Sometimes it’s hard to get excited about camping this time of year; it’s getting dark so early now, the fall storms aren’t exactly welcoming, and the amount of gear needed to camp in comfort is quite a bit more than the glorious summer months. But nevertheless, our local Forest Service is there to help facilitate our woodland adventures! A common colloquialism for my particular set of friends is “glamping”: the conjunction of ‘glamorous’ and ‘camping’. Because let’s face it, as many people who trek into the woods know, you don’t always want to have the feeling of super hard-core extreme camping. Sometimes you just want to pleasantly wander into the woods on a very well maintained trail, with too much food and drinks in your pack, to find a beautiful cabin, set beside a lake or atop a mountain, with a heater and fireplace, and all the luxuries of four wooden walls and a roof.
I believe that if our community wasn’t so in love with cabin camping, our selection wouldn’t be nearly what it is (enter supply and demand). And I don’t mean our ‘I just summited the Mendenhall Towers’ community. A love-her-like-a-sister friend of mine hikes into the woods with her two sons, the older being 12 and the younger being 5. Because of our cabins, she is able to take her sons out into the woods, and give the boys experiences that only nature can give; with the peace of mind that a cabin provides. Her and her two sons, including other friends with children, have gone camping in the Cowee Meadow cabin, Peterson Lake cabin, and they have even hiked up to the Dan Moller cabin. If hiking up to Dan Moller with a 5 year old in tow isn’t considered hard-core, then I don’t think I know the true definition of the word. I revel in how easy it is to throw some gear in my pack, put some dog food in Kiska’s doggy pack, and head out the door on my own schedule – not having to worry about other small human beings depending on me. But this is the wonderful thing about our cabins; they are located in many different areas and they cater to a wide skill set.
The easier cabins to hike to are Cowee Meadow, Peterson Lake, and Windfall cabin. These trails are mostly flat, relatively short, and very user friendly. I would put Blue Muscle and Campers Cove in here too, but there is a bit more of up-and-down with some roots along the way. Trail Mix has done a lot of work recently on the start of the Peterson Lake trail, and I am excited to see what they do in the future. Cowee Meadow is probably my favorite cabin in the summer, as the field is literally a carpet of flowers and bees. The horses from Echo Ranch wander around, and it is very close to Echo Cove shoreline. I also love Cowee in the winter, as many people cross country ski to it, and the crisp cold winter nights are a perfect backdrop for the Milky Way or the Northern Lights. Windfall is set on a beautiful lake, and sometimes swans can be seen on the far shoreline when they migrate through, as well as wolves when the lake freezes over. Bear tracks are often seen on the trail frozen in the mud in early winter, a testament to the healthy ecosystem. Dragging Thanksgiving day supper, in coolers, on sleds, to be roasted over a fire, at beautiful lake-side cabin? Yes please. Although I guess you could charter a float plane and get it all dropped off if the lake is still open, if you really wanted to go above and beyond (no pun intended).
The next level up in skills I would say is the John Muir, Dan Moller, and Eagle Glacier cabins. John Muir and Dan Moller are probably my two most-hiked-to cabins in town. John Muir is a great base camp for hunting and back country skiing and snowshoeing, as well as general shenanigans. The John Muir trail is very well used by locals, so it’s a great trail to hit up and follow some ski tracks. Dan Moller is by far the most beautiful cabin in town, with its remodel it has so many little nuances that really set it above the other cabins. The snowmachiners use this trail extensively in the winter, as it is one of the few places they can ride in town. I have only once, in all my years of hiking in the winter, met a snowmachiner that didn’t give me a wide berth, and was not what I considered respectful. I always hold on to my dogs collar when I hear them approaching (more for their piece of mind than mine), and try to move to one side of the trail to make me easier to pass. Because if I hope they are respectful, then I need to be respectful as well. The Eagle Glacier is the only cabin in town that actually faces a glacier after a steady incline and a few downed trees, and maybe that special view is worth the harder hike. It is situated along the Eagle River, and watching icebergs quietly float past the snow covered banks is a very special treat for those willing to make the journey.
Courtney Wendel has lived in Juneau since she was a year old. She has a twin brother and an older brother, and learned to enjoy the outdoors at a young age by following the boys into mischief. Graduating from JDHS in 2006, she attended UAS to receive her Literature of the Environment, BA English degree. When not at work she spends most of her time on the diverse trail system hiking, running, or camping with her spotted pooch and adventure buddies.