Kachemak hiking snafu leads to better planning of trail signage

A family of three was stranded overnight in Kachemak Bay State Park this week.

Two hikers, Slobodan and Nevenka Kitanovski, along with their two-year-old son, were hiking near Halibut Cove on Oct. 12.

The family was visiting from Wasilla and staying in one of the “Halibut Cove Lagoon” cabins managed by the park.

Nevenka Kitanovski is a state parks planner for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. She said they were hiking through the park to assess the trail system.

“We were hiking on an existing trail that was marked as passable on the map. We came to an intersection leading to the China Poot Public Use Cabin and the trail sign was broken on the ground. From that point, the trail disappeared,” Kitanovski said.

Jason Okuly is a district ranger in Kachemak Bay State Park. He said the family hiked about nine miles along Moose Valley Trail before realizing they were in trouble.

“They got up towards the junction of the North Poot Peak Trail and the South Poot Peak Trail around dark. So once they were up there they started realizing that they were pretty far from getting back to the cabin,” Okuly said.

They contacted Soldotna Police by cell phone, who were able to notify Alaska State Park Rangers.

Fortunately, the family was wearing proper clothing and was able to build a fire.

“Ultimately the troopers made the assessment that they would be able to spend the night. They’d be cold, but they wouldn’t be in any type of peril,” Okuly said.

Park rangers advised the hikers to stay where they were until the following morning.

“They were fairly confident come daybreak they’d be able to get back on the trail, so we advised them to hike back the way they came and that we’d hike up in the morning and meet them,” Okuly said.

On Oct. 12, Alaska State Park Rangers hiked along Moose Valley Trail to locate the hikers. The family was met with Rangers as they found their way out. No injuries were reported.

Kitanovski said the experience, although stressful, has highlighted areas where the park’s trail system can be improved.

“It was a very stressful situation because we had our baby with us. I’m grateful for this experience because it’s going to make the trail management plan much better,” Kitanovski said.

This is the first search-and-rescue in Kachemak Bay State Park this year.

UPDATE: This story and its headline were updated to better represent the events that happened. 

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Shahla Farzan is a reporter with KBBI - Homer. Shahla first caught the radio bug as a world music host for WMHC, the oldest college radio station operated exclusively by women. Before coming to KBBI, she worked at Capital Public Radio in Sacramento and as a science writer for the California Environmental Legacy Project. She is currently completing her Ph.D in ecology at the University of California-Davis, where she studies native bees. When she's not producing audio stories, you can find Shahla beachcombing or buried in a good book.

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