Monthly Archives: November 2008

Ascending the dome — Climbers summit 2nd volcano with little planning







By Clark Fair
Redoubt Reporter

Editor’s note: This week, The Redoubt Reporter continues a series about three seasoned outdoor enthusiasts who attempt to complete a quest to take on three Cook Inlet volcanoes over the course of three long weekends. Last week’s installment accom-panied these stalwart adven-turers as they crossed Cook Inlet, climbed Mount Iliamna, skied back down to dry ground, and then re-crossed the inlet in just three days. This week’s installment will feature the trio’s attempts to similarly conquer Mount Redoubt.

About five months after the successful 2006 climb and ski-descent of Mount Iliamna by Rory Stark, Tyler Johnson and Craig Barnard, Stark found his body in need of an overhaul.

In 2002 on Mount Hunter, Stark, who grew up in Homer, had been caught in an avalanche that injured his hip and mangled his ankles, requiring three surgeries to one ankle, fusing the bones so that front-to-back movement was still possible but side-to-side movement was not. The ankle injury altered his stride; however, it didn’t keep him off his skis or out of the woods.

In 2005, for instance, Stark and Johnson joined with a pair of other competitors to participate in the rugged Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic. They won by finishing in less than two days, the first competitors ever to do so, much to the chagrin of former record holder, the renowned Roman Dial.
But Stark’s compromised body could only endure such punishment for so long, and eventually one of his hips began to give out.

In October 2006, Stark went in for hip-resurfacing surgery.

Doctors dislocated the hip, and then ground down the head of the femur until they could mount a chrome-alloy ball on it. Into the hip joint, they affixed a metal socket, then set the ball into the socket and put the hip back together.

Seven months later, in May 2007, Stark was ready to tackle another volcano. The target this time was 10,198-foot Mount Redoubt, standing in its snowy mantle almost directly across from the city of Kenai.

“We realized that (the ease of the Iliamna trek) was complete luck, so we planned this one out a little better,” said Johnson.

To start with, they decided to allocate more time than they had the year before, so they planned for four days.

Although they still carried no climbing gear, they did pack a map, emergency-locator beacons and shovels, and three 4½-pound Alpacka one-man rafts. They also spent some time researching their route. Then, eschewing McDonald’s cheeseburgers this time, they settled on a diet of mainly burritos from Taco Bell, and a fifth of whiskey apiece.

An acquaintance of theirs with some experience on Redoubt laughed at their sense of preparedness, Johnson said. He also warned them about the crevasses on the mountain and worried about their decision to ski the untried north face, but his arguments failed to dissuade the trio.

Again leaving Anchorage on a Thursday night after work, Stark and Johnson picked up Barnard — a Vermont transplant living in Cooper Landing — and headed south. At about 3 a.m. Friday, they launched their 16-foot Achilles inflatable from the Kenai beach near the wastewater treatment plant and motored west across Cook Inlet toward the Drift River.

Entering the river mouth, they followed the stream course until they noticed a road near the river. They pulled into a slough and tied off their craft, realizing the road likely belonged to Chevron’s Drift River facility, but not realizing the scrutiny under which they had just come.

“We got down the road a little ways, and, man, two or three trucks come barreling down the road toward us,” Johnson said. The trucks belonged to Chevron security officials, who were obviously upset by the adventurers’ appearance.

According to Johnson, a Chevron boss from the West Coast had just landed at the facility, and officials there were already on a heightened terrorism alert because they feared possible threats against a whaling convention in the area. Officials talked of confiscating the boat and all the gear until, as Johnson said, “cooler heads prevailed.”

“We had motored right up a pipeline,” Johnson said, and there was a concern about bombs. Ultimately, though, after a long powwow between officials, they decided not only to forget pressing charges but also — after checking out the inflatable and laughing at all the beer inside it — to escort Barnard, Stark and Johnson in a company truck on up the road and off Chevron property.

In the end, the trio saved five to 10 miles of walking. Still, there was plenty of walking to be done and plenty of cold-water crossings to be had, since the Drift River is a braided glacial stream. Fortunately, the bluebird skies continued and the sun remained warm. On Friday night, after stashing their pack rafts along the upper river, they camped at about 2,000 feet.

On Saturday morning they affixed skins to skis and began to ascend through a series of seracs, icefalls and thinly veiled crevasses. Especially nerve-racking was a notch they recognized as a collapsed crevasse beneath the snow fissures that would parallel the direction of their skis on the descent.

All that day, they covered less than five miles, camping at about 5,000 feet near the base of the main mountain. While Stark and Johnson remained in camp, Barnard scouted the route ahead, noting that the avalanche danger was high while still being able to select a reasonably safe route.

