Well, we landed in Juneau after a long day of flights and layovers in Los Angeles and Seattle. We slept well and didn’t worry about getting up early (although I woke up at 7:00 anyway). We took a walk with the dogs in Lemon Creek, where Dorothy is living with our good friends, Brian and Lisa. The dogs, Kippen and Ayla, are border collies and are a lot of fun. The walk in Lemon Creek is surprisingly pretty for something so close to their house and it was nice to get out. The air was cool and it was raining very lightly but we knew what to expect and were ready for it. I got one photo with three bald eagles in it but I think this one is better. You can see the one at the top of the tree pretty easily but there is a second that’s not quite so obvious a little ways down on the right side of the same tree.
Tagged With: Juneau Alaska
Near the confluence of the Eagle and Herbert Rivers, about 26 miles from downtown Juneau, there is the Eagle River Scout Camp. A trail leads from there along the south bank of the Eagle River to the open waters of Favorite Channel and Lincoln and Shelter Islands. Cathy, Dorothy, and I took the dogs and had a nice walk through the woods, along the river, and along the sandy shore. This photo was taken near the beginning of the walk in an open area in the woods.
A muskeg is “a nutrient-poor peatland characterized by acidic, saturated peat, and scattered or clumped, stunted conifer trees set in a matrix of sphagnum mosses and ericaceous shrubs.” I personally find them to be beautiful, although it’s not something you want to walk through if you can get around it. I particularly enjoyed the fall color as seen in this photograph as well as the reflections on the pool in the foreground. The sky was particularly overcast today and we only had glimpses of the mountains that would otherwise be in the distance. The overcast tends to heighten the colors, though, so that’s a plus. And the rain was barely noticeable until just before we got back to the car.
As mentioned in my previous post, it started raining as we returned to our car at the Eagle River trail near the Boy Scout Camp. It rained fairly hard but as we approached the Mendenhall River the sun came out and there was a rainbow to our left. We stopped at Brotherhood Bridge, where there’s a pretty decent view of the glacier and we had it framed by the rainbow. Rainbows can be tricky to photograph because the colors are fairly faint relative to other things in the photograph. Slight underexposure can help but that tends to make the rest of the shot dark. Anyway, This one turned out pretty well. At a different time of year, this photo would benefit from fireweed in the foreground, but the autumnal colors aren’t bad, either.
Day four of our Alaska trip (the third full day in Alaska) was busy. Dorothy had to work so we dropped her off and then went into town. We started by going to Evergreen Bowl and walking around a bit. That’s where this photograph was taken. After that we took some pictures of her mom’s old house, across the street from the Governor’s mansion. Then downtown for a little while to do a little shopping and also spent some time in the library. I took pictures of the mural on the parking garage that features Cathy, her aunt, and her aunt’s great grandson. There is a new park that runs from near the bridge to Douglas towards the Coast Guard dock and we went there for a while. It’s probably nicer when the fountain is running but it was nice. Finally we went to Evergreen Cemetery to find a few grave markers. My memory of where Cathy’s grandparents are buried was pretty good. We also found the markers for her mom’s sister and her husband. We had a few more to find but had more opportunities later in the week.
As mentioned in my earlier post for today, it was a busy day. In the afternoon we went for a walk with Brian and Lisa around the airport. It’s a pretty place and it’s not like the busy airports we’re used to from the DC area with planes taking off and landing one after the next all day. It’s a relatively quiet place except for the occasional plane and we had a nice time outdoors. If you need a reason to go to Juneau, here’s one. It’s beautiful regardless of the weather. The clouds were high enough today that we could see the mountains pretty well. We didn’t have a clear day the entire ten days we were there but if you need clear skies to enjoy a place, then maybe it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. The airport walk is an easy one, with virtually no hills to deal with. Very nice for a mid-afternoon walk. Highly recommended.
