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Day 3 thru 7
Kachemak Bay
State Park



Day 3 - The big day dawned fairly clear and calm. The ride across the bay to our drop-off point on Glacier Spit was uneventful. On the boat with us was another couple from England and a single guy from New Zealand. Waiting for us at the spit was a bald eagle perched in a dead tree, one of many we were to see in the Homer area. Getting off the boat onto dry land without getting our boots wet was an interesting exercise. To disembark the boat, the driver first drove the high bow up onto the shore. Then we had to climb up onto the forward deck and then climb down a step ladder ladder to the rocky beach. Doing it with a heavy pack on made it all the more "fun". Fortunately, everyone made it dry and safe. After the boat took off, we let the other backpackers get ahead of us so we could peacefully enjoy the natural beauty of the beach and the trail before us.

Hiking along Glacier Spit.
Getting off water taxi with dry boots.

The Glacier Lake Trail started out thru a thick forested area before breaking out onto the flat, gravel, glacial moraine of the Grewingk Glacier. At the first fork in the trail, we headed north on the Grewingk Glacier Trail across the moraine over towards Grewingk Creek and the hand-operated tram across the creek. Fortunately, the British couple was also at the tram at the same time. I say fortunately, because operating the tram was very difficult. We loaded Diane and our two backpacks into the tram for the first trip, then the British lady and their two packs for the second trip, and then the British guy and I took the 3rd and 4th trips. When we were all done, I was dreading having to do it all over again in a few days on our way back.


Hauling the tram across the creek was hard work!

The trail to Emerald Lake continued on up and over Foehn Ridge . The first part of the trail was great since it had just been cleared the previous day by a group of Boy Scouts doing trail maintenance. (editor's note: The Boy Scouts were part of a troop from Michigan doing trail maintenance in Alaska. All the backpackers were dreading the presence of about 30 Boy Scouts crowding the area but in fact they camped in out-of-the-way areas and greatly improved the trails with their hard work. I wish they could have stayed longer and did more maintenance!) Later when we got closer to the lake, the Boy Scouts' efforts ended and the trail was HEAVILY overgrown. The weeds on either side of the trail were sometimes taller than we were. We couldn't actually see the trail. Instead, we looked for the easiest route thru dense trees and brush and for other signs like wear markings on fallen logs from hiking boots stepping over them. We also "felt" for the trail with our hiking poles feeling for the easiest way thru the growth like blind people feeling their way around with their white canes.

The trail to Emerald Lake had many obstacles.

We eventually found our way to the lake. It was a beautiful lake nestled against the green gentle slope of a mountain. There were two wooden tent platforms there but the preferred location was along the narrow gravel beach. There was already another couple camped there named Steve and Jen. There was just enough room to pitch two more tents (us and the Brits) and still have privacy between each site. There was a toilet provided, but there was no outhouse around the toilet. The weeds were so high, they provided the privacy walls. You just called out as you approached the john to make sure it was vacant.

Our site at Emerald Lake

Here's our campsite on Emerald Lake. There are two other tents camped down along the
shoreline also, back in the bushes just like us.

Day 4 - Today we planned a day hike up to the top of Portlock Plateau. We no sooner started out and it started drizzling. It drizzled almost all the way to the top of the ridge. This trail was just like all the rest, HEAVILY overgrown with head-height weeds (where were the Boy Scouts when you needed them !). Fortunately, the drizzle stopped when we reached the top of the ridge, and while the low clouds hung around we were able to get enough of a view to reward us for our arduous efforts to get there. After a quick snack and several photos, we turned around and returned to our campsite at Emerald Lake.

That evening we were treated to a loon swimming on the lake. He kept swimming up and down the beach checking out the intruding backpackers camped by HIS lake.

The trail was VERY overgrown!
Looking north from Portlock Plateau.

These are the views from the top of Portlock Plateau.
Above is the view to the north and below is the view to the south.


Looking south from Portlock Plateau.

Day 5 - This morning we broke camp and headed back down hill to the tram. Fortunately, when we arrived at the tram, Steve and Jen were there. They had just arrived also, so we were able to help each other get across the tram by taking turns hauling on the ropes. Unfortunately, Steve and Jen were in a hurry as they had only about an hour until their appointed water taxi pick-up time and they still had about 3 miles to cover. We often wonder if they made it in time for their pickup We on the other hand were on no schedule as we slowly ambled along the trail to Grewingk Glacier Lake. We found a nice campsite on the gravel beach with a view out the tent window of the mountains, glacier and lake. When camping here it is wise to find a site that is close to the trees so that it is sheltered from the strong cold winds that can come down from the mountains following the path of the glacier and then whip across the open lake.

There were several "icebergs" floating on the lake. The wind would push them ashore onto the beach in front of our site as they slowly melted. I didn't even try to take a dip in this lake. I knew it would be too cold without even having to stick my hands in the water to check the temperature!

Finding fresh water for filtering was a little difficult. The glacier lake was very silty and unsuitable for filtering. Fortunately, there was a small hidden spring back near the junction of the Glacier Lake Trail and the Saddle Trail. You had to follow an old abandoned trail thru dense weeds and Devil's Club (a large, tall, particularly thorny and prickly weed) to find the spring.

Our site along Grewingk Lake
Diane in the "kitchen".
You can see our tent nestled alongside some trees for wind protection. The wind would come down Grewingk glacier and blow the icebergs up on the shore.

We rigged a tarp to protect us from the wind as we cooked and ate.

Day 6 - Today we had another day hike planned, this time to the top of Alpine Ridge. Alpine Ridge was the rocky mountain ridge just south of Grewingk Glacier. From up there we should get great views of the glacier, the lake and hopefully of Halibut Cove further to the south. Again the trail was HEAVILY overgrown. The trail was also VERY steep in sections, like about a 60 degree slope. The Alaskan State Parks didn't seem to believe in switchbacks. These steep sections were also bare of vegetation from erosion. We were glad it hadn't rained too recently otherwise these sections would have been like trying to climb up a muddy sliding board. Eventually we broke out above tree line into a rolling alpine meadow that stretched on for what seemed like forever. The views of the glacier were fabulous and we could also look south and see almost all of Halibut Cove and the river delta at the end of Halibut Creek. After taking lots of photos, we descended the trail back to our campsite.

Me along Alpine Ridge.

Here I am standing on Alpine Ridge. We continued hiking beyond the peak you see just behind my head. The trail was pretty much nonexistent at this point. You just made your way as best you could. It was rather steep going at times.

That night we were "treated" to a very strong wind storm. The wind just HOWLED down from the mountains, across the lake and straight at our tiny tent and dining tarp. I was glad that the small trees next to us were sheltering us a bit, that I had put large rocks on top of all the tent pegs and that we were in the tent to help hold it down. I didn't sleep well that night!

Here's the view of Grewingk Glacier from Alpine Ridge.
You can click on the image for an enlarged view (90k).


Grewingk Glacier from Alpine Ridge

Day 7 - Today was the last day of our backpack trip. We were originally going to be picked up later that afternoon. But last minute last night we decided it would be better to be picked up earlier this morning. That would give us more time back in Homer to do laundry. Fortunately our cell phone worked from Grewingk Glacier and we had been able to contact the water taxi office across the bay to reschedule our pickup.

It was a quick short hike back out to Glacier Spit where Mako's Water Taxi picked us up promptly and took us back to Homer. We did 4 loads of wet, muddy clothes and then checked into Beeson's B&B again for the night. Our friend Karen drove down from Anchorage and joined us that night.





Day 3 thru 7
Kachemak Bay
State Park


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last revised : February 12, 2006