People may have seen these twigs, but not coated in ice and not on the day the author did. That’s reason to be happy. (Jeff Lund | For the Juneau Empire)

People may have seen these twigs, but not coated in ice and not on the day the author did. That’s reason to be happy. (Jeff Lund | For the Juneau Empire)

A ‘secret’ trail becomes new and exciting again

As a kid, this trail was ours. As an adult, it’s a shared spot

When I was a kid, there were spots on the Klawock River I thought were secret. Where no one else went because they didn’t know about it. Sure, the trail that had been made by boots other than ours, but those are the wrong details to be concerned with.

There was no asphalt turn out to indicate the spot’s presence, so it was at least mostly secret.

We’d ride our bikes with great alertness, and only hop off and slide down the embankment when there were no cars approaching. To tip someone off was to ruin it for everyone. Again, “everyone” implies that the spot wasn’t secret, but again, that the wrong detail when you’re 10 years old and you’re riding your Huffy to the river unsupervised.

[Jabbing sensors into the Denali Fault]

Today there’s a pull out and multiple trails to the spot. In fact, there’s a trail that goes the entire length of the river. People take chainsaws down and clear brush so one isn’t limited to what nature provides in the way of casting lanes.

All that came to mind as I stepped off the highway and into the woods, quickly, as if the 10-year-old in me was scared to give away the hunting spot I was about to find.

[Tribe takes state to court in attempt to protect herring]

There were scattered deer tracks in the stale snow every 50 or so yards as I made my way back to the muskeg that looks like prime rut-time terrain. Sure, the season is six months away, but that’s the wrong detail to consider.

I picked my way through the woods just as I loved to do as a kid when I wasn’t fishing. It’s not that the land was new, but it was all new to me. I gained a little elevation and the edges of the forest dropped on both sides, steep, but not dramatic enough that vegetation couldn’t claim it. It was one of those spots Google Earth has no clue about. From space it looks like consistent, thick forest. The contour lines say it’s a gradual climb in elevation.

[The daily struggles of a gearhead]

What I see is the truth. I’m on a micro ridge, thick with trees and brush, that relent just before the ridge ends. In front of me is open forest with big gaps in the trees that enable me to see clearly to the right and left. If a horse shoe, 30-feet wide was stamped into the earth, removed and nature recovered, that’s what it looks like. There’s a trickle of water frozen in ice in front of me that’s the low spot before a dramatic incline. I hop over the ice and climb the hill. I spend a few minutes looking down into the cluttered, but mostly open “U” below me. What a great place to see a deer.

Another 200 yards and I’m to the muskeg that Google Earth told me was there. It’s exactly as I expected. Far beyond it is a mountain fuzzy with the green of clear cut recovery. There’s a logging road somewhere over there, and undoubtedly someone uses it to access where I currently stand. In fact, it might actually be easier to get to where I am from where I came. Which means, people have been here. I don’t see the typical soul-punching beer can indicator, but it’s a truth I allow myself to realize. Come fall I will be sharing this spot, no question.

The 10-year-old in me is still excited though, because there is no trail or trace and one shouldn’t make a habit of picking out the negatives or the wrong details. It’s exciting and new.

And when I get back to the road, I better be careful not to show anyone which way I went. Wouldn’t want to ruin it.

• Jeff Lund is a writer and teacher based in Ketchikan. “I Went To The Woods,” a reference to Henry David Thoreau, appears in Outdoors twice a month.

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