In 1898, Cathy’s great grandfather traveled from the iron mines of Michigan’s northern pinensula to the gold mines of Juneau. Specifically, he worked in the Mexican Mine in Treadwell on Douglas Island, across the Gastineau Channel. In 1917 the mine flooded and all work ceased. This photo was taken from near the cave-in site, which is on the extreme right although it’s not really visible. As you can see, it was more overcast than the previous two days, which were pretty nice. We couldn’t see the top of Mount Roberts across the channel. Nevertheless, it was good to get out and to walk where Cathy’s ancestors had walked (although we’ve been there before, of course). The Treadwell Mine’s office building, which was in pretty rough shape when we lived in Juneau, has been cleaned, painted, and given a new roof.
We went to the glacier today. In Juneau, that’s short hand for the Mendenhall, since it’s the one you can basically drive to. When we lived here in the late 1980s the face of the glacier was just a little past Nugget Falls, on the right in this photo. When my mother-in-law lived in Juneau, the face of the glacier was considerably further out into the valley. Like most (but notably not all) glaciers since the last little ice age, roughly between 1300 and the mid to late 1800s, it is receding. It’s still pretty and the clouds separated long enough for us to see some of the mountains around it, at least briefly, although you can’t really see them well in this photo.
We have a very fond and somewhat funny memory from the winter of 1986-87. It was on a relatively mild day in February when Cathy, Brian, Lisa, and I drove out to the glacier. There was eight to ten inches of snow on the ice on Mendenhall Lake and there were kids sledding on the hills of glacial moraine. Brian, Lisa, and Cathy walked out into the snow on the ice wearing boots and their bathing suits. They took off the boots and settled on a blanket laid on the snow (which naturally sank into the snow when they sat down. I took a handful of photographs of them, pretending it was a lovely day. Actually, for February in Juneau, clear skies make it a lovely day, regardless of the temperature. Anyway, here’s Cathy, 32 years later, in front of the Mendenhall, although she was dressed more warmly today than she was on that day in February.
This photo wasn’t taken by me, but I’ve already posted two photos from today that I did take, so I think I can get away with it. I don’t appear in many photographs and for the most part, that’s my preference. Nevertheless, I’m trying to learn that if I want to expect others to let me take their picture, I need to be willing to return the favor. Dorothy took this with my camera and while I don’t think it’s a particularly good photo of me, it’s at least evidence that I was there. Nugget falls is larger than it looks in this photo. The reality is that we’re quite a ways from it. If we walked so that we were right below it, you’d see how high it really is. I have a few photos like that, but this isn’t one of them, so you’ll just have to trust me, or better yet, go visit it for yourself.
In May, 1942, the valedictorian at Juneau High School, John Tanaka, was absent because he and others of Japanses ancestry had been forcibly removed and incarcertated in government internment camps a month earlier. The graduating class left an empty chair in his honor at their graduation, honoring John and the other Japanese Americans. John’s younger brother, Bill, was in my mother-in-law’s class and naturally she remembers this incident. The Empty Chair Memorial is in Capital School Park between 5th and 6th Streets and Franklin and Seward.
Today was the rainiest day of our trip. While Dorothy was at work, Cathy and I spent the morning in the State Museum and Library, which I highly recommend. We also drove around downtown a bit with Dorothy after she got off work. That’s when this photo was taken. You can also get an idea from this photo of the steepness of some of upper Franklin Street.
We went out to the Shrine of Saint Thérèse this morning and enjoyed a very pleasant walk onto the island (well, it was an island but is now connected by a causeway), into the chapel, and along a path on the shore (from which this photo was taken). It was cool and when we got there it looked like rain. Nevertheless, it didn’t actually come down and by the time we walked down the shore, there was some blue in the sky. If we see anyone else on any of our walks around Juneau, we like to joke that the place is getting overrun with tourists. Of course we’re tourists this time, and it’s only a joke anyway. There may have been a few other people at the Shrine the same time we were there but we hardly saw each other.
