Spend the first day of 2018 recreating outdoors
A very fun way to begin your new year is to join the Friends of Kachemak Bay State Park sponsored annual First Day hike, ski and snowshoe event held from noon to 4 p.m. at Eveline State Recreation Area.
The First Day event, one of two in Alaska (the other being held at the Quartz Lake State Recreation Area), is one of hundreds of hikes taking place as part of the National Guided First Day Hike Program, which occurs in all 50 states. Last year, as many as 55,000 people celebrated their first day of the new year by collectively hiking, skiing, or snowshoeing more than 133,000 miles all across the United States.
Willy Dunne organizes the event, and numerous local guides, including members of the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club, offer guided trips around Eveline State Recreation Area's Trail System. Depending upon conditions, the First Day Event may be a ski tour, a snowshoe romp or a hike.
Remember, it may be snow-free down in Homer, but snow-packed at Eveline, so bring all of your gear including sleds. The Center for Coastal Studies rents snowshoes for $5 per day. If you are planning to stay after sunset, be sure to bring a headlamp.
Follow East End Road about 14.5 miles north and turn west (left) on Alpine Meadows Drive (look for the sign to Eveline State Recreation Area.) Drive 0.5 miles on Alpine Meadows Drive to the parking area and trailhead located on the south (left) side of the road. Here, you will find ample parking, information and a sign-in kiosk (be sure to sign in), and a nearby outhouse. From the parking lot and trailhead sign-in, ski/walk about 50 feet to join the trail. Turn left and walk about 100 feet and turn right onto the upper section of the Glacier View Trail. Ski or walk about 200 feet to the picnic table viewpoint gathering area.
The First Day hike/ski/snowshoe is becoming a much-anticipated Homer tradition to the delight of everyone from infants to octogenarians, and offers something for every skill and energy level. Everyone gathers around the picnic table and temporary shelter tent located at the overlook on the upper section of the Glacier View Loop just a few hundred feet from the parking area and trailhead. There's a bonfire, grill and food table with hot chocolate, hot dogs and snacks.
Bring your camp chair and warm boots for hanging out. The gathering place at the Glacier View Loop picnic table offers stunning views of Kachemak Bay and the southern Kenai Mountains including the Dixon and Portlock Glaciers and the southern end of the Harding Icefield that feeds these glaciers.
Just upslope from the picnic table you can enjoy spectacular 360-degree stunning views of Kachemak Bay and Southern Cook Inlet and, on clear days, all the way to the Chigmat Mountains and the Aleutian Range, including the 10,000-foot-high Redoubt and Iliamna volcanoes, 75 miles away to the west.
Pets on a leash are welcome.
You can venture off on your own, or participate in a one of several guided hikes/skis/snowshoes, which begin promptly at noon, along one of the multiple trails ranging in length from a quarter mile to three miles. These guided excursions include shorter family-and-fun-oriented romps in the snow to longer trail tours over more challenging terrain.
The Kachemak Nordic Ski Club has placed numerous trail maps around the recreation area to help guide you. The upper sections of the of Glacier View and Alpine Meadows Loops form a short loop around the top of the hill near the platform, providing easy access to some excellent views. After you finish your trail tours, return to the picnic table for hot chocolate, hot dogs and other treats as well as plenty of fun and frolic around the fire with other First Day adventurers and fun seekers.
Visit the Friends online at friendsofkachemakbay.org. Members and volunteers of the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club provide all the trail signs; trail building, and year-round maintenance. Visit the club's website at kachemaknordicskiclub.org. For more information on the National First Day Hikes Program, visit www.stateparks.org/initiatives-special-programs/first-day-hikes/.
Eveline is adjacent to thousands of acres of undeveloped state and federal lands that afford unlimited off-trail backcountry skiing and snowshoeing opportunities. However, if you head off-trail, be aware that there are numerous private in-holdings that form a patchwork of public and private lands. Most private landowners are tolerant of backcountry explorers, and we would all like to maintain those cordial relationships. Therefore, when you engage in off-trail adventures, please be considerate of private landowners by steering clear of their developed building sites.
Hikers and snowshoers, please try to hike or snowshoe along the margins of the ski trails, or snowshoe on the designated snowshoe trails, avoiding the well-groomed portions of the ski tracks.