Monthly Archives: September 2015

Falling fast — Where to go before colors blow away

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Fall colors are out in force along Skilak Lake Loop Road. Catch them while they last.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Fall colors are out in force along Skilak Lake Loop Road. Catch them while they last.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

From the burgundy of berry bushes to the gold hues of devil’s club and deciduous trees, the colors of fall are upon the Kenai Peninsula. But the peak has yet to be reached, leaving time for autumnal color seekers to take in the foliage before the winds of change whip them away.

“I think we’re coming up on peak weekend. Things are still vibrant green in some places, but there are some really nice splashes of color happening all over,” said Steve Ford, co-founder of the Kenai Peninsula Outdoor Club.

Ford covers a lot of ground across the peninsula, regardless of the season, and has whittled his hikes down to a short list of favorite trails for taking in fall colors, ranked from short and simple, medium length and grade, to longer and more arduous treks.

For those looking for something off the most beaten paths, Ford recommends the Grewingk Glacier Trail.

“It’s a good one. It’s a pretty trail with good views of the glacier and icebergs. It’s very picturesque at this time of year,” he said.

fall hikersLocated south of Homer, in the Halibut Cove area across Kachemak Bay, the Grewingk Glacier Trailhead is accessible by boat or water taxi. It’s a 3.2-mile hike with roughly 200 feet of elevation gain through alders to the cobbled shoreline of Grewingk Lake. The hike is easily doable in a half day, and there are connections to the much more arduous Saddle and Alpine Ridge trails.

While Grewingk is a good weekend adventure, for those aiming for something a little closer to the central peninsula, Ford recommends the Slaughter Gulch Trail, a 1.8-mile hike with more than 2,500 feet of elevation gain. It begins from an unmarked trailhead at the end of South Face Place, next to Wildman’s convenience store in Cooper Landing.

“It pays off really fast. Within 40 minutes things open up and you can see Kenai Lake, which contrasts nicely with the fall colors,” Ford said.

While popular with trail runners and hikers with strong thighs, the Slaughter Gulch trail is not for the faint of heart, or lungs. Much of the trail is steep and rocky, and sometimes slippery with little relief from the wind, but rewards hikers with some of the best views around, even before reaching the top.

For those, particularly with small children, who want something shorter but still with ample opportunity to enjoy the seasonal change, try the hikes along Skilak Lake Loop Road. Ford recommended several trails in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area, including Bear Mountain (1.6-mile round trip), the Kenai Canyon Overlook and Hideout Trail (1.5 miles round trip), all accessible from Skilak Lake Loop Road.

“They’re good family hikes, not too difficult and all have panoramic views,” he said.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under hiking, outdoors

New Kenai health clinic targets need — PCHS to add women’s, children’s providers

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Amy Pascucci plays with her daughter, Elena (in an ensemble picked out by dad, Dan Pascucci). The family has found it challenging to find consistent medical care throughout Amy’s pregnancy and Elena’s infancy.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Amy Pascucci plays with her daughter, Elena (in an ensemble picked out by dad, Dan Pascucci). The family has found it challenging to find consistent medical care throughout Amy’s pregnancy and Elena’s infancy.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Elena Pascucci is learning to stick out her tongue. It’s requiring lots of demonstration from mom and dad, Amy and Dan Pascucci, and giggles all around. She’s also started delivering vowel-laden cooing when she’s winding down to a nap.

“And another thing!” Dan said, personifying what Elena might be saying in her monologues.

“I think she’s singing,” Amy contends.

Those are pretty exciting milestones for the first-time parents. And they’re about to take Elena to the doctor for her four-month checkup, where her growth, reflexes and other milestones will be checked.

It’ll be to a different doctor than the one she saw since birth. Amy’s looking for a new doctor, as well. For that matter, the doctor who delivered Elena at Central Peninsula Hospital is not the one Amy saw during her pregnancy.