“You always want to ski (down) your ascent line because, if your weather turns to crap, you can kind of follow your tracks for a little bit, and it’s real important to know where you’re going,” Johnson said.
By noon Sunday, following Barnard’s plan, they were on the summit and preparing to head back downhill.

“We hit it just right,” Johnson said of the descent. “Another week and probably it would have uncovered a lot of crevasses, and these (snow) bridges would have been gone.”

As it was, noted Stark and Barnard, some of the bridges began to collapse as they traversed them.
Back at the Drift River, they made camp and readied their rafts for the trip out. A distance they had labored to cover over much of Friday, they floated in only two hours on Monday morning, but when they reached the Achilles they discovered that Monday’s smaller tides had left their boat high and dry in the slough. Consequently, they had to drag the craft over the mud and back out into the current.

“We had to take the outboard off,” Johnson said. “We took out all the stuff. Me, Craig and Rory, we drug that boat. It was probably a little over a quarter-mile. And then we had to go back and get the engine and then we had to go back and get all the stuff. We looked like a bunch of mud turtles out there.”

Eventually, they were back in the main channel with their gear packed and ready to go. They reached the Kenai beach on Monday night as the weather began to turn. “It was just blowing up,” Stark said. “It was starting to get just nasty there. We just beat a storm in.”

On the way north, they stopped off at the home of Johnson’s parents in Soldotna and learned that Johnson’s father had tried to “send” them a care package.

According to Barnard, Johnson’s father bought some food at Arby’s and then flew with a friend over Redoubt on summit day, planning to drop a bag of chow to the three men, but the fliers were unable to spot the climbers, and so the delivery never happened.

Less than a month later, they were ready for 11,070-foot Mount Spurr.

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Filed under mountain climbing, outdoors, volcanoes

Ascending the dome — Climbers summit 2nd volcano with little planning







By Clark Fair
Redoubt Reporter

Editor’s note: This week, The Redoubt Reporter continues a series about three seasoned outdoor enthusiasts who attempt to complete a quest to take on three Cook Inlet volcanoes over the course of three long weekends. Last week’s installment accom-panied these stalwart adven-turers as they crossed Cook Inlet, climbed Mount Iliamna, skied back down to dry ground, and then re-crossed the inlet in just three days. This week’s installment will feature the trio’s attempts to similarly conquer Mount Redoubt.

About five months after the successful 2006 climb and ski-descent of Mount Iliamna by Rory Stark, Tyler Johnson and Craig Barnard, Stark found his body in need of an overhaul.

In 2002 on Mount Hunter, Stark, who grew up in Homer, had been caught in an avalanche that injured his hip and mangled his ankles, requiring three surgeries to one ankle, fusing the bones so that front-to-back movement was still possible but side-to-side movement was not. The ankle injury altered his stride; however, it didn’t keep him off his skis or out of the woods.

In 2005, for instance, Stark and Johnson joined with a pair of other competitors to participate in the rugged Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic. They won by finishing in less than two days, the first competitors ever to do so, much to the chagrin of former record holder, the renowned Roman Dial.
But Stark’s compromised body could only endure such punishment for so long, and eventually one of his hips began to give out.

In October 2006, Stark went in for hip-resurfacing surgery.

Doctors dislocated the hip, and then ground down the head of the femur until they could mount a chrome-alloy ball on it. Into the hip joint, they affixed a metal socket, then set the ball into the socket and put the hip back together.

Seven months later, in May 2007, Stark was ready to tackle another volcano. The target this time was 10,198-foot Mount Redoubt, standing in its snowy mantle almost directly across from the city of Kenai.

“We realized that (the ease of the Iliamna trek) was complete luck, so we planned this one out a little better,” said Johnson.

To start with, they decided to allocate more time than they had the year before, so they planned for four days.

Although they still carried no climbing gear, they did pack a map, emergency-locator beacons and shovels, and three 4½-pound Alpacka one-man rafts. They also spent some time researching their route. Then, eschewing McDonald’s cheeseburgers this time, they settled on a diet of mainly burritos from Taco Bell, and a fifth of whiskey apiece.

An acquaintance of theirs with some experience on Redoubt laughed at their sense of preparedness, Johnson said. He also warned them about the crevasses on the mountain and worried about their decision to ski the untried north face, but his arguments failed to dissuade the trio.

Again leaving Anchorage on a Thursday night after work, Stark and Johnson picked up Barnard — a Vermont transplant living in Cooper Landing — and headed south. At about 3 a.m. Friday, they launched their 16-foot Achilles inflatable from the Kenai beach near the wastewater treatment plant and motored west across Cook Inlet toward the Drift River.

Entering the river mouth, they followed the stream course until they noticed a road near the river. They pulled into a slough and tied off their craft, realizing the road likely belonged to Chevron’s Drift River facility, but not realizing the scrutiny under which they had just come.

