Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hiking Juneau

East Glacier Trail.
by Robert L. Gisel

 Heading off to the wilderness land without getting off the guided tour is touring without getting your money's worth, says this Alaskan. I'd recommend getting your money's worth on your trip to Alaska, but that may mean you have to be prepared to do some hiking, or pick up a paddle, or trudge a little in the snow. Finding extreme Alaska, or just getting off the beaten path to get a more inside view, you should be willing to strike an adventure.
Ice caves, West Glacier Trail.

 Here are a few tips that might have been missed by the travel agent.

 You can, of course, take it very easy on a trip to Alaska, ride the tour boat to the Main Street tourist shops and the Red Dog Saloon. If you have waited until your later retirement years where that is as strenuous as you best go, that is fine, do it. You can still pick up the flavor of old Alaska. Three short city blocks up the hill is the Capital Building, same as it was in the Territorial day. That is where you can see the legislative chambers, possibly in session, the Governor's Office and so forth. There is a mounted giant Alaska King Crab in reception. It is about half the size of the crabs that were caught in the 60s, yet still it will cover a small dining table.

 Off to the west on 4th Street and around the corner several short blocks is the Governor's Mansion, same one as the Territorial Governor occupied. It is right on the street and you can knock on the door if you want. The Gov may or may not be there, but that is where he stays when he is in Juneau. The street on the way has a good overlook of the lower city, the boat harbor, and the bridge to Douglas Island. If you are just walking the city it is good to walk this way.

 If your idea of seeing Alaska is more than walking some city streets, but rather setting out to explore without the guided tours, more power to you. Here are some options.

 There are evidently 90 hiking trails around the Juneau area alone, so there is no doubt one that will fit your interests and preferences and difficulty level. Lord knows where these all are, but that is the figure that is given.  If you dedicate a couple summers to that you could possibly check them all out.

 Several of these trails can be accessed from the city itself, no vehicular travel necessary. The Perseverance Trail starts 3,000 feet down the Basin Road at the top of the city. It is an easy walk up to the Glory Hole. Literally, you start from the city, and it is one of the easiest trails.

 Also starting from the city but one of the more strenuous hiking trails is the Mount Juneau Trail. It starts off from a little ways down the Perseverance Trail. It is a hiking trail, but it gets rather steep and tricky in places where you have to scramble up the rocks and switch backs. The view at the top is a nice payoff, beautifully panoramic.

 The Mount Roberts Trail starting from the city is factually a rather moderate hike through the tree line to the top, another spectacular view of the area. When you get there you can have lunch in the restaurant and talk with some people who came to the top in the sky tram.

  There are two trails you can drive out to on either side of the glacier. The East Trail winds up on the side of the mountains to the east, past a couple Falls and giving an unforgettable look down onto the glacier.

 From the West Trail you can approach, touch, walk on, and under the ice. This I say with reservation, as the glacier can be as deadly as a bear. You can go into the ice caves, at your own risk.

 These caverns are created from the pull back and the drainage runoff of the glacial mass. It can collapse randomly and will collapse provoked with enough noise. A school friend just had to see Alaska, went to Juneau, walked up on the frozen lake to the face of the terminus with a group of friends laughing, shouting and carrying on, until the face of the glacier calved. Now she is an ice worm, along with the whole group. Don't monkey around with that one, unless you have a death wish for a cold day in hell and like to be smothered in ice.

 On the lighter side there are trails to where you can kayak or canoe, and there is a white water rafting trip you can connect up with. You can even hike up to the ice field or arrange to fly there. The Lemon Creek Trail goes all the way up to the Lemon Glacier from where you can hike onto the Juneau Ice Field, if you are so inclined. If the weather is acceptable a couple of flight seeing tours will land to let you walk around or ride a dog sled on the ice field. This is the part about trudging in the snow.

 What is left of the wilderness frontier is still close at hand. Scraping your hands on the rocks and scratching your arms on the the underbrush in the fourth mile gets the juices flowing that serve to supercharge your happy memories. This is worth far more than any hundreds of photographs you might take. Taking it all in with the exhilaration of a 3,000 foot drop below you is worth more than all those Kodachromes combined.

 Pearson's Pond Luxury B&B Inn, Suites and Adventure Spa, which is highly recommended as a four-star B&B Inn to stay on your trip to Juneau, have gone to great lengths to detail all the pleasure spots and will be happy to point the way to some good hard fun and adventure.

 Come to Juneau for a visit, and bring your hiking boots.


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