Friday, April 30, 2010

My Shoe Fetish

It's been a crazy-busy past couple of days at work - a couple of days that left little time and energy to either take pictures or make blog entries.  In between meetings a couple of days ago I snapped these two pictures in downtown Juneau.  They are yet more microcosms of the nature that surrounds this city and that is always within easy arms' length.
Every tree and bush that I see bringing new growth is exciting.  So are the flowers that are beginning to appear all over the city, surrounding both office buildings and personal homes.  After months of cold and dormancy, the city is waking up and embracing the newness of the season.  Spring, anticipation of the upcoming tourist season, the cleanup all over the city that is taking place, is all very exciting to witness.  First cruise ship arrives early next week.  Here we go.............
Inside the Assembly Chambers of the City Hall building downtown is a very large painting.  It is a beautiful work of art, depicting icons from this state.  I did not get the artists' name, although there was a plaque beside the painting describing the artist and his background.  But these are two pictures I took of the painting - the first is only one section, and the second is the entire work of art (about 6 feet in length in total).  It is even more wonderful when viewed in person.
The past few days have been mild, cloudy, foggy, and with rain varying from drizzle to brief but heavy downpours.  Pictures of downtown.....
A sad picture of homelessness.  I saw this man sleeping in this same place at the Marine Park, two days in a row.  I see this man very often downtown.  He is native Alaskan, fairly old, wheelchair-bound, and usually when I see him he is sitting in the doorway of a store downtown.  He always smiles at me, always says hello, and I always respond in kind.  I don't know who he is, or what his story is.  Mostly I am lacking in pity or understanding when it comes to the homeless but I have often wondered what brought this man to this place.  It is a sad situation - made sadder by both his age and physical condition......
Low lying clouds and fog that have owned the mountains surrounding Juneau for the past few days.
After work this afternoon I went trail running on the trail in Auke Bay that leads to John Muir Cabin. 
After a good deal of initial climbing I came to the John Muir Cabin trailhead intersection.  The past two times I have hiked this trail I have indeed turned left towards the cabin.  However, today I continued straight - curious to know what this new trail held.
Interesting metal objects from some type of large equipment.  No idea what these are, and these were the only two such pieces that I ran into.  I took a picture of them because I liked the shape of the pieces, and because they raised my curiosity - what were they?  how did they get here?  how long have they been here?  Only questions.  No answers.
Once I reached this wooden plank portion of the trail I moved from open meadows and continued with more climbing.  These wooden plank trails are located all over Juneau, and they make travel through muddy and boggy areas much easier (in addition to being easier on the fragile plant life that grows in these meadows).
Skunk cabbage was most definately a new form of plant life for me.  I had never seen it before, and knew nothing about it.  After doing some research, I love seeing this plant with its' bright yellow flower and what turns out to be very very large green leaves. 
Skunk cabbage is extremely prevalent in the Juneau area.
Eventually I climbed high enough to be able to look out onto the far-off snow-capped mountains......
And then the channel.......
I'm not sure why I took a picture of this funky looking tree.  It just seemed a little lost, ugly, out of place from the rest of the lovely pine trees that were along the trail and out in the surrounding meadows.  When I think about it though, there are a fair number of these strange looking trees that I have seen on many trail hikes since I arrived in Juneau.
My favorite picture from today I think.  High enough for everything to be green and lush, pine trees, beautiful channel view, skunk cabbage, nice view of the wooden trail - in one picture it contains all of the individual pieces that I enjoyed so much during my run this afternoon.
I bought my Mountain Boy another pair of boots at the Salvation Army today.  I paid $3 for them.  This afternoon I made the observation to LC that I seemed to take a lot of pictures of footwear.  I asked him if I had always had a preoccupation with shoes and boots, because until I started this blog I had never really noticed that before.  He confirmed that yes, indeed I have a "thing" about shoes and boots.  Who knew??
I am very very excited that tomorrow I am taking a 4-hour cruise.  I got the last ticket that was available for the trip, and I am really looking forward to it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Trail Running

