garbage collection and the cans are not bear resistant!!!).

We cleaned up the rest of the garbage dumped in the yard armed with an air horn and bear spray and called JPD dispatch to record the rifling. 

When I said I didn't think I could now sleep, Mr. X smiled and generously offered to share some of his yogurt.

Monday, June 11, 2012

East Glacier rafting

Tuesday night the sun was shining so we packed up the boats and took the trail to Nugget Falls. While we were inflating the rafts an old friend from the University spotted us and came over to discuss our rafts. Lori is an avid outdoorswoman (and my inspiration!). Instead of focusing on tempering my raft I talked to Lori. Meanwhile a horde of Japanese tourists flocked around us wanting to take pictures. We hurriedly launched into the icy Mendenhall lake.

Not too much later I realized my boat was getting soft, so I hugged Mr. X's boat while he used the mouth valve to finish filling my boat. We hid behind an ice berg to finish tempering, away from the eyes of tourists.

Then we paddled toward the glacier. Along the way we heard this ice berg crack and then watched as it rolled over. We thought a massive wave was headed our way, but luckily it dissipated before it reached us.

Deciding to land back at the pavillion instead of on the trail, we navigated through an ice berg flotilla. We were grateful that none of these bergs rolled over.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Airport to Downtown Float trip

Saturday, in the early hours Mr. X said he wanted to do the Airport to Downtown float. In our groggy states Mr. X handed me the tide book and we concocted a plan.

Here's how it went:
I went shopping for the BBQ we were providing food for in the evening and skipped all other chores. We drove downtown and parked car behind F&G building. Then we caught the bus at the Federal Building. And then realized that someone :) misread the tide table and we started to worry that we won't make it to the BBQ in time.

Ride bus to airport.

Inflate rafts at the Airport trail on Mendenhall River

(Pardon the following photo quality; they were taken with a GPS camera.)
We made quick work of the river portion and turn into the Gastineau Channel. We had three different seals come check us out. The first one didn't realize how fast we were moving in the river, and we were just about on top of him when he came up for air. He was gone in a flash with a big splash.

After paddling hard for some time and recognizing we weren't making much process against the tide, we decided to get out and walk on the shore.

I somehow managed to fall getting out of raft and ended up wet from shoulders to wrists and waist down. Mr. X said he watched it happen and considered "Sarah or raft, raft or Sarah". In the end he decided I wouldn't drown and went after the raft. It was the right choice since it was all of six inches deep; I was just crab walking and doing push-ups.

To make sure I was miserable, as soon as I stripped down to t-shirt and pants, it started pouring rain.

Rembember those Ivar's clam chowder commercials? I totally felt like a clam.

The tide changed and we put the boats back in. We were flying down the channel! It was so much fun to zip past the helicopter pad, eagles hanging out on driftwood, barge dock, Dipac hatchery.

Once we got past the yacht club, we got hit by wind. The water was choppy and we struggled to make headway again. This is when I realized that neither of us had bothered to eat lunch. Mr. X and I directed the rafts near the shore in order to take shelter by Aurora harbor and the UAS diesel technology center. We kept paddling and crossed under the Juneau - Douglas bridge to the F&G building.

We were glad to haul out here, pack up and eat something before racing off to the BBQ.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mendenhall River Disaster - the Sinking of Banana Slug Two

On a Thursday evening, the sun shone and I suggested we float the Mendenhall River. I had read online that in a packraft, you should ride this particular river when the flow is at about 250 CFS (it is now running at 1000 CFS). If the river is running higher it's scary in a little raft. I checked out the flow rate online and fortunately the river was running much lower than average for the year, right at 250 CFS; we hadn't missed the brief window of opportunity.

We parked the car down by the Brotherhood Bridge bridge and rode the bus up to the Back Loop bridge. Then we hiked down the river to a good launching spot where we inflated the rafts and set out. As you can see from the pictures the first part was a rock garden.

We came around a curve and this eagle was sitting right where we needed to go. After he started flexing his talons in our direction, we got out of the boats and walked around. We floated some calm spots and paddled through rapids. At one point I saw Mr. X's boat take a deep lean to the left and I thought he might end up wet. I paddled hard through that rapid and looked up. Mr. X had slowed up to make sure I made that turn, and he was shouting something. I just smiled and nodded. He shouted again,

"Get to the shore! You're losing air!"

Sure enough my boat was sinking around me. I paddled hard and landed on a gravel bar in the river, just in time for the boat to gasp its last breath. When I pulled the raft out of the water, we saw a two inch slice through the tube and a 24 inch scratch on the bottom. Whatever I hit, I hit it good. Considering what to do next we both realized that our rafts didn't come with a patch kit as advertized.* We were up a creek without a boat! Totally stupid of us.

Where we landed on the river, we couldn't walk out; the river was deep. I rolled up my raft and stuck it in the dry bag. I considered swimming, but instead I climbed on the front of Mr. X's boat, and we carefully crossed the river to its edge, balancing and paddling gently.

From here it was just a short climb up the hillside, a stealthy walk through my boss's (!) backyard and a (very humbling) two mile walk to the car. 

*We contacted the company and they immediately shipped out the included patch kits. We now have repair kits in our lifejackets if we find ourselves in this situation again. A lesson learned. A good place to learn the lesson.