Hiking Deer Mountain
26 June 2022 | Ketchican, Alaska
The Canadians have an expression we enjoy using when describing the effort or difficulty of anything. So I have to say, "it was a bit of a hike," meaning it was definitely not easy. In this case, it was really tough, unlike the strenuous hike George and I experienced years ago. While sitting
here at the marina in Ketchikan, I look up at Deer Mountain with the snow ever so slowly melting from the scree slopes at the top, a green forest blanketing its western slope. I finally got my courage up and started asking around other cruisers about it. Ralph on motor vessel Sweet Thursday
said he had nothing else to do and would love to go with me. Knowing there are black bears present in these woods, I wanted to start out mid-morning hoping there would be a number of other people on the trail. Ralph and I got on the bus which let us off about a half mile from the trailhead.
I had been warned that that walk would be very steep, and it was. 7.1 miles in all, 2800' elevation gain.
The trail took us through a lovely old growth forest filled with big Sitka spruce and hemlock the forest floor choked with salmonberry, huckleberry, salmonberry, foam flower, and all sorts of other ground covers. Blowdowns also covered the forest floor at times. The trail had been well
maintained, but endured much erosion from rainfall, water rushing down the trail and washing away soil. Many, many waterbreak logs had been placed across the trail to control erosion, but I found myself stepping up knee-high steps over them most of the way . Sometimes I found a way to
walk around these steep steps, sometimes tramping over slippery basalt embedded in the soil or stones used as helpful intermediate steps. Ralph ended up being a easy companion, cheerfully hiking along at the same speed. Openings in the forest afforded occasional views over the water
and islands below. When we finally reached our lunch stop, we had hiked up 2700' in just 3 miles. The city and harbor of Ketchikan stretched out far below us. Other hikers proceeded further into the snow up to the summit at 3,000'. Bugs quickly found us and forced a quick retreat.
Going back down turned out to be much easier than we had anticipated although we remained vigilant, not wanting to slip or fall on the sharp rocks. We stopped along the way to admire different features we had missed along the way up: a huge tree root system belonging to a fallen old
tree, a single (single delight waxflower Moneses uniflora), marsh marigolds, deer cabbage (Fauria crista-galli), a little stream having dug a deep v-shaped cut just off the trail, and bird calls: hermit thrush, Townsend warbler, winter wren, Swainson's thrush among the crow and raven calls.
Yes, we were tired and glad for the bus ride back. I will remember this beautiful day in spite of aching muscles the following day reminding me, yes, it was "a bit of a hike".