A packraft traverse is an affordable, unique and diverse way to experience Kachemak Bay State Park. Many potential variations or additions can be made to our route, detailed here. We started in Humpy Creek, easy to reach via water taxi from Homer ($80 roundtrip).
Humpy Creek to Jakolof Bay
All together, it's 24 hiking miles, 18 flatwater (lake and ocean) paddling miles and 8.5 river paddling miles. Skill levels needed: basic sea kayak paddling and class II river rafting. Water taxis make regular runs from Homer to the park. Wildlife includes black bears, mountain goats, sea otters and harbor seals. Wildflowers are abundant in early summer, salmonberries and blueberries later in the season. Trails and topography are marked on the National Geographic "Trails Illustrated" Map of Kachemak Bay State Park. It took us 10 days at 3-year-old speed, but adults should be able to finish in no more than seven days. To break it down section by section:
• Portlock Plateau and Emerald Lake, 6.7 miles: From Humpy Creek, a trail heads northeast along the beach and then up into the alpine tundra of the Portlock Plateau before dropping down to Emerald Lake and then to Grewingk Lake.
• Grewingk Lake and the Saddle Trail, 6.6 miles: Paddling the lake, you can visit the icebergs and approach the face of the glacier before following the Saddle Trail to Halibut Cove.
• Halibut Cove to China Poot Lake, 5.9 miles: Paddle from the Saddle Trail beach into Halibut Cove Lagoon. The current doesn't begin flowing into the lagoon until a few hours after low tide, so plan accordingly. Find the trail to China Poot Lake (as well as a ranger station and trail reports) from the public dock at the back of Halibut Cove Lagoon.
• Poot Peak, 5.3 miles: From China Poot Lake, you can follow a 5-mile loop trail to the peak. We found the North Route to be steep but in good shape, while the South Route was very overgrown (though we did quite a bit of clearing). The view from the top is rewarding, but the spur route to the peak is extremely steep, especially at the top, with scree chutes and rock scrambling. The official trail description cautions that "only people with rock-climbing training should continue beyond this point." There's also a nice viewpoint around halfway up the spur, before the steepest climb. Back at China Poot Lake, follow a trail to the Wosnesenski River.
• China Poot Lake, 2.2 miles: As a mellower alternate to Poot Peak, follow the hiking trail directly from Halibut Cove to the Wosnesenski River, past China Poot and 4th lakes. Or paddle the lakes, using a small (unmarked) portage trail between them.
• Wosnesenski River, 8.5 miles: This braided glacial river is a class II float, and paddlers need to be prepared to avoid sweepers and strainers. A trail follows along river right, but hazards can usually be portaged on broad open gravel flats.
• Eldredge Passage, 6.1 miles: The Wosnesenski River will spit paddlers out into the ocean waters of Kachemak Bay, where you can paddle around a series of beaches and headlands to Sadie Cove. At Sadie Cove, paddle across about a half-mile of water to reach the north end of the Grace Ridge Trail. Usually an easy paddle, but as in all ocean paddling, you may have to wait out strong winds.
• Grace Ridge Trail, 7.5 miles: This trail climbs from the ocean to follow a long alpine ridge before descending to Tutka Bay. Beautiful views and good camping possibilities high up, but the only water is a little north of the peak.
• Tutka Bay and Tutka Lagoon, 2.9 miles: Tutka Bay is the longest ocean crossing on the route at a little under a mile, about a half hour in a packraft. Though usually straightforward, strong winds can sometimes blow out of the bay, forcing a paddler to wait for the weather (there is good camping where the trail meets the beach). Near high tide (preferably rising), paddle into Tutka Lagoon past the hatchery. If it's not high enough, you might have to portage your raft around some of the channels to get to the back of the lagoon.
• Jakolof Bay, 4.4 miles: From the back side of Tutka Lagoon a short trail through forest drops you into a clear cut. Turn right at the logging road and follow it to the Jakolof Bay Road. This road is accessible by car from Seldovia. Walk the road or beaches (at low tide), or paddle the bay (the most scenic option) to the Jakolof Public Dock, where you can catch a water taxi back to Homer.
-- Erin McKittrick