Perseverance named Nat'l Rec Trail

Posted: Friday, May 20, 2005

Whether you are a history buff, interested in flora and fauna or just an outdoors enthusiast, there is more than one reason to visit historic Perseverance Trail this season.

On June 4 the trail will be named a National Recreation Trail by the National Park Service in a ceremony that begins at 9 a.m. at the trailhead, which is at the end of Basin Road.

The ceremony corresponds with the 13th annual celebration of National Trails Day, which is sponsored by Trail Mix and SAGA.

The ceremony will include a dedication of an upper portion of the trail that was completed with primary funding from Juneau's tourism head tax funds. Alice Rarig, president of Trail Mix, will receive the Western Region Trails Volunteer of the Year award from the American Hiking Society. Other activities include guided hikes of the historic area, and an orange juice and bagel breakfast.

Perseverance Trail's history is almost as old as Juneau itself. The first access to the end of Silver Bow Basin was a Native pack trail in 1881. The trail went up Franklin Street to Sixth Street, turned east over the Spur of Gold Mountain (now known as Mount Roberts), ran alongside the mountain above Last Chance Basin to a high pass above Snow Slide Gulch and down into the basin, where a major gold discovery was made in the fall of 1880.

In 1886, the first section of the current trail to Ebner Falls was developed by J.A. Johnson, who owned an interest in numerous mining claims in the area. Johnson started his trail on Sixth Street, and, instead of following the native pack trail, he went northwest around a butte (Mount Maria), and climbed along the south side of Mount Juneau. It was known as Johnson Road.

Nevertheless, there are references to this section being called Basin Road, a name that is used today for the road that leads only to the trail parking lot.

In 1889, the Gold Mountain Mining Co. completed an extension of Johnson Road to the end of the valley. Another name that appears in the newspapers for this section of road is the Thorndyke Trail, named after pioneer prospector C.M. Thorndyke.

The name Perseverance seems to have evolved from a group of claims, one being called Perseverance that were purchased and consolidated for the purpose of developing hard-rock (lode) mines and a settlement at the end of the valley by that name.

Newspapers reported, "This is the first road of any great extent and cost we know of in Alaska." The first tourism vehicle may have been a horse-drawn, 14-seat "wagonnette" that was used to take visitors sightseeing in 1897.

The main scenic trail is now a little more than three miles and ends at a wooden platform, which is a perfect place to eat lunch and enjoy the view back down the valley. Three new sections were developed by a Trail Mix crew and a group of volunteers. The "Red Mill Trail" is about 1 1/2 miles from the trailhead. Less than half a mile along this trail is a spur to the "Glory Hole Overlook." Close to the barrier, in front of the open pit, are the remains of a 30-stamp mill that was built in 1896 and later owned by the Alaska-Juneau Gold Mining Co. Toward the end of the main trail is a short steep hike to the "Staff House Ruins," where there is a great view of a placer pit.

Right now, there is an abundance of wild flowers along the trail, from shooting stars to yellow and purple violets (violas) and buttercups. A couple of patches of moss campion grow along the first mile of the trail as well as some northern geraniums.

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