“We got down the road a little ways, and, man, two or three trucks come barreling down the road toward us,” Johnson said. The trucks belonged to Chevron security officials, who were obviously upset by the adventurers’ appearance.

According to Johnson, a Chevron boss from the West Coast had just landed at the facility, and officials there were already on a heightened terrorism alert because they feared possible threats against a whaling convention in the area. Officials talked of confiscating the boat and all the gear until, as Johnson said, “cooler heads prevailed.”

“We had motored right up a pipeline,” Johnson said, and there was a concern about bombs. Ultimately, though, after a long powwow between officials, they decided not only to forget pressing charges but also — after checking out the inflatable and laughing at all the beer inside it — to escort Barnard, Stark and Johnson in a company truck on up the road and off Chevron property.

In the end, the trio saved five to 10 miles of walking. Still, there was plenty of walking to be done and plenty of cold-water crossings to be had, since the Drift River is a braided glacial stream. Fortunately, the bluebird skies continued and the sun remained warm. On Friday night, after stashing their pack rafts along the upper river, they camped at about 2,000 feet.

On Saturday morning they affixed skins to skis and began to ascend through a series of seracs, icefalls and thinly veiled crevasses. Especially nerve-racking was a notch they recognized as a collapsed crevasse beneath the snow fissures that would parallel the direction of their skis on the descent.

All that day, they covered less than five miles, camping at about 5,000 feet near the base of the main mountain. While Stark and Johnson remained in camp, Barnard scouted the route ahead, noting that the avalanche danger was high while still being able to select a reasonably safe route.

“You always want to ski (down) your ascent line because, if your weather turns to crap, you can kind of follow your tracks for a little bit, and it’s real important to know where you’re going,” Johnson said.
By noon Sunday, following
Barnard’s plan, they were on the summit and preparing to head back downhill.

“We hit it just right,” Johnson said of the descent. “Another week and probably it would have uncovered a lot of crevasses, and these (snow) bridges would have been gone.”

As it was, noted Stark and Barnard, some of the bridges began to collapse as they traversed them.
Back at the Drift River, they made camp and readied their rafts for the trip out. A distance they had labored to cover over much of Friday, they floated in only two hours on Monday morning, but when they reached the Achilles they discovered that Monday’s smaller tides had left their boat high and dry in the slough. Consequently, they had to drag the craft over the mud and back out into the current.

“We had to take the outboard off,” Johnson said. “We took out all the stuff. Me, Craig and Rory, we drug that boat. It was probably a little over a quarter-mile. And then we had to go back and get the engine and then we had to go back and get all the stuff. We looked like a bunch of mud turtles out there.”

Eventually, they were back in the main channel with their gear packed and ready to go. They reached the Kenai beach on Monday night as the weather began to turn. “It was just blowing up,” Stark said. “It was starting to get just nasty there. We just beat a storm in.”

On the way north, they stopped off at the home of Johnson’s parents in Soldotna and learned that Johnson’s father had tried to “send” them a care package.

According to Barnard, Johnson’s father bought some food at Arby’s and then flew with a friend over Redoubt on summit day, planning to drop a bag of chow to the three men, but the fliers were unable to spot the climbers, and so the delivery never happened.

Less than a month later, they were ready for 11,070-foot Mount Spurr.

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Filed under mountain climbing, outdoors, volcanoes

Eating up resources — Risings costs challenge food bank, its clients to make ends meet





By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Harry Moore has spent 50 years contri-buting to the community.

Moore moved to the central Kenai Peninsula from Anchorage in 1952 when the Sterling Highway opened. He home- steaded on Funny River Road and spent his working years in trades that helped build brand-new Soldotna — “mechanic, road const- ruction and what not,” he said.

Since retiring, he’s facing the same dilemma many seniors are — income is fixed, but bills are not. Heating, electricity, Medicare, gas and food costs spiral upward, leaving Moore and others who once helped build communities now needing help from them.

On Nov. 19 help came from the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank. Moore had a cab drop him and his power wheelchair off at the food bank just before 11 a.m., so he could sign the form for the seniors’ commodity supplemental food program. The program provides him with a slab of cheese and a prepacked box of food once a month, containing a variety of items — cereal, beans, peanut butter, powdered milk and the like.

“With me, I don’t need very much,” he said.

He’s been coming to the food bank for 10 or 15 years now, he said. He used to come in almost daily to eat lunch in the food bank’s soup kitchen, the Fireweed Diner. Now it’s more infrequently, but he doesn’t miss senior food box distribution day.

In the food bank’s records, Moore is a client, one of hundreds of seniors who get help during the month. But he’s more than a number. To his fellow Fireweed diners he’s a good lunch buddy, a sure bet for a laugh, quick with a smile, and he’s at the point in life where a good story takes precedence over a sip of coffee or spoonful of soup. To food bank staff, he’s also a supporter. He makes items for the food bank’s annual auction fundraiser, and brings a pan of homemade, sugar-free fudge that has become legendary in the building.

