Juneau lay under a thick blanket of fog as we headed up the Eaglecrest Road. We were well equipped with good rain gear and backpacks full of ‘what ifs’. At the lodge, however, we emerged into clear sunshine, with the dense, smooth fog blanket masking everything below.
The plan for the day was to hike over Mt Troy and down to the Dan Moller trailhead. Three of us set out ahead of the rest, so we could take our own sweet time on the ascent. The muddy route goes up through small meadows and forest to a broad subalpine meadow just below Naked Man Lake. It is possible to skirt the lake and go up a long ridge to the top of Troy, with a good view of town most of the way. Instead, we went up a series of benches on the back side of the peak.
This choice proved to be quite interesting biologically. We found a patch dotted with well over a dozen bear scats, all full of skunk cabbage fibers. No skunk cabbage grows close to that patch, so the bear(s) must have foraged down below and repeatedly used this spot as a resting place. Bears are known to eat the root crowns of skunk cabbage, but not to the exclusion of other foods. Perhaps the poor berry crops this year limited the choices.
We reached the top of Troy a few minutes before the main group of Parks and Rec hikers. When everyone gathered, we settled down for a leisurely lunch, lolling about in the sun, sharing chocolate and jokes. The fog blanket was sending up small puffs of mist and starting to move up the valleys, thinning as it went. In a wide circle all around us, across the channels, were sharp mountain peaks, gleaming with fresh snow.
The way then lies on a long, bumpy ridge toward the bowl behind the Dan Moller cabin. Plenty of game trails led hither and yon, usually disappearing after a while or leading to precipices concealed by snow-crooked hemlock thickets. So for a while we floundered around, trying various possibilities and emerging from some of the explorations liberally decorated with bits of moss and twigs. Eventually, a wiser head suggested that we drop down the back side of the ridge, toward Admiralty, to loop around the cliffs and dense thickets. So we did, aiming for a small lake nestled in a pocket on the side of the ridge.
Here we picked up a fairly well-used trail that meandered to and fro but generally went in the right direction. Close to the saddle where the ridge joins the lump called Mt Farewell, we picked up a chain of meadows that led us down to the bowl and the Dan Moller cabin. It was a cakewalk from there to the cars left at the trailhead.
As we left the top of Troy, two hikers strode off confidently in a direction that seemed to be a right angle to the intended direction of the rest of us. We wondered what they knew that we didn’t! We didn’t see them again until we shuttled the waiting cars back to Eaglecrest, and there they were, back at the start, having thrashed around above Hilda Creek until it was time to go home. They didn’t find whatever they were looking for.
All the wanderings showed us lots of deer sign and occasional scats of porcupine and a small carnivore. One slope was well burrowed by marmots, presumably now asleep for the winter. A raven cruised over our heads, and eagle soared up and over the ridge, and a grouse burst up from the ground in front of the lead hiker and took refuge in dense hemlocks but, in general, birds were scarce. A few late flowers waited in vain for pollinators, including the sky-blue, broad-petaled gentian, which bore numbers of still-unopened buds.