Sunday, July 12, 2015

Exploring the Treadwell Mine Ruins

I went for an exploration jog yesterday and two of my housemates decided to come with. We jogged across the bridge to Douglas and over to Sandy Beach, about 3 miles out. Just past Sandy Beach is the old ruin-town of Treadwell, full of ruins and broken down machinery.

Treadwell Mine Ruins

Treadwell Mine Ruins

It's one of those old abandoned places that I imagine grunge bands would use for some cd art or something.

Obviously, we are not a band.

There are plenty of open trails between each ruin and signs posted telling you about what was where and what each thing did. Very informative and interesting place. And much more accessible than the very difficult to access Alaska-Juneau (AJ) mine ruins on the side of Mt. Roberts (which are possibly off limits too, but the way we scaled the mountain we didn't pass any no trespassing signs although we saw some on the way down).

Just to the side of the ruins runs the Gastineau Channel, where you can find one of the most recognizable remnant of the Treadwell Mines: the pump house.

Pump House - Treadwell Mine Ruins

Pump House and Cruise Ship - Treadwell Mine Ruins

And we took the opportunity to take another band photo.

Apparently I'm colder than they are.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Mt Roberts, Gastineau, and Gold Ridge Trail Guide

Two down, three to go. (Of the five peaks in Juneau)

Tanner and I (and Panda, who had to bail early to go to work) hiked Mt. Roberts today. It was much longer and more difficult than we had anticipated. But much more worth it than I thought it'd be.

Mt Roberts, Gastineau, and Gold Ridge Trail Guide
Douglas Island (left) and Downtown Juneau with Mt Roberts Tram station (center) and Father Brown's Cross (far right)
We started hiking around 9:30am. Well, I left my apartment around 9am (at sea level) and hiked up to the interns' apartment on 7th (already at 200ft although it feels like way more than just 200ft). We took the 6th Street entrance because it takes so much longer to go around to Basin Road.

No longer maintained, but not technically off limits.
There are a few landslides and downed trees that you have to traverse and the trail itself is a little overgrown, but for the most part it's an easy-to-follow trail. It takes about 45 minutes at a good pace to get up to the Mt Roberts Tram Station (1800ft). There you can refill water bottles, buy some snacks if you'd like, watch a movie about the history of the native people here, and say hello to Baltimore, a chill bald eagle rescue. This is also your halfway point to the top of Gastineau Peak, so it's a nice time for a break. 

There's also a nature center with trail maps and a helpful guide who told us there's too much snow up top so don't attempt Gastineau or Mt Roberts. We didn't believe her, but it's nice to get a guides perspective anyways. I think she could sense our blasé attitude so she asked us to please check in on our return to make sure we came back safely and didn't fall off a cliff.

Above the tram we started to see some wildlife, with this Rock Ptarmigan.

Rock Ptarmigan in Juneau
Why can't you hear a Ptarmigan go to the bathroom? Because the P is silent. Bwahhahahaa.
We also saw a bear cub scampering off. I didn't get a picture, but you can see him in the video at the bottom. The trail is great (in the sun) because it mostly hugs the ridge line so you constantly have great views of the channel...

Tanner overlooking Douglas Island

Lupines and a cruise ship in Gastineau Channel
Those are called Lupines.
...and the valleys on the inside.

Icy Gulch and Silverbow Basin
Icy Gulch, Silverbow Basin, and the Glory Hole
The trail is not marked but it's pretty well-traveled most of the way, so you shouldn't get lost. There are no trail markers (well, there's an occasional inukshuk - that's the Alaskan term for cairn) and only one sign at the split to go to Gold Ridge.

Helpful trail sign
I'm not super tall. It's literally that small and about 8 inches out of the ground.
But the trail pretty much looks like this the whole way:

Steep trail up to Gastineau Peak
That looks steep. But I promise it's steeper in real life.
That's pretty much the peak of Gastineau there, and after that last climb it's definitely time for a break.

Brian and Tanner on top of Gastineau Peak
Resting at 3465ft (1056m)

Oh, I didn't bring a backpack to Alaska this season, so I grabbed a tote bag from work and wore it like a backpack and it worked really well.

Brian and his Del Sol tote bag
Representing Del Sol on top of Gastineau Peak
We did cross a few snow patches to get here, but nothing unstable or dangerous. The real snow was between Gastineau and Mt Roberts peak. As you can see in this picture, most of the trail skirts along the sunny side of the ridge.

Trail between Gastineau and Mt Roberts

But as you'll see in the video below, there were a few times we had to cross a lot of snow, so use caution and common sense so you don't die (July 6 update: sad day - a hiker died on this trail today). Unlike Mt. Juneau, there are crazy steep cliffs and drop-offs all over this trail so be especially careful if it's raining (it's one of the reasons I waited until a sunny day to do this hike, but I realize most people coming to Juneau don't have that option).

From Gastineau (3465ft), you have to drop into a saddle (losing about 400 feet of elevation) and then climb back up to Mt Roberts (3819ft). So when all is said and done, after hiking back down and then up Gastineau again to go home, you'll have hiked up about 4600 feet of elevation gain.

When we got to the top of Mt Roberts, we were cut off by a snow drift that we deemed too dangerous to cross, so we stopped just shy of the peak.

Mt Roberts Peak snow in June
Watch the video. This part is kinda terrifying.
So we hung out at our near-peak on Mt. Roberts for a few minutes (by the way, this is at 1:30pm, so 4 hours from the trailhead, but we hung out at the tram station for a good half hour at least, and Gastineau peak was at 12:45pm). Then we started our trek back.

