Morning Run

swampcyprus1_jc. winkler flickr

Watching tiny heads poke out of the water surface, I stand on the edge of a lake in the middle of Baton Rouge.

It’s only 7 a.m., but already, the humidity has caught up to me. I’m taking a break from my run to admire the scenery and to heave in some oxygen. Being a thick-blooded Northerner, I have to get up early to avoid being totally oppressed by the heavy air.

The lake is illuminated pink and orange by the morning sun, and ten tiny triangular shadows periodically poke through the water surface. Little turtles peaking out to see who I am.

Next to the water are egrets, great blue herons and strange-looking (to me) Muscovy ducks. As I walk away, the duck-squawking  seems to come from a group of monkeys rather than a flock of birds.

If I didn’t know better, this vibrant landscape would seem invincible. Bird couples fly about and tropical plants fill in every available space. Powerful oaks stand like stoic mythological gods: their muscular trunks flex as they extend fern- and bark-covered arms to support a canopy of leaves.

However, this lovely ship is sinking. As Mike Tidwell puts it, the wetlands that make up the “tattered sole of the Louisiana boot” are disappearing fast. I can see why people don’t know it though. If you don’t spend a lot of time near the Gulf Coast, the ecosystem here looks to be full of life.

As I jog back the way I came, Spanish moss dangles above the cypress hoodoos along the path. Hopefully, our human efforts can reverse the human errors that threaten this spirited place.


(Photo: jc. winkler, flickr)

You’re not going to believe this…


….because I still can’t.

I’m in the running for a $10,000 grant from Outside Magazine to hike, bike and kayak Alaska from top to bottom.

All you have to do is click a button. Promise. There’s no sign up or registration – just a golden button that takes my friends and me one step closer to this amazing adventure. Please pass it on! You can also follow us or @aktoptobottom

We’re currently in 2nd, but we’ve been bouncing between 1st and 2nd, so we need all the votes we can get. Thanks friends!

Varied Visuals

I’ve been catching up on emails all morning and I’m heading out for a hike in a few minutes. Since I probably won’t have time to post again, here are some pictures of the scenery I’ve encountered lately. The mountains have been uncloaked more often these past couple weeks, and long hours of light mean more stunning visuals.

Teases of Blue

Teases of Blue

Airport Hike

Airport Hike

Breaking Bold

Breaking Bold


Curling clouds

No caption needed

No caption needed

Beachy Clean

For most, the words “beach cleanup” probably conjure thoughts of picking up red Solo cups off a sunny, sandy beach.

That is not what this looked like.

Most of the beaches in Juneau are populated by black rocks covered in barnacles…not half-naked sunbathers. It was 33 degrees and drizzling. Part of my outfit included a sweatshirt, a softshell jacket and warm gloves.

That was the setting for the trash cleanup out Thane Road this morning for Coastal Footprint.

Picking up trash, although satisfying, is also depressing. It’s shocking to see firsthand the evidence of people who feel no guilt when dumping their refrigerators, tires or TVs onto the shoreline. However, we had a blast hauling an impressive amount of trash off the beach and out of the woods. Including some red Solo cups.

A couple friends and I emptied an abandoned fridge of gallons of water and, together, we shoved it up the slippery, muddy hill to the roadside. Afterwards, we were rewarded with hot soup, delicious bread and chocolate-chip, raisin muffins.

The defeated fridge

The defeated fridge

Tetanus shot anyone?

Tetanus shot anyone?

Sweet Rewards

Sweet Rewards


It’s been a busy month for me – after a trip to Cordova and Yakutat, I moved into a new place and then a week later, headed for a sunny vacation in New Mexico.

A good friend of mine lives there, and since 2005, I’ve visited every other year. The Sandia Mountains seem to be a giant illuminated watermelon at sunset, the sky is wide and deep blue, and the food – which is always delicious – was especially good this round since only New Mexico serves real New Mexican (and there is very little “spice” in Juneau, Alaska).  Albuquerque is well known for its Balloon Fiesta, which I got to see first-hand in 2009.

balloon fiesta

In addition to sunshine, delicious meals and a trip to Santa Fe, we hiked Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. It was close to my favorite part of the trip (pictures below); still better was walking in the sunshine with Em at a local winery. There’s nothing that can match a long overdue conversation, with a good friend, over a glass of wine lit by the setting sun.






At the end of last month, I traveled to Cordova and Yakutat – both rural Alaskan towns. Cordova, as some may remember, was the town that “ran out of shovels” in an effort to try and rid themselves of 15 feet of snow last year. Yakutat is known for its surfing, as depicted on Alaskan Brewing IPA art.

