By Christina Whiting
Moose Valley is one of Kachemak Bay State Park’s lesser-known trails. While Poot Peak, Grace Ridge, the Glacier Trail and the Alpine Ridge Trail are all popular, and for good reason, the Moose Valley Trail is just as beautiful, just as accessible and rewards the hiker with just as spectacular, knock-your-socks-off views. If you’re looking for beauty and solitude, you’ll find both on the less-traveled Moose Valley trail.
Accessible between late June and late October, Moose Valley trail can be reached via the Halibut Cove Lagoon public dock, on the trailhead for the China Poot Lake trail. Moose Valley trail is 6.7 miles long and the adjoining China Poot trail sections are an additional 4 miles roundtrip, making the entire trail just over 10 miles long, with an elevation gain of 1,400 feet.
Friend Taz Talley and I anticipate the valley will be cloaked in autumn colors, and we’re eager to spend a full day photographing the landscape from the lower elevations of Moose Valley. We could make camp in one of the rustic campsites along the Moose River, but we decide instead to treat ourselves to a couple of nights in the historic public use Moose Valley cabin. Eager to step out in to autumn’s splendor across the Bay, we make our cabin and water taxi reservations and we pack.
At the Halibut Cove Lagoon public dock, we leave our water taxi behind. The early morning light stretches towards late morning as we begin our steady ascent near the ranger station on the China Poot Lake trail. We pass a stream and waterfall and then climb a short, steep section that intersects with the Coalition trail heading to the west.
We continue up the China Poot Lake trail, where the trail switchbacks gently upward through spruce forests and passes through iris-dotted wetlands. And now we reach the intersection with the Moose Valley Trail, which we take to the left, heading east. Here, the trail meanders along the north shore of Two Loon Lake, which is reflecting early season snow that graces the top of the surrounding peaks and ridgelines to the south.
From here, we climb up and over the drainage-divide ridge into Moose Valley itself. A short distance past the drainage divide brings us to the south fork, which takes us to our home away from home, the Moose Valley Cabin.
Built in the 1950’s, this old trapper’s cabin is low squat with rough-hewn logs of many different diameters. Moss and lichen fill the spaces between the logs, both on the exterior and on the interior, in an attempt to provide a partial seal.
We enter the cabin through a low, hobbit-size door and take in the rustic surroundings. There’s a small woodstove, a small table and a small sleeping platform. Everything about this cabin is small and quaint and cozy. It’s perfect for us and we settle right in to a meal of soup and sandwiches, perched next to the pools and riffles of Moose Creek that flows directly in front of the cabin.
After dinner, we move to the large deck and drink hot chocolate, watching the light fade and the stars emerge. We’re grateful that we brought our headlamps, as there are no windows in the cabin and the only other source of light other than our lamps is the front door. With full bellies, sleep comes easily to us.
In the morning, beneath a gentle drizzle under a clearing sky, we hike back up to the main trail and then down towards Moose Creek and Moose Valley, which meanders back and forth across its wide and flat floodplain. Heavy moisture clings to the wildflowers and tall grasses, soaking our arms and our legs through our raingear. Upon reaching the valley floor, we are delighted with our first unhindered view across the valley. A stunning showcase of golden grasses, the bright yellow leaves of the aspen, birch and giant cottonwood trees, and the multi-hued reds of the fireweed greet us.
Our eyes are then drawn upward and we gape at the soaring, snow-dusted peaks, brilliantly highlighted against a cerulean sky. This is a photographer’s nirvana; it’s what we came to see, and we spend the day here, shooting the spectacular landscape that leaves us breathless and humbled.
The Moose Valley trail extends beyond Moose Valley and traverses up in to the high country around Poot Peak. On this trip, Taz and I choose to focus our adventures on the floor of Moose Valley itself, which offers a plethora of delights for the senses. As the sun begins to set, we make our way back to the cabin where once again, sleep comes easily.
We wake early, pack our gear, sweep the cabin and walk slowly back along the trail, returning to the ranger station the same way we came. The late morning light filters through the spruce forest as we emerge back on to the public dock. We eat lunch, share our photographs with one another and wait for our water taxi to scoop us up and return us to Homer. We came seeking beauty and solitude and as always, Moose Valley trail delivered.
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