Posts Tagged ‘Alaska’

Autumn Changes

Kenai River as Autumn Arrives

Since beginning this nomad life four years ago, we have traveled south for the winter leaving Alaska to the Alaskans. Last year we abandoned our campground early because of the raging forest fires that daily rained ash on everything. Smoke burnt our eyes and we needed fresh air. Wearing masks to breathe was too claustrophobic for me and not wearing one made me cough with the intense smoke. We headed south for Colorado (a son and daughter live there) to travel eastward to Pennsylvania (where my family lives) and then back west to Las Vegas (another son lives there). During those travels we had issues with our Forest River trailer and decided to order a new one. While it was being ‘made,’ we stored our cracked and nearly broken trailer in Las Vegas and flew back to Alaska to spend several winter months with our daughter and our new granddaughter.

March 15, in the height of COVID in Seattle, we flew through Seattle back to Vegas to pick up our new Grand Design home. After a month in Vegas with our son, we began the northern trek back to Alaska for our summer job managing Cooper Creek Campground on the Kenai Peninsula. After a week or so of ‘set apart’ time, we jumped exhaustedly into the routine of camp manager. It is now autumn and we are finishing our last big hurrah of the summer with Labor Day weekend campers. According to my daily calculations, we have 24 days left to clean bear boxes, firepits, and pack ourselves up.

After the fires last summer, we could never imagine the craziness of this year and the ‘dreaded virus.’ With all of the ‘mandates’ (not laws) for travelers, we knew we wouldn’t be meeting too many tourists this year. We also wondered how the campground would fare with only Alaskans. They came out in droves and really kept the summer economy afloat. They fished, camped, floated, biked, hiked, and made more messes than any other year. Some had never ever camped before and we found the evidence in discarded rubber bands and abandoned receipts for tents and sleeping bags. Some Alaskans asked if we were happy (as they were) there were no tourists. Honestly, tourists respect and honor Alaska than most Alaskans. We had more toilet paper (and tampons) in the trees, trash in the fire pits, dogs off leash and pooping everywhere, people cutting trees, and campers selling their sites on Facebook pages. I had more issues with campers over reserved campsites than ever and I called the no-help- whatsoever-law enforcement more times than the previous three years combined.

On the flip side, we met many new Alaskans who were true campers, true Alaskans, home grown and native. I met natives from Utquiagvik, the highest point in the Arctic Circle (a bucket list place I want to go). Another man, a tour guide from Coldfoot, invited us above the Arctic Circle to see the Aurora Borealis overhead in October. I met people from Fairbanks to Juneau, and some who pass by here from Anchorage to Homer always calling to see if we need anything. Anything included going to RV places to bring us supplies because we had no time to do it! Or even Oreos! Or ice cream! We were given flowers, wine, sake, brownies, halibut, salmon and FOOD, FOOD, FOOD! Some campers we have known for the past 4 years gave us sour dough starter from the 1920s and invited us for caribou steaks. I even had one camper bring me a nice big rock for holding the door open when I clean my toilets! These are the people we enjoy in our campground. These are the real memories. They are the blessings in our daily lives.

We still had a lot of tourists from Maine to Georgia to Tennessee to Boston to Las Vegas to Nebraska to California and Arizona as the summer progressed. Each person talked about their journey to get to Alaska whether they had to drive through Canada with their stringent rules or via an airline that required a mask for 12-15 hours. From each of their experiences, I came to understand quite quickly how much of the Covid19 information is deceptive and even wrong, especially when it comes to the outcome of tests. In spite of all their struggles, everyone was grateful to be here, breathe fresh air, and enjoy the 20 hours of sunshine!

If I’m completely real, this year was tough, especially tough when we realized that we literally had no law enforcement back up for anything. For all of those cities wanting to be without law enforcement, let me tell you, it’s not cool when someone threatens you and you have no recourse. Then there was the bear that removed a cooler from someone’s truck and they shot off a firearm to scare the bear. We did call law enforcement, but they never followed through to tell us what exactly happened. And, what exactly happened was that my husband could have either been shot or attacked by a bear while hauling water from the creek to put out a raging fire an irresponsible camper left at 10 p.m. at night.

Love this job!

Will we do this again? We are waiting on the LORD for that answer. We love what we do. We love 99% of the people, but we would really like to have water, sewer and electric rather than boondock all summer. We may have some options if the fear over the virus ends and nothing else bigger happens, but we’re not hopeful for that. There are too many political entrapments with this whole event and other ‘Plandemics’ so we have no idea what will happen next summer. We also know Biblical prophecy and what is promised for the world and ‘lawlessness.’ Yet, we could return to Cooper Creek and continue to make new acquaintances and friends. I know the regulars who depend on us will really miss how we manage this campground!

We will have the entire winter to pray about it. We are not leaving Alaska this fall. As the leaves on the Cottonwoods change, we will be packing up and winterizing our nomad home to store here in Cooper Landing. We will be renting the same suite we lived in last year near our daughter and our grandchildren. I will also work a few days cleaning the post office as I did last year. My husband will be working at Alyeska Resort as a ski instructor if all goes well with this ridiculous virus that was supposed to last two weeks to a month.

