By Hannah Lindoff
In our household there is no surer sign of spring than our dog Haagu shedding. Patchy bits of extra fur already show on his backside and even a brief encounter with Haagu will leave a cloud of brown hairs in the air. Rather than devote too much of our lives to staying home and vacuuming, I like to take this time of year to celebrate spring on the Juneau trails with Haagu.
Haagu is a large and loving four and half year old chocolate lab. He’s never coped well with staying at home alone so we usually take him into town with us when we go to work and walk him at lunch time during the week. From downtown, the obvious choice for a mid-day walk is Basin Road to Perseverance Trail or the Flume. However, the bridge on Basin Road has been under construction for months and on a nice day the Flume is filled with walkers who aren’t hoping for a big hug from Haagu.
Spring is a great time to head out Thane Road to the Dupont Trail. Driving through town when the tourist season is in full swing can take up half the lunch hour, but this time of year it’s a quick trip. The Dupont Trail is located at the very end of Thane Road. It’s a relatively flat trail, but you may need to watch for roots and occasional muddy spots. The Dupont Trail is heavily wooded so I prefer to take it on an overcast or rainy day where the trees are to my advantage blocking raindrops rather than precious rays of sun. On sunny days the beach at Sheep Creek, also on Thane Road, is great, especially if you can catch a low tide. It is possible to walk from Sheep Creek past the Thane Ore House on a public beach. This beach is un-crowded, unlike Sandy Beach, so if you have a big fellow like Haagu you don’t have to worry about your dog’s behavior as much. However, there is a considerable salmon return in this area and unless you enjoy the smell of dead salmon with the same vigor that Haagu takes to it, I wouldn’t recommend this beach once the salmon begin to spawn.
There are two types of outings that Haagu gets from us. One is the walk of necessity; the other is a fun family outing. For a necessity walk the Lemon Creek Trail behind Home Depot, at the very end of Commercial Boulevard fits in well to a day of chores. I can hit Costco and get the dog out in one outing. The Lemon Creek Trail starts with a quick, steep hill but quickly evens out once you get into the trees. I have noticed some homemade jumps for mountain bikers on this trail and I imagine they have a lot of fun but I’m not going to try it. The trail isn’t particularly well kept and can be muddy so it’s best to wear sturdy shoes on this trail and it isn’t well suited for small children due to the difficult terrain and possibility of bikers.
In contrast, the Switzer Creek Loop, also in the Lemon Creek neighborhood, although closer to Fred Meyer’s than Costco, is a flat boardwalk and suitable for small children. To get to the trail head take Central Ave off Glacier Highway; off Central turn left on Pine and then right on Alaska. The Switzer Creek Loop offers two directions- through the meadows towards Dzantik’i Heeni or through a shorter meadow into a rainforest plush with skunk cabbage terminating on Lund Street. Both routes are short but it’s possible to do both if you’d like to give your dog a longer walk or just one in you have your kids along and they aren’t up for a long expedition. A caution, sometimes water can run over the boardwalk so unless it’s been brilliantly sunny for a few days I would recommend rubber boots for Switzer Creek and this trail also offers dogs access to dead salmon in the late summer. For whatever reason Haagu can’t resist rolling in a dead salmon and the smell will cling to him for days despite our best efforts to bathe him so we try to avoid the temptation outright.
For a family outing, one of my favorite trails is the Gastineau Meadows Trail. This trail is located at the end of Crow Hill Drive in Douglas. It begins at the gate at the end of the road with a steep climb to the official trailhead but the trail is well groomed and an easy walk for short legs. It’s also great for a parent wearing a baby in a backpack or pushing a stroller. The trail slowly ascends to the Treadwell Ditch Trail, moving through beautiful meadows into the woods. I usually turn around at the Treadwell Ditch intercept because I am not a hardcore hiker these days. The round trip walk usually takes me a little under an hour, but I walk slowly and am usually taking advantage of the wide trail to converse heavily with a friend or one of my sisters. Haagu loves this trail because he can romp through the underbrush and meadows all along the way. Like a good lab, Haagu has a nose, and heart, for food and he enjoys plucking the blueberries off the bushes along this trail in mid-summer. As the days grow longer this trail is also a viable option for an after work hike and is conveniently located just a few miles from downtown and is maintained well enough to allow you to do the trail in your work clothes.
There are so many great trails in Juneau and I love to see Haagu bounding down all of them. The other day we happily spent most of our wait time for the Thai Kitchen with Haagu on the nearby Spaulding Meadows Trail. Even ten minutes into the woods or on a boardwalk can lower my stress level and give Haagu a new, exciting experience. Haagu’s a friendly guy and he loves to meet new people on the trails. I try to keep him away from other hikers because he’s been known to lick strangers right in the face, but if you see thick clouds of brown fur in the air, you’ll know we’re close by. Enjoy spring Juneau!
Hannah Lindoff grew up in Juneau and returned to the community after graduating college. She now lives with her husband Anthony, daughter Marigold and dog Haagu on Mountainside. Hannah can be reached at email@example.com