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Trail feature: Mount Roberts

Posted: June 7, 2013 - 12:03am
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The Mount Roberts Trail is nearly clear for the season the first week in June this year. Despite this, hikers should be aware of the many and often-confusing user-made trails that diverge from the main path. As much as possible these user trails should be avoided, as the use of them only degrades the surrounding vegetation which, in turn, creates erosion and the need for more rehabilitation on the heavily-traveled trail.   Kenneth Rosen | Juneau Empire
Kenneth Rosen | Juneau Empire
The Mount Roberts Trail is nearly clear for the season the first week in June this year. Despite this, hikers should be aware of the many and often-confusing user-made trails that diverge from the main path. As much as possible these user trails should be avoided, as the use of them only degrades the surrounding vegetation which, in turn, creates erosion and the need for more rehabilitation on the heavily-traveled trail.

Eating a bowl of milk and cereal and my present choice of footwear were the two things on my mind as I ascended into the cloud-choked Mt. Roberts trail one damp morning earlier this week.

Unable to sleep, I walked to 6th Street on Starr Hill and approached the stairs where a sign warned that section of the trail ahead was not maintained. What a understatement. Dodgy, sketchy — those words come to mind as I cursed the switchbacks that were foreboding.

Once the trail from Basin Road merged with the one I was on — a sign at the crossing noting 2 miles to the top of Mt. Roberts — the trail cleared out and up it climbed.

Switchbacks continue the moderate climb toward the top, but the multitude of user made trails, worn down to the roots, were astonishing. Others jet out and deviate from the main trail into smaller, more innocuous game trails.

I was looking at the several different trail options at every turn — left, right, up — I realized an inexperienced hiker could quickly become confused, not to mention caked in mud.

About the time I became socked in, I reached the snow line and rued myself for eating the massive breakfast before slipping on sneakers and heading out the door — milk was a bad choice.

About 0.7 miles in, the firm spring crust was slowly melting and just slippery enough to raise concern. It took an hour to reach the top just before 8 a.m., but there was no clear route to the tram as it was “closed.”

A reluctant employee let me in through the back door, though he “wasn’t supposed to.” It was a peaceful hike, being that no one else was out so early in the morning. But near the top it was, much like the bottom, sketchy.

What’s worse? The exorbitant tram fee: $10. You can purchase $10 worth at the gift shop or restaurant to substitute the ticket price, but still. Next time I’ll hike down.

• Contact reporter Kenneth Rosen at 523-2250 or at kenneth.rosen@juneauempire.com.

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