Amy Pascucci: “I remember when I first started looking for OBGYN care when I was in the beginning of our pregnancy. And that was tricky to find a doctor then, and I know that the doctor that I originally went to has left, and I know our midwife has retired, and so it seems, just in the time I’ve been here looking and aware, the pool has shrunk by at least two or three providers.”

There are only so many options of pediatricians and obstetricians on the central Kenai Peninsula, and of those, several have left recently or are leaving — either retiring or moving elsewhere. Of those available, Amy and Dan’s choices were further constricted by their insurance carrier.

They found a doctor they liked, but when the time came — early and in a bit of an emergency — their doctor was out of town, and there was only one other on call. Everything went well, mom and baby were fine and they say they got excellent care at the hospital. But still, the lack of options and the lack of continuity of care worsened an already difficult situation.

“We ended up having to go with a doctor who we wouldn’t have necessarily chosen and we didn’t know at all and who was advising us to make really important decisions on the spur of the moment and in an already stressful time,” Amy Pascucci said. “We felt very limited as far as our options, and kind of pressured because of the time limitations, but also just because there wasn’t anybody else around. We couldn’t even ask for a real second opinion unless we went to Anchorage. That definitely was stressful.”

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under health, health care

Kenai OKs plan for south beach road — City to purchase 7 lots for $1.6 million

Imagery from Kenai Peninsula Borough parcel viewer. The city of Kenai will purchase the highlighted seven lots in order to build a new access road to the south beach of the Kenai River.

Imagery from Kenai Peninsula Borough parcel viewer. The city of Kenai will purchase the highlighted seven lots in order to build a new access road to the south beach of the Kenai River.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

It was not their ideal solution, but members of the Kenai City Council did pass a solution at its Sept. 16 meeting to address the thorny problem of providing better access to the south beach of the mouth of the Kenai River during the July dip-net fishery.

“We have to think outside the box a little bit. This is a little different than normal but I believe it can work, I believe it’s the right solution with the options that were given us and I don’t think we need to delay any further,” said Council Member Tim Navarre, who voted in favor of the city purchasing seven lots off Drag Net Court for the purpose of constructing a beach access road.

The city only needs four of the lots for the road project, but negotiations with ARK Properties LLC resulted in only one deal — all seven or none. The lots include one with a mansion and various outbuildings with a borough assessed value listed at over $1.4 million.

Not liking that option, the city investigated skirting those lots to put in a road, but that placed the path through sensitive wetlands, which was another nonstarter.

So it was back to the purchase option. The city obtained a $1.9 million grant from the state for improved access and upgrade work for the dip-net fishery. The road project is covered under that pot of money, including the $1.6 million purchase price for the seven lots.

But there are a few strings attached. The city intends to sell the lots it doesn’t need for the access road. The state doesn’t want the city using grant money to buy the land then turn around and sell it at a profit, since the purchase price of the lots is below the assessed value.

As City Manager Rick Koch explained, if there is any profit from the sale of the extra lots, the city will be required to return it to the state, where it will go back into the grant and be available for the city to use for other dip-net access and improvement work.

“It’s the same grant money that’s been replenished. And we are able to use it for the same purpose that the grant was extended to the city in the first place.” Koch said.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under dipnetting, Kenai, Kenai River

Moose hunting for a humbling experience — It’s easy to think hunting’s easy with no firsthand knowledge to the contrary

Photo courtesy of Chris Hanna. Jenny Neyman and the moose she shot this hunting season. No, really. She is more shocked than anyone.

Photo courtesy of Chris Hanna. Jenny Neyman and the moose she shot this hunting season. No, really. She is more shocked than anyone.

Trails & Trails — By Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter

I am no hunter.

Before this month, that fact was hedged with an ellipsis of untapped potential. “I am no hunter … because I’ve never tried it, but if I ever do, Home Depot had better stock extra chest freezers!

Now when I say that I am no hunter, it is with the certainty of having actually shot something — a real, (previously) live, bull moose.