The most difficult part of these changes is not seeing my other children. Neither of us have any desire to fly wearing masks – remember I wore them last summer and it was claustrophobic for me. We also have no desire to travel through Canada again with their rules when the Yukon has zero cases. They are actually fining people who stop along the way! We hope maybe we can fly in April, but it seems that the whole population has been programmed for masks and then a vaccine – something else I will not accept. So, in the realities of the ‘new world order’ in which we are living, I may never actually see my other children and it grieves me deeply.

For now I will be here in the Last Frontier helping my daughter teach her son to read, watching my granddaughter grow and learn to walk and talk, meeting locals in the post office, going to Bible study with some of the wisest, oldest women I have ever known, and having time to continue writing, studying Revelation, and preparing my heart and life for what is coming on this world.

“Just one thing have I asked of Adonai; only this will I seek: to live in the house of Adonai all the days of my life, to see the beauty of Adonai and visit in his temple. For he will conceal me in his shelter on the day of trouble, he will hide me in the folds of his tent, he will set me high on a rock” (Psalm 27:4-5).

I will probably ride snow machines around the mountains or out on the frozen lake, play a little ice hockey with my grandson on their neighbor’s rink, and maybe this year I will finally try snow shoes. I never ever imagined one moment in my life that I would ever visit Alaska, let alone say I’ve spent four summers here (and visited the two summers before that) and actually have an Alaskan ID. So as the autumn changes take place on the trees and the rose hips and high bush cranberries ripen, we too will be making transitioning to remain here and not return to the Lower 48. Life is always an adventure as a noman and with Yeshua at the helm, there’s always a plan that we take step by step. For now, however, reflecting on this past summer and all of the wonderful memories warm this chilly fall rainy day.

“This is what everyone faithful should pray at a time when you can be found. Then, when the floodwaters are raging, they will not reach to him. You are a hiding-place for me, you will keep me from distress; you will surround me with songs of deliverance” (Psalm 32:6-7).

©2020 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.

Return to the Last Frontier

This year our trek to Alaska will be very different.  Apart from weather complications or stopping to see some superb view that changes every year, we will be dealing with the ‘effects’ of coronavirus on the universe. 

Also, we have a new trailer.  It is a 2020 Grand Design Solitude 375Res.  We are hoping for a better experience than with the Forest River Crusader.  I’m hoping that the name change provides some insight into our travels from ‘crusading’ to being in ‘solitude.’ I’ve actually gave it the name “Goshen,” but since my husband doesn’t like that name, we have adopted the following Scripture for our ‘home:’

“Therefore, let us approach [draw near] the Holiest Place with a sincere heart, in the full assurance that comes from trusting [faith]” (Hebrews 10:22).

The differences between the two fifth-wheels are many.  The frame and under parts of the Solitude are made sturdier for full-time living.  Some of the positives for this trailer on the exterior are the controls for the black and gray water being more easily accessible than underneath.  There is more insulation underneath which keeps the trailer warmer especially the hot water.  Also, this trailer has a small toy hauler located underneath a raised living room.  Traveling with bikes has been a challenge every year and now they are safely stored beneath the living room in a pull-out cargo drawer.

Cool Bike Storage

There is also a lot more storage in the cargo area which takes some of the weight off of the hitch where we had so many ‘cracking’ issues.  I still can’t quite figure out the weight because we have yet to install a washer/dryer and there’s no more allowance and we’ve put almost nothing in the front area storage, bedroom, or closet.  This trailer also has back-up cameras. These cameras will save our marriage when forced to use a back-in site rather than a pull-thru! 

The inside of the Crusader was like a great-room cabin, a condo on wheels.  The inside of the Solitude is more like a ‘house’ with rooms.  We have a larger and more inviting living room which was big enough to host a Passover seder with our son and his girlfriend.

Chag Sameach Pesach

My husband enjoys the two recliners that have heat and massage settings. Unfortunately, those only work when we have access to electricity which we won’t in Alaska where we boondock.  We have a larger kitchen/dining area with a full-sized residential refrigerator and a massive pantry.  These were both empty when we picked up the trailer and we had to find food during the viral issues in Las Vegas.  The bedroom closet is a huge change.  Our clothing hangs like in a regular closet not sideways and close to the floor.  The whole closet situation in the Crusader was difficult to deal with every. single. day.  We did lose our bunk room with this new rig, but it had become a ‘junk room’ and now everything that was in there fits in the under storage.  We spent hours minimizing the trailer even more – and removed even more from our storage unit in Colorado.   

We have spent the past six weeks making this trailer ‘home’ with upgrades from the shower head to dimmer switches.  We have books on ‘shelves’ and pictures on the walls.  Since this trailer doesn’t have any carpet,  we bought rugs that make each room more ‘homey.’ I have yet to decide about curtains though I know the bedroom will need something this summer in Alaska with 20 hours of daylight.  

After spending a month with our son (and girlfriend) in Las Vegas, two weeks with our daughter (and boyfriend) and son (and daughter-in-law) in Colorado, we head north with our new Solitude.

