In our own Backyard

Story last updated at 2:58 PM on Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Taste of the Outdoors for everyone's appetite

In our own backyard

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer


 

Photographer: McKibben Jackinsky, Homer News

The Eveline State Recreation Area offers about 5 kilometers of trails for skiing and hiking.

On a sunny day, Eveline State Recreation Area offers jaw-dropping scenery. You can see the snow-covered mountains and ice-filled valleys separating Kachemak Bay from the Gulf of Alaska. The tantalizing views lift work-weary eyes and stir imaginations about what lies just beyond that ridge or on the other side of that mountain peak.

Rainy day clouds pull a curtain on those spectacular vistas and focus visitors' attention on what the recreation area has to offer. Misty rain creates diamond-like drops of water on meadows purple with lupine and wild geranium. Scattered throughout are yellow Unalaska paintbrush and dark brown chocolate lilies. Closer to the ground delicate forget-me-nots and tiny white valerian blossoms stay dry and protected.

Still-developing watermelon berries and tall-stemmed larkspur serve as a reminder more blooms will come before summer is over and already-turning-red fireweed and geranium leaves promise a spectacular change of scene once daylight hours dwindle.

The land comprising Eveline State Recreation Area was given to the state of Alaska by Anchorage resident Edmund Schuster in 1999 in memory of his wife, Eveline. In 2001, the state designated the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club as managers of the area.

"(Schuster) felt the state had been really good to him and he had this property and so, in Eveline's memory, he donated 80 acres to the state of Alaska for a recreation site," said trails advocate Dave Brann, who is a friend of Schuster, as well as a member of KNSC.

The recreation area is about 14 miles out East End Road and is reached by turning left on Alpine Meadows Drive.

A register at the entrance to the area captures comments from visitors.

"It was beautiful," wrote Jean and Hank of Sebastian, Fla., who celebrated their 39th wedding anniversary with a hike in the rain.

"Lovely views and flowers," wrote Debbie of Simi Valley, Calif., who came to the site to hike and do a bit of bird-watching.

Other signatures note addresses in Canada, Scotland, Australia and from across the United States. Reasons for visiting are as numerous as the addresses.

The 5K trail system winds across meadows, through alders, among spruce and birch trees. Gravel has been added to a short loop that connects to a viewing platform and picnic area, making them wheelchair accessible. More improvements are planned to increase the accessibility.

"It's a pretty easy hike for all levels. Somebody with crutches or being pushed in a fat-tire wheelchair can make it around," said Brann.

An outhouse has been constructed near the trailhead.

The recreation site is less than two miles from McNeil Canyon Elementary School, making it a valuable outdoor classroom for teachers Melon Purcell and Debbie Piper.

"There are lots of different habitats to see and, for kids, there is a lot to wonder about. On one field trip, we gave the kids 'I wonder' books so they could write down things they saw, but didn't totally understand," said Purcell.

For instance, why did rabbits eat limbs halfway up a small spruce tree, but didn't touch the bottom limbs? Answer: The lower limbs were buried in snow.

"It is a place in our own backyard where families can hike in the summer and ski in the winter," said Piper. "It's a very, very nice local resource for us."

In Brann's 2011 annual report to the Alaska Division of State Parks, he noted 255 recorded volunteer hours upgrading and maintaining the trails for summertime hikers and wintertime skiers. The Kachemak Nordic Ski Club also spent $6,000 on trail upgrades. The Field family — Conrad, Carmen and daughter Eryn — created "Flowers of Eveline State Recreation Area," a weather-protected guide for identifying the many plants that make the area their home. A project needing completion is an easy-to-read trials map.

"That would be a great project for anybody that has an interest and talent that way," said Brann, encouraging use of the register. "Even if you hike three, four times a week, sign the register. It shows people are using it, that there's a need."

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.

Eveline State Recreation Area

Location:

Approximately 14 miles out East End Road, turn left on Alpine Meadows Drive, proceed a half mile to parking area and recreation area sign.

History:

1999: 80 acres given to the state by Edmund Schuster in memory of his wife, Eveline.

2001: Memorandum of agreement making Kachemak Nordic Ski Club managers of the area.

2011: 1,606 visitors from eight countries and 29 states; volunteers spent 255 hours maintaining and upgrading the area.

Size:

80 acres

Trails:

Approximately 5 kilometers for skiing and hiking; some are wheelchair accessible.

Amenities:

Picnic tables, outhouse.

Wildlife:

Moose, black bear, porcupine, coyote, fox, red squirrel, mice, shrews, voles

Birds:

Sandhill cranes, ravens, crows, eagles, grey jays, stellar jays, white-winged crossbills, snipes, siskins, chickadees.

Plants:

Photographic guide and listing of plants provided near the register at the area entrance.

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