Kenai Peninsula Trail Service, Chugach National Forest, Alaska

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 13015A, Service/ Volunteer

Highlights

  • Assist rangers in removing non-native plants
  • Hike into beautiful Kenai Peninsula work area
  • Enjoy a full-day boat tour of Kenai Fjords after project

Includes

  • Transportation to and from project area
  • Tasty meals and snacks
  • Camping fees and Kenai Fjords tour

Details

DatesJun 16–22, 2013
Price$1,195
Deposit$200
Capacity7
Difficulty3 (out of 5)
StaffHolly Wenger

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Trip Overview

The Trip

Come venture with us into the Chugach National Forest. At 5.4 million acres, it is the second largest single national forest in the United States. Due to its enormous size, it encompasses a wide variety of terrain and ecosystems, from saltwater coastlines to soaring peaks and from austere glaciers to lakes and rivers teeming with fish. People living in Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, have a portion of the Chugach right in their backyards, yet it is one of the least roaded forests of all, at less than 2%. The stunning expanse of the Chugach was established as a national forest by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907.

Forest Service personnel will pick us up in Anchorage and we will all go shopping, following a list to pick up our food supplies for the week. Then it's on down the highway toward Portage Valley. The spectacular drive takes us past birding hotspots, along the shore of Cook Inlet with its Beluga whales, and past high peaks where travelers can often spot nearby Dall's sheep and bald eagles. We will camp in a lovely campground near a rushing creek where we can walk to views of glaciers. After our first breakfast together we will go to the newly refurbished Begitch-Boggs Visitor's Center for orientation, and to peruse the fine displays and information. The visitor's center sits at the edge of Portage Lake, formed by the well-known Portage Glacier, which calves icebergs into the lake all summer.

Our project will place us in a popular area for summer hiking and fishing, for fall hunting, and for winter ski, sled, and snowmobile outings, yet on any given day one is not likely to meet very many other people out on the trail. Our exact work location will not be known until we arrive for our project, but it could place us along the Resurrection Pass Trail, which runs from Hope, Alaska, along Cook Inlet, up and over stunning mountains to connect with the Sterling Highway near Copper Landing. Along this trail there is a string of public use cabins that hikers can reserve, making this trail a wonderful outing area -- and bringing in invasive plants!

Our days will be spent hard at work with our ranger-guides, but our evenings can include pleasant walks for scenery and wildlife viewing, or just relaxing with a good book, listening to the sounds of nature around us. In this area of Alaska the sun will not set until late during June! Sleeping in our tents, breathing the fresh Alaska air, will rejuvenate us nightly. 

The Project

We will be spending several days working hard with Chugach National Forest rangers on their on-going project to remove invasive, non-native plants from areas near trails and public use cabins. This work has been an important on-going project for Alaskan hikers for a number of years, and groups like the Sierra Club can add much appreciated help. We will be trained in safety and tool use before hiking into the work area. During the week we may be asked to pitch in with a variety of tasks as needed by our ranger hosts.

Itinerary

Day 1: We will be picked up in Anchorage on June 16. After the group helps in grocery shopping, we travel a scenic highway -- with the possibility of viewing Dall's sheep and Beluga whales -- to our campground in the Portage Creek valley. We will have free time in the evening to walk on trails and view the creek and nearby glaciers.

Day 2: We pack up and eat breakfast, then proceed to the Begitch-Boggs Visitor's Center at Portage Glacier for our orientation to the project, with time to enjoy the center's displays. Then it's on to the trailhead and an approximately seven-mile backpack into our work area.

Days 3-5: These are full work days. Although the project aim is non-native weed eradication, it is possible that the rangers will need our help with other tasks, so we will remain open to any work needs that they have for us. We may be hiking to and from various sites close to our base camp each day, and these trails could be steep or wet. Evenings will include free time to do some exploring near camp, and possibly fishing.

Day 6: We will be prepared to do any morning work needed, then hike back out of the area. We will take a van ride to Seward, where we will set up camp in a busy urban campground at the edge of town, with hot showers available. Dinner will be in a local restaurant and we have the evening to explore a bit of this quaint town.

Day 7: After a breakfast either in our campsite or at a nearby cafe, we will take the classic boat tour through Kenai Fjords National Park, on the lookout for whales, sea birds, and seals. We visit several tidewater glaciers. This day-long tour -- already included in the trip price -- is professionally guided with interpretive talks by ranger-naturalists and includes lunch and snacks. After the boat tour, we will reconnect with our bus and ride back to Anchorage, arriving late evening. Dinner will either be at a stop along the drive or in Anchorage, depending on group preference.

Photos

Details

Getting There

It is recommended that participants arrive in Anchorage at least one day before our outing, or more if you have the time (the trip leader will provide you with an extensive list of possible sights to visit in Anchorage before or after our trip). There will be a pre-trip meeting at 2:00 p.m. June 15 to go over our week's itinerary, and do a gear check. We also hope to arrange a meet-up at the Anchorage office of the Sierra Club on June 15 to hear about Alaska conservation issues from local members. There will be an optional no-host dinner gathering on June 15 at one of the leader's favorite restaurants in Anchorage.