I went into this figuring I had at least some of the necessary ingredients that could possibly coalesce into a competent hunter, kind of like a determined fridge cleaning can result in a decent soup concoction when calling for pizza isn’t an option.

First off, I wanted to do it. It’s good for us humans to remind our civilized brains that, despite our autostarts, we’re still animals. I think we should all occasionally face some of the messier aspects of life, yet I’m one of those people without much firsthand knowledge of from where food comes.

Growing up in the Bush, milk was powdered, condensed or too expensive, and produce came in cans or was so wilted or woody that it was VINO — vegetable in name only. More people than not hunted or fished — my dad, brother, cousins, uncles, neighbors, etc., — but I was never invited to tag along, and by the time the fish or game got to me it had long since been removed of any evidence of life. No blood, bones, organs, fur or scales to be seen. The only meat covering I knew of was Shake ‘N Bake.

As for skills, I like to hike, camp and stomp around in the woods. I like to think I’m observant (at least enough to notice a 1,200-pound animal, surely?). I can haul a pack (through the power of profanity). And I can stay awake for long periods of time. That’s probably not relevant, but I once put leftover devilled eggs in a turkey stew and it was excellent, so who knows? I’ll use what I’ve got.

Granted, I was missing some key components. I didn’t own a rifle, and the few times I’ve shot one took about as much setup time as designing the International Space Station. My butchering experience was limited to being extremely annoyed when I’ve accidentally bought bone-in chicken breasts. I’ve never actually killed anything beyond mosquitoes, a few fish and houseplants.

Perhaps most egregious, I own only one article of camo — a thrift store GI Joe-looking shirt I bought for the sole purpose of playing Risk. (I might never have hunted so much as a spruce hen, but give me South America and I will dominate the world.)

Still, with the misguided optimism of the woefully uninformed, I figured, “I could do that.”

No, it turns out, I could not. At least, not without an amount of help that rendered my presence superfluous, if not obstructionist. It’s a pretty low bar when your highest achievement is not completely ruining things for other people. By day three, my sole focus devolved to a Dr. Seussian attempt at just staying upright:

Do not fall slogging through the swamp, do not fall wherever you tromp.

Do not fall climbing in the boat, do not fall as you will not float.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under humor, hunting, moose, outdoors

Plugged In: More megapixels not always worth more money

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

The megapixel wars have resumed, with Canon leading the attack, followed by Sony, Nikon and Pentax. Does any of this make the slightest difference to most users? As a practical matter, no. Here’s why:

Nikon and Sony first “broke” the megapixel truce, shipping Nikon’s large D800/D810 digital SLR series and Sony’s compact A7R mirrorless cameras, both built around Sony’s excellent, 36-megapixel sensor. Canon responded with its 50-megapixel 5DSr model, basically a standard 5D Mark III body with a higher-resolution sensor.

Canon further upped the ante by announcing ongoing development of a 120-megapixel dSLR for normal use, and a 250-megapixel model for surveillance and scientific use.

That’s a quarter-billion megapixels. Only a few months ago, Canon’s top-end professional cameras used sensors containing about 22 megapixels. Canon insisted, truthfully, that this was more than adequate for nearly all professional and amateur needs.

More recently, Sony’s newest A7R Mark II mirrorless camera includes what Sony describes as an optimally sized, 42-megapixel sensor. Pentax’s recently announced full-frame model will likely also use this new Sony 42-megapixel sensor, recently described by DXO as having the best all-around characteristics of any digital imaging device. I expect that Nikon’s next-generation D8XX cameras will likely use this sensor, or a variant of it.

A very high-resolution sensor has one potential advantage, assuming nearly perfect lenses and favorable situations. While one can reduce, when desired, the level of detail and sharpness of a very high-resolution image through later post-processing, the opposite is not true.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under photography, Plugged in

Picture of artistry — Subtle shapes show what it takes in quality photography

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

The Redoubt Reporter’s dual 2015 photography contests parallel the two major, occasionally divergent, strands in current photography — documentation and art. These photo contests are the result of a collaboration between the Redoubt Reporter, Soldotna’s new ARTSpace fine arts group, the city of Soldotna, Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, Soldotna Rotary Club and Kenai Peninsula College.