“I think there’s a lot of people in the community they do a lot of services for, mainly the elderly and what not, you know,” Moore said of the food bank. “It’s real important. They do a lot of services for the community. That’s why I make some stuff for the auction.”

Being both a contributor and consumer may be the attitude to take for seniors who find it difficult to go from taking care of themselves and others to needing help making ends meet.

“I don’t know what they think, but they probably think they’re getting something for nothing. I don’t think that’s the case. I think everybody contributes something to the community,” he said.

Senior food boxes are distributed a few days a month. Nov. 19 was the first day of distribution this month, which resulted in a line of seniors waiting to sign the eligibility form and pick up their food.

But the wait was short and the mood amiable, with many seniors making an afternoon of the errand by stopping for a hearty, well-balanced lunch and conversation in the Fireweed Diner, which serves meals on a donation basis.

“The lunch is nice, too. It gives you a chance to get out at noon,” said Phyllis Sather, of Soldotna.

Sather has been getting senior food boxes for the last three or four months, she said. Heating, electricity, gas and food bills have been going up.

“Oh yeah, every time you go to the store it seems like it goes up,” she said.

There isn’t a large amount of food in the boxes, but it helps, she said. A little bit goes a long way, especially when it can be difficult to seek help in the first place.

“I never signed up for anything like this before,” she said.

Evelyn Brandt, of Soldotna, was pragmatic about the food program.

“I find a use for most of it. If I don’t, I bring it back,” she said. “You get a lot of beans. You can do a lot of things with beans. It helps you know what you have to buy and what you don’t have to buy.”

Brandt has lived in the area off and on since 1969, raising her kids here and working a variety of jobs, including at the old Soldotna Drug Store and as a travel agent. She’s been getting senior boxes for the last three years and said anyone who’s eligible should take advantage of the program.

“If it’s pride that keeps them away, they better think about it. They’ll be starving,” she said.

The food bank has seen an increase in people seeking services, paralleling rising food, gas, heat, electricity, health care and other costs, said Linda Swarner, executive director of the food bank.

Last year the food bank gave senior food boxes to an average of 290 people a month. This year it’s 321. The Fireweed Diner served an average of 1,699 meals a month last year, compared to 1,981 this year. The food bank also gives out emergency food boxes to low-income households once a month and distributes perishable items — like yogurt, bread and milk. The monthly average of households getting emergency food boxes this year is 549, up from 510 last year, and the monthly average of people picking up perishable items is 532 this year, compared to 494 last year.

Eligibility for food bank programs is dependant on income. Seniors have an income limit of $22,750 for a two-person household, and families eligible for emergency food boxes can make $32,375 for a two-person household. There is some minimal paperwork to be filled out for food boxes, but it all basically operates on the honor system. If someone says they need help, the food bank believes them.

The problem is there may not be enough food to help everyone who needs it. Rising bills means a rising number of food bank clients, but it also means fewer donations. Food for the diner, food boxes and other services the food bank provides — like giving food to senior centers to use to cook lunch — come from grocery stores and donations from the public. The food bank is getting school groups and others coming in to volunteer service with the holidays approaching, but the amount of donated food is not as high as it’s been in past years.

Swarner said the food bank has given out 10,000 more pounds of food on average each month than they’ve taken in. Food drives in November and December are usually a big boost to the food bank, especially in providing holiday food boxes for families.
“It looks like our food drives are going to be a lot less, just the way the economy is,” Swarner said.

Last year was the first that the food bank didn’t have enough food to meet holiday needs. Monetary donations from the business community allowed the food bank to go buy turkeys from grocery stores to give to people. This year the state is chipping in $6,000 to be shared between the Fairbanks, Anchorage and Kenai Peninsula food banks to buy food to give out for the holidays, Swarner said.

And she’s still hopeful for an increase in donations.

“We just received three turkeys, so you just pray that somebody’s going to keep coming through the door,” Swarner said. “We have a very generous community. It’s just going to be tough, though.”

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Filed under charity, food bank

Eating up resources — Risings costs challenge food bank, its clients to make ends meet





By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Harry Moore has spent 50 years contri-buting to the community.

Moore moved to the central Kenai Peninsula from Anchorage in 1952 when the Sterling Highway opened. He home- steaded on Funny River Road and spent his working years in trades that helped build brand-new Soldotna — “mechanic, road const- ruction and what not,” he said.

Since retiring, he’s facing the same dilemma many seniors are — income is fixed, but bills are not. Heating, electricity, Medicare, gas and food costs spiral upward, leaving Moore and others who once helped build communities now needing help from them.

