Water taxi, land tours and flightseeing


BAY EXCURSIONS, Water Taxi and Tours. Enjoy spectacular hiking, biking and camping opportunities in Kachemak Bay, Alaska. Bay Excursions will pick you up and drop you off for a day hike, overnighter or week long expedition.


MAKO'S WATER TAXI. Now access to all of Kachemak Bay can be yours without taking a lifetime to save for it. Mako's Water Taxi offers trips across Kachemak Bay and into Kachemak Bay State Park. Mako will pick you up and drop you off for hiking, biking and camping trips.


Lupine

The long, warm days of summer usher in a seasonal welcome for wildflowers, shrubs and trees after months of winter dormancy. Spectrums of color dot area hills, mountains, bogs, and meadows like vibrant confetti.

A good place to start identifying common flora in the Homer area is at the Pratt Museum Botanical Garden. Beginning in late April and continuing through the summer, on-site gardeners who tend the grounds enjoy sharing their fields of knowledge about wild plants.

The museum's botanical garden is host to 125 species native to the Kenai Peninsula. The garden is laid out in four sections, which simulate distinct environments where different species can be found growing in the wild:

Bog: Wet and spongy, this habitat nurtures mosses. Of the nine species in this area, the Labrador Tea and Lowbush Cranberry are two examples of plants that grow in boggy areas.

Bog to Forest Transition: A border zone where two habitats meet host six species, one of which is willow, the favorite food of moose.

Meadow: Sunlight is vital to plants of open meadows. Eight species typical of plants that grow in meadows are Fireweed, Prickly Wild Rose and Nootka Lupine.

Alpine: These high mountain plants contend with the shortest growing season. The 19 species featured here were collected from across Kachemak Bay, a few of which include Pussy Toes and Mountain Harebell.

A Dry Stream Bed section is currently being developed which will feature plants like Cotton Grass.

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Additionally, 26 varieties of wildflowers dazzle each habitat.

The Pratt Museum Botanical Garden is open 24 hours. An interpretive walking guide is available on the premises for fifty cents. Located on Bartlett Street in downtown Homer.

For those who want to venture out and experience the natural setting of wild plants first hand with a local guide or on your own, Homer offers at least two alternatives:

The Kachemak Heritage Land Trust conducts guided nature walks on the Calvin and Coyle Nature Trail during the summer. The trail is open to the public anytime. Abundant wildlife and flora can be encountered on this trail which overlooks the Beluga wetlands, home to many moose in winter and some in summer. An interpretive sign and brochure await you at the first trailhead, behind Paul Banks Elementary School a short distance out East Road, off Mariner Drive.

The Kachemak Heritage Land Trust also provides two guided nature walks on the 6.7 mile Homestead Trail which traverses the higher elevations without being strenuous. The trailhead is off Rogers Loop at the top of Baycrest Hill of the Sterling Highway, across the street from the Bayview Inn.

Two additional wild flora tours are offered by the Land Trust. One will bring you across Kachemak Bay for a hike to Red Mountain, guided by Janice Schofield, author of "Discovering Wild Plants." She can help you identify all wild and edible plants and herbs that are available on the trail. In late June and continuing through August, the Land Trust visits four local homesteads that are under conservation easement. These properties nurture wild berry bushes as well as an abundance of other northland delights. There is a fee for most guided walks.

Check with the Kachemak Heritage Land Trust for dates and times of guided walks and other activities at 395 East Pioneer (Box 2400), Homer, Alaska 99603. Telephone 235-5263.


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The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies has been fostering education in the marine and coastal ecosystem in the Homer area for years. Their field station in Peterson Bay, across from Kachemak Bay, conducts natural history tours from Memorial Day through Labor Day and incorporates both beach and forest exploration on the Island Peninsula between China Poot and Peterson Bay. The variety of trail systems can be tailored to individual hiking abilities, and each offers spectacular scenery, identification of plants and forest ecology, a close-up view of eagles, seals and other wildlife, and a glimpse into tidepools at low tide for intertidal sealife. Boat transportation across the Bay includes a close-up drift around Gull Island Bird Rookery, and departs Homer at 9 a.m., returning at 6 p.m. Tickets and reservations can be made at Rainbow Tours on the Homer Spit across from the Harbormaster's office, or by calling 235-7272.

The Carl E. Wynn Nature Center opened last year. The 135 acres on Skyline Drive were donated to the Coastal Studies Center by Mr. Wynn. Teeming with wildflowers and other alpine wonders, it's a fine addition to the out-of-doors celebration of life. An observation deck has been built which overlooks the meadow and takes in the view of Kachemak Bay. Nearing completion at the Wynn Center is a "handicap accessible" trail.

The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies office is located at 4014 Lake Street (P.O. Box 2225), Suite 208, Homer, Alaska 99603. Telephone 235-6667.

Whether you take advantage of a guided nature tour or go exploring on your own, beware that there are poisonous plants, berries and mushrooms which, if ingested, can be fatal. There are also plants that sting such as Stinging Nettle and Devil's Club. Familiarize yourself with them and don't pet any prickly plants. – by Nancy Brown


This guide brought to you by The Homer Tribune. Publisher: Jane M. Pascall. Voice (907)235-3714, Fax (907)235-3716 E-mail: info@homertribune.com, 601 E. Pioneer Ave., Suite 109, Homer, AK 99603.


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