Thursday, December 27, 2012

"Resolving the 'Cody Dilemma'"


Sometimes things are so ridiculous that all one can do is laugh about them, even if it’s not particularly appropriate. Here’s short story about a real event that I found hilarious, even though no one else involved seemed to share my sense of humor:

About a year ago, my ex-wife Karen called me to say that she’d just purchased a Christmas wreath for my 76-year-old mother to hang on her front door. She wanted to know if the kids and I would like to sign the note to accompany the wreath before she delivered it. (At the time, my mother and I lived about 200 yards apart, separated by a stand of mixed deciduous and coniferous trees. An old rough trail connected the two homes, as did a nearby power line and the confluence of our driveways.) When Karen stopped by on that very dark night to collect our signatures, she was accompanied by her year-old Westie terrier, a cute white hyper 15-pound dog named Cody that she and the kids love. She left him outdoors, tethered by his leash to my front door, while he and my 95-pound golden retriever, Tucson, sniffed each other. When she left, she deposited Cody into the passenger seat of her big black Toyota Tundra and trundled on over to Mom’s place, where she left Cody in the truck and kept it running.

About 10 minutes later, my phone rang. It was Karen, calling from her cell phone. She was standing outside of my Mom’s house and wanted to know whether she could borrow a hammer. Sure, I told her, but Mom had a hammer, too, so there was no need for her to come all the way back over to get mine. She said she didn’t want to go back inside and bother my mother again. She had just come outside to discover that Cody, excited by my dog, who was sitting out in Mom’s driveway, had managed to trigger the truck’s electronic locks. Karen wanted a hammer to break one of her windows so she could get inside. “Don’t you have a backup key somewhere?” I asked. (She had made our daughter Olivia put an extra key under her own car, in case of emergencies.) She said that her backup key was on Olivia’s key ring, which was not good news because only the day before, Olivia had taken her car in for repairs and left all her keys there. Since it was now about 8 p.m., the auto shop was closed. I asked Karen whether she had any other means of getting into her truck, and she said that she an extra electronic opener back at her place. I told her that Olivia could use my car to drive her back to her place to get the opener—a round trip of 50-60 minutes.

After they had been gone for about 20-30 minutes, my phone rang. It was my mother, who gets frantic about a lot of things. She wanted to know if I would come and get my dog. She said that Tucson was stirring up Cody, and she was afraid that somehow Cody was going to put the truck into gear—an impossibility in a vehicle with automatic transmission, since Cody would be unable to step on the brake while simultaneously pulling the gear shift back and down—and smash into her garage. I started to laugh at my mother’s suggestion, but she did not appreciate my joviality. I tried to explain why her garage was safe, but she clearly didn’t believe that I had all my facts straight. I said I’d go to my back door and call my dog, who almost always came running when I called because he usually assumed that I was calling because it was dinner time. This time, however, five minutes of yelling and loud whistling produced no results. It’s possible that he couldn’t hear me over the sound of Karen’s truck engine. I called Mom back and told her that (a) I could put on a headlamp and tromp through the deep snow and utter darkness to her place and grab my dog, or (b) she could open her garage, call my dog inside, and keep him there until Karen and Olivia arrived. She selected Option B.

Sometime later, my phone rang again. It was Mom. Tucson was in the garage, but she was still worried about the smashing power of Karen’s truck, even though she couldn’t see Cody in the window anymore. She wanted to know if it were possible for Cody to unlock the door. I said I thought that was possible but unlikely. She wanted to know if I would I come over and check. I suggested that she walk outside herself and do it since the truck was about 10 feet away from her garage; she did not appreciate me delegating this job to her. So I looked at the clock on my kitchen wall and estimated that Karen and Olivia would be back any minute. I informed Mom, who wasn’t so sure. Then, while we were talking, she saw headlights and told me Karen and Olivia were just driving in.

About ten minutes later, Olivia pulled in to my garage and came inside. “Everything okay?” I asked. “Yes,” she said, “sort of.” After all that effort, Karen’s opener hadn’t worked, so Karen had borrowed a hammer from Mom after all and had broken out a back rear window. Inside, excitable Cody, who had been left there with his leash on, had wrapped himself around the steering column and the seat, and was practically immobilized. I laughed at this image, and my daughter frowned and told me sternly that it wasn’t very funny. If Cody had fallen off the seat, she said, he probably would’ve choked himself to death. Cody is cute and I like him, but this image made me want to laugh even more. I had to go to another room and giggle quietly by myself.

