“There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run
When the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun
Long before the white man and long before the wheel…”
Gordon Lightfoot’s Canadian Railroad Trilogy
As Aki and I moved up Basin Road and cross the old wooden road bridge, I feel like we are almost entering wilderness. Behind us, a string of old miner’s homes line the road that in a few minutes would take a hiker past 100-year-old churches to Downtown Juneau. Ahead is a gravel road lined by a deep creek valley on one side and a steep, tree covered slope on the other. Mount Juneau seems to be climbing out of the creek. Two strong streams flow down the mountain side to dump into Gold Creek.
You can barely hear the creek today. Only a raven’s croak breaks the true silence. Years ago, mining trucks hauled gold ore down this wide trail. You wouldn’t be able to hear the trucks over the sound of ore crushers that operating 24 hours a day. Later water blasters reduced the valley to gavel rubble to get the last hidden grains of ore to market. The signs of such attacks on nature are just hidden beneath layers of new growth.
We take a little footbridge across Gold Creek and start downstream on the old flume trail. A channel under the trail still carries water from Gold Creek to a small hydro plant on the edge of the old Native community. Aki throws on the brakes shortly are we head down the flume. Fifteen years ago, she smelled a bear walking up the trail. Even though she has chased many of them away while walking other trails, she froze when she smelled the Gold Creek bear. Each time we start the flume trail I hope she will have a change day and keep moving at me side. But each day, including this one, I have to carry her to the trail’s end. The little poodle still honors that powerful bear.