Monday, May 31, 2010

The Man On The Rocks

Taken at an isolated beach area that I happened upon accidentally around Mile 34 this afternoon.  It is a little out of focus because I zoomed in so far to take the picture.  Regardless, I still like this shot.

Today is Memorial Day.
I have been thinking a lot over the past few days about LC.  He is having a great time in Minnesota, and he sounds more relaxed than I have heard him sound in a long time.  
Hearing my Mountain Boy like this makes me feel happy and relieved, because he needs and deserves to have peace and quiet in his life.    
Yesterday he attended a church service that honored veterans.  Today he attended a memorial service for fallen servicemen. 
He served bravely and honorably and I am very happy that he attended these events and that he knows that his service is not forgotten..........
Fast forward from the Vietnam War to the Iraq War and I have also been thinking a lot over the past few days about my son Chris. 
He has been in the Air Force for three years now and has just completed his second tour in Iraq.
He is a physically imposing goliath of a man - 6 feet 4 inches, 250 pounds, with a weight lifters build, shaved head and tattoos that belie the fun-loving, easy-going free spirit that my youngest child is.
Along with LC, my beautiful son is a patriot.  If he reads this I want him to know how proud I am of him.....

My Mountain Boy is getting psyched up to begin the journey west to Bellingham. He, his brother, two trucks and my Jamie-dog are going to take their time - play tourist when they want, spend an extra day somewhere along the way if they feel like it.  They need to be in Bellingham to catch the ferry on Friday afternoon June 11.
By the time they get on the ferry I will be well on my way via ferry to Ketchikan.......

I drove out to Eagle Beach late this morning - needing to be outside on another sunny day, and needing to feel "free".  To release tension into the wind out at the beach on a sunny Memorial Day Monday.
Even though the tide was out while I was there this is always a very very beautiful place...........
I spent a couple of hours at this beach - walking, wandering, thinking, laying in the sand, introspective about work and family and my Mountain Boys' impending arrival and my life.
I'm not sure if it is because I turned 50 a couple of months ago or if is just related to having experienced so many life changes recently, but introspection about my life has been a running theme for a while now. 
I hope that I can stop "stewing" soon.  It seems like such a waste of time, but I can't seem to stop doing it. 

As I wandered and contemplated and sat in the sand I took the time to watch small children playing and building sandcastles.  To watch happy oversized Alaska dogs running on the sand and in the water.  To watch people sun bathing and also wandering aimlessly on the beach.
It was a nice quiet way to spend this day.
Beautiful and fragile wild flowers are beginning to pop up wherever I look - here at the beach today, on Peterson Lake Trail yesterday........
After a couple of hours at the beach I started to drive home.  On the spur of the moment I pulled into an overlook and turned the car around, intending to drive a few more miles Out the Road.  I wasn't quite ready to head for home just yet.
Taken at an overlook around Mile 30......
This is the original non-zoomed-in picture of the man sitting on the rocks, that I took this afternoon.  It is my favorite picture from the day.....
By:  Kelly Strong
I watched the flag pass by one day.
It fluttered in the breeze.
A young Marine saluted it,
and then he stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud,
He'd stand out in any crowd.
I thought how many men like him
Had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers' tears?
How many pilots' planes shot down?
How many died at sea?
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
No, freedom isn't free.
I heard the sound of TAPS one night,
When everything was still
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times
That TAPS had meant "Amen,"
When a flag had draped a coffin
Of a brother or a friend.
I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No, freedom isn't free.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Vast Beauty Is Big Enough....