On Nov. 19 help came from the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank. Moore had a cab drop him and his power wheelchair off at the food bank just before 11 a.m., so he could sign the form for the seniors’ commodity supplemental food program. The program provides him with a slab of cheese and a prepacked box of food once a month, containing a variety of items — cereal, beans, peanut butter, powdered milk and the like.

“With me, I don’t need very much,” he said.

He’s been coming to the food bank for 10 or 15 years now, he said. He used to come in almost daily to eat lunch in the food bank’s soup kitchen, the Fireweed Diner. Now it’s more infrequently, but he doesn’t miss senior food box distribution day.

In the food bank’s records, Moore is a client, one of hundreds of seniors who get help during the month. But he’s more than a number. To his fellow Fireweed diners he’s a good lunch buddy, a sure bet for a laugh, quick with a smile, and he’s at the point in life where a good story takes precedence over a sip of coffee or spoonful of soup. To food bank staff, he’s also a supporter. He makes items for the food bank’s annual auction fundraiser, and brings a pan of homemade, sugar-free fudge that has become legendary in the building.

“I think there’s a lot of people in the community they do a lot of services for, mainly the elderly and what not, you know,” Moore said of the food bank. “It’s real important. They do a lot of services for the community. That’s why I make some stuff for the auction.”

Being both a contributor and consumer may be the attitude to take for seniors who find it difficult to go from taking care of themselves and others to needing help making ends meet.

“I don’t know what they think, but they probably think they’re getting something for nothing. I don’t think that’s the case. I think everybody contributes something to the community,” he said.

Senior food boxes are distributed a few days a month. Nov. 19 was the first day of distribution this month, which resulted in a line of seniors waiting to sign the eligibility form and pick up their food.

But the wait was short and the mood amiable, with many seniors making an afternoon of the errand by stopping for a hearty, well-balanced lunch and conversation in the Fireweed Diner, which serves meals on a donation basis.

“The lunch is nice, too. It gives you a chance to get out at noon,” said Phyllis Sather, of Soldotna.

Sather has been getting senior food boxes for the last three or four months, she said. Heating, electricity, gas and food bills have been going up.

“Oh yeah, every time you go to the store it seems like it goes up,” she said.

There isn’t a large amount of food in the boxes, but it helps, she said. A little bit goes a long way, especially when it can be difficult to seek help in the first place.

“I never signed up for anything like this before,” she said.

Evelyn Brandt, of Soldotna, was pragmatic about the food program.

“I find a use for most of it. If I don’t, I bring it back,” she said. “You get a lot of beans. You can do a lot of things with beans. It helps you know what you have to buy and what you don’t have to buy.”

Brandt has lived in the area off and on since 1969, raising her kids here and working a variety of jobs, including at the old Soldotna Drug Store and as a travel agent. She’s been getting senior boxes for the last three years and said anyone who’s eligible should take advantage of the program.

“If it’s pride that keeps them away, they better think about it. They’ll be starving,” she said.

The food bank has seen an increase in people seeking services, paralleling rising food, gas, heat, electricity, health care and other costs, said Linda Swarner, executive director of the food bank.

Last year the food bank gave senior food boxes to an average of 290 people a month. This year it’s 321. The Fireweed Diner served an average of 1,699 meals a month last year, compared to 1,981 this year. The food bank also gives out emergency food boxes to low-income households once a month and distributes perishable items — like yogurt, bread and milk. The monthly average of households getting emergency food boxes this year is 549, up from 510 last year, and the monthly average of people picking up perishable items is 532 this year, compared to 494 last year.

Eligibility for food bank programs is dependant on income. Seniors have an income limit of $22,750 for a two-person household, and families eligible for emergency food boxes can make $32,375 for a two-person household. There is some minimal paperwork to be filled out for food boxes, but it all basically operates on the honor system. If someone says they need help, the food bank believes them.

The problem is there may not be enough food to help everyone who needs it. Rising bills means a rising number of food bank clients, but it also means fewer donations. Food for the diner, food boxes and other services the food bank provides — like giving food to senior centers to use to cook lunch — come from grocery stores and donations from the public. The food bank is getting school groups and others coming in to volunteer service with the holidays approaching, but the amount of donated food is not as high as it’s been in past years.

Swarner said the food bank has given out 10,000 more pounds of food on average each month than they’ve taken in. Food drives in November and December are usually a big boost to the food bank, especially in providing holiday food boxes for families.
“It looks like our food drives are going to be a lot less, just the way the economy is,” Swarner said.

Last year was the first that the food bank didn’t have enough food to meet holiday needs. Monetary donations from the business community allow
ed the food bank to go buy turkeys from grocery stores to give to people. This year the state is chipping in $6,000 to be shared between the Fairbanks, Anchorage and Kenai Peninsula food banks to buy food to give out for the holidays, Swarner said.

And she’s still hopeful for an increase in donations.

