Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Way Beyond...

My goal at Bay Area Outdoors is to focus on activities in the Bay Area and Northern California; however, last week I took the family to Alaska on a cruise and had to share it. I will skip all of the usual cruise fare: over eating, over-indulgent, etc and focus one of the ports we visited: Juneau, Alaska.

I knew ahead of time that my son Ronald, friend Tim and I were going to do a "Guide's Choice" Adventure hike in Juneau. Guide's Choice meant I had no clue where we were going to hike. Not too comforting for an obsessive planner like me; however, I knew that no matter where we ended up, I was going to map it for Backpacker Magazine. They even sent me the new Garmin Oregon 400t to test out. Sweet!

We met our guide at the pier and he advised us we were going up the Perseverance Trail along side Gold Creek (pictured left) in the area where gold was first found in Alaska. It was a short drive to the trail head and we found ourselves in a canyon between Mt. Juneau and Mt. Roberts. There was a light drizzle as we began our gentle ascent up the trail. Our guide talked about the trail explaining that it was one of the original roads in Juneau and used by Miners in the Alaskan Gold Rush. We passed by an opening into the mountain, an old mineshaft. A chilly breeze hit us from the entryway as we passed it by.

The first part of the trial is basically a narrow road winding up the hill. Our guide, Dirk, a native Alaskan and local school teacher, explained that the trail had just been worked on and much of the vegetation on parts of the trail had been cut down, but not to worry, we would soon be in the heart of the rain forest. We soon turned a corner to a vista of "Snowslide Gulch" where, true to it's name, snow slides down from Mt. Roberts into Gold Creek. Just after the vista we got our first glimpse of Ebner Falls (pictured right), a picturesque 40ft drop into an aqua pool. If only it wasn't raining!

It was at this point we started encountering a lot of vegetation. Wild berries and wild flowers along with numerous other plants lined the trail. Salmon berries, watermelon berries, blue berries, eldeberry trees, monkshood, wild geranium(pictured below left), yarrow, cow parsnip, devils club, alder, Sitka spruce and Alaskan hemlock are just some of the fauna we ventured past.

We turned off the Perseverance trail onto the Red Mill Trail to get view from the Mt. Roberts side of the canyon. This made for a nice loop and a viewing of a few Mountain Goats dotted around the peaks. Dotted is the right term since all you really could see is a small white dot (if you were lucky). That was pretty much it for the fauna we saw. Yes I was expecting more wildlife, but not disappointed with where we were and the experience of hiking in Alaska.

Finishing up the Red Mill Trail, we returned to the Perseverance Trail were greeted with a snow capped view of Clark Peak. The trail soon entered a snow field and presented a magnificent view of Alaska Chief Falls (pictured below). This was the final feature destination of the hike. The falls cascade down the mountain about 300ft. We hiked a short distance to a vista of the falls where Dirk talked about the history of the place and the mines, minors and natives of the area. Alas, that was as far as the trail would take us. It was time to head back. We had a cruise ship waiting for us!

View more photos from this trip and other places visited in Alaska here.

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