The fenders that were broken in our little mishap in Arizona on Hwy 40 and the storage door with the hole from road trash in Arizona were supposed to be fixed and ready to go (unfortunately, the door didn’t arrive at the dealer in time to be fixed so we will travel with a hole.) We have our Canadian money to make traveling easier – something we learned after the first year. Once on the road again, we will face new challenges – Canada.

First, we traveled from Fort Collins to Buffalo, Wyoming KOA,

During this unnecessary shutdown, we learned that KOAs remain open because they are considered ‘essential shelter.’  They are though they must shut down all internal rest rooms, showers, and laundry (considered non-essential).  For those of us, millions of us, who live full-time as nomads, finding ‘shelter’ is very important.  What is absolutely crazy is the campgrounds that close to those of us who are self-contained.  State parks, especially in Colorado, have sites that are easily 50 feet apart.  When we travel, we pull into a site, sleep, and leave early the next morning.  We don’t meet or greet anyone.  We are not spreading disease, nor are we carrying disease.  But, that is not how the ‘powers that be’ see us and how many who are fearful of the spread of this virus see us.  We are just a little too free even though we are virtually ‘homeless’ without a ‘brick and mortar’ home.  

All along every highway and some off the beaten path roads, we can’t believe all of the billboards and electronic road signs reminding people to ‘stay home’ and ‘stay healthy’ – all part of apparently global Behavioral Priming.   Some billboards actually have sick families on them and tell you to come into their facility.  Really? I thought sick people are to stay home?  That’s what QUARANTINE is! How did all of these billboards get made so quickly?  Just some of my questions regarding the entire shut-down of the world especially in states like Wyoming and Montana who have 23 deaths between the two of them!   

Men of Character and Integrity

For those who are new to our adventures, we have legal residency in South Dakota as do many of those like us.  South Dakota has no state income tax and only requires 24 hours to make residency.  We have an address, a mail forwarding system and, register our vehicles in that state.  We also vote in South Dakota.  This year I am grateful to be a resident of a state with a governor who understands not only civil  and Constitutional Rights, but also human rights.  I even wrote her a letter telling her how grateful I am she is standing firm against herd mentality!   

We would like to make residency in Alaska, but that is a little more difficult because their residency requirement is nine months.  We will almost make it for this year because of the winter we spent there.  We were able to get Alaska ID cards which is a long story.  If we decide not to return to the Lower 48 with our trailer and work again this winter in Alaska, we will meet the requirements to ‘move’.  We don’t make this decision lightly as three of our four children live in the Lower 48 and now we have no idea how the requirements of this pandemic ruse will change our freedom to travel protected by the Constitution.  

From Buffalo, Wyoming, we headed to Butte, Montana.  This KOA put us in the farthest place possible. Another requirement is that RVs need to be in every other site. In Butte they had so many empty sites that we were put ‘out to pasture’ or in their own type of ‘quarantine.’

From Butte, we traveled north through some grandiose “Big Sky” country. For those who are offended by people who believe this virus is not as deadly as hyped, well, skip this part. We stopped by a scenic viewpoint at Flathead Lake, Montana. We were the only people in the the pullout when we arrived. I walked to a lower area to take a picture while my husband stood in a patio-like area taking pictures from above. I walked back up the walkway and into the area and stood next to him. Another man and woman had arrived and she immediately freaked and cried out, “Get six feet away!” Well, sweetie, first and foremost, we are outside in the wide open space and beautiful sunshine and second, my husband was here first so perhaps you can move out of the way. Maybe that’s harsh, but my goodness, if you’re going to travel and not ‘stay home and stay safe,’ then relax a little and enjoy the adventures! About 30 minutes later we stopped for lunch at another pullout. A couple was there enjoying the view. They had driven their little convertible sports car from Missoula. They were very, very friendly and made up for the woman whose fear outweighed her common sense.

Beautiful Flathead Lake, Montana

From the region of the Flathead Lake, we headed north to cross the border into Canada through Roosville. We have crossed the border many different places, but we prefer smaller crossings. We heard it was easy to cross, but there would be restrictions about where we can stay, how we buy fuel, and specifically in the Yukon Territory, how long they allow for passing through. Look at a map of the Yukon Territory and ‘essential’ travelers have 24 hours to go from British Columbia to Alaska on the Alcan.

As expected, the crossing went well. The border patrolman asked us more questions than usual specifically about what we do as camp hosts and then the list of Covid questions. Had we experienced any symptoms? Nope. Not in the eight previous weeks of traveling through Seattle to Vegas and then driving through Arizona and New Mexico to Colorado (I didn’t say all that, but duh!) He asked us how long we would be in Canada. Six days. He asked us if we had enough food because we weren’t allowed to stop anywhere. Fuel stops had to be ‘pay at the pump.’ Any infraction of these ‘laws’ was enforceable with a $1,000,000 fine and a year in jail. He concluded by saying that 5 kilometers down the road we would be stopped again by British Columbia border people who would want to know our full itinerary.