Spring flowers in my yard.........
I have mountain biked in some crazy conditions over the years during adventure races.
I biked in severe thunder and lightening during a race in Tennessee - a storm so bad that eventually my team-mates and I ended up ditching our bikes and packs, putting distance between each other in the middle of a field and making ourselves the smallest targets we could make until it was over.  Scary stuff at the time.......
In pouring rain so bad that no sane person would be out in it overnight in a race in Virginia.
Standing on a sorta-kinda trail in the mountains of North Carolina, holding onto a tree with one hand so I didn't slide down a drop-off while trying to hoist my bike up and over a huge boulder to my waiting team-mates with the other hand, who were both standing on top of the rock trying to grab a hold of it.
In driving sleet and freezing cold weather in the middle of the night in the mountains of West Virginia.  I ended up rescuing a kitten that night and stuffing him into my jacket on the trip down the other side of a mountain, riding down endless gravel downhills with him squirming around and me hoping to neither ditch the bike nor smother the cat.  He ended up being adopted by a racer from Florida and hopefully now lives a quiet and spoiled life in the sunshine.......
Falling asleep twice while riding after having been on the move for more than 24 hours straight.  Once I woke up just a split second before hitting blacktop in Viriginia.  Ouch.
And once coming to my senses sitting on the tailgate of a truck in South Carolina wondering why the heck all these people were standing around looking at me.  I had fallen asleep while riding, hit the deck face first, knocked myself out and given myself a concussion and cracked ribs.
Getting snowed in up in the mountains of North Carolina.  Got down to the bottom of a steep hill (barely) and realized that my brake pads (this was before I moved over to disc brakes) were worn down due to mud and ice.  I stayed upright all the way down the hill and then could only stop at the bottom (in the middle of the road) by putting my feet down.  When I looked around snow was coming in sideways at us.......
Asking my male team-mate to urinate on my drivetrain in the middle of the mountains in freezing and snowy North Georgia so I could change gears before everything froze up again........
And not once have I ever broken a chain.  Until today.
I got geared up this morning intending to bike further Out the Road to.....somewhere.  Destination to be determined.
I got about 10 yards out of my driveway, heard a snap, looked down and saw part of my chain still where it was supposed to be, and the other half of my chain dragging on the ground.
Since I did not have a replacement chain I walked the bike back to the house and tried to figure out what Plan B for the day was going to be.
I was going to be on foot today, and since I had promised LC that I would not walk in the mountains until he got up here to Juneau I decided to walk on a trail close to home that I had not explored yet - Peterson Lake Trail.
I drove to the trailhead and headed up the wooded steps to the trail proper.
After climbing the steps I quickly became mired in a very muddy trail.  I walked it for 10 minutes, and began to wonder if the entire trail was this same muddy mess.
Another 10 minutes and I was still in mud.  I was not enjoying this trail so far - between the mud (and there was plenty of it), and all of the mosquitos (there were plenty of those as well) I decided that I would give it another 10 minutes and if the situation did not improve I would head back to the car and move on to another trail (Plan C).
After a few minutes the trail was less muddy, but I was still not enjoying myself a whole lot. 
I ran into a lady heading my way, who loaned me some bug spray (which solved the bug situation), and I asked her what the trail was like up ahead.  She had not wandered very far so could not provide a whole lot of information about what to expect. 
I decided to continue a bit further and see what it all looked like.
Just when I was about to turn around I came to a plank trail, less bugs, and more sunshine.  I decided to continue moving ahead.
I was almost two miles into the trail when I came to open meadows full of fields, small wildflowers, sunshine, and I finally began to enjoy my walk and committ to this trail.  
OK - it had potential after all and I decided that I would stick with it and see if I could get to the lake that I knew was at the end.
The remnants of old gold mining train tracks..... was a sunny, comfortably warm day, I was walking in beautiful meadows and I was definately beginning to enjoy myself......
A new and partially finished bridge.  According to the lady that I met along the trail, Trail Mix, the non-profit in Juneau dedicated to trail building and trail maintenance had definate plans for future work on the trail. 
By the time I was a couple of miles into the trail it was not in bad shape at all, but the early part of the trail definately needs a lot of work.
There was a good mile of very rooty and rocky technical trail. 
Usually I love the challenge of this type of trekking, and I had a lot fo fun with it today, but my knees and hips are still messed up from my climb up Mt McGinnis last weekend, so it was a bit tough on the body.
After only a couple of hours I looked up and there was Peterson Lake.  I smiled when I saw it.  It was incredibly quiet, incredibly beautiful and I loved that I was there. 
The only sounds that I could hear were birds.
I am so accustomed to lakes down in Tennessee that were  manmade by the Tennessee Valley Authority. 
Many of them are beautiful and they are very accessible in that you can easily drive to them.
Peterson Lake is a natural lake that stands alone in the middle of nowhere - the only way that you can get to it is to walk to it. 
As I have done so many times I stood looking at it and wishing that my Mountain Boy was here to share it with me.
These bones (I don't know what animal they are from) were in the middle of the trail.
Once I arrived at the lake, I continued along the trail for another 20 minutes looking for a grassy place to sit and eat.  This is the place that I chose..........
I sat for about half an hour - eating sandwiches, drinking my "turn around diet coke", wishing I had brought more food with me......
And for a few minutes I lay on the grass and used my pack as a pillow - resting in the sunshine and loving the peace and isolation of it all.
Tennessee in retrospect seems very crowded compared to where I am now. 
It would be so very easy for someone to live off the grid in Alaska - if I had been younger and at a different stage in my life I could very easily see myself doing that during the summers here..........
After I arrived back at my car a couple more hours later (with tight hips and sore knees) I stopped on the way home at the Arboretum.
This beautiful place, operated by the City and Borough of Juneau literally changes every couple of weeks.  There are new flowers and it is more beautiful every time I stop there now........
I was reading a message board about Alaska the other night, and a member of the board wrote something interesting when talking about the mountains and beaches in Alaska. 
I thought it was very compelling, and it is a thought that I have had on my mind for the past day or so:

