Sitka Trails

January 25, 2014

Mount Verstovia on a Warm January Day

Filed under: Verstovia — Matt Goff @ 9:25 pm

Connor has been very interested in going up to try and see a ptarmigan. He had hoped to go up there previously when it was his turn to choose our destination, but low clouds that looked like rain helped him decided that Beaver Lake might be a better alternative. This time, the weather was sunny and, while it was a little chilly at the house as we were getting ready to go, the forecast was for unseasonable warmth.

It didn’t take long for me to realize something I should have considered before – it was quite a bit warmer along the hillside. Having chosen vaguely seasonally appropriate clothes in the cooler morning air at the house, I soon came to feel quite overdressed. I shed a layer or two, and was still more than warm enough (on our way down, I saw others hiking up in t-shirts, something I probably should have considered).

It’s been several months since I last hiked up this much, and I could certainly feel it. Fortunately, I was not tempted to go too fast, since Rowan was not what you might call an enthusiastic traveler. She did reasonably well to what I call the second view point (though it’s the only one mentioned on the trailhead sign). Once we hit the switchbacks she was ready to turn around. Connor kept on going ahead of us, while I listened to Rowan loudly moan her way up this section of trail. At one point I told her I felt like maybe I was hearing what it would have been like on Noah’s Ark with a bunch of seasick large animals. She thought that was little funny, but not funny enough to take her mind off of the misery she was experiencing.

I had not previously been aware that Rowan had an internal misery index, but it was during this time she told me she was up to 70% misery, then it was 100% misery, then a switchback later it was even higher. I asked her how high her misery level went, and she told me she thought probably 200%. I thought that was interesting. We later learned that it actually went up to at least 400%, though it would quickly drop back to near 100% if we stopped and took a bit of a break.

Typically there is plenty of snow on Verstovia trail this time of year – but on this trip we did not need to cross any snow until we got to the edge of the trees. At that point most of the trail was snow covered right up until coming out on top around Picnic Rock. The slope is a little bit steep in places, and the snow was still pretty hard, but both Connor and Rowan seemed to do pretty well on it.

Once on the top, it was quite pleasant. The sun was shining, and there was minimal wind. I’m not sure what the temperature was, but I’m guessing it was close to 50. In any case, it was warm enough to sit in the sun with just a shirt – especially in a wind-sheltered spot. The regular views from the top were quite nice, of course, but it was also fun to see whales spouting down in Eastern Channel.

As is often the case, despite suffering her way up, Rowan was glad to be at the top. She said this was now her favorite view from up high (the only prior time she had hiked up here, it was completely cloudy on top) – with Starrigavan Ridge also highly rated. She declared the effort had been worth it (which she usually does, but that doesn’t seem to influence her desire to undertake the effort).

Connor was also happy to be up there, but unlike Rowan (and myself) he still seemed to have a fair bit of energy for further travel. I told him he could follow the trail down to the saddle and check it out to see if any ptarmigan were hanging around down there. I was a little surprised a little later when I saw him actually hiking up from the low point of the saddle, though he did not ultimately go too far. Unfortunately he didn’t find any ptarmigan, but he also didn’t seem too tired with the extra exertion. For my part, I was happy to stay and relax near Picnic Rock.

On the way down we went a little slower than I expected because Rowan’s legs were fatigued enough to be a bit shaky. She wanted to stop and rest frequently, and ultimately I let Connor go on ahead (despite waiting for us quite a while at the lower view point, he still beat us to the trailhead by 15 minutes or so). Among other things, Rowan and I talked about the discomfort of walking downhill with tired legs, ways to move that help mitigate it, and some of the miserable hikes I’ve experienced over the years. In the end, we made it down in about 2 hours.


