I was very fortunate to live on Backloop for a few years. Yes, they tend to have snow the longest, tend to be colder than other areas of town thanks to the giant ice cube just a few miles north, and thanks to the impressive mountain views, tend to get a little less sunlight. Though, I have to say, it was all worth it for me. I enjoy being a little further away from town and people, and enjoyed being so close to the glacier.
One thing I never really heard was sirens. For some reason, and it wasn’t because the house was well insulated, we just didn’t get street noise, even though our street branched off the main drag. It was convenient to be close to the main road, without really suffering any of the drawbacks. My yard was situated close to the Dredge Lake area, so in the summer when I wanted to make blueberry muffins or a blueberry pie for my housemate, I just had to put on my shoes, walk out my back door, and across the yard to the berry bushes and walk as far back into the woods as I needed to until I picked 4 cups of berries. Talk about a lazy bakers dream!
Though, there were times when the forest came out to us too. I found that there was a lot more bear activity on the Backloop than in other areas of the valley. But having the glacier area and the whole Juneau Icefield as your general backyard, most people never even batted an eye. And why would they? It took simple forethought to forego a lot of ‘problems’ that some people faced. Secure your trash. Don’t leave food out in the backyard and get mad when a bear or the birds come to give it a loving home. These two things could have saved some people a lot of problems.
But the bears also have an impact on Backloop and glacier area adventuring. From the Mendenhall River entrance to Dredge Lake, you have access to a huge trail system that you can spend hours on if you want. I also allows you to go from one trail system, head towards the glacier, cross the road, and hop onto the Under Thunder trail and head south towards town and go several miles without hitting pavement. From the Under Thunder trail, you can even head up and over Thunder Mountain and drop down into the Fred Meyer area if you wanted to. Well, some people do on accident actually. So, if you hike Thunder, pay attention to the trail signs.
But aside from the Dredge area, out Montana Creek road you can hop onto the Montana Creek trail and hike northwest for approximately 13 miles until you come to the beautiful Windfall Cabin out the road. Hiking that trail was a wonderful experience, and though the trail needed a bit of work in a few sections, I highly recommend the day trip from town to Windfall. We parked a car at each end, and spent a warm summer day hiking from dense trees, to meadows, to follow along the river and end at Montana. I will warn you, we had to cross the river once, so be aware that you may be getting wet and Barkie may be going for a swim.
But, if instead of hiking away from town, you want to go towards the Brotherhood Bridge area, there is a wonderfully paved path that goes from Backloop through the woods and empties out in the beautiful meadow at Brotherhood. This trail is awesome for runners who want their not-running buddies to join on bikes or skates, or with strollers and kiddos. But keep in mind, there are several black bears that live back there, and I have occasionally run up on deer on the trail before we saw each other and they bounded off. There is fishing in the river, a horse trail for more rugged off-roading, and of course plenty of squirrels for the chasing. There is also a trail that parallels the main path, and makes trail running easier for people who don’t want to be too far away from other people should they need assistance. * This is not to replace being safe in the woods and letting someone know where you are and when you expect to be back.
And as we welcome March but look forward to summer, we can’t forget the snow sports at the glacier! The Juneau Ski Club is amazing and maintains a wonderful cross country ski track out at the Mendenhall campgrounds. Everyone I have met out there is just wonderful and so respectful. Dogs are little LED balls bouncing through the trees at night, and most people offer a friendly greeting, but some are obviously in the middle of a serious workout. It is nice to see all skill levels together along with their furry friends.