The people of North Douglas are a proud people. They treasure their relationship with nature, and the solitude and community they have fostered. You can always tell the locals from people who have spent time down south, as townies lament about driving ‘all the way out North Douglas’. But the people who choose to live out North Douglas are happy with their seclusion. It is only a ten minute drive from the bridge to ERA Helicopters. For some reason our perception of time and distance changes as soon as you take a right and head west along the island.
But there are several reasons to head out North Douglas. For anyone that likes to ski or snowboard, Eaglecrest sits back in the valley overlooking the airport from its ridgeline. When they built the Black Bear chair they put in a maintenance gravel road, and this road serves as a pedestrian thoroughfare in the summer, helping to preserve the marshy meadows. There is a trodden trail along the ridgeline once you get to the top of Ptarmigan chair, and there are also some alpine lakes for swimming in the summer. One time we even crashed a Land’s End photo shoot at the top of Eaglecrest. In the fall, it is so wonderful to see parents with their small children up picking blueberries, and recently a mountain bike trail was put in coming down through the ski runs and weaving in the trees. Many Klondike Road Relay runners will train for the harder legs by running up the Eaglecrest road.
If you look at the hunting regulations, because Douglas is an island, you are allowed to shoot does past September 15th. So we say, ‘if it’s brown it’s down’. The only problem is that for people who don’t own boats, Douglas is the closest and easiest way to be able to hunt both does and bucks. So you can see how it’s easy for the area to get over hunted. The deer are very skittish and elusive during hunting season. But, there aren’t any brown bears* and unfortunately most of the wolves got trapped several years back. There are still plenty of black bears, and one time I even got stalked by a young dumb one. But I just sat in a meadow facing him waiting for him to catch up, and as soon as he saw me sitting there watching him, he – literally – mid step just turned and hung his head and walked into the woods knowing he had been spotted. But overall hunting on Douglas is pretty safe, and as long as you never cross over a peak (and end up on the backside), if you get lost just walk downhill towards the ocean and you will eventually hit the road. The alpine hunting is both beautiful and frustrating, as the clouds can roll in and leave you wondering where the trees went. But when the alpine snow gets too deep, both the hunters and the deer get pushed down hill.
But, being a true Alaskan, I don’t just want to be able to play at the top of mountains; I want to be able to dip my toes in the ocean too. Out the Rainforest Trail at the end of the road empties out into a rocky shoreline. We have our own special spot out there, where families have come together over the years to create rock fireplaces and seats, so for years we have been able to sit back and enjoy the sunsets. Named after a beloved dog, ‘Chunks Beach’ is our favorite summer time spot for shenanigans. We have had solstice parties, evening bond fires, and of course have shared so many laughs and memories. And yes, being a townie, it is a bit of a drive, but the view and friends is always worth it.
* There have been a few brown bears that have been seen and shot on the backside of Douglas, where they swam over from Admiralty Island. But it is exceptionally rare.
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.