Here is my journal from my recent trip on the Chilkoot trail. It is not complete yet. I still have a day or two left to enter and I hope to get some pictures linked eventually.
Well the past week or so (until yesterday) has been fairly nice weather - not much rain and a few days with some sun. During that time I have realized that a bivi-bag isn't such a bad thing to be camping in. It is much nicer to use when it is dry, but even last night when it was raining wasn't too bad. After using the bag for so long this summer I have learned some tricks to make it more comfortable. For instance propping the awning up from the inside with my shoes or from the outside with a stick. I can even read fairly comfortably in it now. My comfort in the rain probably wasn't hurt by the fact that I now have a tarp strung loosely over the bivi, although that doesn't help as much as you might think.
Human behaviour can be an amusing thing. On the weekends the public library in Sitka does not open until one. Since it is one of the few places around convenient for me to hang out at when the weather is not terribly nice (it also has computers available with internet access) I often wait by the entrance for quite awhile before it opens - I don't have much better to do and it allows me to be sure to get a computer slot (they fill up quickly on the weekends). Other people also come to the library, often they do not realize the library is not open. The amusing thing is how long it takes them to figure it out. There have been times when three or four people will be sitting on the ground around the entrance and someone will come up and attempt to get in. Sometimes, not understanding, they still must be told that it is not open yet. This generally happens several times in the course of waiting for the library to open on a weekend. Sometimes people have even more difficulty; here is the tale of my most memorable one to date (this is probably not exactly how it happened, but is reasonably close):
Scene: Me, sitting next to the entrance of the library, probably eating or reading, but possibly just sitting there doing nothing. A lady comes up to the doors, shakes the handles in an attempt to get in.
Me: It doesn't open till one.
Lady: (shaking the handles for a little while longer): Are the doors locked?
Me: It doesn't open till one.
Lady: (still trying to open the doors): . . . Are the doors locked?
Me: It looks like it.
Lady: (Looking into the windows and then trying to open the doors again):Are the doors locked?
Me: Yeah. It doesn't open till one.
Lady (Tries on the door a little more, then looking around finally notices the sheet listing the hours in the window): Oh, it doesn't open till one. What time is it?
Me: About a quarter till one.
Lady: Oh, so it isn't open yet.
Yesterday a guy told my brother and me about a trail he had cleared through the brush up past Indian River falls, so we decided to take advantage of it and hike back there and up onto the ridge. The hike was pretty nice and easy until we got to the end of the path through the brush. That was when we ran into the cliff. It looked like if we just got up to one spot, it would be easy from there. So we got to the spot and saw that the "easy" part was even more dangerous than what we had gone up getting to that point. None of it probably would have been too bad if it hadn't been so wet. This is Sitka though, and it would probably take some really unusual weather to dry that out. We spent about an hour and a half trying to get up and then trying to get back down the cliff. We ended up using some parachute chord to string our packs down so that we wouldn't have to climb down with the added weight on our backs. When we finally got down we headed up through a brushy area that was also pretty steep, but the brush and occasional group of trees allowed us more hand and foot holds. After quite awhile of navigating through the brush and trees we got up onto a more nicely sloped alpine area that was much easier to climb. With the exception of a large snow patch we climbed up, it was pretty easy getting the rest of the way to the top of the ridge.
The weather was sunny on and off the whole day. Sometimes it would be nice and clear for a long way around and then very quickly become too cloudy to see more than twenty feet or so. Because of this we had on and off views of the scenery and the ridge line that we were trying to hike (and that neither of us had been on before). We had several hours before it would be dark, but it would take us several hours to get to a place with an official trail.