In addition to our visit to the Shrine this morning, Cathy, Dorothy, and I took our longest walk of the trip with Brian, Lisa, and their two dogs. We drove out Basin Road and went up Perseverance Trail and then a ways up Granite Creek Trail towards Granite Basis. I don’t know exactly how far we walked but it was at least three miles each way, possibly a little more. The Perseverance Trail goes up hill pretty significantly in places but it’s an easy trail to walk on. The view of Ebner Falls was nice, even in the light rain that was coming down. We turned off onto the much smaller Granite Creek Trail that zig-zags up a steep hill before becoming more gradual after that. We didn’t go too far up that and this photo was taken somewhere near where we turned around. It was after 5:00 PM and it was going to be dark before we got back. In fact, it was quite dark as we made our way past Ebner Falls and the rest of the way down, particularly those places under trees. But we didn’t lose anyone and had a really nice time.
When we first lived in Juneau, back in 1985 and 86, we rented the downstairs of the pale blue Quonset hut seen in the upper left of this photo. Our address was on Fourth Street but the street ended at Harris Street, almost two blocks away. To get to and from her job in the Goldstein Building, Cathy would walk down the long flight of stairs from above our house to Fourth and Harris. I don’t remember for sure how many steps there are, but my remembrance is that it’s 174 or so. Quite a few, anyway. In this photo you can see a person near the top of the stairs wearing a bright, red jacket.
We moved from the Quonset to an apartment on Douglas Island after a year or so and lived there the rest of our time in Juneau. Living in downtown Juneau certainly had its advantages, but it was also nice to have a few more windows as we did in the apartment. I’m not sure where I’d want to live if we moved back to Juneau. Land is at something of a premium, with usable land squeezed between the shore and the mountains and with so much given to National Forest. But I think I’d be inclined to be outside downtown at this point, just for the sake of having a bit more of a yard and garden.
One of my favorite hikes around Juneau is on the western extremity of Douglas Island. back in the 1980s there was a trail through woods, across muskeg, and to the shore. There is now a much shorter loop trail called the Rain Forest Trail that we took today. While I like the longer, older trail better, we didn’t have a huge amount of time to spend and it was also fairly wet as we drove out, with rain softly falling. You shouldn’t get the impression that the shorter trail isn’t very nice, because it’s actually wonderful. I took quite a few photos both in the woods and on the shore. This one is of a small pond just into the woods as we headed back on the southern part of the loop. The light in the woods is quite difficult, with fairly low light levels along with a very bright sky showing through. I’m pretty pleased with how this one turned out.
It’s our last evening in Juneau and we went out to dinner with our good friends Brian and Lisa and their son Nathaniel. This photo was taken by Nathaniel’s girlfriend, Alex and it’s nice to have a picture with all of us in it. We were sad to be leaving and could easily have been happy staying another week or even two. We’ve know Brian and Lisa since early 1986 and Dorothy’s been living with them since she arrived in mid July. I’d say it’s been very good for her to be here, although not without its struggles. But as a wise man once said, “Life is pain, highness. Anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you something.”
Cathy, Brian, two dogs, and I hiked up Mt. Roberts today. We started from the trailhead on Basin Road (elevation about 280 feet above sea level). The trail goes up pretty steeply but we’ve done it before, so there were no surprises. A few people passed us when we stopped to rest at a log bench but we passed a few others, so we were not the slowest hikers out there.
We made it past the upper station of Goldbelt Tram at about 1,800 feet elevation. We continued up to Father Brown’s Cross, know to Cathy’s family at Muriel’s Cross. Father Brown put up the original cross in 1908 but it has been replaced many times over the years and a bunch of these times were by Cathy’s cousins, who happened to own a lumber yard and hardware store, putting them in a good position to do that. Muriel, Cathy’s aunt, was the matriarch of that branch of the family so they refer to it as Muriel’s Cross.
