Are you wondering what parts of the Equinox Marathon Trail are open for public use on top of Ester Dome? If so, I’ve put together an unofficial “Ester Dome Guide to the Pandemic Equinox Marathon.”
(Skip down to ESTER DOME GUIDE TO THE PANDEMIC EQUINOX MARATHON, if you want to avoid all the context.)
The official Equinox Marathon has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, rumor has it that many people plan to do their own version of the race, whether running, hiking, or a combination. (Some people have already done it.)
The race was to have been run this coming Saturday (September 19). I want to encourage people to do their own version of the Equinox, but I know that some people are nervous about trespass issues on top of Ester Dome. With that in mind, I’ve put together this guide.
(Note: This guide has NOT been approved by Running Club North nor by anyone with the Equinox Marathon. I have not sought their approval. I do not want them to endanger their good standing with the Alaska Ski Corporation.)
WHY THE NEED FOR A GUIDE?
Most of the Equinox Marathon course is open to the public. However, parts of it on top of Ester Dome that cross Alaska Ski Corporation Land are closed to the public. Normally, the corporation gives race-day permission for the Equinox. Unless you are told otherwise, those portions of land will remain closed to the public.
The parts that cross Alaska Ski Corporation land include:
- The trail north of Ester Dome Road around the first set of towers. In recent years the original trail was rerouted up a steep hill along a power line. The new section of trail is called The Zipper.
- The top part of the Alder Chute.
This guide offers legal routes around those sections. These routes, which exist along section lines, were deemed legal earlier this year by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The Alaska Ski Corporation disagrees, but until a higher authority overrules DNR, the DNR ruling stands.
Trails have been brushed out on these routes by Stan Justice, working for the Interior Trails Preservation Coalition, of which he is president. The ITPC has been working for years to gain legal access to the entire route of the Equinox Marathon. (I am a board member of the ITPC.)
No one from ITPC or any other group I know of plans to put directional signs out for a DIY marathon. You’re on your own. You can also run the traditional marathon course if you feel comfortable with the trespass issues. That’s up to you. I’m not endorsing that, especially since you have legal alternatives. You can find out about the course and other information about the marathon here: https://www.equinoxmarathon.org/
Note: At least one person said she plans on Saturday to put out some water jugs for people to fill from, and some snacks and a trash can.
ESTER DOME GUIDE TO THE PANDEMIC EQUINOX MARATHON
See map. Numbers below relate to numbers on the map. (Sorry for the double lines on the first part of Ester Dome Road. I thought I had clipped one of those.) I’ve added some pictures after the numbers below.
- You can either go on the road over Ullrhavn (the first high point on Ester Dome Road) or around the Alder Tunnel, where the race was rerouted a couple of years ago. I don’t think the Mac Fields, Alaska Ski Corporation representative, will care if you use the Alder Tunnel, since he believes that is where the road should be routed.
- This is directly across Ester Dome Road from the entrance of Styx River Road. You can go straight on Ester Dome Road or turn to the north (right) here.
- If you turn right, start on the old, old Equinox trail, but turn off it right away and continue straight up the newly cut trail. It is brushed but not cut down to soil. The newly cut trail is on the section line and is a legal public right-of-way according to DNR. Follow this, crossing over a rutted ATV trail, until the brushed out trail merges with the old Equinox Marathon trail.
- If you prefer to avoid this and just follow Ester Dome Road but you want to make up the lost distance, go backward on the course at the Y until you reach the first set of towers, then turn around and continue on the course. (This might be a tad more than you need to do, but, hey, more distance in a marathon is just more fun, right?)
- This is where the new reroute meets the old course. It is also where the mining road (the Nugget Creek Trail) meets the singletrack trail that goes around the first set of towers.
- This is the Y in Ester Dome Road. Deal with this as you have in the past. Continue straight on your way out to the Out-and-Back turnaround. On your way back, turn to the right (down Ester Dome Road).
- At Styx River Road, take the newly cut route downhill. This brushed out trail switchbacks down the hill within the section line, which DNR has determined is a legal right-of-way. Follow this all the way down to where it hits an old mining road/trail.
- When the newly cut trail hits the old mining road (Farmer’s Mine Road/Trail) turn left. Follow this until you get to #7.
- This is the bottom of the Alder Chute. Continue past this and finish out the Equinox Marathon route as in the past.