3.8 miles (about 2:30 up and 2:00 down)

January 24, 2014

Halibut Point Rec

Filed under: Halibut Point Rec — Matt Goff @ 9:41 pm

Rowan has been wanting to visit Magic Island at Halibut Point Rec for some time. We didn’t have a lot of time today, but the sun was shining, and the tide was out, so I figured a trip to the rec area could work out. I let the kids look around at Magic Island while I was going to walk the trails – I hadn’t realized (or maybe remembered) there was a full loop on the south side of the park, so I ended up walking that before gathering Connor and Rowan and moving to the north parking lot to do a quick walk through of the trails there. Also new-to-me was a second north shelter that had been dedicated back in 2007.


1 mile (South loop and North side access trails)

January 18, 2014

Herring Cove to Beaver Lake

Filed under: Beaver Lake,Herring Cove Trail — Matt Goff @ 9:04 pm

This week saw some heavy rains, and I heard about some flooding occurring on Herring Cove trail. I had seen some significant trail erosion that occurred after a warm rain on snow even back in December, but it sounded like this was more significant than that, and I was curious to check it out.

Trail gravels had eroded out in several places along the first uphill section. It also appeared that someone had taken a chainsaw to a tree that fell across the trail and may have been diverting some of the water from the falls adjacent to the trail along the significant uphill portion, but the large-ish rock steps were pretty much all still in place. From that point up until approaching the bridge before the waterfall view point, there wasn’t too much evidence of erosion. Shortly before the bridge, a new (and active) stream channel had removed a section of trail (see photos below), though it was pretty easy to pick our way around it. It appeared as though something further up had at least partially blocked off a channel, and the diverted water found its way down a different route that happened to include part of the trail.

The hike around Beaver Lake was uneventful, though it was interesting to see that the re-routed trail (from where the blow down/mass wasting occurred) held up pretty well. It was also interesting to see the large crane actively moving as we walked. We hiked down a ways along the main Beaver Lake trail (that starts at Sawmill Creek Campground), and found a sign at a bridge saying access was restricted. Based on the wear patterns, it looked like people routinely walked around the bridge, though I’m not sure to what end.

4.9 miles (Herring Cove Trail and and down, Beaver Lake Trail/Loop)

January 15, 2014

Mosquito Cove Trail and Estuary Life Trail Loops

Filed under: Estuary Life,Mosquito Cove — Matt Goff @ 8:26 pm

The snow from the weekend was all gone by the time Wednesday rolled around. In the limited time we had, we opted to do Mosquito Cove and since we still had some time, we followed that up with the Estuary Life Trail.

It took us about 40 minutes to do the Mosquito Cove loop, though my GPS software said I was only moving for about 25 minutes of that. The kids decide we would do the overland portion first, heading directly to Mosquito Cove. It’s .6 miles to to the cove via this section of the trail, then another .9 miles back around, mostly following the shoreline of Starrigavan Bay. One of the things I like about Mosquito Cove trail is the opportunity to take a look at the rock outcrops directly adjacent to the trail as it comes in (or leaves) Mosquito Cove toward the water side of the loop. These particular rock faces are one of only a couple of places along the Sitka road system that I have noticed Green Spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes-ramosum) growing, and the only one that is easily accessible via trail, so it’s always fun to take note and say hello them as I’m walking along.

With a fair amount of time left before needing to be back for other activities, I decided we could walk the Estuary Life Trail as well. We parked at the viewing shelter parking lot, and I opted to make a loop of it by walking along Nelson Logging Road and then Halibut Point Road, while the kids chose to just go along the trail and back. Although we didn’t see anything too unusual along the elevated boardwalk of the trail, it is always nice to check out what’s going on in the estuary. It can be a good location to observe birds, and over the years several rarities have shown up it. The highlight for me was not actually on the trail, but rather a small group of scoters came up fairly close to the road bridge over the river, and among them was a pair of Black Scoters. It was fun to observe them at relatively close range, as they are not very common around here in general, and are even less often seen from the road system.

