Author helps keep Juneau on its toes

Walking enthusiast works to update historic trail guide

Posted: Monday, February 12, 2007

Mary Lou King was coordinating children's beach walks when she decided to write a book that made the outdoors a little more accessible for thousands of Juneau residents.

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She wrote trail guides, compiling them in the 1980s in "90 Short Walks Around Juneau."

About 20 years later, King is working on a new project. She won the 2006/2007 Juneau History Grant Award from the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, receiving $1,500 to update and expand the Treadwell Historic Trail Guide. The new guide will include photographs, memories and historic information about the mine, according to the city. Jim Geraghty will help with research and writing.

At the moment, it's in draft form, papers stapled together and covered with notes and crossed-out sentences. King hopes to finish it this month.

A mother of three and grandmother of 10, King moved to Alaska in 1958. She had grown up in Oregon and was working there as a teacher, but she longed for more excitement.

"Adventure," King said. "I think that's why most of us came. For adventure, excitement. Things you weren't getting wherever you lived."

She and husband Jim King, a retired government biologist, married in 1961. They spent a few years in the interior, then came to Sunny Point in Juneau in 1964.

"It's been a grand place to raise children," she said. "The freedom they have here, and the access to the outdoors, it's hard to find it anywhere else. You have to learn to deal with rain. You buy nice clothes, and you're set. Buy XtraTuf boots and rain gear and you can go any time you want."

King wants to donate copies of the old Treadwell guide to the Mendenhall River School, so they can be distributed to students. The idea came from a conversation she had with a school nurse about how to peel children away from television and computers and get them outdoors.

The pamphlet unfolds to reveal old drawings and photographs. One shows the location of the cave-in of 1917, where about three million tons of water gushed into a mine, shooting out a geyser of water. A map details 20 stops, each one accompanied by a paragraph or two of insight and description.

"Even now, in the snow, you can still get around as long as you don't fall on the ice," she said. "It's a really nice walk."

• Ken Lewis can be reached at

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