First hike of the year a pleasant one in Homer
Bright sunshine, brilliant blue skies and a bounty of new fallen snow were enjoyed by some three dozen Homer and Anchor Point residents, as well as some visiting skiers from Anchorage, who participated in the Friends of Kachemak Bay State Park sponsored First Day Hike in Homer. The hike is part of a nationwide State Park First Day Hike Initiatives organized by The American State Parks Organization.
On the last day of 2017, event organizer Willy Dunn thought KBSP would be hosting a rainy First Day Hike, but the ski and snowshoe gods delivered a foot of snow overnight. Dave Brann and Robert Archibald arrived many dark hours early to provide some timely and expert trail grooming. Brann and Archibald also combined efforts to track in a snowshoe trail just in time for the First Day Hike festivities.
Event participants including families, couples and individuals, ranging from age 2 to over 70. Participants gathered near the trailhead at Eveline State Recreation Area located about 15 miles out East End Road. Homer's First Day Hike enthusiasts joined 60,000-plus other First Day Hike revelers in all 50 states who skied/snowshoed/hiked over 140,000 miles to celebrate the first day of the new year.
Homer was among five Alaska communities to hold "First Day Hike" activities, including Delta Junction, Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan. Overall, more than 1,700 Alaskans participated in the event.
Led by Martin Shuster, whose family donated the property that is now the Eveline State Recreation Area, Homer's First Day Hike revelers skied the perimeter of the ski trails and then ventured to the McNeil Canyon ski trails before returning. Two groups of snowshoers, lead by Brann and Dunne, journeyed forth and played in the new fallen snow on forays of one to two miles in length from the trailhead. And a group of hikers, guided by Janet Higby, including numerous families with tiny tykes in backpacks and on sleds — and including several canine family members — enjoyed the well-packed newly fallen snow. The young children clomping around on their snowshoes brought smiles to everyone's faces.
Following the various trail treks, participants returned to enjoy a warming fire, hot chocolate, hot dogs and other snacks that had been arranged next to the big spruce trees located by the trailhead. The trees provided some protection from the Eveline breezes. Gathered around the fire, the skiers, hikers and snowshoers compared notes about their various treks, while also catching up with longtime friends and making some new ones.
This is the fifth Homer First Day Hike Celebration including Melisse Reichman, who quite accurately described the entire event as "Sweet", and Dave Eckwert and their fluffy canine-kid Keto, as well as Aron Peterson and his family, shared stories from previous year's First Day Hike gatherings and adventures. Archibald, who is the designated official storyteller for the First Day Hike Events, regaled everyone with his lively, entertaining and humorous anecdotes.
Reports from the other Alaskan First Day Hike communities include from Delta Junction ('the Farthest North First Day Hike"), that in spite of the high "Delta winds" and single-digit temperatures, 75 people traveled the trail that meanders along Quartz Lake's edge while exploring through the woods, which provided shelter from the winds.
In the woods, participants found artsy "tree people" hiding along the way that entertained the group. Participants later met in the Glatfelder Cabin to enjoy hot chili and hot drinks. First Day Hikers from the South eastern communities of Ketchican, Sitka, and Juneau experienced high winds, rain and snow but more than 60 people nonetheless came out to celebrate the New Year and share some trail time and hot drinks.