1.5 miles (Mosquito Cove loop)
1 mile (Estuary Life loop)

January 11, 2014

Snowy day on Thimbleberry Lake-Heart Lake Trail

Filed under: Green Lake Road,Heart Lake,Thimbleberry Lake — Matt Goff @ 7:44 pm

I told Connor and Rowan about my plans to visit all the trails, get tracks and refresh (or in some cases, make) my acquaintance with them in order to update the trails site. They seemed to have mixed feelings about helping me with this project. But only in the sense that Connor was unhesitating in his approval of the idea, and Rowan was decidedly unenthusiastic about the prospect.

For our first trip as part of this project, we decided to start relatively easy, with Thimbleberry Lake-Heart Lake trail. A fair amount of snow had fallen, and was continuing to fall as we made our way up from the Thimbleberry Lake Trailhead. We passed a family with a couple of young boys carrying small snow shovels who seemed determined to shovel at least part of the trail. We also saw other folks coming and going as we made our way along.

It took us a bit less than an hour to make it over to the Heart Lake Trailhead. Blue Lake Road is still closed to all non-dam project traffic above the trailhead, but it looked like it might be okay to at least walk the lower section of road between Sawmill Creek Road and the Heart Lake Trailhead. Instead of making a loop of it, we just opted to turn back around and return the way we had come. It took us a little less than an hour each way.

As we had a fair amount of time left in the day, we decided to go ahead and see if road conditions were reasonable enough to get out to Herring Cove. One of the things that inspired me to get back to work on this site was a question/comment left for me about the “Bear Mountain Trail” shown on the sign at Green Lake Road. I didn’t remember seeing such a sign (or at least noticing a Bear Mountain Trail), and was curious about it.

I was watching for a sign as we walked up Green Lake Road after parking at the Herring Cove Trail lot. Sure enough, when we reached the gate, there was a nice green sign with a rudimentary map that included an indication of “Bear Mountain Trail”. That seemed sort of funny, since as far as I know, there has never been an official trail up the mountain. There are at least a couple of different well used routes up the mountain off of Green Lake road, however. The one I am most familiar with starts at Pole 41 and, given the scale of the map, appeared to be the one shown. (The other is much closer to Bear Cove and provides access to Bear Lake – I’ve not made it up that one yet.) We ended up walking out as Pole 41 before turning around.

3.4 miles (Thimbleberry Lake – Heart Lake Trail, round trip)
1.8 miles (Green Lake Road to Pole 41, round trip)

January 10, 2014

Crescent Harbor Seawalk

Filed under: Crescent Harbor Seawalk — Matt Goff @ 6:50 pm

The newest trail in town is the Crescent Harbor Seawalk. It was substantially completed last fall, but has continued to see small additions this winter. Starting at the Crescent Harbor Parking lot, it follows the water along the harbor (with a spur out along the breakwater), before turning inland slightly to pass along the street side of the Sitka Sound Science Center. From there it once again follows the water to its current end just before Merill Rock. It’s my understand that it ends where Sitka National Historical Park property begins and the park has plans to extend the trail to the main entrance.

Connor, Rowan and I walked the trail this morning. It’s a nice walk with consistently wide sidewalk and yellow cedar board walk. There are also several benches along spread throughout. It will be interesting to see if the boardwalk sections eventually need to have some traction enhancement, but for now they seem fine. The trail will no doubt get a lot of use from summer visitors, but it’s already popular with locals out for a stroll.

(.7 miles)

January 8, 2014

A Return to Action

Filed under: Uncategorized — Matt Goff @ 3:22 pm

It’s not that I’ve not traveled any of the trails in the past 6+ years (hard to believe it’s been that long!?) – but I kind of let this site go by the wayside after I completed the bulk of the trails pages. I kept a little better with my nature centered blog, but poured most of my efforts into the natural history wiki.