We will provide you with a pick-up site and time where we will all gather on June 16 to begin the official outing. Forest Service personnel will provide our transportation to the Portage Creek area on June 16, and to the trailhead on June 17. They will transport us to Seward on June 21. After our Kenai Fjords boat tour out of Seward, we will take a private shuttle back to Anchorage.

Participants should plan to make their own reservations for accommodations for the night of June 22 in Anchorage, as our return will be in the late evening. Many airlines have very late flights out of Anchorage, so it is possible that some people could depart June 22. Others may depart June 23, or stay on to visit other parts of Alaska. The trip leader will have many suggestions for you and can help you in planning additional Alaska activities, including staying in the Seward area prior to your return to Anchorage.

Accommodations and Food

We will be camping in a forest service campground the first night (no showers), at our work site near a public use cabin the next three nights (no showers and just our group), and at an urban campground with hot showers the last night (includes RV's, lots of people).

On day 1 we will camp in an established campground in the lovely Portage Valley, and day 6 we camp right in the town of Seward, at a busy urban campground with hot showers and a fabulous ocean view. On days 2-5 we will sleep in our tents near a public use cabin in a remote setting, using the cabin for food storage and cooking.

All meals and snacks from lunch on June 163 through dinner on June 22 are covered in the trip cost. After our first dinner and breakfast in a campground, we will be heading out on backpack, hence our meals will be light-weight, packable - and tasty! You will be working hard each day, so this trip is designed to have one or the other of the leaders be the day's cook while we are in the project area, though folks with extra energy are always welcome to help out!

Trip Difficulty

The trip is rated as Moderate, 3, and is open to any adult who is fit and able enough to do outdoor physical work of an easy to moderate nature. Participants must be able to backpack 6-7 miles into the work site with all their own gear, including clothes, sleeping bag, pad and tent, plus a portion of group food and kitchen equipment. Depending on trail conditions and ranger needs, our work days may begin with hikes up trails that could be steep or wet, though we need only carry a day pack. On Friday we will retrace our backpack out of the area. As with any outdoor activity, you will enjoy the trip more if you participate in a regular exercise program and arrive in fit condition.

Equipment and Clothing

Each participant will provide his/her own rain-worthy tent, synthetic sleeping bag, pad, eating dishes and utensils, and sturdy hiking/work boots. You will need a good set of rain gear, layers of clothing appropriate for varied conditions, and a backpack with enough volume capacity to carry approximately 10 pounds of group food and gear in addition to your own equipment. Your pack should have a hydration system or a pocket for a water bottle within easy reach. We will be provided with work tools and gloves or eye protection as needed for our service work. A detailed equipment list will be sent to all approved participants.

References

Websites:

Books:

  • McPhee, John, Coming Into the Country.
  • Mitchener, James A., Alaska.
  • Muir, John, Travels in Alaska.
  • Romans-Lax & Sherwonit, Alaska's Kenai Peninsula: A Traveler's Guide.
  • Pitcher, Don, Moon Spotlight: Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula.

Maps:

  • USGS maps, Seward B-8 and Seward C-8 (but exact trip area could change)

Conservation

As is the case in many state and national forests and parks, non-native plant species have been imported either purposefully or by accident via human and animal visitors. To help these areas maintain a healthy environment and natural habitat for endemic species, we can contribute by removing the often fast-spreading invasive plants. When invasives take over, natural food sources for local animal species are often diminished, affecting the entire food chain. Our rangers will provide a great education on the issue while we work, or as we relax over our meals.

When we visit the Anchorage Sierra Club office prior to our trip, we will find out the very latest information about conservation issues in the area and what is being done by local organizations. We can expect to discuss coal mining proposals in the nearby Matanuska Valley and the intense pressure to drill for oil just offshore in the Arctic Ocean, and how these Alaska issues tie in with national Sierra Club goals of moving beyond coal and oil. We will examine an issue of enormous interest in Alaska, the ongoing fight to protect one of the planet's richest fisheries, Bristol Bay, from the impacts of the proposed Pebble Mine, a gigantic gold mine proposed for the Alaska peninsula by a Canadian company.

Climate change is a topic on everyone's mind, and the effects of rising sea levels, warming of oceans, glacier retreat, and thawing of Arctic tundra, among others, are especially noticeable in Alaska. We will have many opportunities to discuss these Alaska issues, and we also hope that participants will wish to share issues of importance from their home areas.

Staff

Leader:

Holly Wenger has spent a portion of each summer over the past decade leading Sierra Club trips in Alaska or the Yukon, and has hiked, paddled, and otherwise explored even more of these amazing areas on her own. She considers it to be a privilege to offer service in the Chugach National Forest. As an avid gardener, Holly is interested in examining the roles of native vs. non-native plant species in a forest setting, and the impact human activities have on plant communities.

Assistant Leader:

Nancy Mathison

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