When Karen got home with her dog, her truck and her broken window, she tried her opener again, and for some reason it worked.

Maybe I’m an insensitive asshole, but even that made me smile.



Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"Sort of a Winter Wonderland"

A very cold and frosty run. (All photos courtesy of Andrea Hambach)


It seemed like a bad sign.

 I awoke at 4 o’clock on the morning of a race and couldn’t get back to sleep because I was worried about whether I was capable of finishing the event … and, given the conditions outside, whether I was capable of even surviving.

My self-confidence (like others’, I suspect) is prone to occasional bumps and bruises, but my concern about this particular competition was more than just a cold-handed slap. My running partner Yvonne and I had spent the night with friends (and race organizers) Andrea and Dave in Willow, Alaska, for the inaugural Willow Winter Solstice marathon/half-marathon. When we checked the outdoor thermometer at 6:30 a.m., it read minus-32 degrees. The clear dark skies were pinpricked with stars. It was a windless day that promised little respite in the form of rising mercury. We were about three miles from the race venue and at least four hours from sunrise. Normal, rational people would not have ventured outside on a day like this—they would have cranked up woodstoves, snuggled under wool blankets, or wiggled their tootsies inside of fuzzy slippers—but not us. We planned to run in it.

For Yvonne and me, that meant 13.1 miles of ice and hard-packed snow mainly across a series of low-lying lakes, starting at the Willow Community Center (on the western shore of Willow Lake) and turning around in the Willow Swamp 6.55 miles later so we could run all the way back to our starting point. This would be the longest run of my life—if I made it—and, by far, the coldest.

About 50 percent of the 31-person field would be joining us for the half-marathon. The rest would be running a full marathon—26.2 miles, all the way to a tiny island on Red Shirt Lake (in the Nancy Lake State Recreation Area) and then back again. (The marathoners were the REAL crazy ones.)

The route had been constructed and groomed with snowmobiles operated by members of the Willow Trail Committee, and the trails had firmed up nicely in the sub-zero weather. We would run the width Willow Lake, then down a back road, through a pond-and-swamp system known as Emsweiler Lake, then nearly the full length of the aptly named Long Lake, up and down a small hill to reach and cross Crystal Lake, then through another swamp to gain access to the full length of Vera Lake, and on to a patch of woods leading to the Willow Swamp, where a well-insulated Dave would be waiting at the half-marathon turn-around point with a bonfire, a clipboard to record bib numbers, a few samples of GU, some water, emergency gear, and a smattering of extra clothes.

Tracing the route on a topographic map gave me some comfort. Knowing the conditions did not.

After breakfast (a cup of yogurt with half of a banana and some whole-wheat cereal, chased down with two cups of hot coffee), the layering began. From the waist up I wore an ultralight long-underwear-style T-shirt, covered by a medium-weight North Face long-sleeved running shirt, topped by an old lightweight fleece long-sleeved hiking shirt, surrounded by a thin down-filled Patagonia jacket, topped off with an ultra-lightweight Patagonia Houdini shell. On my back, I carried a CamelBak hydration pack with a half-full 100-milliliter reservoir and a feeder tube, the end of which I stuffed beneath the outer three layers. Inside the pack were snacks, tiny earmuffs, toilet paper, a headlamp, a paper painting mask, and some matches.

Yvonne helps me get ready in the Willow Community Center.
Over my head went a fleece neck gaiter and a thin Buff. On top of my head was my trusty old fleece Mountain Hard Wear hat. On my hands were ancient, tattered pile-fleece mittens, each containing two hand-warming chemical heat packs—one for each set of four fingers, and one for each thumb. At the community center, I added a half-wide strip of dark blue duct tape across the bridge of my nose and tops of both cheeks, and a second smaller strip near the tip of my nose. (I made the error of allowing about a quarter-inch of nose tip to protrude from beneath the second strip.)

From the waist down, the layers were fewer. Beneath my Mountain Hard Wear skiing pants with Gore Windstopper, I wore a pair of cotton briefs and the bottoms that went with the ultralight long-underwear-style top. On my feet I wore a thin pair of calf-high liner socks and an over-the-ankle pair of blue-and-yellow running socks, topped by adhesive toe-warmer strips, my almost brand-new Ice Bug cleated running shoes, and the neoprene gaiters that Yvonne had recently made for me.