“We just received three turkeys, so you just pray that somebody’s going to keep coming through the door,” Swarner said. “We have a very generous community. It’s just going to be tough, though.”

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Filed under charity, food bank

Blind sided — Flats duck hunters tangle with Parks over regulations

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Steve Meyer has been fall duck hunting on the Kenai River Flats since he was a kid over 30 years ago, practicing his shots at communal duck blinds set up even before he ever set foot on the flats, and teaching his kids to do the same. Some seasons Meyer spends as many as 90 days hunting between September and December.

“I’m pretty avid, and frankly I don’t shoot that many ducks. I just love doing it,” Meyer said.

Meyer’s habits haven’t changed much over the years, but somewhere along the line the legality of them did. He and his fellow flats duck hunters have been informed that the blinds they’ve used for decades and much of the territory they shoot from is off limits, and has been for quite some time.

“It’s traditional. We’ve been doing this for as long as any of us can remember, hunting these areas, and there was never any problem. Now all of a sudden Parks decided they’re going to start enforcing something we weren’t even aware of,” Meyer said.

The Kenai River Flats are under the jurisdiction of the Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, managed locally by the Kenai River Special Management Area. Parks regulations stipulate no hunting within a half-mile of any developed structures on the flats — including homes, roads, parking lots and the Warren Ames Memorial Bridge — and no permanent structures.

That means the two blinds hunters have been using for decades had to go.

“Those blinds had been left alone all these years, they’d almost become community blinds. People took their kids out there, and they were fairly close and easy access, and all of a sudden this year they disappeared,” Meyer said.

The fact that the blinds had been there for so long without being torn down and replaced every time a hunter used them made them permanent structures, which aren’t allowed in state parks, said Jack Sinclair, area Parks superintendent. Perhaps the department could have done better in warning hunters the blinds were going to be removed, but the result would have been the same, he said.

“In the end we would have to have those out of there anyway. There wasn’t any way to compromise on that particular issue,” Sinclair said.

The issue of shooting boundaries may be negotiable, at least hunters hope it is.

The common practice on the flats is to keep a quarter-mile distance from structures when shooting.

“All the duck hunters that have been down there this year are kind of stunned that we’re not allowed to hunt down there anymore,” said Scott Miller, of Soldotna.

“Last year Parks started constricting where we could hunt. They were being very cordial about it, trying to inform us these areas we traditionally hunted out there were being closed down, not because they’d been open, but they’re starting to enforce the original KRSMA half-mile rule,” he said.

KRSMA took over management of the flats in 1985. The purpose of the half-mile restriction is to protect people and property along the flats. Hunters say that’s more space than necessary, and Meyer and others took a proposal to the KRSMA board Oct. 9 to request a change to a quarter-mile shooting restriction.

The 15 or so hunters making the request have a report on the lethality of shotguns used in waterfowl hunting showing they are safe beyond a quarter mile. They also found examples from around the Kenai Peninsula, state and country where a quarter-mile restriction is the norm for shotgun hunting, including Watson Lake on the Sterling flats, the Anchorage coastal area and Mendenhall Lake in Juneau.

Hunters asked Parks representatives if people living along the flats had complained about duck hunters over the years while they were operating on a quarter-mile boundary. They had not.

“We’re a pretty responsible group of people. They never had complaints, it just didn’t happen. We weren’t shooting up people’s houses or anything like that,” Meyer said.
So why is it a problem? And why now?

It’s a problem because the regulations stipulate a half-mile, Sinclair said.

“Now after all these years they have more money because of the oil (increased state revenue from high oil prices), they’re getting more enforcement officers down there,” Miller said.

The half-mile restriction cuts off prime hunting areas, including the major ponds many hunters like to frequent, Miller said. You either have to get a boat and float the river, or do like Meyer does and walk out beyond the KRSMA border about a mile and a quarter below the bridge.

“There’s essentially almost nowhere you can hunt from Eagle Rock down until you get way down on the flats,” Miller said.

The flats have been a favorite hunting spot for Miller’s family for decades. He’s hunted there with his dad, and his brother, Brian, has recently gotten into it. They’ve taught their kids to hunt, as well.

“It’s a fun, family thing, just kind of a nice area close to home. You can get out there on a weekend or evening or something and do a little duck hunting and fishing,” Miller said.

“We have all been kind of closed in down there because of development and we know we can’t hunt how we used to 20 years ago, but we still want to have an area to go,” he said. “We realize we’ve been restricted because of the housing, and that’s fine, but I’d like to see the areas that can be open, opened, because that’s not really a reason to shut down a traditional-use thing.”

Meyer said the flats are the best hunting spot close to town. Beyond that is the outlet of Skilak Lake, but that’s not ideal because fall rainbow trout fishermen can make it dangerous to hunt there.

