Locals proclaim this is the best summer Juneau has ever had. And given the track record of rainy days I’ve experienced over the past year, I would have to agree. With temperatures nearing the 80’s and not a cloud in the sky it has taken all my motivation to go to work each day instead of heading to the beach or climbing a mountain top.
With the extended hours of the summertime and the amped up work load due to tourism I have found myself working in the heli maintenance hangar 50-60 hours a week. Definitely not the norm for a girl who loves the outdoors and travelling. So my plan to maintain sanity is to hike/trail run several of the higher peaks surrounding Juneau. I’ve found trail running not only to be a quick burn, but also a fun way to suss out new ski lines for this upcoming winter’s backcountry season.
It was yet another unbelievable bluebird day. Six a.m. alarm clock, freshly juiced carrots and off we were for a 15 minute drive to Perseverance Trailhead to run the Juneau Mountain Ridge. Perseverance is considered the first road built in Alaska. Back in 1889, the three mile trek led you to the mines of at least five different operations, the Alaska-Juneau being at one time the most successful gold mine in the world. As the road heads up into the valley, it splits into Silverbow Basin for a view of “Glory Hole,” a 1000 foot pit where most of the gold was extracted, and Granite Creek Basin, which ultimately gains access onto the Juneau Icefield. Such a beautiful basin to explore.
One mile into Perseverance Trail we took a sharp left and began our steep ascent to the summit of Mount Juneau. I could tell I was moving sluggishly the first twenty minutes but the trail is east facing and the warm sun woke me up in no time. 3576 vertical feet and and 1 hour 45 minutes later, I had tears of happiness underneath my sunglasses.
It has been a busy summer, with expectations and demands at times almost crushing. I’d been dreaming of standing on Mt. Juneau for months and the feeling of accomplishment combined with the stupendous beauty was too overwhelming to keep in. Not a cloud in the sky! As much as I wanted to sit and soak in the moment, the sun and the scenery, I also knew we had nine miles left to run and was curious to see just how fast we could get done. Turning our backs to the ocean and facing jagged peaks majestically jutting out of the ice terrain entrapping them, we headed towards Granite Creek. The ridge trail is a well defined trail and eight miles later we found ourselves at alpine pools so blue and cold that despite how hot I was still I had no intention of getting wet.
After a quick snack we descended into lush meadows strewn with boulders that begged to be climbed on. The green hillsides reminded me of Austria minus the cows and their bells. Granite Creek trickled its way to meet Gold Creek and we enjoyed views of gushing waterfalls along the way. The wildflowers were no longer in full bloom but the stragglers were still beautiful. At one point we even climbed over an ice bridge straddling the creek. The lavish meadows turns to muddy brush – not good for moving fast – then onto a single track that winds through boulders softened by avalanches and rising creek waters, until finally out again on Perseverance Trail.
Grateful to be on a well defined trail again, I was looking forward the cruisey downhill run to the finish. Twelve miles round trip, we arrived back at my car by one o’clock. The loop took six hours and I wouldn’t trade a minute of it — awesome to accomplish a goal on such a beautiful day. Now if only I didn’t have to go to work tonight….
WildSnow Girl, Amy (Heuer) Helm, grew up in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. When she wasn’t skiing, she was flying small planes with her father. Now she pursues both passions in Juneau, Alaska, where she is an aviation mechanic.