Yvonne, who is tougher than I am (and far more experienced in cold weather), wore fewer layers on top but more on the bottom.

At the community center, we met my brother Lowell, whom I had convinced a few days earlier to sign up for the race. He was eyeballing the other runners in the large main room, silently pleased that he wasn’t the only idiot about to venture into the deep freeze, but also wondering whether he had under-dressed. He wore fewer layers than either Yvonne or me and carried no heat packs. His hydration pack was fastened beneath his windbreaker, and his face was more exposed than ours.

My brother Lowell at the end of the race.
Lowell and I had been training hard for the past year. Both of us had dropped weight and body fat. Both of us had added muscle mass and tone and increased our endurance. But Lowell, who is 10 years younger, had set his sights on running mountain races in 2013 and was eager to test his mettle on this day. He had talked about sticking with me and Yvonne for at least the first half of the race, but halfway across Willow Lake he was already putting distance between us. And even though he somehow managed to miss Dave’s trailside bonfire and run perhaps an extra half-mile in each direction, he still finished almost 25 minutes before we did.

One of the real challenges of the race involved the mind-set needed to step outside in the first place. If the temperature inside the community center was, say, 70 degrees, and the temperature outside was minus-30, each runner would experience a 100-degree shift in temperature just prior to race start. Consequently, Andrea made sure to go over the race rules and safety protocols while we were indoors, and after she herded us outside she kept the preliminaries to a minimum. Within two or three minutes, we were tromping down the narrow shoveled path and through a fog of human breath to the wider race course on the lake.

The course was beautiful in the way that monkshood is beautiful—deadly if misapplied. (Only two half-marathoners of the 31 total runners failed to finish. One woman apparently appeared disoriented and hypothermic, and one man running with her seemed to be suffering from frostbite on his thinly covered abdomen.) As other runners ran, Yvonne and I mostly jogged, content in the early gloom to find a comfortable pace. Over the two hours and 45 minutes we were out there, the sky lightened at an almost glacial rate, and the sun crested the horizon at about the eight- or nine-mile mark. It didn’t crest it by much, but the vague warmth did feel good on our faces and was a definite boost psychologically.

At this point, it must be said that I would probably have been sitting at home in Soldotna if not for Yvonne, and I mean that in the best of ways. Yvonne is the one with the endurance experience (she had run the Crow Pass Crossing and the full Equinox Marathon, among other events, earlier in the year), and I was grateful that she had offered to run this race with me. It was immensely comforting to have her by my side through all the miles.

As we ran, I tried to keep my neck gaiter up over my nose and mouth, but my breath formed ice on the material, adding weight to the fabric and causing it to sag. When my lips were uncovered for long, they began to grow numb and non-functional. My eyelashes became moderately icy from my breath shooting upward past my gaiter. Elsewhere, I was sweating beneath my top layers and producing visible frost on my bottom layers. My toes had been cold at the start but were warm enough after a mile or so. My hands were fine, although my mittens later grew wet from perspiration, causing them to freeze hard enough that I could knock them together like blocks of wood.

I stopped once in each direction to pee. (Blame the coffee.) Yvonne and I also stopped at the turn-around to chat with Dave, eat a packet of GU, and drink a cup of water. Dave examined my nose and decided it needed more protection, so he lent me a black headband that he slid over my fleece hat and directly onto the middle of my face. On the front of the band were the white words “Will Run for Beer.” As silly as I looked, I was pleased to have Dave’s offering, and it most likely saved the tip of my nose from further damage.

As we ran back toward the community center, the extra face protection forced more warm breath upward and produced a curtain of ice on my eyelashes, obscuring my vision. Every 15 minutes or so, I used a bare hand to gently squeeze the ice clumps and pull them away. Yvonne, with her longer lashes, was practically blinded at times by the same condition.

Re-crossing Willow Lake was exhilarating because I knew I would achieve my goals of finishing the race and failing to die. Beneath layers of face protection and a veneer of frost, I was smiling as Yvonne and I reached the shoveled trail back to the community center, where Andrea was standing with her clipboard, stopwatch and a camera. She snapped a photo of us running the last few yards together, and then dutifully recorded our times before joining us indoors.

