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)

October 9, 2007

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

July 20, 2007

Verstovia (Picnic Rock)

Filed under: Verstovia — Matt Goff @ 9:44 pm


Yesterday I spent a few hours hiking up to Picnic Rock. In the nearly two weeks since the last time I was up there, the snow has melted completely off the trail. There is still a sizable snow patch close to the trail, however. Given how fast it has been shrinking, it will probably be gone by August.

On yesterday’s hike, I accidentally left my spare camera battery and compact flash card (filled with photos) right below Picnic Rock where I changed memory cards. I did not discover this until I got home, so I went up again this morning with fellow hiking enthusiast Matt Hunter. We took a moderate, but steady, pace with no breaks and made it to Picnic Rock in just over an hour. Fortunately my lost items were right where I thought I had left them.

I saw no one on the trail yesterday, though it appeared someone may have been up part way with a dog while I was up. Today we saw a man with two of his grandchildren heading up when we were almost back down. Visibility was low above 800 or 1000 feet in elevation both days, so that may have been part of the reason why there were so few other people.

July 6, 2007

Verstovia Trail

Filed under: Verstovia — Matt Goff @ 11:46 pm

I hiked up to Picnic Rock today. The trail is in the best condition I have seen it since a Sitka Trail Works crew rebuilt the trail almost 10 years ago.

It appears that a trail crew did some work earlier this summer. Stairs have been added or replaced, erosion controls have been added, switch-backs have been fixed, and fallen trees removed from the trail. Most of the work looks like it took place on the lower section of the trail below the first view point, but there were at least some repairs/improvements all the way up to the ridge.

Snow is still on the trail between the treeline and Picnic Rock, though Picnic Rock itself and the surrounding area is free of snow.

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