Monthly Archives: February 2011

Watch the work — Cabin repair revives old techniques

By Joseph Robertia

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Volunteers Bill Nelson and Bud Crawford unload logs in front of the Watchman’s Cabin, which is being restored at the Kasilof Regional Historical Association’s museum property on Kalifornsky Beach Road. The cabin is being restored to preserve it for future generations to learn about the history of this area.

Redoubt Reporter

Measure twice, cut once is a rule all carpenters know when working with boards. When working with logs, even more precision is required. This is particularly true when attempting to replicate not only the style of craftsmen who have been dead more than 100 years, but when trying to duplicate their unique notches for holding old cabins together.

“It seems like you’ll get it figured out, but then another problem comes up, but it’s fun to solve the problem,” said Bud Crawford, one of a handful of volunteers who have been spending their winter weekends restoring the historic Watchman’s Cabin, which now resides at the Kasilof Regional Historical Society’s McLane Center Museum.

In October 2009, the cabin — built between 1882 and the late 1890s — was moved from near the mouth of the Kasilof River’s northern side to the museum on Kalifornsky Beach Road in Kasilof, where roughly six other historic structures — in addition to numerous outbuildings and caches — already reside for preservation purposes.

“We’re getting there,” Crawford said. “We’re making progress, but it’s a challenge trying to match what the old-timers did.” Continue reading

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E-mail scam hits home — Assembly, school board members accounts hacked

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Hal Smalley spent his Thursday night being transported to the magical realm of Neverland while attending a preview performance of the Kenai Performers’ winter musical “Peter Pan” at the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium at Kenai Central High School. When he turned in that night, it was to his bed in his Kenai home.

But when Smalley woke up Friday morning it seemed he was still in the land of make believe. He was in London, stranded in a traveler’s nightmare with his bag containing his passport and credit cards stolen. At least, that’s what everyone in his Yahoo e-mail contacts list was told, as they received a message from Smalley informing them of his plight and asking that they e-mail him or call his hotel at the phone numbers provided for details on how to send him money, so he could buy a plane ticket and settle his hotel bill in order to get back home.

Smalley was unaware of his supposed vacation, much less the disastrous turn it had taken, until he logged into his e-mail Friday morning and saw messages from several of his contacts asking if everything was OK, if he really was in London, if he really needed help, or if he was aware that his e-mail account had apparently been hacked.

The message was apparently sent far and wide, judging from the responses he got. Smalley is a member of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly and a previous member of the Kenai City Council, resulting in a lengthy contacts list.

“They didn’t say they were going send money, but there were a couple who were wondering if it was true. They hadn’t seen me for a few days. And some who had seen me at ‘Peter Pan’ were wondering, ‘My gosh, how could you get to London so quickly?’” Smalley said. “I told them I got a little bit of ‘Peter Pan’ pixie dust on me. That will do it every time.” Continue reading

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On track — Cooper Landing club sets base for recreation

By Jenny Neyman

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Kayce James, of Cooper Landing, tries out skate skiing on the freshly groomed Russian River Campground ski trails.

Redoubt Reporter

Up until this winter, skiing in Cooper Landing has meant a backcountry experience — slogging through snow to break trail along the Old Seward Highway, Kenai Lake or Bean Creek area, bumping along over rocks, roots and iced-in ruts from snowmachines, or navigating stands of brush on downhill runs.

“When we moved down here most of your skiing in Cooper Landing was thrashing through alders. There were a lot of primitive trails people put in over the years but no groomed trails. A lot of it was more like hiking with skis on,” said Ed Holsten. Continue reading

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On the trail of mushing legacies — Young mushers seek to continue family traditions in Jr. Iditarod Sled Dog Race

By Joseph Robertia

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Merissa Osmar, a third-generation musher from Ninilchik, will be defending her title in this weekend’s Jr. Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

Redoubt Reporter

It won’t be long until the big dogs begin the Iditarod, but this weekend the young pups get a chance at the trail, running 160 miles during the Jr. Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

Among the youth, ages 14 to 17, are three Kenai Peninsula dog drivers.

Merissa Osmar, 16, of Ninilchik is the defending champion, having won the race last season for the first time in two attempts. She said she’d like to have a repeat performance in this, her third season.

“I’m really looking forward to the race,” she said. “I’m going to try my best to keep the title.”

