Back in 1935, just after the Douglas Island bridge was finished, the Forest Service punched in a trail up to the headwaters of Kowee Creek basin, accessing the meadows for skiing. Soon after the Juneau Ski Club moved their rope tow into the lower meadows and into the upper bowl a couple years later. Fifty years later, the Forest Service laid some 1400 steps with 14" boardwalk up 3/4 of the two mile trail that veers off the Treadwell Ditch one mile into the route. The low down, here, is that this in between meals bike and hike is packed plum full of stairs.
Three cabins were erected in the 1930's by the CCC, but only the high one remains. The Dan Moller cabin is a 16 X 20 ft structure with two sets of bunk beds, a table and wood stove, and a large upstairs loft large enough for another 10-12 people.
Stairway To Alpine HeavenThere's a feeling I get when I look to the west, and my spirit is crying for leaving.
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees, and the voices of those who stand looking.
Ooh, and it makes me wonder... ooh, really makes me wonder...
"And as we wind on down the road," out of the parking lot, the trail of elevated sand and gravel grabs a taunt 10% grade and holds fast for a half mile before leveling out at the Treadwell Ditch intersection. Riders turn right and cruise along the gentle path unto the Dan Moller fork. The lower meadows are broken up with longer sections of straightaways and short carries, followed by a series of extensive short carries and a super long straightaway. Soft bogs and sloping swamps called muskegs are both sides of the trail with autumn burnt grasses and vegetation that bumps up against the forest's walls at the edge of the meadows.
Small trickles of runoff flow under numerous sections of elevated boardwalk that ranges from one to three feet in height. The trail takes on a tight rope affect that made me think of the guy who went across Niagra Falls in a wheelbarrow. That must have been a bit nerve racking! With consequences less extreme, this TRIAL-like trail takes that kind of concentration in many sections due to its windy, drop down and around nature. Although the rider may quickly learn or improve the skill of riding down uneven stairs that cause a teeter-totter rocking of the bike, the mental challenge to stay on the boardwalk seems constant and unending---which is really cool!!!
Lapses in focus are guaranteed and as the bike goes where the eyes do, finding the watery marshlands is imminent. Not to worry to much. It's just water! Still, I bailed off a couple of elevated areas that left me wondering about landings in the little gulches and other hazards like trees and roots. When it was all said and done, though, it was the 1/2 mile section of wet, rocky trail with slick log culverts bisecting the trail that really beat the heck out of me. I felt clutsy getting tossed about over the football and basketball sized rocks littering the path. They dictated so many errors in my riding that I could not wait to get back on the boardwalk.
By the end of the ride, though, my confidence on riding boardwalk had grown and I was popping off the stairs and landing parallel instead of front wheel first. Back on the Ditch trail, cruising the downhill felt like Mach 3 or warp speed. With the sensory overload of the Dan Moller trail complete, I arrived home just in time for dinner with the wife and kids. Pretty much a perfect end to the day!
Getting ThereCross the Douglas bridge and swing to the left in the roundabout. There is a mini-mart there, but you want to hang a right across the street up Cordova Street. Head up the hill and follow the road as it heads left, becomes Pioneer Drive, and then switchbacks to the right and becomes Blueberry Hill. Hang an immediate left and take it to the Treadwell Ditch/Dan Moller trailhead parking lot.
When to BikeThe wise choice on biking the Dan Moller trail is after a spell of dry weather due to the slick nature of the boardwalk when soaked with moisture.
Cool LinkHere's a great link to the historic past and the early days of the Perseverance Row Tow and the Juneau Ski Club.
Info on Dan Moller cabin.