• Exploring “one of the most amazing backyards on earth”
By Sean Pearson
After stumbling onto a few innocent flyers posted around town, Homer resident Pete Fineo finally decided to bite the bullet and schedule an excursion across the Kachemak Bay to hike out to the face of Grewingk Glacier.
“It’s something I’ve had on my bucket list for about four years now,” Fineo explained. “I figured I live in a state with so many glaciers, I ought to see at least one of them.”
Fineo is no stranger to hiking, having tackled a 2,000-mile trek along the Appalachian Trail. Yet, he was eager to explore the remote, snow-covered expanse across the Bay, and contacted George Reising of Halibut Cove Adventures to see about setting up a hike.
A former financial engineer and mortgage banker hailing from Lower 48 metropolises like Pittsburgh and Seattle, Reising began finding his work less than satisfying and decided to try something different.
“In February of 2007, I left Pittsburgh and drove west in search of a dynamic community that was tightly connected to the environment surrounding it,” he explained. “Upon arriving in Homer, everything just clicked.”
A week after his arrival, Reising was offered a guiding job at a lodge in Halibut Cove.
“There, I found one of the most amazing backyards on earth: Kachemak Bay State Park,” he said. “I started Halibut Cove Adventures in 2009, and it is a dream-come-true to be able to turn your passion into your profession.”
Billed as an “intimate eco-adventure,” Reising’s full-service outfit offers daily guided services throughout Kachemak Bay, originating from Homer or Halibut Cove.
“An eco-adventure is one where the focus is on understanding and interacting with the ecology and natural history while having an adventure,” Reising explained. “This isn’t a race, nor is it a chance to see how many miles can be covered. It is about closely exploring this special place with a guide who can share the biology, ethnobotany, geology and human history of the area.”
That kind of adventure seemed right up Fineo’s alley, so he boarded the 8 a.m. water taxi and started the eight-mile-roundtrip hike at the shore.
“I think our first mile up over the saddle was probably the hardest,” Fineo said. “We went for about four miles without snowshoes, but then had to wear them for the last mile or so to keep from post-holing through the snow. I used hiking poles and found them to be fairly helpful.”
According to Reising, hiking into the face of Grewingk Glacier is not possible now because of the softening conditions. However, depending on the season, November to April generally offers a chance to ski, ice skate, snowshoe or hike across Glacier Lake and get right to the face of the glacier.
“Every trip is different,” he explained. “Have you ever seen miniature orchids on the trails or flying snails in the water? We often see coyote, bears, moose, grouse and all kinds of birds, and the cottonwood sap that’s starting to flow adds a sweetness to the air.”
Fineo said parts of the hike were fairly strenuous, causing him to work up quite a sweat after a while.
“I hiked most of the time with just a shirt on, as it was relatively warm amidst all the ice,” he said. “I packed a few things like a change of clothes, a tarp and some extra food. It was probably a good 15-20 extra pounds I was carrying, but you really have to come prepared when you’re hiking in the backcountry wilderness. The air turned much cooler once we got to Glacier Lake.”
Once across the lake, the hikers pulled out lunches and had an impromptu picnic right there on the ice.
“There were no other living creatures in sight, and it was dead quiet out there,” Fineo said. “Snow was melting off the sheer cliffs and causing small rock slides. As we got closer, we could hear the little rocks tumbling down the icy face of the glacier.”
Fineo said he was also stunned by the vastness of the area, and what he referred to as the “Alaska effect.”
“With the ‘Alaska effect,’ everything is three times higher, three times further and three times deeper than you think it is,” he explained. “It can be pretty deceiving when you’re right in the middle of it.”
Reising said his favorite part of any hike in the area is that moment of awe that brings everyone to silence.
“Whether you’re coming down from the moraine and get your first good view of the glacier, or standing by the face, surrounded by towering blue ice, everything just goes quiet,” he explained. “The rest of the world slips away, and words don’t seem to describe how that interactive experience makes so much sense.”
According to Reising, business hours for Halibut Cove Adventures are dependent on the activities, like tidepooling or exploring the alpine, but 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. is pretty standard.
“The day is yours and we want to help you make the most of it,” Reising said. “Whether you are a first-timer, or an experienced snowshoer, kayaker or hiker, we go at a pace that builds your confidence and encourages you to do more. Each adventure is intimate, personal and tailored to meet your interests. It’s the best way to experience the wilderness.”
Halibut Cove Adventures offers discounts for locals, and can be reached at 1-800-267-7581 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Halibut Cove Adventures
Grewingk Glacier Lake Loop
• Starts at Rusty’s Lagoon on Glacier Spit, and offers a hike through geologic time by walking the way of the glacier. Enjoy beaches, forests and glacial moraines.
• Easy-to-Moderate. Perfect for all hikers.
Alpine Ridge Hike
• Starts at sea level and runs through dense spruce forest and up above the timber line.
• At 2,200 feet, hikers’ efforts are rewarded with alpine meadows, tarns and overlooks. Bear, goats, moose, ptarmigan and marmots are frequently seen, but other hikers are not.
• Offers spectacular views of Kachemak Bay, Grewingk Glacier and the Kenai Mountains.
• Intermediate to Advanced
• Serious adventure-seekers might consider attempting the summit at 3,600 feet.
Grewingk Glacier Kayak and Hike
• Combines half-day of kayaking and half-day of hiking.
• Kayak from Halibut Cove to Saddle Trail and then hike to Grewingk Glacier Lake.
• Intermediate to Advanced (Steep climb and head-wind paddle)
• At a minimum, all adventure guides are certified in first aid and CPR
• All guides are trained for emergency response situations
• Owner and Guide George Reising is an ACA Certified Coastal Kayaking Trip Leader and a NOLS/WMI Wilderness First Responder.
Halibut Cove Adventures
P.O. Box 6404
Halibut Cove, Alaska 99603
Owner George Reising:
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