Featured trail: Dan Moller

Firm snow makes for good hiking

Posted: Friday, April 16, 2010

The sun was such a tease this weekend. It came and went, ducking in and out of cloud cover.

Abby Lowell / Juneau Empire
Abby Lowell / Juneau Empire

The brightness was welcomed wholeheartedly, especially after weeks of gray weather.

So I headed up the Dan Moller trail hoping to get a bit closer to the sun's rays. I found that, despite the snowpack still lingering at low elevations, it makes for a surprisingly nice hike - if you go prepared.

The trailheads, accessed just up the hill from the Douglas Island Breeze In or the one on Blueberry Hill (most commonly used by snowmobiles), are both clear.

I began hiking mid-morning from the lower trailhead with running shoes afoot and Yaktrax in hand. Once the boardwalk began (about 10 minutes up the trail), so did the snow. It's here I recommend some kind of traction device, though full-on snowshoes or winter boots would be overkill.

Spring hiking rides a fine line between too hot and too chilly. The key is layers and minimalist gear, in good weather, of course. I put on my Yaktrax, took off my fleece, and kept hiking in a tank top and long pants.

The snow was sun-baked to a firm crust which made hiking easy as the snow rounded bushes, downed logs and other typically in-the-way obstacles. Some icy spots required detouring, but they were obvious and brief.

Perhaps what made this particular hike most enjoyable was the access gained to meadows, which are typically sponges of muskeg, below Dan Moller cabin. Off-trail hiking was easy, and I was able to explore areas not accessible in summer.

After climbing for over an hour, errands beckoned and I turned tail for the car. My fleece went back on, I swigged some water and began the descent. The sun had warmed the top layer of snow, which made for a fun glissade down a few steeper slopes.

I recommend hitting this trail before noon if you want to take advantage of the firm crust. And plan ahead. With the snow that still exists, travel time on foot will be longer than on a dry trail. Also, other users such as snowshoers, snowmobiles and skiers may still be in the area. So plan accordingly, and as always, it's a good idea to pack spare snacks, water, dry clothes and a waterproof, lightweight jacket.

• Have a trail you'd like to nominate as a "featured trail?" Contact Outdoors editor Abby Lowell @ abby.lowell@juneauempire.com.



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