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Days in the Sun April 2015

I’ve just gotten back from a literary happy hour sponsored by the Juneau chapter of Alaska’s 49 Writers. Once again I heard advice to “write every day, whether you feel inspired or not.” This time, the advice came from humor writer and blogger Libby Bakalar.  I decided I’m going to try to this and you’re my willing (cause I’m not forcing you to read this) victims of zeroth draft writing.

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Today I’d like to write about something I did on a rare sunshine day here in Southeast Alaska.

I have a lot of leave saved up on work and when I saw that Friday was going to be sunny, I got permission to take the afternoon off. I brought in my hiking backpack and a change of clothes. I stayed at work through lunch, then went to the bathroom to change into my hiking outfit. It was then I realized I didn’t have a hat, but I wasn’t going back home from it.

I work in downtown Juneau and was hiking the Perseverance Trail. In past years I could get to the end in about an hour and a half, so I told my spouse I’d be back in about three hours. I left my building, headed over to Gold Street and started up the hill. I’m not sure of the exact grade of the hill, but it was very steep. So steep that parts of the sidewalks turn into stairs. It was something of a hike just to get up to Basin Road, the relatively level road that leads to the trail head. I stopped for a few minutes to catch my breath and to look down the Gastineau Channel. There was nothing in the but what locals like to call blue clouds. The waters far below sparkled blue. The beige, yellow, blue and red buildings of downtown looked cheerful.

Once I was ready to walk more, it was time to walk about 10 minutes to the trail head, which is marked by a massive yet rusting air compressor. I walked past that to a mine entrance with fresh “DO NOT CROSS” yellow tape across the entrance. Than I turned and took the trail proper. For a late April hike, the trail was extremely dry. No having mud wash up over my hiking boots into my sock. No giant sucking sound trying to claim my boots for the muskeg. Just more or less easy walking under a blue sky.

I say more or less, because landslides had crossed the trails in the past few years. New paths were constructed, but there was still piles of splintered rock to pick through. As I made my way past these bits, I looked up and saw a rocky overhang with deeply embedded tree roots. To my untrained eye, it seemed like that end of the bank could collapse any time as well. I hope there are no hikers on the trail when it does.

Perseverance Trail crosses a stream a number of times. Today I spent some time stopping at a few swirling spots in the stream where the water played round and round rocks before moving on. I took pictures of the trails, of the still snow covered mountains. It felt like a great day to be out, though I wished for my hat on the sunny portions.

Overall, the trip was taking me longer than I thought. I had been hiking for about two hours when I realized that I wasn’t going to make the end of the trail this time. I decided to turn around in hopes of catching a ride from my spouse who I thought would be getting off work about the time that I got back. I returned by the way of Red Mill trail. It ran along the hillsides and was considerably wetter than that Perseverance had been. Sometimes I couldn’t avoid walking through a small stream. That’s why I wear waterproof hiking boots.Although the trail was wetter, I was rewarded with great views of Silverbow basin and the tiny ribbon of Perseverance way below me.

Eventually Red Mill joined up with Perseverance again. I was running late and I was worried my spouse would leave without me. I had my cell phone with me, but about 90% of the trail has no signal whatsoever. This might surprise people in more urban areas, but we have plenty of areas, especially in valleys where no cell signal can penetrate. Often I find this a blessing. Friday it was a problem, but not a life threatening one. I continued to enjoy the sun, the birds, the plants – even the skunk cabbage — but picked up my pace in hopes of finding a spot where I could get any cell reception before my spouse left work. Finally at 4:25, I had two bars on my phone. That was enough. I let her know when I’d be back in town and she agreed to wait for me. I told her I should be there in 20 minutes. It was more like 40, giving me a total round trip time of four hours. I was drained, not usual for me on this trail, but it was the first big hike of the season. I was very happy I went and that was usual. Hiking is glorious here when the weather cooperates.

As I write this Sunday afternoon, it is windy with moderate rain. Hiking weather for some in Southeast Alaska, but not for me. This is writing weather.

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