Tuesday, June 8, 2010

It's been a while, some progress

Sorry it's been so long since I posted anything, I've been faced with the double whammy of trying to get things done and trying to write about them. As well as keep working during the busy season.

Anyways, I am now at 4 down and counting. Over Memorial Day weekend I went camping out at the Bird Creek campground with the ambition of doing at least two, and maybe three, hikes. I started off well enough with a hike up Bird Ridge on that Saturday that took almost 8 hours from start to finish; and brought home just how strong my fear of heights really is. However, the next day I could barely move around the campsite due to intense muscle pain in my quadriceps. I basically climbed a few thousand feet worth of steps on Saturday and was in no shape to go on any more hikes for the rest of that weekend. I actually was sore all the way through the following Thursday.

About my fear of heights; I have had thoughts about giving up based solely on my acrophobia. I know it's irrational, but the effects it has on me are completely real and could lead my to get hurt because I'm focusing on how high I am and not on what I'm doing. But for now, I will keep dealing with it and keep moving forward until I can't anymore.

And so, this past weekend I had a surprise birthday get together for my wife in the early afternoon, and then we had plans to have dinner with some friends that evening, so no hikes then. However, my friend Greg and I decided to go and climb Flattop on Sunday. It was my first time ever up there. Again my acrophobia started to kick in, but only near the top where the "trail" was snowed in and the choices were to walk on melting snow and mud, or scramble on hands and feet on the rocks which are notorious in the Chugach for being, shall we say, less than stable. I did pretty good except for when I had to look down to make sure of my footing. Then my heart would start pounding, my breathing would speed up and my vision would narrow. Then I would look back up and I would be fine. I've discovered that if I'm looking down a slope, I do fine, it's when it's straight down, or very nearly, that I have these issues. The view from the top was spectacular however, and I think I might go up again later after the snow has completely melted.

The thought of going back down the scramble was just too much for me, so we went down the saddle towards peak two, and then turned left and went down the backside of the mountain, Which was a steep, but not vertical, slope and ended up on the powerline road, which we walked back to the parking lot.

This gave me an opportunity to see O'Malley peak, the Ramp and the Wedge, three more of my hikes.

The next day was Monday, but I had taken it off from work. So I decided to go for a hike. My feet were a little sore, and some of my muscles protested, but I wasn't walking around like an old man like I did after Bird Ridge. After taking a hot shower and walking around the house a little bit, I felt up to going for a hike. But which hike to do? It would be my first solo hike thus far, and I didn't want to make my wife worry about me. I also didn't want to have to test myself overly much while alone. I decided to try and do Wolverine Peak. I hiked it a few years ago with some friends, so I knew I could do it. I also had a good idea what I was getting myself into, so off I went.

It wasn't until I got all the way to the parking lot that I realized that I had left my small day pack as well as my trekking poles at home. So I decided to go as light as possible to see what kind of time I could make.

I was just getting ready to head out when a nice lady named Michelle asked me if I know where the Middle Fork trail was. I pulled out my map of the park and saw that it branched off from the Wolverine trail after a couple miles. She asked if I minded if her and her dog walked with me that far. It seems she was supposed to meet some coworkers, but had been running late, and they had left ahead of her. She then told me that she had been in the Campbell Airstrip Rd. area the day before and had seen two different bears with cubs, and she was nervous walking alone. When we got to the trail fork, she opted to stay with me and go up Wolverine.

It was nice not being alone, it was also nice not being the slowest one in a group. Once we got above the treeline to a "ridge" that makes an ideal resting place, the wind kicked up something fierce, dark clouds rolled in,I didn't have a jacket, and Michelle and her dog were both dead tired. It was also getting into the evening hours with me having to work early the next day and needing a couple hours to walk back. We decided to call it a day and started back down. We got back down and headed to out homes. So I didn't complete a hike on the list, but I met a nice lady, re-learned my lesson about Alaska weather, and got an idea what I would be in for to get it done.

