Authentic Experience: Pioneers of Alaska Picnic/Treadwell Mine Disk Golfl Challenge
I roped Irene Gallon, whose mother babysat my younger siblings when I was attending Homestead Elementary School in Eagle River, to join the organization, and immediately be installed as the Financial Secretary - which means slowly steering a ship to the shores of this technological century.
The senior planner for the City of Juneau, Irene is all about best practices, which is why I adore her so.
In a moment of particular finesse, I also roped Shannon Crossley, a historic preservation architect who sits on the Juneau Historic Properties Commission with me, into joining. Immediately had her installed as backfill in my former position of Historian.
Shannon's extended family has been in the Juneau-area for around 10,000 years, literally not figuratively, so she's a perfect choice for the slot.
What I didn't quite understand at the time, until it was far too late, is that these two clever women were conniving (hmm) scheming (well) strategizing amongst themselves and the next thing I know is that I am on the golden (again literally not figuratively) sands of Sandy Beach tossing a sort-of frisbee at a target.
These women like to throw things at things. A lot.
I have never owned a dog that is any sort of retriever. There is a reason for this. When I throw things is it because I am angry and I want them to break, I do not want them returned to me.
Flash forward a year and now the temporary disk golf course at the historic remains of the Treadwell Mine has been installed. Shannon and Irene suggest not-so-subtly that the first group to use the new course is - the Pioneers.
They say it is a test of how well the course works for those with mobility/accessibility issues. They say it is a hot day, and the nine-hole course is entirely in the shade of the rainforest.
They say we have to do more than eat at the Annual Pioneers Picnic at Sandy beach, a short walk from the course, because COVID has made us all fat.
Okay, so they just said that it had made me fat, but I was generalizing so it wouldn't feel so personal.
Finally, they said the mission of the Pioneers is to preserve this history of Alaska and you learn all about the history of one of the largest gold mines in the world with interpretive signage found along the trail as you play.
There is no wiggle room out of this, so I embrace the concept, and set the proper tone - the Women's team will kick the men's team's ass.
I have to admit that I didn't think this through at all.
My cursory analysis was that we had Irene, Shannon, and a couple of wringers from their competitive team that would make up our team. I volunteered my enthusiastic niece, Jolean Lorenz, to help create the course so she would have an inside track, making her a learned caddy/coach.
So in my mind we would have a solid half-dozen Women's players and the guys would be lucky to come up with a dude in a wheelchair and someone maybe with a cane just coming off of knee replacement surgery.
I commenced with some serious shit-talk in a group text with the Men's Igloo officers. The Men smiled politely.
We have this in the bag, I thought. Was I ever wrong about that.
The Men referred to their team as the Bushwackers, they fielded more players that we did, and they were all former hippies with a misspent youth playing frisbee.
Irene and I are book worms not athletes, my niece is a lazy thrower, and Shannon was busy at a real tournament getting her pro-cred so she was a no-show for our challenge.
Apparently, lopping a disk through spruce trees, abandoned buildings, and historic mining artifacts to drop in a chain basket under par is one of those things that like riding a bike.
I don't really know how to ride a bike. I think my last one had monkey bars with streamers, a banana seat, and a flag. No hand brakes or gears.
I did channel my best Laura Croft, for my niece was correct and the course was really well laid out. You felt like you were playing Tomb Raider in the rainforest (because, literally, you were) amongst moss-covered relics from a hundred-years ago.
The course was challenging but not so difficult that I couldn't hit every basket at one-over par, and this was the first time I have ever played.
The birds were chirping, the wild flowers filled the air with their sweet scents, the viewsheds were Instagram worthy.
You got to climb around and explore the area a bit. There was no scorching heat, no perfect grass, no golf cart to drive around like most stateside courses.
There was also no opportunity to send a disk flying at a hiker's head at 50 miles-an-hour, which was disappointing because I love to make others scream a bit.
One naysayers suggested total mayham in his testimony at the public meeting where the-folks-that-bless-such-things decided that the disk course could be installed for a year for a trial run.
Several of the Men, who swore they had never played disk golf before, suggested they were hooked and planned on buying some disks and returning the next day to run the course again.
Even though the ladies lost, by a considerable amount, it was still a great bonding experience that made you a little bit sore the next day, but no injuries, no great expense, and a few were even inquiring if we had to wait a whole year for the next annual picnic to take on the Men's team again.