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.

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