I hadn't been right downtown in a few days, but as I was walking to a meeting this morning I realized that something was....different.  And then I realized what it was.  It was the flags.  There are now flags everywhere - one more sign that Juneau is sprucing up for spring, sprucing up for the cruise ships that will be arriving very soon, sprucing up for the masses of tourists from all over the world who will soon decend on this land-locked and beautiful northern city.
There are flags on lamp-posts from every state in the nation, in addition to a multitude of flags that give a nod to Alaska and its' native heritage.
In a few weeks there will be flowers planted all over the city.  22,000 of them so I have been told.  How exciting, and how beautiful!! 
On this beautiful, sunny and very warm morning I went to my meeting and then sat at an outdoor patio to enjoy coffee and a very large blueberry muffin. 
After work I drove to a trail close to Auke Lake, and went for a run.  I haven't run since late September when I blew out my knee for the second time in 2009.  It was tough year for my knee - injured in April, rehabbed and recovered through most of the summer and then getting back into adventure racing shape again, only to blow it out for a second time during a race in Missouri. Surgery in December, a move to Juneau in January and here we are........
I love running.  I always have.  Adventure racing is a great cross training sport - hiking, orienteering, road biking, mountain biking, trail running, canoeing, kayaking, rapelling and rock climbing.  They're all components of races at one time or another, so it's difficult to get bored when training.  But over the years, all the way back to my twenties, running has been in and out of my life.
I ran half marathons and marathons for a while, but after injuries about five years ago, gave up road running altogether.  I love trail running.  I spent countless hours on trails close to home down in Tennesee owning those trails in all kinds of weather - heat, freezing cold, lots and lots of rain.  It was all good.
Today I wasn't sure how it would feel. 
It felt great.  Perfectly absolutely great.
I was out there for 70 minutes - ran about 60 of it in total.  I'll be sore as hell tomorrow.  But I don't care.  I felt like a runner again, and that felt very very good.  I had forgotten how much I missed it.
Some pictures taken while on the trails this afternoon.
My Mountain Boy is right.  It seems like everywhere I go, the glacier is right there with me.......
My Mountain Boy called me at work today, to tell me that he was at the trailhead down in Tennessee where I spent hours, weeks, months, years.
My trail gnome is still there watching over the hikers and runners and mountain bikers who enter the trail.  Bringing good luck and safe travels.
He asked me if I wanted him to bring it to Alaska with him when he comes up in June.  I told him no.  That trail gnome belongs there.......

Monday, April 26, 2010


There is no longer any doubt - spring is here.  Today it was 61 degrees in Juneau.
Today, while driving to work I saw the same two young deer alongside the highway that I saw the other day.  I sincerely hope that they remain healthy and uninjured.  I wish I had not seen them again so close to the road.....
Today I saw my first hummingbird - in my yard and humming around a pussywillow tree that sits close to the porch.
Today there was an article in the Juneau Empire about bears coming out of hibernation:
And today I took pictures of nature in miniature - flowers growing in the very small gardens that are so prevalent to the homes located in downtown Juneau. 
A small taste of nature surrounded in all directions by an endless series of mountains and waterways and trails.
I love this garden gnome and had to share it.
In middle Tennessee it is very common to find gnomes either sitting on a log or on the ground at mountain bike trail heads.  Trail gnomes are said to bring both good luck and safe riding while out on the trails.
My favorite mountain bike and running trails were located only ten minutes from my home - an expansive and complicated series of trails where it was easy to wander for miles and for hours, often without running into another soul.  I knew every inch of every trail.
I loved the variety and I loved the isolation that these trails brought, as compared to other more used trails that were located closer to either Nashville or Chattanooga.
The trail system did not have a gnome.  So one day, while visiting a chain hardware store I bought one and laid it on the ground at the trailhead. 
Happily it was still there when I left Tennessee.  Every time I passed by him I smiled, and I hoped that other riders and runners did too.  I would like to think that he is still there watching over visitors on the trails..........
Today I stopped at my favorite second hand store and bought a pewter plate for a dollar.  I have been collecting pewter for many years, and have a large collection.  I love the look of these pieces, the feel of them, the color of them.  I am looking forward to having my collection with me in Alaska one day soon.

Today I stopped at a gun store and (finally) picked up the 44 Ruger that my Mountain Boy sent up to me.  I got it out, and also picked up a holster, ear protection, ammunition for "plinking" (to use the the gun store owners' descriptive word), and ammunition for bear protection. 
I have shot this specific firearm before while down in Tennesse (and under the experienced and watchful eye of my retired-cop Mountain Boy). 
So now time to take it to the range and gain enough confidence without him, to be able to carry it when I wander onto trails alone.  I won't carry it with me until that time.
My 454 Casull is still on lay-a-way.  When I told my Air Force son what I had bought his response was to say doubtfully "that's a big gun mom".  I told him "yes I know Babe - I was there when I bought it".  He doesn't know that I have also fired a 454 while down in Tennessee.
Shake your head and laugh're talking to your momma, remember??  :-)  Very fun to give my son a hard time now that he is back in the United felt very good.