We welcomed entries from nonprofessional photographers and awarded cash prizes for first, second and third place in both photo contests, and also for a single image entry in the Fine Art category.
During the first century of its existence as a practical technology, photography concentrated almost solely upon documenting people, places and events, preserving that information for history. Any artistic merit was largely a secondary byproduct of documentation. Slowly, in the 1930s and 1940s, and then more rapidly, photography became a fine art in its own right, appreciated for its ability to provide a much broader, more democratic opportunity for everyone to express themselves personally and artistically.

In some ways, the artistic potential of digital photography is unique and distinctive, providing a more spontaneous, true-to-life depiction of our daily lives and the world around us. What’s required is not so much the equipment used, but the ability to quickly discern and capture strong images and the ability to later curate a large mass of images, selecting and post-processing only the best.

Fine Art Contest

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under photography, Plugged in

Harvesting knowledge — Schools cultivate learning opportunities with gardening projects

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Kindergartener Jaxson Bush is assisted by sixth-grader Emilie Hinz while digging up potatoes from a garden at Tustumena Elementary School on Friday. The garden was planted to give kids hands-on learning experiences with science and math, as well as teaching them about the origins of the food they eat.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Kindergartener Jaxson Bush is assisted by sixth-grader Emilie Hinz while digging up potatoes from a garden at Tustumena Elementary School on Friday. The garden was planted to give kids hands-on learning experiences with science and math, as well as teaching them about the origins of the food they eat.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Outside his classroom at Tustumena Elementary, sixth-grader Sam Booker dropped to his knees and began to claw at the soft, rich earth. His glasses slid to the end of his nose and dirt got under his nails, caked to his hands and stained the sleeves of his fleece jacket.

He was digging with the zeal of someone doing a task they want to do, rather than are told to do, but this was no recess game. It was part of a science lesson, learning in the most hands-on way possible. As the blond-haired boy plucked a small, round, red spud from the ground, a smile grew across his freckled face.

“I got one,” he shouted. Almost simultaneously, kids around him echoed similar sentiments as they, too, pulled up potatoes — reds, purples and Yukon golds in various lumpy shapes and sizes.

“It’s hard to imagine that, three years ago, there was no fence, no garden, nothing,” said sixth-grade teacher Shonia Werner.

The potato patch is in a 60-by-40-foot area adjacent to the school.

The kids planted it at the end of last school year, as part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Schoolyard Habitat program. The aim was to make school grounds more hospitable to wildlife while simultaneously providing a place for children to learn about and connect with nature.

Now in its second full year, the program is operating at Kaleidoscope School of Art and Sciences in Kenai, Sterling Elementary and Tustumena Elementary.

Part of the Tustumena habitat plot was planted with 200 felt-leaf willows, a hearty variety that’s often used for stream-bank restoration projects. Dan Funk, Schoolyard Habitat coordinator with the Kenai Soil and Water Conservation District, did the bulk of the willow planting, hoping the school could eventually sell clippings as a fundraiser, while the kids could learn about science, nature and ecology in the interim.

Wanting to ripen the area for learning opportunities while the willows matured, instructors at the school also decided to plant a small garden, primarily made up of potato varieties due to their ability to thrive with minimal care during the summer break. It was clear from questions asked by this batch of sixth-graders this fall that they were in need of some food-chain knowledge.

“Are those the potatoes?” said one boy, pointing to the willow trees when the class first got outside. But by the end of the day, every student, from the sixth-graders down to the kindergarteners, knew what a potato plant looked like, that potatoes grew underground rather than on a bush like fruit, and a little about the annual cycle of planting, growing and harvesting.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under education, gardening, Kasilof, schools