Over the past few years, there’s been quite a lot of trail work done – both improvement of existing trails, as well as the creation of new trails – sometimes completely new, and in other cases extensions of existing trail. I recently decided it’s time for an entire site upgrade. To that end, I’ll be converting all the trail pages into a new, hopefully richer and easier to update format using different software. I am also hoping that in the end it will be possible for interested trail users (maybe more than just me) to provide updates and such for current trail conditions.

In the coming months, I intend to traverse all the trails along the Sitka road system at least – and hopefully at least some of the ones near by that are off the road system. I’ll be making gps tracks to include on the site, and getting myself a little freshened up on overall trail conditions. As I do this, I figured it would be worthwhile to reactivate this blog to document some of these outings.

October 9, 2007

Bear Mountain via Beaver Lake Trail

Filed under: Backcountry,Bear Mountain,Beaver Lake — Matt Goff @ 8:20 pm

Beaver Lake to Herring Cove from Bear Mountain

Labor Day dawned nice and sunny, so I decided to hike up Bear Mountain. I have only been up Bear Mountain twice before, once in late June or early July 1995 by way of Beaver Lake up to the summit ridge (but not the summit), and the second time just a little way up beyond the treeline in August 2004.

I borrowed the neighbor’s car to drive to the Beaver Lake trailhead. I wanted to do the Beaver Lake loop while hiking, so I took the slightly longer route along the lake shore to where I planned to leave the trail on the way up I just had a short section of shoreline and the cross-muskeg section to do on the way down. There were quite a few other people that I passed while headed up between 11am and noon, but I came down fairly late and did not see anyone else.

It took me a half an hour to get from the trailhead to where I left the trail. From there, it was about an hour and 15 minutes more to the treeline. I took a pretty good pace, pushing about as fast as I was comfortable with on the steep terrain. I took several short breaks, but tried to limit them to only a couple of minutes. Once I reached the treeline, I slowed down a bit and enjoyed the scenery. It was late enough in the season that there were not that many flowers blooming, so I was not too distracted by them.

I ended up taking roughly the same route as I had in 1995. From about 3500 feet up, things were much different, however. In early summer, the upper elevations were still covered by a single large snowfield. This time there were a few much smaller snow patches, with significant sections of rock and gravel.

It was in these upper sections that I found interesting alpine plants (see also: Bear Mountain Asters, Bear Mountain Saxifrages, and other Bear Mountain flowers). I also saw several tufts of Mountain Goat hair and some Mountain Goat tracks. When I looked down the other side of the ridge, I could saw three Mountain Goats resting on the snow well below me. (See my natural history notes from that day for more observations.)

It took me quite a bit less time getting down, though I do not remember for sure how long. I think it was about 2 hours from the 3500 foot level back to the trailhead, but it might have been a little longer.

Beaver Lake trail was in good condition. Getting up Bear Mountain was steep and fairly muddy in places. Route finding is relatively easy (for a back country route), as there are qiute a few flags marking the way. That said, it’s a very steep and strenuous hike with little more than a game trail to follow. I would not recommend it for those who don’t enjoy that sort of thing.

Bear Mountain Summit Ridge

Bear Mountain View

Mt. Verstovia (Picnic Rock)

Filed under: Verstovia — Matt Goff @ 8:18 pm

no images were found

Last Friday I had about three hours and decided to hike up Mt. Verstovia trail. I had thought about going kayaking, but after seeing some migrating geese, I remembered it was migration and there was a chance of seeing migrating raptors. As it turned out, I did not see much in the way of birds, but it was a good hike, all the same.

I took a steady pace up with only very brief breaks. This allowed me to make Picnic Rock in about 1 hour and 10 minutes without feeling too bad about it. Once there, I spent 45 minutes or so at the top, before heading down. The return trip took a little less than an hour, as I jogged part of the way.

On the way up I passed 6 people (three pairs), but I did not see anyone on the way down.

