The real draw of Juneau isn’t the legacy of Sarah Palin. It has always been the Mendenhall Glacier. Since Tom and I have been to Juneau many times, we decided to take a different trail this time. We took the local bus for two dollars across the Gastineau Bay to Douglas Island. At the very end of the island are the remains of the Treadwell Mine. Our bus driver was very helpful and told us the times he would be back at our stop.
There is a non-profit group, Treadwell Historic and Preservation Society, that is trying to create an outdoor museum of the old mine and they are well on their way. We hiked through the rain forest to discover signs next to the remains of metal and cement buildings. We found the metal building where they kept the gold. We found the glory hole that exploded and flooded 700 mines in 1917 but a fence kept us clear of it. That was a dangerous place and water still flowed into it. One of the mines had dug down 2400 feet below sea level. They went too far. So many of the shafts were connected or close to each other that they all flooded.
Walking the Treadwell path felt a little weird. It was like opening up a tomb. Brick and metal were coming out of the ground in many places. You could see some of the outlines of the burned buildings. They have plans to
preserve both the pump house and the main office building.
As we walked through the forest, it came out to Sandy Beach. While Treadwell burned down a hundred years ago, remains are still found everywhere on the beach. I picked up a metal ingot, a piece of brick, and Tom found half of a plate. We were stepping into the past for the moment. What an experience! This would be such a wonderful place to do an archaeological dig.
I also wondered about the environmental effects on Juneau with all the mining. They say that there are shafts under all of Juneau? I wonder about the soil and the water? I wonder if they are studying it for hazards? I found fourteen Superfund sites in Juneau and one of them is the Treadwell Mine.
During our trips to Juneau we also hiked to the graves of Chief Cowee, Joe Juneau, and Richard Harris who found the “gold” and founded Harrisburg/Juneau. Although some researchers contend that it was Sheep Creek Mary who really found the gold. Going up the hill in Juneau we found a stone tribute to Juneau and Harris that was in the wrong place on our Juneau map and then stopped by the governor’s mansion.
We are mindful that the First Nations Tlingits, Haida, and Tsimshians claimed this land as their own long before the Russians and the U.S.A.
In prior years, we have hiked the Totem trail around Juneau that takes you to about 20 totems, but we did not do it this time. We chose to visit Mendenhall again. For another two dollars we sped out on the local bus to the glacier. Other bus excursions offered by the cruise line or by others were $45 and $30 a person so
we saved a lot of cash. This time at Mendenhall there were no bears and everything looked a little weary. Mendenhall is receding and the park itself needs a little updating. But the three mile hike from the bus and back was really a lot of fun. Riding with the locals is always a treat.
As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge