Story last updated at 12:45 p.m. Thursday, July 10, 2003

Public use cabins provide gateway to Kachemak Bay State Park

Cabins in the woods

by Ben Stuart
Staff Writer

photo: outdoors

  Photo by Ben Stuart, Homer News
Sunsets over the bay are visible from the cabin's porch. Reservations for the cabins can be made up to six months in advance for Alaska residents, and fill up quickly.  
Sometimes the best places for peace and quiet aren't quiet at all.

As the last remaining drones of the water taxi motor dissipated in the distance last week, a new stanza of sound took over at the Sea Star public use cabin in Tutka Bay.

The crackling of a campfire played harmony to the deep crashing bass of waves on flat rocks. Eagles sang to each other from high branches. Trees creaked as they swayed from a stiff breeze. And somewhere in the bay the rhythmic breathing of a surfacing whale kept perfect time.

Kachemak Bay State Park's 400,000 acres are filled with wildlife and outdoor opportunity, and the five public use cabins located in the park have become popular destinations.

A stay at the public use cabin, like the one in Tutka Bay, is a trip back to simpler times. The trappings of the high speed modern world are quickly forgotten. A well-built fire and a good book is entertainment. The kayak or skiff or a good pair of hiking boots is the only form of transportation available. Salmon and mussels and clams are available for harvest. And near the summer solstice, when daylight seems eternal, a clock is valuable only as a reminder of the next low tide.

photo: outdoors

  Photo by Ben Stuart, Homer News
The Sea Star Cove public use acbin sits on a ridge above Tutka bay.  
Homer resident Annie Moylan recently returned from a two-day stay at Sea Star Cove cabin and said the experience was rewarding.

"I love it, my daughter and I have been going on these trips as soon as we discovered the cabins," she said. "It is a wonderful experience."

"We picked mussels off the rocks. My daughter and I like to sing so we get to sing and dance in the woods," she said. "It is great."

Moylan said that a stay in a public use cabin can also be a great teaching tool for youth.

"It gives you a sense that someone was good to you and that you should be good to the next group," she said. "(It gives you) a real sense of caring for the space."

photo: outdoors

  Photo by Ben Stuart, Homer News
Dogwoods are among the abumdance of plant and animal life located throughout Kachemak bay State Park.  
"I have been going for the past four years," she said "but you have to sign up really early."

A quick look through the log book in the cabin provides a snapshot of who has come before, what they did and what they saw. People visit the cabins from foreign countries and across Alaska.

Reservations can be made up to six months in advance for residents, and Roger MacCampbell of Alaska State Parks said they go quickly.

"They are very, very popular," he said. "Most of the popular cabins are booked solid by April."

MacCampbell said the cabins are 98 percent booked throughout the summer. Weekends and holidays are the first to go. Fees are nonrefundable, but a one-time cabin credit is available under certain circumstances.

Kachemak Bay State Park is Alaska's oldest, founded in May 9, 1970 and signed into law by Governor Egan. The cabins within the park were built in the early 1990's.

Three of the park's log-constructed cabins are located in Halibut Cove Lagoon. There is also one near China Poot Lake and one in Tutka Bay. Each contains a wood-burning stove for heat, sleeping bunks for up to six adults and latrine facilities.

The cabins are popular not only because of their locations they are rustic, generally clean and well maintained, and provide a cozy retreat during inclement weather. They all offer great views of the park. Their distance from town, an hour's boat ride or so from Homer, allows for a feeling of remoteness.

Alaska State Parks maintains more than 40 public use cabins throughout the state. Most are located near trails, lakes, or near beaches. A few are located on a road system, but most are remote.

The Kachemak Bay cabins were built near popular recreational areas and can only be reached by boat or floatplane. They are situated in and among more than 80 miles of hiking trails. Kayaking is a popular activity in these areas since most of the cabins are located in protected coves and lagoons, and fishing can be good-to-excellent depending on the time of year.

There is no electricity to the cabins or running water. Creeks in the area are prevalent, but water should be boiled or purified before drinking.

Availability of each cabin can be found at the state's Web site: kenai.dml.

Reservations can be made in person at one of the Alaska State Parks offices or by mailing a printable form with payment. MacCampbell said online reservations with a credit card should be available soon. The cabins cost $50 per night and can be reserved for up to seven consecutive nights.