I'm looking forward to this weekend to go out, and thinking about what I might be able to do in an evening after work. I'm glad my drive and optimism are back.

Until next time...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Twin Peaks recap; good hike and lessons learned

Sorry about posting so late, life just got in the way for a few days, and I needed to wrap my head around that last hike.

I got out to Eklutna about 11:30, and waited for my buddy Greg to get finished with his running of the Eklutna Challenge. While he was doing that, I was getting my pack put together. I had decided to take my full overnight/weekend pack. Partly because I wasn't really sure what I was getting myself into, and partly because I wanted to see how it would feel on a moderately difficult hike of moderate length.

I learned that my complete pack isn't too bad at all. My shoulders and back felt fine the next day. But unless I am really planning on staying all night out on the trail, it is definitely unnecessary to be carrying it all over the place on shorter hikes.

I also learned a very important lesson about footwear. When you get new boots and you need to break them in, break them in doing the kind of things you'll be doing in them. I broke my new boots in by wearing them to work for about a week and a half; until they no longer hurt my feet. Unfortunately, I don't really walk on any inclines or declines for my work. And so after about the first mile and a half up the trail, I started to get a hot spot on my heels. Then came the "fatal" error; I didn't take the time to take off my boots and assess the situation at the time, because it didn't feel very bad at all. The last mile or so up to the end of the trail, however got progressively worse, until I was trying to walk sideways uphill so that my boot wouldn't rub anymore until I could get to the top and fix it.

Once at the top, I took my boots off and changed socks. I had neglected to get any moleskin, so I taped up my heels with duct tape to absorb the friction. As I did this, I thought I saw a blister forming on my left heel, but I wasn't sure.

Walking back down from the mountain was nowhere near as painful as going up had been, but I was still glad I decided to give trekking poles a try to help absorb some of the shock on my ankles and knees going downhill. The book says that this was a 6-8 hour hike, and we did it in about5 hours; but we didn't do any of the optional side trips because there was still some snow up at the top of the trail. We also had been planning to camp at Eklutna for the Memorial Day holiday and try and knock out the rest of the hikes out there, but judging by how much snow that was/is remaining out there, we decided to go camping at Bird Creek and knock out some of the south park hikes instead.

Then I met up with Stacy for dinner with some friends, and that was fun right up until I had to stand up after a few hours. Ow. Ow. Ow. I found muscles I didn't know that I had, let alone had been using. Thankfully, she let me relax all day Sunday; I hobbled around like an old man and drank a lot of water to replace what I had used on Saturday, and took care of the sunburn on my scalp. By today, I feel just fine, except when I accidentally brush my blister onto something, but even that is feeling much better. I don't think I'll have any problems going on a few hikes this weekend at all.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Follow me SPOT

In case anyone wants to see where I am/have been, you can follow my GPS location via SPOT at:


In other news, about to head out to Eklutna to hike up Twin Peaks Pass.

Until next time...

Friday, May 21, 2010

One down!!! Forty-nine to go ...

Well, I finally got out and started hiking last night. I started with the easiest hike on the list of course, Thunderbird Falls. It is the shortest in length, and the lowest in elevation gain, but it's on the list so it counts dammit. It was a beautiful day to be out for sure, temperature in the high 50s to low 60s; a few clouds drifting lazily and a weekday to help keep the trail a little less populated.

Today I'm going to go get my Chugach State Park parking permit so I don't have to pay $5 every time I want to park at a trail head. The passes run $40 for one or $60 for two and can be bought at REI and the park headquarters. I tried to buy one at Sportsmans Warehouse last night on my way to the trail, but they stopped carrying them a few years ago apparently. There are a few lots that don't accept the passes though, so I'll have to try not to go to those ones too often.