It turned out that climbing up the peaks on the ridge was much more convenient than climbing down the other sides. The uphill sides were generally nice and clear alpine slopes while the downhill sides tended to have thick brush and/or thick stands of subalpine trees. It would have been nicer to be able to get a clear view of the direction we wanted to head whenever we wanted, but unfortunately the cloud cover rarely allowed that. Fortunately between the map that we had and the occasional clearing in the clouds we were able to navigate our way around. When we got to the top of Arrowhead (the one on the maps, rather than what locals commonly refer to as Arrowhead) we tried to decide what the best way to get down was. There were a few options we considered, including hiking around to the Verstovia trail and hiking down to the Indian River trail by a couple of different routes. Looking at the maps and the area (we had a nice view for awhile on top of the peak) we decided on a way down to Indian River trail. When we got down on the ridge where we would have cut down to go that direction though, we discovered that it was much easier to go around the ridge in a different direction. So we did. We ended up going down one of the ridges surrounding Billy Basin. It was a bit steep in the forested areas, but with the trees there, it wasn't much trouble getting down. We managed to get down to Indian River trail around nine and back to camp a little after ten. We had started up a little after nine in the morning.
Got down today from a camping trip up to Baby Bear Lake. The weather today wasn't too bad, but yesterday was a bit of a bear. It was real cloudy and misty pretty much the whole day. Often I could not even see the hill that was close to where we were camping. The mosquitos were no picnic either. I am undecided as to whether they were as bad as the ones at Lindeman (on the Chilkoot trail); there seemed to be more of them here, but they weren't quite as nasty as individuals. I think at Lindeman they have some strain of immortal mosquito (like in the highlander, except bugs instead of people). I think one mosquito was even taunting me. I caught it three times in a row and each time I opened my hand, it just flew away like it had nothing to be concerned with. I did get fewer bites on this trip, but I think that was because I was more on my guard. Anyway, it was a nice looking place when you could see it. We did see one deer while we were there.
After bushwacking through all those salmonberry bushes yesterday, it was nice to go up a more traveled trail today. My brother and I went up Verstovia. We took a fairly decent pace, although we stopped for long periods of time occasionally. After sitting around peak 2550 for quite awhile Matthew decided that we should get to the main peak in half an hour. Thirty-one minutes after starting we got there. I don't think I will feel the need to do that again anytime soon. At one short break we took our pulses for fifteen seconds and mine was on track to be nearly 200 bpm. I think it is safe to say that we were taking a quick pace up the slope.
Finally saw a bear! I was hiking with my brother and Dorothy from Thimbleberry Lake trail around to Heart Lake trail. There was a lot of bear footprints and poop along the trail starting at Thimbleberry Lake. Then there is a lot of brushy area between the two lakes and it wasn't quite as apparent that a bear might have been in the area. Then as we started up a little rise (I was in the lead) just as I was looking down and noticing another pile of crap, I heard a branch breaking noise a little ways ahead. I yelled out "Hey, bear!" just in case, and walked a couple more steps, hearing some more branch breaks on the way and then there was this bear, head and shoulders sticking out of the brush probably twenty feet or so away. It looked at me for part of a second and then took off across the stream and up the hill on the other side. Pretty exciting. Although I don't think I got quite as excited as Dorothy, who seemed to be as surprised as the bear was. It is hard to say how big the bear was, as I don't have too much experience seeing bears to compare it to (plus in my excitement, it was probably a little difficult to be very objective). I would guess though, that standing on its hind legs it was as tall or taller than I am (about 6'1) because when it was looking at me, I think its head was only a little lower than mine, but it was standing a bit farther down the hill. Matthew thought that the one we saw last year near camp lake was bigger, although it was a lot farther away and we didn't get a real good look at it either.
My brother's version of the events.
I finished reading Brave New World (by Aldus Huxley) today. I have been reading it off and on pretty much since I came to Sitka. I wasn't impacted to much until close to the end of the book. I am not sure how much that was effected by the fact that I took such large breaks in the middle of reading it. The main theme that I came away with was that a safe, stable society may come at the price of truth and beauty.