“We’re just running out of places to go. It seems like it’s another stab at hunters, and Alaska’s supposed to be kind of about hunting. It’s just as traditional as any subsistence here, or any of the fishing that we have here,” Meyer said. “We’re kind of a minority, but people who want to hunt, that’s part of why we’re here. It may not seem like a big thing, but it’s just another one of those small segments that gets pulled away from people, and then it’s on to the next thing. It just gets a little concerning.”

Sinclair said there’s nothing he can do about the regulation — it has to go through the board process to be changed — but he hopes to see that happen by next hunting season.

“I think Parks realizes, at least I do, that there’s a need to have those kind of uses maintained on the river. I don’t think we’re trying to block that from happening,” Sinclair said.

Meyer said he’s going to stay involved in the process, in the hope that hunters’ traditional use of the flats becomes legal use once again.

“We’re certainly going to give it our best shot,” he said.

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Learning, entertainment go hand in hand in CES puppet show




By Naomi Hagelund
For the Redoubt Reporter

With six puppeteers, a stage and an emcee decked out in full firefighter gear, Central Emergency Services showed a roomful of preschoolers how to practice fire safety Nov. 12 at Kenaitze Cuya Qyut’anen Head Start in Kenai. More than 20 children gave their attention to an assortment of puppets, which sang about ways to be safe about fire, such as stopping, dropping and rolling, calling 911 and testing smoke detectors.

Gary Hale, CES fire marshal, said this is the 13th or 14th year the puppets have been used to educate children about fire safety. The program started with an original set purchased in 1987 of seven puppets, a VHS training tape and two prerecorded audiocassettes with scripts. The show has expanded to more than 75 puppets, more than 150 songs and a full sound system.
The educational puppet show has become so popular that the fire marshal had to turn down seven performances this year.

“We go for five weeks and four shows a week,” Hale said. “It’s so demanding.”

The show started in the second week of October, which is also when more than 150,000 fire departments in the nation began participating in fire prevention week, Hale said. The performances ended Nov. 13, totaling 19 locations from one end of the Kenai Peninsula to the other, more than 22 shows and almost 2,000 children. Each show needs at least five puppeteers, who perform six songs per show. The show lasts about 45 minutes, with lessons taught by Hale in between each song.

The puppeteers work behind a fully encompassed stage, changing puppets for each different song and moving the puppets’ mouths while reading a script. “It’s chaos, organized chaos,” said Brad Nelson, CES’ new assistant fire marshal, now in his third month as a puppeteer. “The fun part is deciding which puppet to use for which song. Anything to get the kids laughing.”
Many people are incorporated into the show.

“We’ve used spouses, our on-call people, which are volunteers, and our paid personnel,” Hale said. “All of them have contributed to making this a huge success for so many years.”

One of the challenges the traveling puppet show faces is finding upbeat, interesting songs to incorporate into the program.

“We have 150 songs, but some of them are very bad and some of them are very good,” Hale said. “We find them everywhere we can.”

“In the jungle, the safety jungle, oh we are safe tonight,” lip-synched a lion puppet to an altered version of a classic oldie.

“The lion was my favorite,” one boy said. “And I learned to never touch a lighter.”

A lot of the songs are based on “oldies but goodies” tunes with new lyrics from the Colorado Springs Fire Department. Keeping the program fresh and interesting for all ages is a challenge, so the program is generally limited to second grade and under, but CES still gets requests from grades as high as sixth to bring the puppets back.

As big as it’s gotten, the show isn’t done expanding. CES is ordering 16 more puppets and is hoping to ask Hobo Jim to perform new songs for the show.

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Editorial: The Redoubt Reporter brought about with the help of these fine folks, plus Juan Valdez

Four months. Seventeen editions. One hundred seventy-four stories. And we’re just getting started.

It’s been a wild ride getting this paper going. By far this is the most challenging, exhausting, frightening, yet rewarding thing I’ve ever done. With Thanksgiving upon us, I thought it appropriate to acknowledge some of the many things I’ve been thankful for over the last few months:

Staff. I am blessed to have some of the most talented, hard-working, encouraging and incredibly patient individuals working with me on this venture. Sales staff: Joe Rizzo, who always knows how to make a deal and — more importantly — when to bring me ice cream. And the eternally upbeat Jamie Nelson, who is never in a bad mood, never lacking optimism and never has a bad thing to say about anyone, or if he does, it comes off as constructive criticism.

Chris Jenness, graphic designer extraordinaire, who puts the paper’s news content to shame with how good his ads look. Thanks to a new baby and huge workload, he’s also the only one up late enough to indulge me when my sense of humor and IQ deteriorate.

Clark Fair, freelance reporter. Not only is Clark a talented writer and photographer, he comes up with stories I never knew existed. Reading his stuff every week is an exercise in amazement. Soldotna once erupted in a ball of flames? Huh. Didn’t see that coming.

