Wednesday, June 16, 2010

T.R.A.I.L.S. Work Day Across the Bay

View of part of Halibut Cove from the Alpine Ridge Trail with the Homer Spit in the background.

Two years ago we participated in the T.R.A.I.L.S. Work Day at Kachemak Bay State Park across the bay. It got us a cheap boat ride across the bay for a day of hiking and no work. This year we chose a different trail, hoping to get some work! Work we got, and the boat ride was even cheaper: $15 for adults and $5 for kids, for a grand total of $40 for the family, round-trip (as compared to $240 water taxi rates for the family). It was well worth it!

The work: We chose to help with some light brushing and trail work on the Saddle Trail off of Halibut Cove. A couple of Fish & Wildlife Service guys were waiting for us at our drop-off point. After teaching us the names, purposes and use of the tools we were to use, we all grabbed some and headed up the trail.

The Saddle Trail is a series of switchbacks that heads up a rugged slope above Halibut cove. After years of use the trail gets worn down and when it rains the water runs down the trail rather than across it. which can wash the trail right out. Our goals were to 1-clear brush from the sides of the trail and 2-flatten the trail so the water would run across it rather than down it. With a crew of 7 (9 including the Fish and Game guys) we fixed up the trail in 2 1/2 hours. Denver and I had loppers and lopped Devil's Club, elderberry, cranberry and alders up the half mile, while the rest of the crew grabbed shovels, rakes and whatnot and smoothed out the trail. A major project to reduce the steepness of the trail is in the works, extending the switchbacks for more gradual corners. That is a heavier job than we were equipped for so we just helped fix up the part of the trail that will continue to exist after being fixed up.

The hike: After we got done working at 11:30, the rest of the day was ours to explore as we liked till pickup by the water taxi at 4:30. We ate our lunch, then decided to check out the Lagoon Trail that roughly follows the shoreline from a few hundred feet up off the water's edge. It was quite a trek, with a hardly visible trail, fallen trees that we had to crawl under and bear scat every 50 feet or so (some quite fresh!). We didn't go far before we decided to turn back and explore another trail. The Alpine Ridge Trail is a 2.2 mile out and back trek. We probably only made it out a half mile or so. It was all steeply uphill and grueling for the person who was wearing the backpack (in this case, Doug). Not being accustomed to the climbing or the heat (it was probably 65 or so) we got some good pictures of Halibut Cove and then decided to head to the Grewingk Glacier and glacier lake.

Another view of Halibut Cove--the inside part at low tide. At high tide all the mud flats in the middle of the picture are covered with water, but it is still not passable by most boats except through the channel on the right side (hidden in this pic by the tree).

An easy, mostly level 1.1 mile hike got us from the top of the Saddle Trail to the Grewingk Glacier Lake. This is probably one of the more popular across the bay destinations, and as you can see from the picture, there were lots of people there that day! The kids waded in the water, played with icebergs, threw rocks, climbed rocks and enjoyed the warm, sunshiney day. Weather-wise, it was an awesome treat, as the last time we'd come on the TRAILS Day it was cool, blustery and rainy and we'd huddled under a tarp.

Halibut Cove has a year-round village (an artist's enclave), oyster farms, a restaurant, shopping, camping, Kachemak Bay State Park, awesome kayaking, sealife and more. Homes like the one picture here get supplies on ropes from the water. It is another world over there and a very neat place to visit. If we wanted to go more often we would have to buy a boat or be good friends with someone who owns a boat since ferry prices are prohibitive. We just saw the backcountry part of Halibut Cove on this trip; the village would be a many-hour hike away from where we were.

We got back to the Homer Harbor and saw Halibut Cove's namesake lying in the back of a truck. That is one big fish, though I doubt any halibut are left there anymore.

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