Monday, December 9, 2019

Gastineau Peak Hike, Juneau, Alaska

As many times as I've been to Juneau, Alaska, I've never taken the Mt Roberts tram.  It seems rather expensive for what you get ($33 in 2019).  This year in August, however, my mom and I decided we'd splurge.

We took the tram up to the nature center and explored around there a bit.  Here's something to help you visualize the size of a brown bear:

Then we took the Alpine Loop (which, according to my mom, wasn't as easy as I'd promised).  She made it all the way to the cross, however.  Look at those views!

Then we parted ways and I headed uphill toward Gastineau Peak (which comes before the summit of Mt. Roberts).

More nice views:

Salmonberry snack:

Blueberry snack:

Mountain goat:

Beautiful grouse:

Black bear!!! 
He poked around for a long time in those patches of snow.  He even rolled around like a cat.  So cute (from a distance). 

Beautiful valley:

(one of several, and this one came so close I hardly even had to zoom for this picture)

What a fantastic hike!  I'm not sure if I've ever seen more varied and spectacular wildlife on a single hike.  Plus great views, wild berries...and very few people. What a great day.

For tips on having your own budget adventures in Alaska, read my travel guides:

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

W. Bruce Cameron's A Dog's Purpose

My mom found the second book in this series in a book exchange.  She read the first line and fell in love.  She devoured the book.

When she moved on to the first, I decided to read it at the same time.

Yes, it's sentimental.  Some might even call it sappy.  But it was exactly what I needed at the moment. 

So charming, heart-warming, heart-breaking.  Just a beautiful book.

I did rather question at first whether the point of view would work, since the point of view character (a dog) relates things that he himself doesn't understand.  But…it totally worked.

It did get a bit repetitive with regards to the theme at the end, but that's about the only criticism I can even think of.  

I rarely give five stars to novel.  This deserved it.  And I am absolutely going to read others in the series.

Warning: it may be too sweet for some readers

Saturday, November 9, 2019

NaNoWriMo Rebel

This year for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I'm being a rebel.  Instead of writing a new novel, I'm revising one of my previous novels that I really like but haven't been able to finish because of the difficulty of weaving the two timelines together. 

I really like the novel.  It's probably my favorite so far.  By the end of November, I hope to have a finished product (or at least a penultimate draft that just needs a bit of line editing and polishing).

Good luck to all you NaNoWriMo writers--and rebels--out there!


Sunday, October 27, 2019

Hiking Humphrey's Peak--the Highest Point in Arizona

If you've ever wanted to hike Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona, I'd say, "Go for it!"  But plan ahead.

Me at the saddle
I did it for the first time in the middle of October this year, while the aspen were putting on quite a show.

Aspen grove near the trailhead--later in the afternoon
I've heard that the best months are June (snow gone/mostly gone, not yet monsoon season) and October (monsoons over, leaves turning, not yet too cold). 

I agree about October.  I really, really enjoyed my time.  It was quite chilly in the morning.  The coldest part was when the winds really picked up coming down from the peak.  Temps were barely above freezing and the wind was fierce enough that it made my nose and my lips on the windward side go numb for a few minutes.  I was very glad I'd packed some winter wear.  I dawdled and geo-cached and enjoyed myself on the way down, and by the time I got to the gorgeous aspen groves near the trailhead, it was a very pleasant temperature:  a bit chilly, but with nice warming sun.  I much prefer hiking while chilly to hiking while hot.  And you definitely lose less water.

Next time, I'll have to try June and compare.

I also went on a Monday, to try to reduce crowds.  Though the aspen groves near the trailhead were full of leaf gawkers, I had the rest of the Humphreys Peak trail almost to myself all morning.  The afternoon was busier but not bad.  I've heard that weekends in summer can be Disneylandish.

First good views from the trail--and so colorful!
Because I knew that the altitude, paired with fairly good elevation gain, might be a challenge, I did several good training hikes through the summer, including high-elevation practice near Flagstaff and the Mogollon Rim.  I'm glad I did the training, because when I finally tried Humphreys Peak…it wasn't nearly as hard as I'd expected.  Yes, I had to go slower than usual and stop more often to catch my breath, especially the last 1500 feet or so, but it really wasn't bad.  I remember once—when I was less in shape—taking a very short uphill walk at about 11,000 feet in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and huffing and puffing like crazy.  That memory is what made me train.  And I guess it worked. 

If you're not experienced with either the altitude or the elevation gain, I suggest doing some training before you try Humphreys Peak.  It will make it a much more pleasant experience. 

At the summit!