We drove to our next KOA in Cranbrook and never saw any other border patrol. Not sure if they packed up and left for the day or if he was just wanting to see our reaction for a six-day journey.

If we drive back and forth to Alaska another time, we will take this same route. Cranbrook/St. Eugene has to be one of the more beautiful places we have ever stayed while traveling. St. Eugene has a casino and is a magnificent hotel former mission. Unfortunately due to the virus, the place was closed even so much that we couldn’t even walk around the grounds.

From Cranbrook we headed to Kamloops for the night, another quick stop. This route takes us by the Walmart where in 2017 we had our tires slashed. Last year we drove by for the first time realizing we hadn’t actually seen Quesnel, BC. This year I decided to ‘get back on the horse’ and go inside for a few things. I know, $1,000,000 fine and 1 year in jail. We had already broken the law by paying cash for everything from campsites to fuel. And, I feel the need to go into Walmarts just to boost my immune system from all of the germs, bacteria and whatever else flies around that store.

The ‘Infamous’ Walmart, Quesnel

We stayed one night outside of Prince George in a trailer park. We had no idea that is what it would be and it was a little strange, but we were the only ones in the RV part of the park. Again, we are self-contained and self-isolated so we didn’t see anyone and we paid cash through a mail slot. We couldn’t travel from Prince George to Dawson Creek, the beginning of the Alcan, without a lunch break along a river.

We stayed one night in Dawson Creek at Northern Lights RV Park. Though it’s not the most beautiful park, the owners are wonderful people who over the years have helped us in big and little ways. I also love their laundry facilities, but unfortunately, they were not open – apparently clean clothes are not essential. We were and are, however, grateful to all of the RV parks who are open, who are willing to take cash, and who are trying to rise above the flood waters of economic destruction. So many of these places rely on tourism, and tourists are considered non-essential. But in reality they are very essential to these seasonal businesses along the Alcan.

From Dawson Creek, we made the big trek to Toad River. This involved crossing two passes, Steamboat and Summit Lake. As we drew closer to Toad River, it began snowing. We spent our first snowy night in the Solitude. We were cozy, but had some concerns about the drive the next day. We woke to ice on the slide roofs and icicles hanging off the slides. All of the ice had to be removed before bringing in the slides so we had a little chip work before we could leave. Apart from leaving our outdoor thermometer under the snow and me slipping and falling down the steps, we had a fun stop at Toad River.

The snow continued to fall from Toad River through Muncho Lake where winter never seems to end.

Muncho Lake

The first year we drove to Alaska we saw one, ONE grizzly bear. Last year we saw a few bears and moose. This year it seemed as though the wildlife knew there was a virus and they were suddenly free to be. Seventeen bears! We watched two ducks, a Mallard and white domestic duck, holding hands waddling down a hillside in the rain. Apparently, they were running away together to some distant land. Porcupines hobbled up and down berms writing notes with mud ink and their long quills about how slow traffic is for this time of year. One white stone sheep licked salt from the double yellow lines thinking that perhaps he shouldn’t cross to the other side for there was nothing to see. Moose galloped across the black bumpy sea of asphalt as if in a race for a finish line. Mr. Lynx sat like a regal rabbit statue only twitching his ears and turning his head from left to right to count vehicles as they passed by. Roadside elk threw snowballs at each other while bouncing from one side of the road to the other. A momma bear grazed with her triplets looking up now and then to make sure no one was offering them bowls of porridge. One crazy beaver with buck teeth stood by the roadside waiting for the local bus to take him to another lodge. It even seemed he stuck his thumb out because we heading the right direction.

We made one short side stop in the Liard Valley. Last year two young people, one from the U.S. and the other from Austrailia, trekking their way to Alaska stopped for lunch. They pulled off to the side of the road to enjoy the quiet and sunshine. Unfortunately, their time was cut short by two teens who shot them both and then eventually after a manhunt were found dead from committing suicide. This event caused a lot of concern for those traveling on the Alcan and staying at Liard Hot Springs. A memorial was set up by the road that we passed last fall, but this time we wanted to stop. A trucker also stopped and, along with his tools, fixed parts of the memorial which were needing repair.

We entered the Yukon Territory at Watson Lake where a temporary border crossing had been set up. The men and women working this checkpoint were actually park rangers. Our gentleman was very kind and asked the basic COVID questions again. He talked with us about the Kenai Peninsula and wants to go there again to fish. We gave him our son-in-law’s company information cards. He reminded us that we had 24 hours to pass through the Yukon Territory with no stopping except for fuel – pay at the pump. He also gave us a map listing fuel and lodging stops, however, there were no RV parks. He said that even though all pullouts in the Yukon said “No Overnight Camping,” we could. Well, because of our slashed tire incident, we like to stay in parks. One of his last comments to us was “I didn’t sign up for this!”