It is like the vast beauty is big enough and wide enough to fill up even the emptiest spaces in your heart.....

Saturday, May 29, 2010

UAS Community Days

Today I was working at the University of Alaska Southeast Community Days On Campus. 
Last week I was at the Juneau Maritime Festival downtown alone, but this weekend had a colleague working with me, who I did not know well but whose company I greatly enjoyed.
The event featured activities, booths and a variety of jazz, folk and brass band music for the whole family, and with the weather happily still remaining very warm and sunny, it was a nice day to be doing such a thing.
The picture above is actually of a very large painting on the wall inside one of the buildings on campus.  It seemed very appropriate for a campus that is located so close to lakes, rivers and the channel in the SE.
UAS is a beautiful campus located in Auke Bay - very small, very inviting and welcoming, beautifully landscaped, and surrounded by beautiful snow capped mountains.
It is a campus in stark contrast to where I went to school in Toronto and even more of a stark contrast to where my oldest son went to school in middle Tennessee (a behemoth of a campus of 28,000 students).

Ever since I knew that I would be moving to Juneau I have been toying with the idea of trying to find some way (in between a real job) of taking their Outdoor Skills and Leadersip Certificate program:
The program has nothing to do with my current job, and at this stage in my life I don't even know what I would do with it even if I were able to find some way to take the program....... 
Until I started training for, and then racing in Adventure Racing I was never an "outdoor person". 
I had been an athlete in one form of another (karate, judo, running, strength training) my whole life, but started training for Adventure Racing when I was about 40. 
Old by most athletic standards, but not so old when it comes to a sport that requires not only physical stamina and a wide variety of athletic skills, but also the ability to reason, adapt, pace, and keep moving ahead for many hours and sometimes for many days in (often) very challenging circumstances. 
In short, AR was a sport that required skills over and above the athletic, making it ideal for experienced athletes looking for a new challenge........
I learned about the outdoors, and then learned to love the outdoors through my training for this sport, and because of that Adventure Racing will always be dear to my heart.

This is the same raven that I took a picture of a couple of months ago - a very unusual large metal sculpture.  Ravens, eagles and totem poles are seen in many places and in many forms throughout Juneau, and recognizes the importance of these symbols for both native Alaskans and the general Juneau population.
This event was nowhere near as large as the one I attended last weekend downtown, but it was a very low-key event for the family on a beautiful Saturday on a long weekend, and as such was nice to be a part of.
One of many orchestras and bands that played music throughout the day.....
As with the miner statue downtown last week, the significance of the raven statue was lost on the smallest of Juneauites.  Just one more fun place to play............
UAS is directly adjacent to Auke Lake, and there are many views of both the lake and the snow capped mountains visible from the campus.........
My Mountain Boy happily sounds relaxed, rested and excited about the rest of his trip.  After all of the work he did and all of the stress he felt down in Tennessee it is very very good to hear him sound relaxed and enjoying his visit in Minnesota.