I'm also going to at least look at trekking poles while I'm at REI. I've always thought that they were kind of unnecessary for hiking. But after reading a bit about them and actually getting out on the trail, I can see at least two good things about them. First, they'll give my arms something to do so I don't end the summer looking like a pair of giant legs with two withered atrophied arms attached; and secondly, you can lengthen them and use them to take some of the strain on your knees on descents.

What's next? Unfortunately, most of the hikes either start at a higher elevation and stay there, or else they start lower and go higher. Which means snow at this time of the year. Melting snow. So, I will definitely look very carefully at any mountain that I'm considering going up any time soon. However, I think I'm going to go out to Eklutna and do the one hike that's not on the backside of the lake this Saturday. I just need to get back to town by 6:30 at the latest to meet a previous engagement. If nothing else, I'll get a look at the mountain and see what the terrain and snow levels look like.

Until next time...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Well, it's been a while since I posted.

Let's see, I have been wearing my boots to try and break them in. Two days in a row to work last week, all weekend long (including @ the motorcycle show :I want that one"), and both Monday an Tuesday of this week. They've been really comfortable on my feet; but they've been harder to get used to on my ankles, since I don't usually wear high topped shoes. I don't think I'm going to wear them today, just to give my ankles a break.

I also went geocaching with Stacy on Monday after work, which has reminded me that doing a few miles in the elliptical trainer every week is nothing like walking on trails. I'm gonna have to get out there sooner that I had anticipated, just to get in to trail shape. Maybe I'll see if I can borrow someones snowshoes instead of waiting for the snow to melt. I also got a SPOT Satellite Messenger for my birthday, once I eat is hooked up I can officially go hiking with my wife's approval.

I think that's about all for now...

Monday, March 22, 2010


I've been losing sight of where I'm trying to get to. I seem to have lost a little bit of my steam, and thus have to reassess what I'm trying to accomplish with this Project. I've mostly gotten all of my gear purchased, I've got an idea of the order of my hikes; and since I haven't actually started hiking yet, I've let myself get into a sort of a "holding pattern". Which is kind of boring after being so pumped up for so long. I've started eating poorly again, and I've even allowed myself to start skipping the gym on some mornings.

So, today I have decided to start getting back on track. To start with, I'm going to start breaking in my new boots, so that when things melt, I can get directly onto the trails. Since things are starting to melt a little bit, I have already put some waterproof treatment on them and I'll wear them to work for a few hours. I'll also take my tennis shoes and then I can switch my shoes if my feet start to get uncomfortable.

I also bought a map of the Chugach State Park the other day. I think I'll see if I can get it laminated somewhere and start marking where all my parking, starting, and stopping points. I should also start loading up my backpack and at least walking around the neighborhood to get used to having the weight on.

Just writing this has helped get me excited again about the Project.

Until next time...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Boots: Part Deux

I took back the last ones. They just weren't going to ever work out.

Went back to REI and spent a few hours trying on different boots yesterday. Well, actually, I only tried on one pair, but I tried a couple of different sizes, and then went and borrowed a pack and put 25 lbs. in it and walked around shopping. Then I climbed their little rock that they have in the shoe department. And I basically tried to test out how these new boots were going to work out for me. And I think I may have a winner. They are from a company called Vasque, and they are full grain leather instead of a leather/cloth hybrid. That does mean that they are going to take forever to break in, so I better waterproof them and start going on short walks pretty soon if I want them to be comfy for my summer of hiking.

In other news, I keep having trouble getting myself to bed early enough that 4 am is acceptable for getting up and going to the gym. I guess it's time to really buckle down and exert my willpower to get in bed by 9 at the very latest. *yawn*

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New boots, and I'm geting antsy

I got a new pair of boots on Sunday and decided to break them in by wearing them to work yesterday. They seem OK, but there may be a problem with them that could end up causing some problems. They are Asolo Flame XTs, and they fit my foot very nicely, but they have one of those tongues that isn't separate, it's one of those ones that is connected to the boot by a "membrane". Well, when I fold the membrane in to tie the boots, it presses against my ankle bone. I think I'm going to give them another day at least before I take them back to REI. Thankfully REI has on of the best return policies out there, so it shouldn't be a problem is they don't work out.