Brian took the first of these photos. Then he and the dogs headed down, running back down the way we came up. He had to pick up Lisa, who had been working. Cathy and I continued higher up and I took quite a few wildflower photos as well as a nice panorama of Mounts Juneau and Roberts.
We took the tram down. They make that harder than they used to do. You must have a receipt from the restaurant or the gift shop for at least $20. But they don’t have it well advertised, so we waited in line and then had to get out of line and wait again. There really isn’t anything we wanted from the gift shop, but they don’t give you the option of simply paying them $20, which seems kind of stupid. My advice would be to look for a receipt left behind by someone who already had a round trip ticket.
The sky was cloudy when we headed up but it got clearer as we went up. I should have worn a short sleeve shirt and was quite warm in flannel. Nevertheless, we really enjoyed ourselves. This is one of our favorite hikes, even though it’s steep and it is one of the more crowded trails, especially above the tram. It’s worth it, especially when the sky is clear. The view is wonderful.
Brian was working this morning and Lisa took the dogs for a walk. I got a call from Lisa saying she was coming back from her walk and there was a bear in the front yard. I grabbed my camera and went outside. By the time I got there the bear was crossing the street in front of the house just up the street. I got a few photos of it from behind and then it turned and I was able to get two of the bear in profile. I got in the car to try to follow it as it moseyed up the street and but it turned off onto a trail towards Lemon Creek. I went past the beginning of the trail and then turned around, only to have the bear come out of the trees and cross the road again and go under a fence and through another yard. I headed around the block and saw it again. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get any more pictures except taken through the car windscreen, so they aren’t terribly good. After taking the last couple, a guy who was hanging out on a balcony asked me, “you came into this neighborhood to photograph bears?” I sort of explained but I think he thought I was crazy.
Although this bear is brown, it is an American black bear (Ursus americanus). They range in color from a fairly light blond, through this beautiful brown, to entirely black. Those that are brown are often called cinnamon bears.
We went to the glacier again today, this time taking the short walk to Nugget Falls. When we lived here, the glacier came to about where we’re standing in this photo. It has receded quite a bit since then, which is a little sad, but glaciers have advanced and receded throughout history. Underneath the glacier are the remains of huge trees, frozen for quite a while, showing that the glacier has been considerably smaller than it is now for many, many years at some point it its history. It will advance again. In the meantime, Juneau may need to stop advertising it as a “drive up glacier.” It’s still quite impressive and worth going to see. One hike I wouldn’t have minded taking is the West Glacier Trail, which is the first real hike I took with Brian after we first met. I’d love to have photographs showing the difference in the glacier in 37 years. Maybe we’ll need to visit at least one more time. I also wouldn’t mind going up East Glacier Trail and Nugget Creek Trail. It’s more wooded but very pretty. We never went up that as far as Nugget Glacier, which would also be nice to do, some day. There are more trails in and around Juneau than can be hiked in two weeks, though. You have to pick and choose.
When you decide to go to Juneau, you are making a tacit agreement to deal with rain. Depending on your source, there are between 180 and 235 days of rain per year in Juneau and there are only about 80 days described as ‘sunny’ per year. With the average high temperature in July, the hottest month, being only 64.1° it’s not the place to go to get a tan. That being said, we arrived late in the day on June 17 and didn’t have any rain the entire first week. Today was the first day we had to walk in the rain if we were going to walk. We drove with Brian, Lisa, and the dogs out to Auke Rec and walked to Point Louisa. The tide was out and this picture of Cathy gives you an idea of what the day was like. Actually, it wasn’t raining hard and we had a really good time being out. The tides in Juneau are pretty significant and where we were standing when this photo was taken will be under quite a few feet of water at high tide. The rocks are covered with barnacles and there are quite a few mussels, although not as many as on the rocks around Shaman Island, where we walked to on the 19th.