Inside, I began peeling off clothes like peeling the skin off an onion. Off came my hat, Dave’s headband, my Buff, my neck gaiter—all of them crusty with ice. My shell was frosty, my down jacket wet, my fleece shirt wet, my running shirt wet, my undershirt wet. I removed them all and allowed my skin to air out for a few minutes before donning something clean and dry. At a nearby table, we helped ourselves to some post-race chow: Dave and Andrea’s homemade chicken noodle soup and butternut squash chili, each simmering in its own Crockpot next to an assortment of saltines. On a smaller separate table were coffee and some hot water with packets for tea and cider. We warmed our insides as the center warmed our outsides.

I slept much better the night after the race. The tip of my nose was red and sore, but nearly everything else felt good, particularly my self-esteem. I’m not sure that I’d want to repeat the experience, but it’s nice to know that I could.


Monday, December 17, 2012

"Elephant at Home"


I love my daughter dearly, but having her home for the holidays is somewhat akin to inviting an elephant in to stay. Elephants are wonderful, talented, intelligent creatures, but they leave in their wakes concrete evidence of their passage. Nothing subtle

What Olivia lacks in elephantine bulk and grandeur, she more than compensates for with pachydermal disregard for delicate surroundings. It is amazing to me sometimes that a young woman so graceful on cross-country skis, so precise in swimming lanes, so body-aware on dance floors, and so keenly intuitive in classrooms can lumber so lummoxedly through the environs of my home without apparently noticing—or perhaps not caring to notice—her own destructive force.

Within moments of her arrival, messes were already being made. Piles of debris quickly began to form. Across the kitchen counter. In the hallway by the stairs. In the living room. In her bedroom and bathroom. In the garage. Within minutes, she had also made a cursory examination of the place and had begun determining strategies. Her future actions were buried in her many questions: “Whose ice cream is that in the freezer?” (I found the empty carton in the garbage later that day.) “Is Kelty going to be taking the Jeep to school tomorrow?” (She had somewhere to go and wanted personal transportation.) “Do you still have the movie Pleasantville?” (She later dug through my closet of films to find what she wanted.) “Are the dishes in the dishwasher clean?” (She systematically began leaving dirty dishes and food wrappers all around the house—on a desk in her bedroom, next to the sink in the bathroom, on the carpeted floor in the living room, and, of course, scattered throughout the dining room and kitchen.)

Suddenly toothpaste smears appeared on bathroom counters, yogurt smears on the knobs of kitchen cupboards, makeup smears on mirrors, dirty-hand smears on light switches. Each room she entered, she left little doubt of her presence.

I came home from town one day to find water in my coffee maker—but no filter, no grounds; she had decided to use the coffee maker to heat water for her tea, heedless of the fact that a teapot nearly full of water was sitting atop my stove. Other changes were more subtle: For instance, the pillows on my bed had been moved so that she could be more comfortable while she watched television upstairs, probably while eating. Bits of cereal crunched beneath my feet as I walked down the hallway to her bedroom to wake her in the morning. There were more spill stains in the kitchen, tiny scraps of colored paper left on the living room floor after she had finished wrapping Christmas presents, and many, many cupboards and drawers, doors and boxes, left partway open as if to advertise that someone had recently peered inside.

I’ve told Olivia many times that she should never become a thief because she has no idea how to cover her crimes.

Perhaps more than anything, however, my daughter is “guilty” of disrupting a routine I’ve established in her absence—of cleaning up after myself more regularly and promptly, of streamlining activities by using less of the house, by following the actions of one child instead of two. In this regard, Kelty helps—most of the time—by confining his movements primarily to the living room, dining room and his bedroom, where he eats and does homework, plays video games and watches television, and sleeps. He’s not the neatest child in the world, either—and neither was I, as my mother would be the first to shout—but he’s decidedly lower in decibels than his sister and spreads himself considerably less thin. Other than the inevitable wadded-up pair of socks and perhaps an empty cereal bowl—oh, and a pile of crumpled dirty clothes behind the bathroom door after he takes a shower—Kelty leaves few signs of his presence. Even his appetite is less wide-ranging. Blandly forging ahead on a diet of cereal and milk, soup and crackers, iced tea, an occasional cup of yogurt, clumps of sandwich meat, and as much fruit juice as he can find, he is a predictable eater, whereas Olivia harvests on a whim. Whatever springs to her mind, she seeks to consume or prepare. Consequently, foodstuffs disappear randomly or sporadically. Pickles the first night, for instance. Spoon-shaped gouges out of my expensive cheese the next night. Then a third of a container of fresh tortellini.