When I visited both places, they were still in their winter cocoon of drizzling rain and fog. But only a week after I left, both areas cleared up and showed their more vibrant colors. I’ll have the chance to travel back to those areas in the coming months and I hope to have more photos/info for you then. In the meantime, enjoy the one terrible photo I got of Yakutat’s shore (no surfers that day).


On the Edge of Everything


I’m back in Juneau and having some breakfast at SilverBow bakery. Although I enjoyed my visit to Anchorage this week (complete with the best airport experience I’ve ever had), I’m glad to be back in Juneau. My first sight this morning was a tall snow-covered mountain, illuminated by blinding sunlight, peeking out of an otherwise fog-choked sky. And the ravens tailed me when I walked from my car to the bakery.

I’m here soaking in a quiet morning while drinking some tea and eating cinnamon-raisin toast (with a side of bacon). I’m beside a window with bird spikes on the outside ledge. But if I peek over the ledge a bit, I can see a crowd of pigeons nodding and dancing on the ground below.

A couple people behind me are talking and I’m trying not to listen. Actually, I’m trying not to look like I’m listening. I’ve had their discussion a lot. Juneau is a small town, and has its problems, but a big reason people don’t want to live here is the weather. While it’s true it rains a lot, and rarely is the ground actually dry, even when it’s not raining – the beauty of this place far outweighs the downfalls of the weather. And when it is actually sunny, all those days of tired, grey skies give way to moments of pure euphoria.

The guy behind me also mentions how close we are to the wilderness here. Take a few steps off the road, and I’m in the thick of the woods. It’s enchanting and yet, intimidating. “You’re on the edge of everything,” he says.

I stayed with a friend of a friend while I was in Anchorage this week. It was about 7, so it was dark outside, and we heard something thumping against the side of the house. Someone said, “Is it the moose?” I laughed…and then got blank stares from a couple people in the room.

“I didn’t expect that to be anyone’s first response.” I said, justifying my apparently weird reaction.

“Oh, well the moose will put their noses up to the window. They walk through pretty frequently.”

The next day, walking through their yard, I saw a trail of moose prints in the fresh snow.

Sometimes I miss living in Minneapolis with the conveniences of big city life and access to a larger road system. Then I remind myself I’m living in a place that brings the sea to my door and the wilderness to my feet. And keeps those at bay who might be squeamish about Juneau’s weepy weather.


REI’s CEO nominated Sec. of the Interior

Quick facts about Sally Jewell:

– Originally from England

– Degree from U of Washington in mechanical engineering

– First 20 years of her career were as an oil industry engineer

From a Reuters article:

– “Jewell joined Recreational Equipment Inc as a board member in 1996 before taking over as chief operating officer in 2000 and then later as CEO of the national retail chain.”

– “She served on the “National Parks Second Century Commission,” whose goal was to help shape the future of the National Parks System.”

– “Jewell has received several awards for her work in environmental conservation. As a leader with the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, an initiative to create a green corridor around the Puget Sound to inland Washington State, Jewell has worked with government and private interests to protect land for conservation and recreational use.”

REI’s statement

I Miss It.

Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area - Minnesota

My fat ride at Cuyuna in Minnesota. (2012)

I miss Minnesota.

I love Alaska – but I do miss biking in Minnesota.

And last winter while I was in Minnesota, I tried out my first fat bike. Unfortunately, the first 30 minutes were miserable. I found myself riding in fine, powdery snow. It felt equivalent to trying to ride a regular bike in loose sand: impossible.

Despite my struggles, I was happy to be at one of my favorite places in Minnesota – Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. (Read my article about the world-class mountain biking here.)

But the rec area has also developed some wonderful fat biking trails for the winter. Where the snow was packed down, the riding was amazing. It was harder work than mountain biking, but there was one big advantage: soft landings. Well, that and of course, riding a monster truck bike.

I can’t afford to buy a fat bike right now. Juneau doesn’t even have fat bike rentals, let alone the $25/day deal I could get in the Twin Cities. So instead, I’m reminiscing and flipping through some photos from a year ago (above). And as I read Hansi Johnson’s blog, I feel especially jealous about my lack of winter biking in Alaska.

Icy Car, Sparkling Air

The quarter-inch of ice covering everything meant spending 25 minutes to clear from my car this morning.

The quarter-inch of ice covering everything meant spending 25 minutes clearing it from my car this morning.

Auke Lake this morning

Auke Lake this morning