View of Gastineau Peak from Mt Roberts
Gastineau Peak from Mt. Roberts
We hiked back down to the saddle and back up, this time getting seriously lost somehow and having to climb straight up toward the peak so we could hook into the trail again. Hiking back, you get a good view of Mt. Juneau (3576ft) and the trail zig-zagging up the side. That was the first of my five peaks in five months.

View of Mt Juneau from Gastineau Peak

We hiked down to the split and out to Gold Ridge, which is maybe a 20 minute side trail with a sweet lookout over the Glory Hole (watch the video, it's much more impressive than the pictures I took).

If you just watched that video, you saw that while hiking out to Gold Ridge, I saw an eagle land on a peak a few hundred yards away. I slowly hiked over to it and (as is usually the case with me and wild animals) he was totally cool with me. He let me get pretty dang close.

Bald Eagle on top of Gold Ridge in Juneau, Alaska
You can use this picture, but please link back to this blog post! Photo Cred: Brian Ciccotelli
Here's a video of the entire eagle encounter:

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Maho Beach St. Maarten (Airport Beach)

Maho Beach was the only thing I wanted to accomplish while visiting St. Maarten because it is one of the most unique beaches in the world. There's nothing particularly amazing about the sand or the water (although both are surprisingly great and an added bonus). For Maho, it's all about location. And that location is basically on the runway.

Watching the planes fly just barely overhead is a lot of fun. And trying to time a picture of the moving plane behind you while not looking at it is a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. But luckily there are quite a few small planes landing and taking off to give you practice.

But the most fun is when the big jets take off.

It gets exciting when the 747s and other commercial airliners pull back from the gate.

Everyone runs from the water onto the beach to get pelted by the sand, and everyone laying on the beach secures all their stuff so it doesn't blow into the water. Those of us who dared went right up to the fence.

You're close enough that you can see the pilots waving as they turn at the end of the runway. A few of them were taking pictures of us, which I thought was fun. I hadn't thought about how unique we would be to them. They usually don't have an audience cheering them on.

Most people hung back on the beach, on the other side of the road. But it didn't really matter where you were, unless you were to the far left or right, you were gonna get hit.

The jet blast is strong enough that I couldn't hold onto the fence with one hand and record with the other. It ripped me off the fence and threw me into the road. I was impressed.

From the beach, the jet blast just feels like a really windy day on any beach. Really windy. Like hurricane force windy, but on a nice sunny day. The wind picks up and pelts you with sand for about 30 seconds and then it stops. And you and your towel and your bag are covered.

My bag was closed.

It's not painful, it just stings a little when it's happening but it doesn't last.

I filmed the entire experience, so I don't have very many pictures (hence the two screencaps above). Here you go:

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Happy SXM Day!

No, not S and M. SXM. It stands for St. Maarten. And today was his day.

So first, some history. Because nobody I asked knew what St. Maarten's Day was celebrating (independence? just a holiday because our island is great? the day Columbus discovered the island? - that last one turns out to be true, but not why the holiday exists) and I thought it was interesting when I looked it up. St. Maarten was an actual person - Martin of Tours (Tours is a city in France, and therefore probably not pronounced how I'm saying it). Anyway, Columbus saw this island on November 11, 1493 (although he never actually landed on it - he really just saw it and claimed it for Spain) and since it was St. Martin's Day (yeah, the holiday already existed in 1493), he named the island St. Martin. And it stuck, even though the Spanish didn't colonize it until after the Dutch and French did. The Dutch spell Martin differently, hence, Sint Maarten.

Anyways, the government forced all retail businesses to close, which they didn't tell us until yesterday at 4:48pm. I was planning on working all day because we had five ships in town. It was supposed to be a very busy day and it was the main reason I flew down this week as opposed to later in the month. But this was what our store looked like today:

The cops drove down Front Street every 5 to 10 minutes to make sure every store stayed closed. They even shut down a lady selling handmade crafts from a table in an alley! I was very frustrated that we couldn't open, but there was definitely nothing I could do about it. So I went on an adventure.

I caught a local bus to Maho. Buses here are just 14 passenger vans that you can flag down anywhere along the road.

They have a sign in the front window telling you which direction they're heading. Maho is the area right next to the airport, and it costs $2 from Philipsburg (much better than the $20 taxi I took from the airport yesterday).

Maho Beach was the only thing I wanted to accomplish while visiting St. Maarten because it is one of the most unique beaches in the world. It deserved its own post, so you can click here to read all about my Maho Beach experience. Here's a pic, so you can get the idea:

After Maho, I walked about a mile to the airport because when we passed it earlier, there was a party going on for SXM Day. It was still going strong when I got there at 4:30pm. Face painting, food, characters, music, lots of fun.

I caught a bus from the airport back to Philipsburg, but I jumped off early and walked out to Fort Amsterdam to watch sunset. The fort is mostly ruins and foundations with a few cannons. But it's on top of a hill overlooking Great Bay and Philipsburg and the ships.

I ended up watching sunset from Little Bay beach, which it looked like is a private beach owned by the Divi Hotel, but they let me in because I'm American and I walk confidently through security checkpoints with a friendly, "Hello." Sunset was gorgeous, to say the least.

I hung out at the Divi Hotel for a little longer than I should have (checking out their infinity pool and fountains and stuff, and then refilling my water bottle and using their bathroom), so I walked back to Philipsburg in the dark. After the big hill on the peninsula, I walked along the beach to the boardwalk. It's dark and somewhat sketchy at times, but I mostly felt safe.

I stopped for dinner at a random restaurant on the boardwalk. It was packed and I was the only white person there, so I figured it was a good spot for local cuisine. After discussing favorites with the server, I chose the curry goat platter.

It was yummy.

I was a little bummed that they don't have a parade or fireworks or something spectacular in honor of such an important holiday that shuts businesses down. But I guess family barbecues and music is good enough.


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