I'm starting to get antsy about starting out on the project. Partially because I've gotten a lot of my gear, and every time I get into my closet and see them I want to put them to use already. There are two things keeping me from starting on it right now. The first is that I have been buying gear with the expectation of doing all of this in the summer, so my gear is not really set up for winter use. The other is winter; I don't like being cold. At all. So the thought of intentionally going outside and getting away from a nice warm building just isn't very appealing to me. And since I don't ski, or snowboard, or snowmachine, or ice skate, or ice fish, etc., I don't really have any of the right clothing for any winter activities. Nor do I have any experience in how to take care of myself outside in the winter.

I might go to Thuderbird Falls if the weather gets a little colder so that the trail freezes up and isn't slushy. I've done that one enough in the summer that I'm pretty sure that I won't have too many problems in the winter. Plus it's only about 2 miles, so that shouldn't be too bad.

Until next time...

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Numbers Behind the Project OR My Nerdiness

As I read through the book, I compiled a list of the numbers and statistics for each hike with the information provided by the authors, including elevation gain, difficulty (on a 1-4 scale), miles traveled(minimum and maximum) and expected time of each hike(also min. and max.), and where the trail head was located.

Then I went one step further and put it into a spreadsheet so I could play with the information as i wanted. I've just figured out that using their numbers, it will be between 504.75 and 655 miles when I'm done; as well as somewhere between 344 and 600 hours if I walk at their pace. Which, at my current level of fitness, I know I couldn't do.

Which brings up my health-iness. I know that I'm packing 20-30 lbs of extra weight, and I've led a fairly sedentary life for a few years neither of which is conducive to a massive physical undertaking. And so to that end I have joined a gym and have been doing 30-4- minutes on the elliptical at least 3 times a week to try and get my endurance up, and I have been dieting and eating better to try and get my weight down. I've got a few months before I'm planning to really hit the trails really hard, so hopefully I can get in better shape by then. Who knows, maybe a few winter hikes will help get me there a little quicker.

Though those numbers put the Chilkoot Trail that I'm planning for in September into a lot of perspective. If I get this Project done by then, the Chilkoot should be a walk in the park.

We shall see...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The beginning...my Project

So, a couple of years ago, I read "The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World" by A.J. Jacobs about a man who decided to read the Encyclopedia Britannica in a year and I thought now this was a man with way too much time on his hands. But I also admired the fact that he gave himself a goal and stuck to it until he completed it.

Then I watched the movie Julie and Julia, about a woman who cooked her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and then blogging about it.

Which got me to thinking about a Project(with a capital P) for myself. I could read the encyclopedia or cook everything in a cookbook, but those have already been done. Besides, I already know way to many facts about all kinds of stuff, and living in Alaska, getting all the ingredients for French cooking would cost a fortune.

Nope, I had to come up with something else. So then I thought, what does Alaska have? What does Anchorage have? Then one day I was looking at the sunrise over the Chugach mountains and thought, "well, there are some beautiful places in this state, like those mountains." And so I found the book "
50 Hikes in Alaska's Chugach State Park". Which it turns out was written by two guys I went to high school with.

And as I read it, I started to think that doing all of the hikes in that book would be a worthwhile project to do. It would be something not impossible, but a definite challenge. Hiking is something that I've always enjoyed, but never been seriously gung-ho about. So then I realized that I needed a deadline, and since a year worked for the two inspirations, I decided it would work for me also. Of course, I'm a bad Alaskan in that I don't like to be cold, so I'm really planning on doing these hikes between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Which comes down to about 2 hikes a week all summer long. Hmmmm. Maybe I could do a couple of shorter ones during the winter to get them out of the way.

Anyway, that's what this blog is about. I hope you enjoy taking my journey with me, whoever you are.