One of the ‘legal’ stops was Whitehorse, the capital and biggest town in the Yukon. Last year we stopped there to get our leaf springs fixed and were hoping to ‘beef’ these up this year. Ironically, a legal stop was in the biggest town! This province has had no incidents of coronavirus at all. I know they want to keep it that way, but for people to stop in a city or outskirts seems a little strange. No one mentioned anything about consequences for breaking any laws, so we went on our merry way knowing we had two long driving days ahead of us. Let me say at this point, my husband is a warrior driver. He just kept going and going and going. We had never done this trip in 6 days and I hope we never have to again, but it is possible. Unfortunately, because we couldn’t stop anywhere, we didn’t get to see our ‘Run Forest Run’ sign in the Sign Forest, but maybe next time.

We stayed in Whitehorse at an RV park, again paying cash through a mail slot. See? We don’t see or talk to anyone. We just pull in, pull out and go.

About lunch time we were in Kulane National Park. We pulled over for lunch in the most beautiful spot and I realized I had lost my keys. I had lost them earlier on the trip, but had dropped them in a tissue box. Duh. Right? This time, however, we were able to remember the last time I used them and I knew they weren’t in any tissue box. I called the RV park in Whitehorse and thankfully he found them about where I took off my coat in order to get into the truck for the drive. My keys should arrive in Cooper Landing one of these days. No such luck for the outdoor thermometer.

We crossed the border back into Alaska 26 hours from when we entered the Yukon Territory. We did the best we could, but frost heaves and damaged road doesn’t allow for 60 mph, but 40. So, it took us longer than the average bear. Plus, the fuel stations we usually use because they don’t have covers over the pumps were all closed down. The sadness of what is going on from Vegas to Alaska is heart wrenching. The anger that governments can control people to such a degree as to kill their livelihood is indescribable.

The entrance back into the USA was a little different from previous years. We always have to pull into the area for commercial vehicles because we are so tall – 13 feet 4 inches. This time, however, we were asked to get out of the truck and come into the building. We were asked the COVID questions again! It really is ridiculous. If I didn’t have symptoms in the US, didn’t have symptoms in BC, didn’t have symptoms in the Yukon, and I’m not allowed to do ANYTHING, why would I suddenly have symptoms? They approved our entrance into the US and though we had heard there was online paperwork to fill out about our whereabouts, we were told there was NO paperwork. Thus, no required information about ‘quarantine.’

We hopped back in the truck and drove the most disastrous roads in the world to Tok, Alaska. Two-hour drives on these roads takes 3-4. It’s really infuriating how the DOT allows roads to deteriorate into nothing but holes and gravel.

The Empty Campground

We arrived in Tok and when I asked the owner if we could stay two nights, he said we could stay the whole summer! His 100+ RV park was EMPTY. We were the only sojourners for two nights. Plus, a big plus, I was able to do laundry just as I was able to do in other private parks in the U.S. On top of that, our two-night stop was Friday and Saturday – we were getting a REAL SHABBAT!

From Tok, we drove to Cooper Landing by the Turnagain Arm that is no longer frozen over.

In Cooper Landing, we are required by the USFS to quarantine for 14 days. The governor was going to lift the quarantine ‘tomorrow,’ but decided on two more weeks. I’m not sure how that works as we are the same people we would be yesterday as in two weeks, but we have to quarantine. This became known to us right before we left Colorado and required some more planning.

First, where to spend our ‘set-apart’ time about the 60th Parallel? My son-in-law’s parking lot for his business was out. He cannot have people ‘set-apart’ and have clients. The campground was out because the forest service is requireing the quarantine. Foolish, I believe, but it is what it is. Eagle Landing in Cooper Landing offered us a place to park because the community needs to help one another. What a wonderful offer and place right by the Kenai River! Unfortunately, the ground is too soft for our big rig and there was no real turnaround for us. Then, God. Always God. Micromanaging. We received an offer to stay in the Baptist Church parking lot. It’s a huge gravel parking area for our rig and we can have some electric. So that is where we are as I write this. The church sits right on the Kenai Lake so we can enjoy our forced vacation sitting by the lake that is now unfrozen and looking as turquoise as ever remembering how we ice fished not too far away.

With the ten-day quarantine required by those who enter the State of Alaska, everyone is cancelling their vacations.  No one has enough time to quarantine AND fish in the wide, open, clear skies, long days of sunshine, and fresh air of the Last Frontier when there is some remote possibility of inhaling a micro-viral germ.  Remote?  Yes.  In the State of Alaska, there have only been 10 deaths in a population of 731,545 (some of those deaths didn’t even occur in Alaska, but those who died had Alaska licenses!)  The percentage of death in Alaska comes out to be .0000136.  Thats 136 people in 10 million dying and they have only had 10 and don’t even have 1 million people.  You have a better chance of being bitten by a snake and Alaska doesn’t have snakes!

Food. We are not allowed to go anywhere. Of course we do have to fill with water, propane and dump our doo, but those are not public places. I want to thank Mark and Margie from Anchorage who once again came to our rescue. Last year they helped us camp in JBER during the fires. This year I ordered food online, they picked it up, brought it to Cooper Landing and gave it to our daughter who in turn brought it to us. We will see these two wonderful people next weekend when they come to pick up their cooler.

