Perseverance Trail lets us take a walk through history

Posted: Sunday, July 07, 2002

Despite some hazards, Perseverance Trail is among the most popular paths in Juneau.

Built as an access road to the Perseverance Mine in Silver Bow Basin around 1885, the trail carried miners and equipment up until 1921. Evidence of past mining operations include adits, rail tracks, diversion pipes and rock-lined flumes. The 3-mile-long trail follows Gold Creek to a point where rain-fed overflows diverted the channel across the old trail about five years ago. Only a watery bushwhack will now get a hiker back to the old mill site, although Trail Mix is working on a new route this summer.

Many repairs have already been made to the trail, including replaced bridges across Gold Creek and blasted and bridged areas where parts of the trail slid down the valley below Ebner Falls.

Some of these areas remain dangerous to the unwary hiker. The trail just below Ebner Falls hugs the cliff above the valley the creek cut and steep drop-offs pose hazards to wandering children, unleashed dogs and speeding mountain-bikers. The cutoff trail to the top of Ebner Falls also brings hikers to a dangerous area where children and dogs must be watched closely and kept away from the edge and out of the water, especially when the creek is running high. A child died earlier this year after slipping into the creek and being pulled over the falls.

The trail is normally accessible at least eight to nine months of the year, and longer for those who dare the icy ledges and avalanche danger, which is very real. Melting of the ice in spring brings on heavy use by runners, hikers, photographers and cyclists. In late April, the snow and ice usually have receded enough to allow easy travel to the "double bridges," little more than half way to the end. By mid-May, the trail usually is open to the Granite Creek bridge, and often beyond.

Late spring is a wonderful time to be on the trail. The shooting stars are blooming and birds are singing throughout the basin. Hooters (blue grouse) have stopped hooting by then, but robins and a variety of other thrushes, including varied, hermit and Swainson's thrushes can be heard along the length of the trail. Gray-cheeked thrushes can occasionally be heard in Silver Bow Basin. Winter wrens and ruby-crowned kinglets are tiny but champion vocalists. Orange-crowned, Wilson's and yellow warblers are also common.

American dippers nest along the creek. They are readily visible where the trail skirts the creek above the double bridges. They sit on the rocks in the spray of the current, singing, "dipping" and diving into the rapids. Harlequin ducks, often with young, can be seen in the creek from spring through summer. Rock ptarmigan occur high in the basin and on the slopes of the Mount Juneau Trail, which cuts off the trail near Ebner Falls.

Spring also is the best time to happen upon trail-walking mountain goats and black bear. The goats move to higher elevations in summer, but the bears are common in the basin throughout summer and fall. Also common are marmots and porcupines.

The first quarter of the trail is notable for spectacular views as far up as Ebner Falls. At the end of the trail, another waterfall drops 100 feet or so above the site of the old Perseverance Mine mill. About 15 years ago, the trail was extended to a promontory looking back down over the valley. Access was lost with the diversion of the stream, but Trail Mix is planning on restoring flow to the old channel and restoring the trail to its previous terminus.

The trail travels through the watershed for much of Juneau's drinking water, so trail users should pick up after their dogs. Also marmots, ptarmigan and grouse are vulnerable to dogs, and needless destruction of wildlife occurs every year. Likewise, dogs are vulnerable to porcupines and bears and should be kept under control or left at home.

On the Trails is written by members of Trail Mix, a local nonprofit trails organization.

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