Hike details:

Length:  About 9.5 miles (15 km) roundtrip

Elevation Gain:  About 3340 feet (1019 m)

Elevation at Summit: 12.633 feet (3851 m) So, yeah…the air might be thinner than you're used to.

Trailhead:  about 14 miles (23 km) out of Flagstaff, at Arizona Snowbowl, Flagstaff's ski resort.  Take US 180 to the Snowbowl turnoff.  The trail takes off from the first big parking lot.  There are outhouses at the trailhead, and if the chairlift is open, there are nicer restrooms, food, etc. there.  Just follow the road up a bit into the ski resort.  You can also take other trails from this trailhead (though currently they're doing earth work and the Aspen Nature Loop is re-routed)

Views from near the summit of Humphreys Peak

If you go, take:

-Plenty of water.  A gallon is the recommendation on warm days.  You may be able to reduce a little on cool days or if you have done this or similar trails before and know how much you need.  Remember, though, that there's no water on the mountain.  If something goes dangerously wrong, you may have to wait hours—or overnight—for help.  Or walk a different and far longer route than you expected.  You want to have enough water that you won't get dangerously dehydrated during an unexpected delay.

-Plenty of food, including some salty snacks for electrolytes

-Layers appropriate to the weather (remembering that conditions at Flagstaff, at the trailhead, and at the peak are all very different, and it's often windy above the treeline).  I started on a very chilly morning in mid October.  Forecast on the peak was barely above freezing with 25 mph winds.  I was very glad I had gloves, scarf, winter hat, and three layers.  Summer will be different, but still be prepared for significantly cooler and windier conditions above the tree line. 

-Good shoes you've already broken in.  I recommend hiking boots for their serious tread and ankle support, but it's doable in good sneakers. 

-Other safety gear (they recommend whistle, knife, flashlight, first aid kit, matches/lighter, sleeping bag/emergency blanket, map/gps etc.)

Volcanic Glory--Agassiz Peak

If you go, do this:

-Start early.  Like, really early.  ESPECIALLY IN MONSOON SEASON (roughly July-August, sometimes a little earlier or later) plan on getting to the peak, enjoying some time there, and heading back down by 11:30 AM at the latest so you can return to the protection of the trees before afternoon storms hit.  That means most people should be starting by 6:30 AM..  Start earlier if you're a leisurely hiker or haven't trained sufficiently for the altitude and/or elevation gain.  If you're hiking outside of monsoon season and there's "no chance" of storm according to the forecast, a slightly later start time will usually be fine, but don't push it too much.

-TURN BACK if it gets stormy. Lightning can kill on peaks like this.  Even if the forecast predicts clear weather, things can change.

-Pace yourself, especially if you're not used to the altitude.

-Stay the night before in Flagstaff or higher elevation to start acclimatizing--and so you can get that important early start.

-Consider taking aspirin the night before and the morning of your hike. I'm told it helps against altitude sickness headaches. I would suggest also taking a dose during or after the hike if you start getting headachy. 

-Drink that water you're carrying.

-Eat more than normal

-Take pictures

-Go with a companion for the most safety. If you love solo hiking, at least make sure someone knows where you're going and when to expect you back.

-Try to go on a weekday for less crowds.

If you choose to hike up the Inner Basin, here's your path.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Mount Humphrey Summit

Humphrey's Peak: Arizona's highest point.

For my non-American readers, 12,633 feet is 3851 meters.

The air was a little thinner than what I'm used to (just over 1000 feet), but besides huffing and puffing more than usual, it wasn't bad.

Views were great, especially with the aspen putting on their spectacular fall show.

And yes, the hat and gloves were very much appreciated. If was right, it couldn't have been more than 33-34 F (1 C) with winds up to 25 mph (40 kph). Coming from Phoenix, where we've barely started cooling down to highs in the high 80s (low 30s C) it was quite an abrupt change. When the wind really came up as I was hiking down from the peak on those treeless, rocky slopes, my nose and lips on the windward side of my face actually felt numb for a few minutes. :)

Fantastic hike!

Fantastic day!

Total hike stats (including the jaunt at the end into the gorgeous fall aspen grove, down to the Arizona Trail, and back up to the trailhead):

Distance: 11 miles / 17.5 km
Elevation Gain: 3953 feet (1205 m)
Geocaches Found: 1
Friends Made at the Peak: 4
Squirrels Watched: several
Aspen Gawked at: many more
Maximum Layers Worn: 4
Pictures Taken: 205
Other Times in my Life I've Stood at such High Elevation: 0

More details later, should you care to try this yourself.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

A Year in Vsetin--Time-Lapse Video

This is one of the reasons an Arizona girl like me loves Czech (the Czech Republic):

I miss seasons.