Refuge notebook: Let’s go! Camping, fishing, hiking, hunting, EVERYTHING!
Do you feel it? A hum of anticipation grew louder as the piles of snow melted smaller and smaller into muddy streams.
It’s an itch to tie up leaders and pack backpacks, and swap skis for bikes in the garage. It’s an eagerness that makes us all dream of long summer days even as we ride through snow showers at Turnagain Pass.
Maybe he surprised us, I think. We saw the days scroll by on the calendar, but it didn’t seem quite real with our forests still covered in snow. As early as last weekend, hikes on the refuge were abruptly interrupted by crusts of old snow still covering the trails, forcing the decision to either drill a path forward with ice crampons and gaiters or turn back and seek flatter ground.
Smaller lakes that tend to hold their ice longer are joined by the mighty Tustumena, where a foot of rotting ice still thwarts wilderness adventure.
Then, BAM, just like that, we hear the first rumble of RV tires on Sterling Highway, the geese begin to fly north, and the sun regains its warmth. This spring feels like a rebound with an intensity not seen or felt in a long time.
Want the chance to socialize at a weekend festival? Here are three stacked in one Saturday! Want to camp with friends and roast marshmallows on the fire? Do like all your neighbors!
One thing I see on the horizon is a full recreational summer – full of people, full of campers, full of fishing, full of hiking, full of kids on bikes and bears sniffing picnic baskets- fuck.
So over the past week, when our volunteer campground hosts and Seasonal Visitor Services staff arrived at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, I checked out our plans and delved into the details that hopefully- the, will help our visitors to enjoy a safe, relaxing, exciting and refreshing stay. and been totally awesome.
We’re all a bit lacking in practice on this close-to-socialization stuff. We’ve made so many changes in the last two years that sometimes my head is swimming with it all. So I make lists. Then I follow them, so I don’t miss marshmallow sticks or something more important on weekend trips.
(Ask my husband about the crazy, so busted and hewn spoons he had to make for our first camping dinner last year when no one fetched camping silverware from winter storage!)
So many people have new camping trailers for them. How on earth do you plan that first campsite of the season when your whole setup has changed? ! Well, let’s go over some basics that I know you know but just haven’t used over this long, cold winter.
First, start with the intention of having fun in our amazing state. However, it’s not the kind of fun that triggers forest fires, dog fights or noise complaints, but the unique fun that creates memories that don’t need pictures to remember in a decade. .
The taste of s’mores and the smell of hot dogs on sticks are easy souvenirs to gift family and friends this summer while respecting neighboring campers. Ask a host if you need help figuring out what type of entertainment is allowed at your chosen campground!
Our camp hosts look forward to meeting you and discussing the local rules that keep everyone safe and happy. If you’re choosing a location where the hosts aren’t in residence, look for bulletin boards that will help you, albeit in a less personal way.
Second, remember the campfire bucket. I never seem to forget the matches, but the tools for putting out a fire safely in the evening can easily be overlooked. To do it right, remember this: Drown-Stir-Feel.
Drown your fire with water (using the bucket you brought), then stir the ashes so that the water reaches the embers deep in the hearth. If necessary, add more water and stir again, then feel the heat like a wildland firefighter does before deeming a hot spot “extinguished”. After a full day of fun, rest is all the more enjoyable knowing that your campfire is also “put to bed”.
Third, take advantage of all the opportunities you have on your refuge this summer. Take a paddle in the Swan Lake and Swanson River canoe systems to escape the noises of the city and slow down a bit. It is less than 30 minutes from the Sterling Highway to a world where the serenity of nature surrounds you.
Fish for salmon, trout, grayling and arctic char in the refuge lakes or the turquoise waters of the Kenai River. Remember to leave no trace along the banks by packing a duffel bag or stowing a toilet bucket in the boat, so piles of tp and poo don’t ruin the day.
Many free adventures are back on the event calendar! Starting in June, take a guided walk with a ranger to an incredible viewpoint and earn a point in a “View the Vistas” hiking challenge throughout the summer. View as many views (points of view) of the refuge as you can and document them with a simple camera snap to earn 80th anniversary refuge loot.
(We’ll tell you more about this challenge if you call the Visitor Center at 907-260-2820 or stop by the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge booth at the Sports Rec and Trade Show this weekend.)
So whatever calls you to the refuge, wherever you soak up the summer, make the most of it. Let’s go!
Leah Eskelin is park manager and visitor center manager at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. To learn about shelter events, recreation and more, visit kenai.fws.gov or Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kenainationalwildliferefuge.