Granted, Olivia has just spent four months at college practicing her independence; I expected her to be more assertive and grown-up. Her actions at home, however, have been reversions to form. This Olivia is still the Olivia that was.

But despite these complaints about my daughter, I am delighted to have her home. Despite her galumphing around my house, and her bull-in- china-shop movements, there are nice touches, too: more-adult conversations; face-to-face updates (versus Skype, texting, emails, and telephone calls) about her life and interests and plans; a more-willing companion for physical exercise (such as boot camp or skiing) and spur-of-the-moment activities (such as movies or shopping or making snow angels).

First-born Olivia is a big presence—like an elephant—and when she’s gone, it’s difficult not to notice.



Saturday, December 1, 2012

"Beyond the End of the Trail"

One-year-old Clark in the arms of his father watches his mother battle a grayling at Crescent Lake.


For a long time, I believed that Crescent Lake was the end of the trail. And for a long time, literally, it was.

My parents fished for grayling there with me when I was only a year old. My father escorted our whole family up there when I was in my surly teens to camp along the upper creek and cast flies for hungry fish. In my 20s, when I was working for the Peninsula Clarion newspaper, I tramped up there with colleagues, again for fishy purposes. In my 30s, I more than once rode my mountain bike to the lake and back for exercise.

But then the year I turned 40 I was surprised to hear that I could travel beyond the creek outlet, that the route had been extended, that a primitive trail had been added around the lake’s southern shore to connect with a branch of the Carter Lake Trail. The traverse, I was told, comprised about 18 miles. Immediately I was interested.

Clark and his brother, Lowell, above upper Crescent Lake
in the late 1990s. They are on LV Ray Peak, with Madson
Mountain to their left.
Crescent Lake curls like the blade of a scimitar in a nest of mountains. Imagine a big smile of a lake, with the corners of the mouth at west and east; the bottom edge of the smile is the southern shore, the top edge the northern shore. According to the Chugach National Forest website, the Crescent Lake Trail runs 6.5 miles along Crescent Creek (and between Right and Wrong mountains) to the stream outlet on the lake’s western end. The primitive trail then travels the southern shore for 4.2 miles to the Saddle Cabin, and then another 3.54 miles (along Madson Mountain) to the eastern end of the lake. From there, a better-maintained trail takes hikers 3.4 miles past Carter Lake and LV Ray Peak to the Carter Lake trailhead. Altogether, says the website, the hiking totals 17.64 miles without any detours, so the foresters call it an 18-mile hike. (My best-guess estimate before reading this information was 18.5 miles, so I feel pretty good about my accuracy in tracing all those squiggly lines on my battered topographic maps.)

In June 1998, Kent Peterson and I decided to check out the route by making an exploratory mission. On a day that constantly threatened rain but only occasionally delivered it, we hiked to the bridge at the lake outlet to find a new sign denoting a primitive trail and began to follow the damp, grassy, uneven path, uncertain at times what we’d find. In the end, we traveled about half of the full 18 miles before deciding to turn around because (a) the weather looked bad, and (b) we had no vehicle parked at the other end of the trail.

So we came back the next year.

In July 1999, Kent, Adam Tressler and I completed a leisurely traverse on an overgrown trail in warm, mostly sunny weather in approximately nine and a half hours. On that trip, we figured out the trail basics: Stage One took us from the Crescent Lake trailhead to the lake itself in about two hours of steady walking; the trail in this section was solid and easy, and none of the hills were particularly taxing. Stage Two took us from the bridge to the Saddle Cabin; this was all primitive trail and involved stretches that were easy going but also places peppered with stinging nettles and half-hidden rocks. There was also one stream that was difficult to cross without wading; if the water was low enough, a jump completely across was possible, but usually crossing the creek meant temporarily shedding one’s shoes. Stage Three was the rest of the trip—nearly seven miles of moderate ups and downs, across a few avalanche chutes, and a definite shoe-shedding creek crossing at the upper end of Crescent Lake. After hiking past Carter Lake, the rapidly descending path to the trailhead was a hard-packed, gravelly old mining road that usually pained the knees and feet after all the previous travel.

On Monday, June 26, 2000, Kent and I returned for a third attempt, and we found the trail in good shape, the weather mostly sunny again, and the traveling much swifter. We arrived at the Carter Lake trailhead after only seven and a half hours. It was at this point that I became determined to complete the traverse in under seven hours. I didn’t know that it would take me two more attempts to achieve that goal … and that it would be another decade before I bettered it.