We took a long hike today. It was overcast and threatening rain but we only actually had a little drizzle for part of the hike. We started at the end of Basin Road. There are two branches at the lower end of the Perseverance Trail. The one we took is shorter but steeper. There is a door covering an entrance to the Ebner Adit and a very cool wind was coming out of it. I found that useful when we returned, because I was fairly warm. The first part of the trail is fairly steep and by the time you get to Ebner Falls, the first photo presented here, you’ve climbed 815 feet in about 0.7 miles, an average grade steeper than 1:5, although parts are closer to 1:3. The trail gets a bit easier at that point. You cross Gold Creek a few times and eventually get to the Granite Basin trail.
We passed a work crew on the trail. The near side of Gold Creek has been undermining the trail a bit so they were building gabions and filling them with rocks to stabilize the bank. It looked like hard work. One of them noticed my camera. I was carrying my 150-600mm zoom with the camera on it, mounted on a monopod. I also had two additional lenses, my 100mm macro and the 17-40mm zoom. She asked, “Are you going on a photo shoot?” Laughing to myself, I said “No, just taking pictures of whatever we see.“ She asked if I wanted to take their picture and when I said I would if they wanted, the all got excited. I took a few shots of them and got an email address to send them to. Oh, they also complemented my hat, which they said was ‘sick’ (which I’m pretty sure they meant as a compliment).
About a mile and a half up that trail, you take the left fork to stay beside Gold Creek. Another 0.6 miles or so and the Granite Basin Trail branches off on the left. This starts with five switchbacks and climbs quite steeply. After that the climb is a bit more moderate. We got to a point where there was a large snow drift covering both the trail and the entire value below the trail, with the stream going under it. Eventually we got to the cataracts below Granite Basin and stopped for a few pictures. We continued up into the basin but didn’t really go much further than that.
We had climbed from about 370 feet to about 1,750 over the course of about 4 miles (and then back again, totaling about 8 miles). It’s a beautiful hike and Granite Basin is really pretty. I remember the first time we hiked there the fireweed was in bloom, which was particularly nice. It’s not the easiest hike in the Juneau area but it’s one of my favorites. If you don’t mind a bit of exercise (and possibly crossing a bit of snow if you aren’t late in the summer) then I highly recommend this hike. It’s not a bad idea to bring water and a snack. The weather can be significantly different in Granite Basin from what it is at the start of the trail.
Cathy and I took a walk this morning with one of the dogs. We went up a trail along the west bank of Lemon Creek until the trail petered out. If the water wasn’t quite so high we’d have been able to continue but as it was, we had to turn around. We decided to go look for some eagles and we sort of hit the jackpot today.
I’ll be honest, as majestic as bald eagles ((Haliaeetus leucocephalus), they are basically scavengers. Sure, they will catch live fish and that’s beautiful to watch. But they will also eat dead and dying salmon that are running up the streams to spawn. When the salmon are running, eagles are easy to find around the mouths of those streams. However, we are a bit early for salmon, so the best place to find eagles right now is at and around the city dump.
There’s a gas station on Glacier Highway in Lemon Creek, next to the Western Auto and Marine store. At the back of the parking lot behind that gas station is a tall mound of dirt with weeds growing on it. Just beyond that is a line of trees, separating the parking lot from the landfill. The top of that mound of dirt is an excellent vantage for seeing eagles this time of year (or probably any time, be especially when the salmon are not so plentiful).
Taking pictures of birds on the wing is difficult with my huge, 150-600mm zoom lens. That’s especially true when it’s zoomed all the way out. Just finding a moving bird in the viewfinder is hard enough, but then getting it focused and the shutter fired before the bird has moved too far away or is seen only from behind is even more difficult. That being said, I’m quite pleased with a few of the shots I got of eagles flying. The first and last of the photos here are examples.
The second shot is of two trees across Glacier Highway with a total of ten birds in them. The third photo is of an eagle perched on the corner of a building. This bird let me get quite close, which surprised me a bit. I guess he knew he could get away before I could get to the top of the building. Anyway, while bald eagles are not at all rare in Juneau and the locals get fairly blasé about them, and even though we have a nesting pair within a mile of our house in Maryland, we’re still excited to see them.