Today I stopped on the way home to take a quick picture of a small ferry in port at the ferry terminal - Alaska Marine Highway ferry Leconte based out of Petersburg.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

When The Sun Comes Up You'd Better Be Running

I had to run an errand this morning that took a couple of hours.  After I was done, and while heading back towards home I turned onto the Back Loop Rd and drove to a trailhood that I noticed yesterday while driving around and exploring. 
I had seen people off-loading mountain bikes from their vehicles yesterday, so wanted to check out the trail to see what kind of riding was available there. 
As many trails as I have been on so far in and around Juneau, I still have not found a trail yet that has moderately technical single track suitable for some challenging riding. 
Anyway, this was one more trail I wanted to check out on a Sunday morning.  Turns out  that this trail isn't quite what I am looking for either, in terms of mountain biking.
But after exploring it for a few hours this morning, I think I may have just found the right trails to begin trail running again.......
I did not know the name of this area when I first pulled into the parking lot.  But then saw a sign indicating that it was the Mendendhall Glacier Recreation Area. 
Mendenhall River was fast flowing to the left of the parking lot.  And there were residences surrounding the trailhead, so we were definately still in "urban trail" territory.
I started down the trail without really paying attention to the maps or posted signs.  Urban trail territory, so how complicated could it be??  I should know better......
Within just a couple of minutes of being on the trail I veered off, took a short sandy side trail, and found myself walking along the shoreline of the Mendenhall River. 
This river is a strange greenish color, and I have no idea what minerals are in the water that gives it such an unusual hue. 
On my side of the river there was woods, trails, mountain and pine tree landscapes, and on the other side of the river were very nice homes.  Early on the walk seemed to be a contradiction in terms (natural space butting awkwardly up against residential space).
Regardless, walking along the river and coming across the occasional person throwing sticks into the river for their big Alaskan dogs to happily retrieve time and time again was a fun way to spend a Sunday.
I did not realize that the glacier was visible from this recreational space until I wandered far enough down river, looked to the left and saw this......
Sure enough I called my Mountain Boy AGAIN, and started my conversation AGAIN with "you're not gonna believe what I've found.........."
He just laughs. Used to me babbling excitedly on the phone trying to describe in as much detail as possible whatever exciting view is standing before me.
I don't want to describe these things to him anymore. And I don't want him to just see these wonderful places in my pictures. I cannot wait for him to be here with me so we can see these things together.....
I love this glacier.  And I love that this glacier is so accessible to the very lucky residents of this city
Eventually, I ran into lots of mud and it became increasingly difficult to stay close to the shoreline, so I wandered a little further inland and began exploring some of the trails. 
I found a trail map posted along the trail (one of those "you are here" maps), and finally realized how extensive this trail system actually was. 
I had not eaten since yesterday afternoon, and had arrived at the trails with no plan and no gear (special clothing, food, water, safety gear, nothing) so exploring extensively was out of the question. 
But after taking a quick look at the map it became obvious that many of these trails turned back onto each other, so I would be able to walk for a while and still make it back to my car in reasonable time.
The trails were flat, open, non-technical and very user friendly. 
For today those were all good things, but as I told LC on the phone (while also rambling on again about unexpectedly seeing the glacier from the river) that by next weekend I will be ready to head up into the mountains and back country, and away from people again........
After walking on these open trails for a while, and after finally stopping to really study the map, I realized that this would be a great venue to start trail running again.  It is open, flat, non-technical, not busy but just busy enough to minimize opportunities of running into bears.  There are many opportunities to mix up the routes to prevent boredom.   
I jogged off and on while on trails today and my knee felt OK (not great but OK). 
So this is the week I give my old beat up joints a focused reentry into running, and we'll see how it goes...... 
As I popped out at a trailhead I noticed this sign.  Oh hell.....I had thought about bears but not about wolves. 
There were many people on the trails today - adults with dogs, adults with young children, old people walking and running together.  If they can use this trail I can use this trail.  I'm sticking with the running plan.......
I was only partially paying attention to the posted trail maps alongside the trails, and really just wandering and exploring and enjoying the day. So I was surprised when I got close to a trailhead and saw a building with huge antennae and satellite dishes in the yard.
Hmmmm........this was definately not the way I came in. Turns out I had wandered to a different trailhead, where both the US Forest Service and NOAA buildings were located.
I headed back in and came to another trailhead located behind an apartment building.  Alright Karin, you're getting very hungry and need a burger at Booyah in Auke study the stupid map already..........
I headed back the way I had come and about 30 minutes later was back at my car. A good and quiet morning.
"Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn't matter whether you're a lion or gazelle - when the sun comes up, you'd better be running."......Author Unknown