Saturday, January 16, 2016

My favorite active lunch break: Bodenburg Butte

Bodenburg Butte is weird. It's just outside downtown Palmer, a 10 minute drive at most.  It's perfectly situated so that if I have a court hearing or other work in Palmer, I can easily zip out there on my lunch break.

It is placed sort of between massive mountains on two sides, and a relatively flat valley on the other sides. It's a little lump of land that just sticks up like a wart or a blister.

There's two main access points, both with parking lots at the trailheads. The southern, and older, trail is all dirt, and fairly steep, with some rock scrambling at the top.  The parking lot for the trailhead on the northern side of the Butte is actually just down the street from the trailhead, so you have to park, and then walk/run past a few houses to get to the trailhead. The trail on the north side is much more developed than the south side, and in my opinion, a much funner (I'm not sure that's even really a word. Is it??) hike. That's the way I always go.

The first .85 mile or so of the northern trail is a fairly wide gravel path that seems to be pretty well maintained. Right now though,  in mid-January, it's icy and snowy. Last week, there were patches that were glare ice and very slippery. Even with my icebugs, it felt precarious and there were places I walked along the edge of the path where there were grasses and leaves frozen into the ice to give it some texture for my icebugs to grab. Today, it had an inch or so of new snow, which stuck to the ice, making it much less slippery.

At the top of the gravel path, which seems to me to be the psychological halfway point, although in distance it's more than half way, there are a couple of benches overlooking an amazing view of the valley. It's a nice spot to rest if you need to, but don't stop there!

Continue another 50 feet or so to the end of the trail, and you come to a flight of steps:

This is the beginning of what is for me, the real challenge. There are more than 400 stairs between here and the top of the Butte. The first time I climbed them, I thought I was going to pass out. For the past two summers, I've tried to do this climb about once a week, and I can now trudge all the way up without stopping, but I'm slow. The fastest I've made it up was in just over 25 minutes, from the parking lot to the very top. Last week, with all the ice, it took me 31 minutes.

Now I'm working on running them. Today I was able to run a few of the smaller groups of stairs, but only a tiny fraction of the whole. It took me 28:31 today, and I stopped to take a few pictures at the bottom of the stairs, something I don't usually do. But the snow was pretty:

There are cable handrails most of the way up, but not all of the posts are very stable, so don't completely depend on them.

This trail climbs from the valley floor to the top of the Butte in about 1.25 miles (counting from the parking lot, not the trailhead), with .85 of it being trail and .35 of it being the stairs. Overall, it gains about 900 feet in elevation, but the trail has some rolling hills, so you actually climb a little more than that.

The view from the top of the Butte is amazing. You can look directly across the valley to Pioneer Peak, which is always beautiful, no matter the season or the weather. Today it looked stunning and imposing:

To the left of Pioneer Peak is a glacier: 

and a bunch of mountains, including Lazy Mountain:

Turning to the left some more, the valley stretches out in front of you:

Every time I am up there the view is different. Even going up there once a week, I don't get bored with the view, because it's just never the same twice.

The Butte isn't tall enough to have its own weather like some mountains do, with one notable exception: the wind. Most of the time the wind is blowing up at the top. Sometimes it's hard enough I think it's going to blow me over. Often, dirt and dust is blowing around, and getting in my eyes. Be prepared for windy conditions even if it seems calm on the ground at the bottom.  Today, though, it was completely calm.

It was 9 degrees out. Cold enough that I had to dress carefully, and protect my face, throat, and lungs from the cold air. I wore running leggings, wind pants, a long sleeved Underarmour coldgear running shirt, a lightweight puffy jacket, a buff to cover my face, a hat, mittens, compression socks, and my icebugs. For once, I managed to dress perfectly and I wasn't cold, and I didn't get too hot. Sometimes trying to get the layers right in the cold is challenging, but today I got it just right:

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