Tomorrow we meet with our manager about our hosting duties this year. I’m sure we will have all sorts of ridiculous restrictions for safety, but that’s the way fear fuels all sorts of pandemics. Because we have arrived later usual and have to be set-apart, we won’t have time to ready our campground.  Generally, we spend two weeks making sure all of the fire pits are clean, all the leaves are raked from the sites, and all trash that may have blown in is cleaned up.  This year, however, the job will be leftovers from last year’s fire when the campground never closed to become a waiting place for those needing to pass through the fire area. 

The restaurant with the delicious smoked brisket and gourmet pizzas next to the campground has been sold.  It is now a pot shop with pizza like Little Caesar’s.  Weed is legal in Alaska, but not on the federal level meaning USFS. In the past, we just ignored those few campers because we had bigger issues to deal with like improperly disposing of salmon guts which attract bears and out-of-control campfires.  Now, with pot right next to us, the game plan may have to change.  

We expect an interesting summer of pot heads, drunks (already we’re hearing about one who has needed THREE trips from the local EMTs), rebels fishing and camping where they don’t belong, building bonfires with the chance of another wildfire kicking up, and even firearms from those who want to wield their Constitutional Rights.  Coupled with the lack of basic law enforcement, we will be challenged.  Still, I can’t wait to be there, spending time in the outdoors, seeing eagles soar, watch moose graze, and hear about bears prowling after idiots.

One more change.   At the end of last year, I was asked to be the naturalist for the campgrounds.  I spent much of my winter preparing programs with several different themes.  I have no idea if I’ll even be able to use what I created, but I have even more ideas for self-guided hikes and learning about Alaskan nature. 

Kenai Lake at 9:48 p.m.

In spite of all of the challenges and unknowns,  the real reason we drive 6000 miles round trip to Alaska and camp host is to spend time with our grandchildren. This year will have a whole new set of summer adventures with our grandson riding his Strider bike around the campground while his little sister has snack time in her camping high chair.  Our grandson has already asked if he can help rake leaves!  He loves to check the bear boxes and have Grandpa pump water from the well.  He loves when the generator is on and he can flip light switches.  His toy box is ready and waiting with ‘bola de neves’ (indoor snowballs) and Bubbe (me) brought a lot of books.  Hiking of course will be on the agenda as well as Bubbe’s world famous chocolate chip cookies.

Solitude and Mt. Cecil

So, we’re unhitched in front of Mt. Cecil, hooked up to electric, filled with water, have food, a warm bed, two chairs, the Kenai Lake and not only is it raining, I hear a float plane moving on the lake readying to take off! Home for now.

©2020 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.

Can you spell Ptarmigan?

The afternoon in Tok was warm and beautiful and everyone there said it was a great day to to go Chicken. As we drove, however, the rain clouds pushed the light fluffy clouds to somewhere else and we encountered rain. The drive is only 66 miles, but it was a windy and sometimes rough 66 miles. The view to the west would be exquisite on a clear day, but dark clouds hid most of the Alaska Range where Denali resides.

Alaska Range out there somewhere-ish

Chicken is actually on a rough, northern route to Whitehorse over the Top of the World highway. Many of our campers come this way to Alaska in summer, however, the border crossing is closed until the end of May and closes at 8 p.m. Also, Top of the World Highway is very rough, not just somewhat rough and many people have breakdowns and flat tires. Hence, we will not ever go that way for all of those reasons, but since we left our trailer in Tok, we didn’t have worry about such issues.

Winding road … see it way, way out there?

Interesting facts about Chicken found hanging on a bar door!

Chicken is called Chicken because the original settlers, actually gold miners, couldn’t spell Ptarmigan. They wanted to call the town Ptarmigan, because the plentiful local birds filled many a pot in their camps. Ptarmigan were also called CHICKENS and that’s how the town got it’s name. (This is funny because our daughter lives on Ptarmigan so WE have to know how to spell it.)

They have a winter population of 15, summer between 30 and 50. They have no pay phones and no flush toilets. Outhouses are by the gift shop. They close in the winter along with the roads. There are no plows until April. Winter temperatures can be 85 below zero. Mail comes by plane every Tuesday and Thursday, weather permitting. Most of the citizens arrived by truck, some hitch-hiked and others came by plane. They self-entertain, there is no television. Children are home-schooled, cell phones only work before mile 32 and then only if the signal is right. Medical emergencies are medi-vacked to Fairbanks. They don’t have sales tax.

People still goldmine there. They use bull-dozers or suction dredge the river. Some dig holes or pound rocks. Gold-panning is an option as well.

They have black bears, grizzlies, moose, caribou, weasels, snowshoe hares, lynx, wolves and many more. They have lots of birds. Bears walk through the town. Moose are a common sight.

Gold-panning is done in this creek!
Where is Von Miller?

Arriving at Chicken, we were excited to see everything, but EVERYTHING was closed until May 15. And, everything in Chicken means three businesses. We meandered around taking pictures of what we could and then hopped in the truck to drive to the ‘downtown’ where there was a little airfield.