Osmar is the daughter of Tim Osmar, who is the 2001 Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race champion, and a three-time Jr. Iditarod winner himself, having dominated the race from 1982 to ’84. Her grandfather, Dean Osmar, is the 1984 Iditarod champion. Her sister, Nicole Osmar, also won the Jr. Iditarod, in 2004.

With so many in her family already famous in the mushing world, the youngest Osmar said keeping up the winning streak often weighs on her.

“There’s always pressure to win it,” she said. “I’ve done that, but now there’s the pressure to defend it.” Continue reading

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Landing on their feet — Fliers survive crash after engine stall

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part story about a local airplane crash in 1967. Part One introduced the key individuals involved and described the crash scene. This week, part two describes the crash itself, the rescue attempt, and the aftermath of the event.

By Clark Fair

Photos courtesy of the Gaede Collection. Friends of Elmer Gaede’s effect repairs to the doctor’s Maule Rocket, which crashed a short distance from Forest Lane near Soldotna on Aug. 2, 1967.

Redoubt Reporter

The cause of the engine failure in the single-engine Maule Rocket is still open for debate — despite the findings of the National Transportation Safety Board — but the result of that engine failure remains irrefutable: The plane plummeted to the ground with its three occupants inside.

A few minutes earlier, at approximately 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 2, 1967, Dr. Elmer Gaede and his two passengers had been returning from Seward and were flying low and slow over the middle portion of the Kenai River drainage, eyeballing the terrain below for game. They had just crossed over the high bluff near the France and Thomas homesteads, heading for a final approach at the Soldotna airport, when the engine stopped.

“It was like you turned off the switch,” said Lee Bowman, a Soldotna pharmacist who had been hunched in the front passenger seat next to Gaede. “It was just humming along fine — and then nothing!”

The propeller stopped turning, and there was nothing to be heard but the sound of air rushing past the wings and fuselage. They were no more than 500 feet above the ground.

The plane’s nose dipped as its airspeed dropped. The flyers had just passed over the dirt airstrip owned by France and Thomas. Below them now was mixed foliage, head-high brush and occasional large trees — most likely a remnant of the 1947 Kenai Burn — and, beyond that, a copse of mostly mature aspen and spruce.

“Elmer had to make a choice: straight ahead into an absolute sure crack-up that was not very manageable because of the scattered trees and the crummy conditions, or try to turn — and if he turned, there was the airstrip and two different roads, potentially,” Bowman said. Continue reading

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Fleshing out a memory

Editor’s note: “Almanac” writer Clark Fair and Redoubt Reporter publisher Jenny Neyman are often asked where the ideas come from for this section and how the information is gathered to form a narrative. Since Clark had some minor personal involvement in this story, this seemed like a good time to provide an example to answer those questions.

By Clark Fair

Redoubt Reporter

One of my most visceral memories from my early days as a homestead kid involves two related images: a bloody human face and a broken airplane.

The bloody face belonged to Dr. Elmer Gaede, who was a partner of Dr. Paul Isaak (our usual family physician) and who practiced medicine on the second floor of the Soldotna Medical Clinic, while my dad practiced dentistry on the first floor.

The broken airplane also belonged to Dr. Gaede. It was broken when it crashed into the woods just a few dozen yards off Forest Lane, and about three-quarters of a mile down the road from our home.

I saw the bloody face when Gaede was carried on a stretcher from the woods and placed into the back of an ambulance parked on the gravel. I saw the broken plane later when I walked into the woods — noting a broken spruce tree and flattened brush, and spotting the landing gear (especially one of the wheels) broken and scattered away from the rest of the aircraft. Continue reading

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Night Lights: Spring — coming to a sky near you

By Andy Veh, for the Redoubt Reporter

Graphic courtesy of Andy Veh

The constellation that always catches my eye in March is Leo. Its shape quite closely resembles that of a male lion lying leisurely, watching the savannah, looking west, in the direction that it will move during the next couple of months. Its right front paw is the bright star Regulus.

While Leo should move across the sky as gingerly as any constellation week after week, it seems to be much speedier than most. What aids or produces that perception is that sunset occurs later and later, about 20 minutes each week. Thus, with it getting darker later every evening, it seems that Leo keeps progressing across the sky faster, because we look at it later when it already has moved further west.

As a result, I perceive Leo as the harbinger of spring. When it appears in the east, winter’s end will soon be here, and when it reaches the western horizon, flowers are in full bloom and deciduous plants will have regained their leaves. Continue reading

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