As a matter of course, it became routine to make only two major stops on the entire hike—for a quick lunch at the bridge over the Crescent Creek outlet, and for a long snack at the Saddle Cabin. Factoring in those stops (at 20-30 minutes each), I decided that it was possible to arrive at Crescent Lake in less than two hours, eat and be on the way to the Saddle Cabin. Two more hours, I hoped, would see us already done with our snack at the cabin and on our way toward Carter Lake. The rest was all up to the determination and endurance of the hikers.

Or so I thought.

It turned out that nature had a say in this as well.

Kent was tired of doing the same hike, so I took Karen Brewer on the first of what would be five consecutive years of completing the traverse together. After I regaled her with stories of good trail conditions and the possibilities for a record travel time, she and I made the attempt on Thursday, June 14, 2001. The weather started out partly cloudy but very warm. We arrived at Crescent Lake in two hours and took a 30-minute break at the bridge. Two hours later we reached the Saddle Cabin, where we spent another 30 minutes relaxing. With five hours already in, I thought it might still be possible to complete the traverse in just two more hours. Instead, it took three hours and 15 minutes, and I’m still surprised that it took only that long.

Clark leaps over a creek in 2003.
By the time we reached the far end of Madson Mountain, we had gone backwards in time. The upper end of Crescent Lake was still frozen. An avalanche from the previous winter had poured debris over the ice, and all those trees and rocks and branches and dirt were still there. The Carter Lake valley itself was filled with wet snow ranging from one to four feet deep; the trail there was impossible to find. And the descent from the far end of frozen Carter Lake was a trough of mud and running water. We slogged in the snow. We post-holed in it. We splashed down the creek-filled final stretch of trail. But we did finish, exhausted, in eight hours and 15 minutes.

I told Karen it couldn’t be that bad two years in a row.

On July 10, 2002, in warm, sunny weather and on a dry, somewhat overgrown trail, we completed the traverse in six hours and 55 minutes.

On June 21, 2003, we took friends with us and decided to just relax. Under overcast skies that occasionally spit rain, we finished in nine and a half hours. On June 21, 2004, Karen and I were cruising toward another record-breaking performance when the temperature climbed to at least 80 degrees in the valley and sapped our energy; in the heat, we finished in seven hours and 40 minutes. And on my last traverse with Karen—on Oct. 11, 2005, in temperatures that never rose above freezing—we finished in approximately eight hours.
Karen Brewer on the Crescent Lake primitive trail in 2004.

After that, injuries and other plans kept me from the traverse until 2009, when Curt Shuey and I made the attempt on July 1, 2009. I was using the traverse as a training hike to prepare myself for a six-day, 60-plus-mile journey with buddies in the Banff area of Canada, and I was babying an ankle that was still weak from a sprain months earlier. During the first mile of the traverse, I re-sprained the same ankle. Despite Curt’s protests, I resolutely refused to turn around and go home. We pressed on under partly sunny skies and finished the traverse. I failed to record the time, but I know it was in the eight- to nine-hour range.

Joe Charbonnet crosses a chilly creek in 2010.
On June 26, 2010, I led a Kenai Peninsula Outdoor Club hike of the traverse, making no pretense about setting any records. It was overcast, breezy and occasionally rainy, and the four of us finished in about nine hours.

But this year, on Nov. 3, Yvonne Leutwyler and I broke my old record, despite partly to mostly cloudy conditions, temperatures that ranged from 20 to 35 degrees, and up to four inches of fresh powdered snow on the last third of the traverse. We jogged and walked (resting about 20 minutes at both of the usual places) and finished in six hours and 43 minutes.

Yvonne and I early on the trail during our 2012 traverse.
We were aided by low water at both major creek crossings, but we were hindered at the biggest avalanche chute by dangerously thin ice over rapidly moving water, so we were forced to descend closer to the lake to find a safe way across.

Challenges exist in every attempt at the traverse. Sometimes it’s the heat, sometimes the cold. Sometimes it’s the mud, sometimes the snow. Sometimes it’s a trail so overgrown that tripping becomes the norm. Sometimes it’s the wind or the rain … or injuries … or waiting for a black bear to leave the trail. It’s best to be prepared for anything.

But a lot of the success in completing the traverse has nothing to do with personal records, and much more to do with personal goals. Sometimes it’s simply more fun to just take one’s time and revel in the beauty of that amazing place than it is to race against the hands of the clock. So I’ll be back.