Cathy, Brian and I took a walk with the dogs through Switzer Meadow and then on a loop beyond Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School. Most of that later trail is in the woods, some of which is relatively young. The whole area was probably clear cut less than 100 years ago, so there are few if any trees older than that. Some areas seem to be pretty scrubby and one area looked like it was a homeless camp or party spot not too many years ago. It’s hard to tell because wood decomposes very quickly in this wet environment. It’s still a pretty walk for the most part and we enjoyed being out with the dogs.
Today I have a pair of HDR photos, both taken from the beach near False Outer Point on Douglas Island. The first of them is Shaman Island, which we walked to at low tide on Monday. The tide was much further in this evening and you wouldn’t know that you could ever walk to it. In fact, the tide was coming in quickly. This image is two images stitched together using the Hugin Panorama Photo Stitcher and each of the source images for that are HDR images made from three exposures each.
The second photo is looking north northeast at the western side of False Outer Point with Spuhn Island visible to the left of it. The seaweed covered rocks in the foreground were quickly covered by the incoming tide. This is a nice beach to visit and it often very quiet and peaceful. It’s a short hike through the woods on the Rainforest Trail, which is a loop that takes you through some lovely temperate rainforest. In fact, if you happen to go to the Tongass National Forest page on Wikipedia and scroll down to the second photo on the page (which you can also see here), that’s a photo I took on this trail in September 20, 2004.
It was a fairly wet day today, one of the few rainy days we’ve had in our two weeks in Juneau. We went to church this evening (yes, on Saturday evening) and then Cathy and I drove to Skater’s Cabin on the southwest corner of Mendenhall Lake. Built in 1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, it can be reserved for group use for $10 per hour. It is about 200 yards from the West Glacier trailhead. The West Glacier Trail was one of my favorite hikes when we lived here, although it’s fairly steep in places, including what Brian and I call the Aztec Stairs, climbing about 750 feet in a little over a fifth of a mile of trail (a 63% grade). There are literal steps cut into the rock. I suppose technically that part of the trail is the Mount McGinnis Trail, but it’s all one trail to us.
Another of my favorite trails in the Juneau area is the Dan Moller Trail on Douglas Island. We went up this with my parents and Albert in 1987 and one of my favorite pictures of my folks was taken from the top of the mountain, looking down on the cabin from above. This was also, I think, the first place we saw sundews in Juneau. There are two main species here and this is Drosera rotundifolia, the round-leaved sundew.
They are surprisingly common and at the same time, almost entirely overlooked. They grow in places that are constantly wet and at the same time sunny (or at least not shady). The slightly dryer parts of muskeg, where it’s almost constantly wet is generally the place. Once you see them, they seem to be everywhere, but until you’ve had them pointed out, they really aren’t very noticeable. The False Outer Point Trail is the other place we saw them. I understand that they are quite common on the Spalding Meadows trail, but we only did that on cross-country skis when the ground was covered with snow, so it wasn’t a good time to see them.
The sundews are not the only thing about the trail that I like. The combination of trees and open, meadow-like muskeg with its abundance and variety of wildflowers and plants is relaxing and beautiful to me. The Labrador tea (Ledum palustris), with its tiny, white flowers, the bog candle orchid (Platanthera dilatata, and many other little flowers are all over. None are terribly flashy but all are lovely in their own way. The usually dark water, the bright greens of the meadows, the darker green of the trees, the blue of the sky (when you are lucky enough to have a blue sky in Juneau), all combine to make a really pretty scene.
We also hiked a few miles on the Treadwell Ditch Trail, which is a relatively easy trail because it follows the contour of the land. It’s pretty, too, although quite different to the Dan Moller Trail, in spite of their very close proximity to one another. We also got a good view of downtown from the early part of that trail.