I finished reading Alice's Adventures etc. today. I thought that it was pretty good, though I don't think that I liked it nearly as much as Ruth does. It seemed very different than the movies that I have seen done on it. The ones I remember seemed pretty dark and scary (most of them I watched as a kid). I have made great strides in increasing the comfort of sleeping in my bivi-bag. I now stick my shoes in the head of the tent to keep the awning from sagging down on my face. This has the effect of giving me a lot more room to move around without having to worry about running into canvas made all wet with condensation.
Slept at the ferry terminal last night. In the morning I walked about a mile to the bus stop and fortunately didn't have to wait too long for a bus. I then went to the mall and hung out for awhile. Mostly in the bookstore where I bought My Antonia and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. While at the mall I used a pay scale, and was surprised to find that my pack weighed over forty pounds. I ate at McDonalds where I accidentally spent almost nine dollars on a meal including a 44 ounce milkshake. Oops...
Well, I am back from the trail. Had a fun trip. I will fill in some details when I get to a more free computer. Probably in three or four days.
Got up around seven so that I could get to the Chilkoot trail station (it opens at eight) in hopes of getting a pass. It turns out that they start giving out passes at one in the afternoon the previous day (they have eight passes a day that can't be reserved ahead of time). The passes are for when you go over the summit, only fifty people a day are allowed. So I didn't get a pass for the time that was my first choice, but by taking a slower pace I was able to get a pass that would allow me to cross the summit a day later. In otherwords I will still be starting the trail today. I will be getting a ride to the beginning of the trail by a guy who charges $10. The trail starts about ten miles away from Skagway. I should be getting back around the 25th.
As I said in the previous entry, I got on the ferry around five in the morning. I slept some as well as listening to a few ranger talks and playing video games. I set the high scores for Ms. Pacman and Ghost Pilots. Got off in Skagway in the afternoon. Went to the library and signed up for an internet time later in the evening, then wandered around town a bit. At my designated internet time it took me about 15 minutes to connect to hotmail and just as I was about to finally open a message Netscape crashed. I was unable to reconnect for the rest of the half hour. It was a bit of a bummer. I hiked up to Lower Dewey Lake which is about a mile walk from Skagway. Cooked some Ramen and went to bed.
Spent most the day on the ferry sleeping. Got into Juneau in the evening and slept under an overhang until the ferry (which had been there all night) was ready to board at around five in the morning.
Spent the day getting ready to leave for Skagway on the ferry. Got a lot of pictures cleared off of my digital camera. Hopefully I didn't delete any that I didn't save. It was kind of tricky doing it all without a mouse. Got a friend to drop me off at the ferry terminal and slept for a few hours while I waited for the ferry to get in. Bought a ticket and got on.
Well, I called the ferry and found out that the last one I can take north until a week from Tuesday comes in at three in the morning Wednesday, so I am going to try and get on it. To that end, I decided that I should try and finish the library book, The Diamond Age, that I had checked out. I had not remembered how much the ending leaves you hanging. I learned something new about my bivibag. While I was in town it rained a bit and when I got back to camp I discovered that although a lot of water had pooled on top of the canvas which I assume is for keeping the bag dry, a lot of water had also managed to get into the bag and the insulation. I squeezed some of the water out and tried to mop it up as well as I could with a little camp towel kind of thing, but I still had a rather damp night. The good news is that I stayed warm.
Had a potluck at church this afternoon. That was nice, got to talk with friends and eat good food. Found out another one of the girls I grew up with is engaged. Spent some time reading, finished the book about the kayak trip. I have also been reading The Diamond Age. Then I went for a walk in Totem Park. It has been a long time since I have been there. They have made some changes, although it is mostly the same. I noticed that it looks like the edge of the river has changed quite a bit in some places and it looks like in one spot that it was either artificially induced to do so or they put up some stuff to try and prevent it from going back to how it was. I am kind of curious about that. It has been awhile since that was done, but not too long. There has been quite a bit of tree growth since it occured, but they are still fairly young.