The trail has held up to this Fall’s rains fairly well so far. The only trail erosion I noticed was above the treeline, and it was not too bad. A couple of information posts have been added, one claims to be at an elevation of 1000 feet .7 miles from Picnic Rock, the other is at Picnic Rock and says the elevation is 2550 feet (which is correct, according to the maps; see photo at top of this entry). The first post is between the first and second viewpoints, and I’m a bit skeptical that the summit is only .7 miles from the first post. I would guess it was at least a mile, and maybe more like a mile and a half, but judging distance on a winding uphill trail can be challenging. I know there was a fine string that someone strung up the trail earlier this summer, I suspect it was for measuring distance, so maybe the .7 miles is accurate and my sense of distance is off.

no images were found

September 9, 2007

Verstovia Trail with Connor and Rowan

Filed under: kids,Verstovia — Matt Goff @ 8:22 pm

Connor and Rowan at First Viewpoint on Verstovia Trail

Connor and Rowan have been saying that they want to hike up of a mountain, and after hearing about 4 and 5 year olds climbing Verstovia, I decided to take them up at least part of way and see how they did. I told them we would not go all the way up, but we would see how they did. When we arrived at the trailhead and had parked our bikes, Connor were ready to start up the trail when Rowan informed me that she was not going to go. She had wanted to go earlier, so I am not sure why she changed her mind, but maybe that’s just the way 4 year olds work sometimes. I finally got her started by telling her there was a surprise for her on the way. That perked up her interested and both Connor and Rowan talked about and tried to guess what it might be as we went.

Perhaps 10 minutes or less up the trail (at a normal pace) there is a small alcove-like place alongside the trail where Goblin Gold moss grows. In one of its forms, the cells reflect light, so in low light conditions, it almost seems to have a greenish glow. Really, it’s more like a reflector on a bicycle or something, but not as concentrated, and certainly not as typical to see. When we reached it, Connor and Rowan did not seem overly impressed, though they did find it interesting.

I had told them about the first view point and thought we might possibly go that far. Connor wanted to, but Rowan seemed to have mixed feelings. She did want to see the view, but it almost seemed like she wanted to go back down just on general principles. I kept her motivated mostly by reminding her about the view and mentioning how big the steps were and how they were probably way too big for her to climb up. She showed me again and again that she could step right up them without any trouble. She also seemed to respond somewhat to the idea that this was practice to get stronger for future hikes when we could go all the way up. The “go pellets” (Hershey’s kisses) seemed to be well received also. Another thing they enjoyed doing on the way up (and again on the way down) was finding the trail marker diamonds on the trees and keeping track of how many we passed.

In the end, we did make it up to the view point. Both kids seemed to think it was fun seeing the town below us. Once we started down, Rowan kept up a steady pace down. We biked back home and by the end, Connor said his legs were getting sore. I think the round trip took us something like three or four hours, but I did not pay close attention. As best I could tell, from the viewpoint back to the bicycles took about 40 minutes. Connor seemed to enjoy the trip, but it was a little less clear what Rowan thought. She talked about wanting to go again and make it to the top of the mountain, but then she also said she didn’t have fun and wasn’t going to go anymore. One of the things that apparently bothered her was that she got a little sweaty.

Connor and Rowan both did very well on the trail. The first section definitely goes up, but until right before the first viewpoint, the dropoffs on the side of the trail do not seem so bad. The fact is, that hiking this trail by myself, I would not think of the trailside dropoffs at all, but I find that as a parent, it’s much easier to imagine my children tripping, falling off the trail, and tumbling down the hillside. Needless to say, that thought is not very comforting, and it was abundantly clear to me that neither Connor nor Rowan shared my concern. That said, they both walked down in a very reasonable manner, even if they were not clinging as tightly to the uphill side of the trail as I might have preferred on occasion (not that I can blame them, as I would not have done it either).

Connor, Rowan, and their Dad at the First Viewpoint

Next Page »

Powered by WordPress