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Surprises on the Salmon Creek Trail

Salmon Creek Trail in early May is a good choice for those looking to stay dry and out of the weather.  Abby Lowell | Juneau Empire
Abby Lowell | Juneau Empire
Salmon Creek Trail in early May is a good choice for those looking to stay dry and out of the weather.

UPDATE: In only a few days, this trail has gone from do-able to downright amazing! It's true. A run up the trail on Friday, May 10 found a pathway almost completely devoid of snow (yeah a little squishy in spots).

With the return of the rain, this outing may be a great choice for those looking to stay off the snow and out of the mud. 

•••

Under the canopy of the Southeast rainforest, the torrential downpour was nothing more than a mist. Through the trees, the rain could be seen falling sideways, as it was battered downward by the wind.

On this day, the outing to the Salmon Creek Trail was a spontaneous one, yet also one that was long overdue. Cabin fever had set up shop in my household and escape was paramount. 

These days, when snow holds on up high and spring busts out down low, it's hard to judge which trails will be worth the effort. Or, which trails will leave hikers and runners post-holing, stumbling and cursing down the path. 

For anyone who's ever hiked the Salmon Creek trail, they know the beginning starts off rough. The wide swath of humungous hill right out of the gate feels more like a tortured death march, than a pristine hike through the forest.

But beyond the hill there's much to enjoy — a rolling pathway, wide enough for walkers to hold a conversation and for bikers to cruise next to one another. At the end of the dirt road, marked by a power house, a little singletrack dissapears into the spruce trees.

It's here that the real beauty begins. The trail follows the contours of the hillside at a gentle incline, rolling up over bridges and down well-trod, yet stable boardwalk. Below, Salmon Creek babbles along.

My hiking companion and I hit snow at the top of the first hill on the access road. We both grumbled, attempted to skirt the edges and kept going. I was certain the snow would get worse and the slogging more tenuous. 

Then there was the rain. On the wide swath of dirt road we looked like a pair of forlorn travellers, heads down, hunkered against the weather. We passed a rock slide that partially covered the trail with patches of deer fur strewn about. Did the rock slide kill the deer, making an easy meal for some carnivore? Or, perhaps the deer had long been dismantled in the same area and the slide had by chance happened later. Either way we didn't linger; we weren't in the mood for misfortune. 

As I predicted, the snow did get worse and by the time we reached the power house we contemplated turning around. But we had time on our side, so we indulged in curiousity and continued up the singletrack. 

Amazingly, the deeper we hiked into the rainforest, the less snow we encountered! Under the canopy it was dry and sheltered from the wind. Smiles came easily and we hiked farther. 

We didn't make it to Salmon Creek Reservoir — the end of the trail — but we did make it to the base of the stairs. Here, the snow had begun again in earnest, but with the right gear, it would have been easy to scurry up the last bit to the lake. 

So, here's the take-home message: If you're sick of sticking staying down low, if you're looking to gain a little elevation and interested in a nice hike through the woods (without the snow slogging), try out the Salmon Creek Trail. 

Like me, you may be surprised at what you find. 

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