That’s when we encountered MOOSE – a momma and her baby. Our first moose EVER while traveling. Apparently, their facts are right. There were MOOSE! We had even seen a moose run across the road on our way into Chicken, but it was so far away that it could have been a figment of our imagination. Apparently, not according to the facts about Chicken! Now we were seeing real live moose up close and personal. Chicken was worth the trip just for the moose.

On our way back to Tok, we stopped to take pictures of the trees. Several years ago there was a fire that burnt millions of acres and the trees looked like something from a Dr. Seuss book – trunks with a tuft of dead branches on top. One of my pictures was photo-bombed – by a MOOSE!

Once back in Tok, we prepared ourselves for the next day’s journey on the Tok Cutoff and onto Anchorage and our penninsula ‘home.’

©2019 Tentstake Ministries Publishing

It’s July Already?

This is our second year campground hosting at Cooper Creek campground on the Kenai Peninsula.  I have been calling us ‘sophmores’ or ‘wise fools’.  Freshman year we learned the ropes of running our ‘own’ campground, sophmore year, we are learning there are always new things to learn and see with regard to campers and their shenanigans.  

Wild Roses

Last year our biggest problem was guests leaving salmon everywhere, filleting salmon on the old wooden picnic tables, leaving their coolers sitting out full of salmon or just plain salmon problems.  It also meant that people were catching a lot of fish and we were blessed by so many campers with salmon that I rarely ate anything else.  Wild-caught fresh salmon (20 minutes or so old) is to die for.  Several people this year have also blessed us with salmon and even fresh halibut.   

Why is salmon such a problem?  We are in BEAR country.  Though what makes you stronger may not kill you, a BEAR will kill you.  Just last weekend I had a guest who had been attacked by a grizzly three years ago.  She had been hiking along the Skilak Lake lower trail (we did this last year) and the grass was tall, the river high.  Though she and her two dogs wore bear bells, the sound of the river drowned them out.  They surprised a grizzly sleeping in the grass.  She is an Alaskan and was prepared, but fear took over.  She stepped backwards, tripped and fell.  The bear picked her up by the leg and threw her on the ground several times; she doesn’t remember too much as she passed out.  When she woke up, she was by the river and just rolled into the frigid Kenai river which saved her from any more blood loss.  One of her dogs was missing, the other one she attached his leash to her backpack and he pulled her 1 1/2 miles to the trailhead where she was able to get help.  Several days later her other dog was found seemingly fine until she got sick and they found she had internal injuries, probably from fighting the bear to save the woman’s life. 

Apart from reminding guests about bears, this year it seems our biggest problem is tree cutting.  Imagine being in a forest service campground and going into a campsite to greet guests and there’s a 15-foot tree lying either near or in the fire pit!  Really?  First, GREEN wood doesn’t burn and secondly, it is illegal in a US Forest to cut anything GREEN.  I had to tell that to a BLM employee who thought he could do whatever he wanted in our campground including stripping branches to make marshmallow sticks – also illegal.  He challenged me to show him the law which was hanging on the very board where he bought his permit to camp.  So, now I have to remind EVERY camper not to cut trees or strip green branches to make marshmallow sticks.  After talking with some forest service law enforcement, our best friends and backups, I learned an interesting ‘fact’.  The US Forest Service is committed to protecting the forests while the Bureau of Land Management is committed to abusing the forests.  Now I know and you do too.

Happy Birthday Ducks!

Lil Campground Host with is bike

July arrived hot, hot, hot.  When I say hot, it was about 80 degrees but feels like a humid 90. For the peninsula, this is HOT.  Trust me, it’s HOT!  Last year we never reached 70 and that felt HOT! Those few days last year were a blessing in the midst of a very rainy summer.  This year we have had mostly sunny days until now.  Hence why I can take some time to update our adventure.  It is supposed to rain the next 10 days and has been raining for the last 4.  July also brought my grandson’s first birthday which is why we host in Alaska.  He lives here with his mommy (our daughter) and his daddy (our son-in-law) in a log house with a dog named Max and now has a sandbox!  He loves to come to our campground and either rides or pushes the wagon I use to tidy up sites.  He loves being in our trailer as I made a zone for him with toys and books.  He loves to eat rocks, wave to guests, and meet other children.    

July is also exhaustion month.  We arrive May 3, but we begin working May 15.  Until Memorial Day weekend, we have few campers and prepare for our first big weekend.  Again, like last year with the rain, it was slow.  During the first few weeks, we hike and spend time with family.  Then, June 11 arrives.  Fishing season opens on the Russian River which is about 2 miles down from us on the Kenai River.  We are considered ‘overflow’ from the Russian River Campground which has a stay limit of three days.   From July 11 until about August 1, we are non-stop and I mean non-stop between fish runs and dip netting for natives.   From the moment our eyes open in the morning until we drop about 11 p.m. at night, we are working hard.  Remember, it stays light in Alaska until 1 p.m. at the solstice! We have to put “Office Hours” on our trailer or people would knock on our door 24-7.  

