Trail running has always been an intimidating thing for me. There are all those roots and rocks and the chance to fall is really high.
I don’t know if you know this about me, but I’m not often described as ‘graceful’. I trip walking and have on several occasions fallen down with no prompting. So the fact I went on a trail run (and enjoyed it!) was a huge thing for me.
I went to Juneau for work last wednesday. Flying to/from Juneau is always kind of a pain because there are no good flights. I leave Anchorage at 8am (hello 7am airport, ugh), and the only flights home are at 1pm and 7:45pm. The 1pm flight is too early, but I always end up finishing up with customers by 2:30. Normally I go hit up the Alaskan Brewing Co. and buy signs for people who want them back in Anchorage (I also did this again last week).
With my first 12k (and longest distance race!) coming up that Friday, I was a bit nervous and brought running gear to get a short run in and see how I was feeling for Friday. When it came time for my afternoon run, I realized I didn’t want to run on a sidewalk when I could run on a sidewalk anywhere. I wanted to run somewhere special in Juneau.
Which led me to the Mendenhall Glacier!
I love glaciers, and the fact that this one is right in town in Juneau makes it one I visit on a monthly basis. (I swear it looks different and beautiful every time!!)
When I pulled in the parking lot, I saw pandemonium. I know that the tourism season has started in Alaska, but I had gotten used to being one of a handful when visiting Mendenhall, so it was a shock to see hundreds of people milling around, with busses dropping off more people every 10 minutes.
I ended up driving a little bit down the road to a trailhead dirt parking lot to the East Glacier Trailhead. It loops around back to the visitor center, so I didn’t have to commit to an out-and-back route. I started out not sure if I would hike it or try to run it.
It was only supposed to be a 3.5 mile loop, but I ended up at 4.54 miles by exploring a scenic overlook and A.J. Waterfalls. I was originally only planning on doing 2-3 miles, but I got into such a rhythm with my running and the air smelled amazing and the woods were beautiful and the temperature was perfect (mid 50s, perfect chill in the air). I just kept running. I stopped to take pictures of things I found beautiful, but my camera just didn’t do it justice. I finished the run sweaty, hot, a little bit smelly, and feeling great. I also finished in 1 hr, 19 minutes meaning I totally took that trail and then some in less than the 2 hour time! Woo!
My legs felt good, and I came out feeling confident about the 12k race Friday. Below are some pictures I took along the trail. I love how spring in Alaska means everything is green, and coming back to life. Every time I get to be in the wilderness here, I feel so lucky to get to live in Alaska. It makes me want to cite John Muir quotes and put bumper stickers on my car about loving the earth. While I was running I heard helicopters overhead, as they were in the middle of a search and rescue for a hiker who had gone missing over the weekend. It immediately prompted me to try to prevent the same thing happening to me, so I sent matt and picture and description of my outfit and let him know what trail I was running. That way if I missed my flight he could call National Park Services and say “my wife probably fell and broke her leg. she’s clumsy. find her here.” Luckily, it didn’t come to that. But always let someone know where you’re running or hiking, and let them know when you’ll be back. Where I was had cell service the whole time. Matt & I also use the Find My Friends app on the iPhone, especially in the winter when I was driving in snow to the MatSu Valley and in the Kenai Peninsula a lot.
When i came upon these steps, I actually laughed out loud. To say I walked them was an understatement. They had my thighs burning!
Parts of the trail were narrow and steep, with amazing views of the trees. I loved it! There were several spots along the trail with great overlooks of Mendenhall Glacier. I got overhead shots, and views from different angles.
The fact that the weather was overcast meant great views of the glacier. I ran into some bundled up tourists from California who were telling me how sad they were it was overcast. When I explained to them that a cloudy day meant you could really see the blue in the glacier, they immediately pepped up and got excited. So yay for being a gracious steward of Alaska!Post run selfie from the visitors center!
Needless to say, I think this trail running thing may be something I continue to pursue. What do you think?