hiking

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

Law enforcement is investigating after a man reported being bitten by a brown bear on the Upper Kenai River Trail this weekend.

A man reported the incident Sunday around 8 p.m. on the upper part of the Kenai River Trail, which starts from Skilak Lake Loop Road. According to Alaska Wildlife Troopers, the man was hiking alone with his dog when the dog chased a female bear with two cubs, causing her to charge the hiker.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Money for a 500-mile Alaska Long Trail will likely be included in the Alaska Legislature’s budget this year.

The nonprofit Alaska Trails Initiative came up with the idea for a multi-use trail between Seward and Fairbanks last year and has been trying to find money for it since. 

On Wednesday, Sitka Republican Sen. Bert Stedman and Anchorage Democratic Sen. Bill Wielechowski sponsored an amendment to the Senate’s version of the budget to set aside $13 million for the project.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

There’s a new pond near Cooper Landing. It formed as snowmelt and drainage from a creek pooled in the underpass at the bottom of Skyline Trail, blocking hikers from going under the highway to get from the parking lot to the trailhead.

The underpass is new. It was built in 2019 and cost the state just under $400,000, as part of a larger Sterling Highway rehabilitation project.

Now, it’s unpassable because of all the water.

The Alaska Long Trail is a proposal to create a continuous, 500-mile hiking route from Seward to Fairbanks, linking together existing trails and creating  new ones. This project would also link together grassroots efforts and organizations, namely, Alaska Trails, and land managers, including the Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation. On this week’s Kenai Conversation, we hear about what it would take to create the Alaska Long Trail and to create partnerships to maintain existing trails throughout the state.

Patrick Quiner/Alaska Division of Forestry

Two more trails that were damaged by the Swan Lake Fire last year have reopened.

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge announce Friday that the lower Kenai River Trail and the Seven Lakes trails are now open to the public again after crews finished mitigating the damage. Both trails were in the heart of the burn zone for the massive Swan Lake Fire last year, and have been closed all summer so far.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A man was killed by a bear last night near the town of Hope.

The Alaska Wildlife Troopers say the man was clearing brush near his property off the Hope Highway, around mile 8, near the community of Sunrise. Troopers say his wife became worried when he didn’t return on time and his dog returned without him.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

The Kenai Peninsula is seeing some of its most beautiful weather of the year right around now, which is getting a lot of people outside. But it’s also getting the bears out, and where they overlap with people, there can be trouble.

On Sunday, a brown bear was reported to have bluff charged a hiker on the Skilak Lookout trail off Skilak Lake Road. No one was reportedly hurt, but running into a bear can be scary. Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Park Ranger Leah Eskelin says some are taking actions like firing warning shots into the air to scare off bears, but that’s not the best way to go.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

Several popular trails closed after being damaged by the Swan Lake Fire last year are reopening to the public.

The Skyline Trail, which takes hikers up a steep mile to the tops of the Mystery Hills, and Hideout Trail, which takes off from near the eastern entrance of Skilak Lake Road, are now open again. Fuller Lakes Trail has been open this year up to the lower lake, but closed up to the upper lake. That upper part is now open as well. All three trails are popular but were closed due to extensive damage during the fires in 2019.

Elizabeth Earl / KDLL

Frequent hikers in the Cooper Landing area may be familiar with one of the favorite community hikes: Slaughter Gulch. The trail meanders through a forested half mile before jaunting up a grueling mile and a half to an alpine ridge, leading hikers up another steep peak ascent that looks down over the bright teal ribbon of Kenai Lake and the Kenai River.

Until the last month or two, it was uncommon to see more than a handful of hikers on it at any time. But starting in May, dozens of cars started showing up at the trail, parking on the Sterling Highway shoulder and anywhere nearby they could find.

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

Hikers: Just because daylight is increasing and snow is receding, that does not mean every trail is ready for foot traffic. The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is asking people to stay off trails during breakup that sustained damage in last year’s Swan Lake Fire.

A project to pave gravel paths at Soldotna Creek Park and connect the trail system to Homestead Lane is still in limbo, due to a change in how the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities administers grant funding.

Adding asphalt to the gravel trails would make them ADA accessible, and constructing a new, paved path to the sidewalk on Homestead Lane would connect two trails systems.

At Wednesday's Soldotna City Council meeting, City Manager Stephanie Queen said the city got a notification in May that the city's grant application was approved. The city's budget was for right around $550,000, with Soldotna providing a 20 match of about $100,000. Design and prep work for the project has already been completed. But the grant money has not arrived.

"The grant agreement paperwork was supposed to be forthcoming," Queen said. "We've received nothing until last week with a letter I got from the DOT saying that the budget is not $550,000, it's $1.5 million, so our 20 percent match is now $300,000. And this, despite numerous attempts for us to get a handle on what's happening, what the progress is. These projects were supposed to be built last year. "

KDLL's Jenny Neyman speaks with Lisa Maloney, author of "Day Hiking Southcentral Alaska," about becoming a guide book author and writing her new book. This show aired at 10 a.m. May 22. On May 23, Maloney gave an Adventure Talks presentation at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center, showing pictures and talking about trails in the region, as well as hiking safety, gear and more.

KDLL Adventure Talks offers a virtual hike of the Kenai Peninsula’s newest long-distance backpacking route, the Tutka Backdoor Trail, with trail coordinator Bretwood “Hig” Higman, of Ground Truth Trekking in Seldovia, and Eric Clarke, with Kachemak Bay State Park. In the on-air interview, host Jenny Neyman talks with Hig and Eric about how and why the trail came to be. They also discuss sustainable trail building and the little things hikers can do to make a big difference in maintaining their favorite trails.