Photo Credit: Frank Kovalchek

The Glacier Discovery Hut-to-Hut System

May 22, 2019

 

KMTA Board Members pose in front of Spencer Glacier. L to R – Bernadine Atchison, Jeff Samuels, Martha Story and Art Copolous

 

Amy Dalton (standing) Executive Director of Alaska Huts, explains more about the project. L to R: John Wolfe (founder of Alaska Huts), Shawn Lyons (Huts board member), Greg Stiegel (Huts board member), Joan Travostino (Huts board member), Doug O’Harra (Huts board member), Amalie Couvillion (Huts staff member)

Alaska Huts Proposed Hut-to-Hut System

Alaska Huts is spearheading the efforts to put a hut-to-hut system in place in the KMTA National Heritage Area. Alaska Huts, in partnership with the Alaska Railroad, the US Forest Service (USFS), the Chugach National Forest and with a supporting grant from KMTA, is proposing a three-hut system along a 30-mile trail in the Kenai Mountains. At project end, the Glacier Discovery Hut-to-Hut, as it is being called, would have huts in place at Spencer, Bartlett and Trails glaciers.

Last weekend, courtesy of the Alaska Railroad, members of the KMTA Board of Directors along with many other supporters of this project were able to take a quick train ride from Portage Station to the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop and see firsthand the proposed site of the first hut.

The trail between the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop and the glacier overlook is three miles.

 

Along the trail from the Spencer Whistle Stop to the Spencer Glacier Overlook you are reminded of the hierarchy.

Glacial Discovery Trail

A mere 1.3 miles from the whistle stop, on an easily traveled gravel path, lies an iceberg-filled lake with a view of the magnificent face of Spencer Glacier looming three miles across the water. It is this setting where an 18-bed lodge would be built. The “hut” would be the first of the three built and they would all be along the Glacier Discovery Trail that is currently being constructed by the USFS. The trail would share a corridor with the railroad along the Placer River valley in the north and the Trail River valley in the south.

The previously mentioned Glacier Discovery Trail broke ground in 2006 and the Glacier Ranger District of the Chugach National Forest has been adding to it every year since. They have even built an impressive pedestrian bridge – the longest clear-span timber pedestrian bridge in the nation. Only seven more miles need to be cleared and the 30-mile connection will be complete.

The longest clear-span timber pedestrian bridge in the US. The proposed Spencer Hut would carry the same architectural style – using large timber pieces.

 

Doug O’Harra, an Alaska Huts Board Member talks about the proposed plans. Gretchen Nelson, Alaska Huts member, stands in the bottom right corner, listening.

 

A map located on the timber bridge shows an overview of the area.

Trail Would Provide Access to a Historic Corridor

Once finished the Glacier Discovery Hut-to-Hut system would provide visitors access to one the most important and historic travel corridors in the KMTA National Heritage Area. Pioneers and gold rush miners once traversed from road house to road house at the turn of the 19th -20th centuries. Travelers today would now be able to walk those same routes and relive the past.

Alaska Hut’s Previous Work – The Manitoba Cabin

Manitoba Hut Photo by Ian Stotesbury

This hut project is not Alaska Huts first foray into backcountry huts. Back in 2012 they started work on the Manitoba Cabin, at the top of Canyon Creek near Upper Summit Lake. This project was also supported with a KMTA grant. The historic mining cabin built in 1936, which is also located in the KMTA Corridor, was saved from near total collapse and is now used as a recreational hut. Also located on the property are two yurts available for rental. They and the cabin are all easily accessed as they are located a half mile in from Mile 48 of the Seward Highway. Hut systems are a little different in that they are a communal lodging experience. Bunks are rented and then a common cooking, dining and social space is shared. It is a great venue for families with children, with split firewood, a campfire ring and a Finnish sauna on site.

To Learn More

To find out more about the Glacier Discovery Project or to reserve your own time at the Manitoba Cabin go to www.alaskahuts.org.

Click here to join KMTA’s Newsletter to learn about events, current projects, grant cycles and program updates in the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm historic transportation corridor