Contributors. The pages of this paper have been graced with the work of several talented, knowledgeable, creative and (most importantly) timely community members. Thanks to editorial columnists Alan Boraas, the Kenai Watershed Forum, Bill Gronvold and Stephen Stringham, cartoonist James Brown, columnists David Wartinbee, Joseph Kashi, Zirrus Vandervere, Andy Veh and Dave Atcheson, and freelancers Naomi Hagelund, Ben Histand and Matt Tunseth.

The Homer Tribune. Publisher Jane Pascall and reporter Naomi Klouda at Homer’s independent, locally owned newspaper have been wonderful resources for advice, information and moral support, even if it’s just to trade, “you won’t believe the week I’m having” stories.

Family. Not one family member has told me I’m crazy for doing this, and restraint does not run deep in my relatives. Even my parents have learned to play along in their support. They don’t ask specific questions anymore, like how much sleep did you get or whether I’ve eaten anything but cold cereal and bagged salad for the last month. It’s just, “How is everything going?” “Fine.” Then it’s on to the weather.

Friends. I’m shocked I still have any. When I do acknowledge their existences, it’s usually only while they help me move furniture, edit stories, give me food or carry out some bizarre favor I’ve asked of them. It’s a mystery why they don’t start sprinting when I begin a conversation with “Hey, could you … ?”

These days it’s never followed by something simple, like “pass the ketchup” or “save me a seat at the movie.” More like, “Hey, could you … jump in the recycling bin at the landfill for me?” Or: “… take pictures of a room full of pasty Alaskans in swimsuits dancing in giant bubbles? Wait, where are you going? Is that a ‘no,’ then?”

Yet they stick around, dutifully schlepping papers around the community, offering to drive on long trips so I can type or nap, and pointing out when I’ve neglected to change my clothes. Hey, when you work 36 hours straight, it gets hard to tell today from yesterday and dress accordingly. Which brings me to:

Sleep. Sometime in September I lost all ability to regulate my mood. My temperament is now completely dependent on how much sleep and caffeine I’ve had. If I’ve had at least five hours rest the night before and the coffee’s kicked in, I can function normally, or at least fake it well enough that most people don’t seem to notice the difference. If it’s five hours over three days and it’s been a few hours since my last refueling, I’m equally liable to fly into a rage, burst into tears or become semicomatose at any moment. My wildest fantasies these days involve an electric blanket and a nap.

Spare moments. When I think of how much time I used to spend watching TV, surfing the Internet, doing leisure activities or just generally goofing off, it seems in retrospect like I shouldn’t have been able to hold down a job. Now, having to creatively schedule time to go skiing, have dinner or even read a book before bed makes me appreciate the things I like to do more than I ever realized.

Coffee shop ladies. They amaze and motivate me every Wednesday while I’m out delivering papers. If they can be awake, showered, dressed, chipper and able to operate machinery before 6 a.m., surely I can at least drive and try not to drool. The friendliest I’ve met by far is Patty at Jitters Espresso in Sterling. She’s as good a pick-me-up as the coffee.

Soldotna Post Office employees. Training me to do mass mailings would probably be akin to teaching a marmot to juggle. Yet Jeff, Brenda, Steve and everyone else helped me through it, and never once let their faces register what I’m sure they were thinking when they’d see me lug papers through the line. In my defense, though, it’s not exactly an intuitive process. Form 3602ez (nothing “ez” about it) for mass mailings; tub labels with the zip code in the destination line but not, God forbid, in the “sent from” line; newspaper bundles wrapped in not one, but two rubber bands; and don’t even think about paying for that with a credit card, missy! Cash or debit only!

Support. The community has welcomed this paper since the first edition, and I am more grateful for that than I can find words to describe (and I’ve got a big dictionary, so that’s saying something). Talented writers volunteering their services, advertisers seeing value in our product, people willing to tell their stories and readers interested in learning about them.

From our first edition we got notes, letters, e-mails, phone calls and even flowers wishing us well, most from people I’d never even met before (thanks, Arkey’s!). The comments that have meant the most to me are from people who probably didn’t even intend to be complimentary, like the young couple who said they’d never been in a newspaper before, or the lady at a coffee shop in Kasilof who was saving papers because she said she knew someone in every edition.

Enough sleep, a “normal” schedule, time off, a steady salary and actually folding my laundry are a long way off yet, but this paper has already accomplished what I most hoped it would: It proved people do value journalism. In an age when “media” has become a four-letter word, it’s heartening to know the profession I love still has a home, and can be considered a worthy neighbor.

Finally, I am grateful to the ultimate driving force behind the Redoubt Reporter, the bedrock it is built upon, without which it would cease to exist:

Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

Jenny Neyman is the editor and publisher of the Redoubt Reporter.

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