It was quite cloudy when I woke up today. Tough to get out of bed. The nights have been pretty cold up here, while down closer to sea level I have been quite comfortable. Brad left to go see if his check had come, and I stayed around hoping the weather my clear up a bit. It rained a couple of times while I was waiting, but the clouds didn't seem to be clearing up any. I cooked up some spaghetti for lunch, then packed up and headed down. It sprinkled a little on the way down, but not much. I got below the clouds at about the beginning (or end depending on your perspective) of the ridge. I was pretty tired by the time I got down. I developed a bit of a blister on the end of my toe, which didn't bother me too much. I don't remember having ever got one there before.
Another great day today. I climbed up a few of the Harbor peaks starting around ten in the morning. On the highest one I met Brad, a guy who had recently quit a job on a boat and was waiting around for his paycheck to get to the post office. We stayed up there talking and enjoying the view for about six hours. There were a number of eagles and ravens flying around. I got a little sunburned. Then since he didn't have any food or much money left, I invited Brad for dinner, and we ate some Ramen back at the shelter. Took a couple of pictures of the sunset then went to sleep.
Well, the weather was nice this morning, so I went to town and bought some stuff I needed (for instance food). I was a little nervous about the weather as I was starting up, because clouds were starting to move in. It even sprinkled a couple of times on my way up. By the time I got back to the shelter it was fairly clear though. It was nice having the shelter to stay instead of just camping in the woods off a trail like I've been doing. I cooked some instant rice for dinner. The first time I have used my stove. It worked pretty well, but the rice was bland with nothing to go on it. I read in the shelter till about a quarter to eleven and then at about a quarter after I went out and took some pictures of the city lights and the moon and mountains and things.
After the aborted attempt yesterday, I hiked up to the shelter on the Gavin-Harbor ridge today. I hadn't planned to go anywhere for hiking today, but the weather was nice, and so I couldn't resist. My legs felt pretty tired on the way up. The view was pretty good, although there were clouds hanging around back on the ridge. I used my water filter for the first time.
Went part of the way up Gavin hill today, but ended up turning back shortly up the trail. Got a month pass to the SJ gym so I can take a shower most anytime and ended up using the stair stepper while I was there.
The weather wasn't too bad today. Overcast, but no rain, so I took a hike up Indian River to the falls.
Didn't stay up for the fireworks on the third because I had to catch the ferry early to Sitka. I was on the direct route, no stops at small towns, and so we made it in under 10 hours. I set up camp that night between the first and second bridge up Indian River trail.
Went on a hike with Dinah and Rachel, a girl she had met at the youth hostel. We went up Granite Basin Trail (that may not be quite the right name for it, but it was something like that) which goes off of Perseverence Trail. It was overcast the whole time, but didn't rain at all which was nice. A lot of old mining things were visible along Perseverence trail, the basin trail seemed mostly undisturbed by mining times, although we did meet a couple of guys who were interested in panning for gold. I was planning on riding the bus back to where I was staying, but I belatedly found out that the bus didn't run that late on Sunday nights and so I called and got a ride from my hosts.
Spent some time at the library in downtown Juneau. Has a real nice view. While I was waiting for it to open I met Dinah, who was feeding crows on the dock.
Hiked the West Glacier trail. It was cloudy and rained a good portion of the time I was up there. Had some nice views of the glacier. There were helicopters dropping people off on the glacier fairly regularly.
First full day in Juneau. Got a ride to the mall and bought a pair of sandles and a couple of books. One is a guide to place names in Southeast Alaska, the other is an interesting journal kind of book written by a man who kayaked from Glacier Bay to Seattle with his wife. Took the bus to town and wandered around a little. Found Perseverence trail and walked it to Ebner falls getting blistered inbetween a couple of toes.
Left Nampa for Juneau, Alaska. Fairly uneventful trip. Met a friend from Sitka who was on her way up after having spent a few weeks in Australia with her sisters.