Comment Card

We work for Alaska Recreational Management running our own campground with a lot of freedom.  We dry camp all summer hauling water, hauling our waste, and running a generator while managing and hosting about 100 campers per night (a smaller campground).  I have really learned that hosting and managing are two different positions, both of which we perform.  Hosting is easy.  “Hi, how are you, where are you from, what are your plans while you are here?”  Managing is more complicated.  “You need two nights and there’s only one?  You need a bigger site and I’m booked solid?  Let’s see if we can trade you with this site for another site?  Your friends are coming in, do I have anything for them too?  Did you pay for last night? Where is your permit as it should be on your campsite post?  Why are you in this site when it has a reserved sign?”  And, we have paper work.  Everyday I have to submit a daily sheet that lists the permit numbers of every filled or reserved site, the license plate number, where the guests are from, number of days paid, number of days stayed, the amount paid.  My wonderful oldest son helped me this year with a spreadsheet as last year I had to hand input repetitive days on every sheet.  And, my other younger son bought me an iPad so I can welcome and check-in guests on the spreadsheet as I meet and greet them.

Kenai River*

The South side of the campground has 21 reservable sites.  This is the part of the campground I host and manage.  The North Side is by the Kenai River and has 7 walk-in non-reservable sites.  My husband manages that side as they are our ‘problem children’ most of the time.  This past weekend one of those campers decided they didn’t want to pay for wood so they ravaged all of our other sites ‘stealing’ wood left behind for those campers who would eventually have that spot!  For those of you who camp and see a checkout time, be kind to your hosts and checkout before or at least by that time.  What many people don’t realize is that we only have a few hours everyday when we can actually leave the campground and enjoy Alaska or just do laundry and grocery shop.   Some days I never see the river and it’s only 100 yards away!  Together, we have created a motto for our work: Done by 1, have some fun; Back by 5, keep campers alive!  

*The Kenai River is ALWAYS that color of turquoise.  When the glaciers melt they are full of silt.  As the water enters the Kenai Lake, the silt falls to the bottom leaving only the minerals suspended in the water.  It is the most beautiful river I have ever seen.

Along with managing and hosting, we are responsible for cleaning toilets, tidying up campsites by cleaning out the fire pit that is used for everything from cigarette butts to broken glass beer bottles, raking the site when needed,  and unfortunately, cleaning up dog poop whose owners neglect that part of their responsibility.  We check bear boxes for items campers left behind; some campers leave things with us like coolers, stoves, or food they can’t take with them on an airplane.  We also weed whack, hang signs reminding people of the rules, and keep our eyes open for squatters who steal campsites or refuse to pay.  

Joe and Beryl, Australia

 

 

 

One of the greatest rewards to this ‘job’ is the people we meet.  Without them (and family) this would truly be a thankless job.  Recently, we had guests from Australia who are traveling the world. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had a little problem with some guests’ payment (they paid too much) and when I went to talk with them, they were from Switzerland and gave me a Swiss chocolate bar. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a Baptist church group of men who fish together and are here nearly every weekend so we have been able to share our Messianic faith walk with each of them after they see our Shabbat Shalom sign. 

 

 

 

 

 

Nate and Crystal

 

 

 

We had a wedding ceremony by the Kenai and a reception in Site 10 celebrating Nate and Crystal. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcia and Me on the Kenai

 

 

 

I had an Inner Court dancing friend visit from Colorado. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol, Sam, Sarah, and Lisa

 

 

 

We have had Israelis along with many Europeans and even some crazy women who decided to jet ski out of Whittier to see the glaciers!  Their next stop was a fly-out to a glacier for dog sledding!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mike and Kim

 

 

At the moment,  we have guests in the campground from York, PA where most of my mom’s family still lives.  Hi Keith! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandy, Gene, Carrie and Brian

 

 

Just now I received a text message from some guests who went to a creperie in Seward that we recommended!  We enjoyed these fabulous four and spent our Erev Shabbat with them.  Two of them will be back in the ‘hood’ next week.

 

 

 

 

 

Such is the life of a campground host in July.  Right now we’re slower because we’re between fish runs.  It has also been raining.  I’ve been reading a lot of books as I made a Cooper Creek Library book bin: Take One, Leave One.  Today we’ll be checking out a few of the other campgrounds in the area so we can give better information to our campers who are on vacation.

I started this blog post today with the intention of saying ‘thank you’ to all of the campers who stayed with us this past weekend.  Our dumpster was full to the top with trash and there was no pick up until yesterday.  We asked each camper/campsite to either haul out their trash or take it to the other side and put it in that dumpster.  Saturday night my husband I discussed where and how much trash we would find because people would be lazy, stupid or just not care about what we asked.  We expected bear boxes to be full, the bags in the toilets to be full or just bags set by the dumpster welcoming every bear on the peninsula.  We found NOTHING!  Absolutely NOTHING!  Every camper this past weekend took their trash with them out of the campground.  I was astounded and my faith in humanity was somewhat restored by these people who were here from all over the world.  Thank you!

Host Site View Day 57

As for today, this is what I see today from our host site.  I have been taking one of these everyday from the same spot and will create a slide show of how Cooper Mountain looked as I began each days chores.  Until August …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

©2018 Tentstake Ministries