Little cabins in the woods ... and the meadow and on the beach

Posted: Sunday, January 12, 2003

Thanks to generous volunteers, the U.S. Forest Service and the state parks system, seven trail-access, public-use wilderness cabins are within Juneau's boundaries. All are within hiking distance of Juneau's road system and require reservations and a fee for overnight stays.

Two are in the Point Bridget State Park, created in 1988 by the Legislature after a 15-year effort by recreationists, conservationists and the Juneau Area State Parks Advisory Board. The five Forest Service cabins include one built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression.

State parks cabins:

• Cowee Meadows Cabin: This cabin in Point Bridget State Park was built in 1992 by state parks personnel, volunteers from State Parks Advisory Board, Taku Conservation Society members and others. Judy Cooper, a member of conservation society, donated the log kit for the cabin. This attractive cabin can sleep 12 to 14 people with proper pads and sleeping bags. It is 3 hiking or skiing miles from the trailhead for the Point Bridget State Park Trail at mile 39 Glacier Highway, approximately 2 miles from the end of the road. Because this cabin is at sea level, it is an easier and also a shorter hike than to any of the other cabins. Cross-country skiing in the winter and beautiful flowers in the spring and summer make this cabin an outstanding destination. It is heated with propane that is supplied by state parks.

• Blue Mussel Beach Cabin: In 1995, Sandy Williams, a state parks board member, was the lead in raising funds and, with state parks personnel and many volunteers, construction of this cabin near the end of the 4-mile Point Bridget Trail. This cabin has a glorious view of the bay, mountains and the wildlife. It is heated with propane that is supplied by state parks.

Forest Service cabins:

• Eagle Glacier Cabin: This cabin is 5.5 hiking miles from the Amalga Trailhead at mile 27.9 Glacier Highway, on the right just past the Eagle River Bridge. This very attractive log cabin is on the edge of the lake in front of Eagle Glacier. The view of the glacier and the mountains from the porch of this cabin is glorious. However, it is a long 5.5 mile hike from the highway to the cabin and difficult to find the trail after a heavy snowstorm.

Cooper of the Taku Conservation Society purchased the basic log cabin kit. During the fall of 1991 she organized volunteers and worked with the Forest Service and others to complete this cabin. It was then dedicated in memory of Judy's parents and donated to the Forest Service for a public use cabin. It is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day and available for rental at night.

• Windfall Lake Cabin: Some 4 hiking miles from the Windfall Lake Trailhead at mile 27.3 Glacier Highway, the cabin is at a quite low elevation and is a fairly easy hike. This cabin also can be reached by hiking 9.5 miles from the end of Montana Creek Road on the Montana Creek Trail. This hike is not so easy as it goes up 825 feet over a divide.

During 1997-98 Taku Conservation Society, under the direction of Bill Leighty and Nancy Waterman, and volunteers, partnered with the Forest Service to build this public use cabin. It is beautiful with an amazing view of Windfall Lake. Swans and other waterfowl are frequently seen during the summer on the lake. The cabin is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day and available for rental at night.

• Peterson Lake Cabin: The trailhead for the Peterson Lake Trail, that leads 4.5 miles to the cabin, is on the upland side of mile 24.1 Glacier Highway, seven-tenths of a mile north of the Shrine of Saint Therese. The present trail, after one or two hundred feet, climbs up steps to connect with the old horse tram route that led to the John Peterson Family Mines to the east of Peterson Lake. Today the trail leads to the west side of Peterson Lake and the cabin.

This Forest Service cabin kit was installed during the summer and fall of 1985. Forest Service employees were in charge of the construction and Taku Conservation Society volunteers worked with the Forest Service to complete the cabin, install planks, cut wood and other cabin work. Territorial Sportsmen also provided some assistance for this cabin. The cabin is open to the public from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. each day and available for rental at night.

• John Muir Cabin: Access to the Spaulding Meadows Trail that leads to the Auke Nu Trail to the cabin is at mile 12.6 Glacier Highway. A brisk 1 mile walk up the Spaulding Meadows Trail takes you to the beginning of the 2.5 mile Auke Nu Trail that leads to the cabin. During the summer the meadows along the way have nice flowers and cross-country skiing opportunities are great in the winter.

How to book a wilderness cabin

• State parks cabin reservations: To inquire about availability and make reservations, visit the Alaska State Parks office, 400 Willoughby Ave., fourth floor, downtown Juneau or call 465-4563. The fee for one night is $35 paid in advance at the office or can be mailed to Alaska State Parks, 400 Willoughby Ave., fourth floor, Juneau, AK 99801.

• U.S. Forest Service cabin reservations: To check availability or to reserve a cabin, call toll free (877) 444-6777 or use www.ReserveUSA.com. You also can call Forest Service staff at 586-1800 or visit their office at 8465 Old Dairy Road. While they cannot make a reservation for you they can look on the Internet and tell you which cabins are available, and if you are in their office let you use their phone to make the reservation. This is easy if you have a credit card to use for payment. If you do not wish to pay this way then a check can be mailed at least 20 days in advance. Or if the time frame is shorter than 20 days you can pay in the Old Dairy Road office and they will take care of getting the money to the appropriate office. Juneau road system cabins are all $35 per night.

Building the John Muir Cabin was Cliff Lobaugh's idea. Cliff is a retired local veterinarian who is very active in trying to protect our environment. He organized members of Sierra Club, Taku Conservation Society, Territorial Sportsmen, the Forest Service and local volunteers in planning for and then building this cabin as a part of Juneau's 1980 Centennial Year activities. Frank Maier, a Juneau architect, designed the cabin. John Muir, for whom the cabin was named, was the famous explorer-naturalist who visited the Juneau area in the 1870s. This is a Forest Service rental cabin that is open to the public from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. each day and available for night rental.

• Dan Moller Cabin: To reach the trailhead for the Dan Moller Trail that leads to the cabin, in West Juneau, go to the end of Cordova Street, then turn left on Pioneer Avenue to the public parking lot on the right. A second trailhead is on up the hill just below the city water tank. Approximately 1 mile from the main trailhead, you come to Treadwell Ditch. Go to the right on the ditch trail for a short distance, then continue uphill on the Dan Moller Trail. The cabin is 3 miles from the main trailhead. The Ditch Trail and the Dan Moller Trail beyond the ditch are used by snowmobilers during the winter. Be prepared to get off the trail when you hear a snowmobile approaching.

Dan Moller was one of the supervisors of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the camp near Montana Creek in the mid 1930s. He had been born in Norway, was a good skier and after the Douglas Bridge was built in 1935 the Forest Service agreed to build a trail to the second meadow for skiing. Moller was in charge of the trail-building crew. After the trail was built, a CCC crew built the log cabin.

Several years ago, Taku Conservation Society volunteers replaced the roof and the foundation under the cabin. Once again this cabin is in much need of repair. The Forest Service is considering tearing this old cabin down and replacing it with a new cabin.

Mary Lou King is a trailbook writer and a member of Trail Mix, a nonprofit trails construction and maintenance group. Trail Mix is on the Web at ww.juneautrails.org/.



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