Home > Photojournal > 2005 > Winter/Spring > 7 May

Upper Cross Trail

Recently I learned about the upper Cross trail. Although I had never heard of it before, it clearly has been around for quite some time. I was told of bridges over ravines and a nice view point. Having never been on the trail before, I thought it would be good to check it out.

I rode my bicycle to the Gavan Hill Trailhead and started up the trail. At the Cross trail, I turned left and headed towards the High School. I was told that the lower connection to the upper Cross trail could be found just a little ways towards the ballfields from wherer the High School spur of the Cross trail joins in with the Cross trail. Although at the time I was hiking, I could not remembere the directions that specifically and ended up doing a little side trip along a trail I noticed that seemed to have gotten quite a bit of traffic. This trail dead ended at a small open space that had apparently been the seen of a sizable party that seemed to have been something of a Memorial gathering in rememberance of young former Sitka resident who recently died.

The Upper Cross trail goes right up the slopes of Gavan Hill for a fair distance before leveling out somewhat and going along the side of the hill to meet up with Gavan Hill trail. The initial uphill part reminds me of Mt. Verstovia trail prior to improvements. It has clearly been travelled frequently and is not difficult to follow (the trail is marked with orange diamonds that have almost certainly been up for no more than a couple of years or so). Steps between rocks and roots can be large, and in wetter conditions there is probably a fair amount of mud.

Starting from the Cross Trail end, the first evidence of significant trail work of an older vintage is a small set of wood steps leading to a short bridge. The work was clearly done quite some time ago, but I have no idea when. Based on the appearance of the wood, I would guess at least 20 or 30 years, if not more. Shortly after the bridge there is a bench with a partial view of Sitka. Continuing along the trail there is another Bridge before reaching the best viewpoint along the Upper Cross Trail.

Upon reaching the viewpoint, I was interested to find that it had been set up as a place to camp with a wooden platform and small concrete and stone hearth. I stopped to take a break and enjoy the view. A few minutes after I stopped, a young man and woman came from the other direction on the trail with a pair of dogs. They stopped and enjoyed the view for a short time before heading back the way they had come. Although the trail has clearly been seeing a fair amount of traffic, this was the first time I had encountered anyone else on this hike.

After giving the other people a chance to put some distance between themselves and me, I continued on. Not far from the camp area, I noticed some rocky outcrops and small cliffs a short distance up from the trail. I decided to check them out to see if any holly ferns were growing there. I had previously seen a holly fern at the base of a similar formation on Mt. Verstovia, but it was too dark at the time to take any pictures. I did not find any and made my way back down to the trail.

Between the camp site viewpoint and Gavan Hill trail the trail cross over at least a couple of fairly deep gullies. In one of the gullies, it appears that some of the original bridgwork has fallen down and one is required to hike down into gully to get through. This is not difficult, although the trail is a little bit steep and narrow for a short distance. The other gully has the bridge with longest drop of any that I have been on in Sitka.

Not too far from the last bridge, I found myself at Gavan Hill trail. The junction was just below the stump that is at the top of some flights of wooden stairs that I consider to be about 1/3 of the way up Gavan Hill Trail. I noticed that someone had carved an arrow in a rotting snag that pointed in the direction of the Upper Cross trail and there was orange tape tied to one of the supports for the stair case.

Further exploration on the way down led me to a large campsite which I might have investigated further had there not been someone there. It was in a glade beneath very large spruce trees that I thought would be interesting to spend some time in. Hopefully at some point in the not too distant future I will be able to go back there and check it out further.

I was quite pleased with the Upper Cross trail and find myself curious about its history. When, why, and by whom was it built? Clearly some signficant effort went into it, why is it not more widely known? Has it been recently 'rediscovered' or was it known all along by some few people who used it?