Drew Slegers, a fourth grader at Soldotna Elementary, snowshoes on Headquarters Lake just outside of Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Drew Slegers, a fourth grader at Soldotna Elementary, snowshoes on Headquarters Lake just outside of Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Solstice snowshoe

Celebrating 80 years of refuge

“Did you feel an earthquake?” Lisa Dehlbom asked as she snowshoed down the Keen-Eye Trail with her granddaughter, Drew Slegers, near the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters just outside Soldotna on Tuesday.

The question quickly faded into a journey down the trail and onto Headquarters Lake as a brilliant, solstice sun illuminated snowcapped trees. The seismic event was nearly forgotten as the snowshoers navigated overflow under the sifty powder on the lake backdropped by rolling hills and mountains.

As Dehlbom and Slegers prepared to leave the lake, Dehlbom got a call from her husband.

It had been an earthquake. It had rattled his shop so vigorously he had stepped outside. Dehlbom checked her phone, discovering the 5.9-magnitude shaker had originated near Port Alsworth.

All it had done on the Keen-Eye Trail an hour ago had been to knock the snow off a few trees and raise a few curiosities. Once again, the refuge had been a refuge, and that’s what Dehlbom and Slegers were celebrating.

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge held a series of self-led snowshoe walks Tuesday for the winter solstice as part of the celebration of its 80th anniversary. The nearly 2 million-acre refuge, then the Kenai National Moose Range, was established Dec. 16, 1941.

The 4 p.m. walk that was lit by ice and paper luminaries was by far the most popular, with 11 reserving snowshoes. The 11 a.m. walk did not draw anybody, while Dehlbom and Slegers did the 1:30 p.m. walk.

Dehlbom, who has lived in the area since 1982, had seen the event on Facebook and seized the chance to spend time with her granddaughter in the refuge.

“I used to be a school secretary and organize the trips out here for the kids,” Dehlbom said. “I thought it was a great opportunity to introduce kids to taking care of the environment and seeing what’s out here rather than sitting inside and being on computer games.”

Dehlbom’s attitude toward the refuge has clearly rubbed off on Slegers, a fourth grader at Soldotna Elementary. Slegers said she’s not the type to sit indoors and play computer games. She recoiled when asked if her grandmother had dragged her out to snowshoe.

“Dragged me out here?” she said. “I love to go.”

Slegers showed it by kicking up pristine powder on the lake, freezing her gloves solid while still somehow managing to report warm hands, and investigating overflow that was 6 inches in some spots.

“That’s definitely not solid,” she said after sloughing off a large chunk of ice into a pool of slush.

“We’re just thankful to be healthy and outdoors,” Dehlbom said.

Amber Kraxberger-Linson, a park ranger, said attitudes like that are the exact reason the refuge held the Tuesday event, which also gave snowshoers the opportunity to take in the latest StoryWalk, the book “On the Shortest Day,” written by Laura Sulentich Fredrickson and illustrated by Laurie Caple. StoryWalk allows trail users to read a book at regular points while walking on the trail — one page at a time.

“With COVID still going on, we’re doing the best we can with having an event that is safe to the public,” Kraxberger-Linson said. “We can really just let people go out and celebrate this area.

“Eighty years of this being Soldotna-Kenai’s backyard is pretty darn special. I’m born and raised in this area, spent some time Outside, and not everybody has this — the things you can do on the refuge.”

Kraxberger-Linson said the refuge is eager to do more to celebrate the 80th anniversary. So far, Tuesday’s snowshoe event is the only happening set in stone due to the uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic.

“If it wasn’t for COVID, we’d be doing a big old party,” Kraxberger-Linson said.

Lisa Dehlbom and her granddaughter, Drew Slegers, snowshoe on Headquarters Lake near Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Lisa Dehlbom and her granddaughter, Drew Slegers, snowshoe on Headquarters Lake near Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

More in Sports

Homer New reporter Sarah Knapp admires Alaska's beautiful landscape during a trip to Anchorage. (Photo by Ashlyn O'Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Out of the Office: Sticking to New Year’s resolution

I’m still trying to find out where I belong in Homer. You’d… Continue reading

Jaxon Henrie, Hanna Henrie, Ethan Styvar and Ireland Styvar competed in the Ski Your Age challenge from Anchorage, skiing a total of 100k together. (Photo provided)
Ski Your Age event raises $500 for Mariner Nordic Ski Team

Skiers hit trails in annual Mariner ski team fundraiser.

tease
Hockey roundup: SoHi goes 3-0 on homestand

The Soldotna hockey team finished up a big three-game homestand with a… Continue reading

tease
Boonstra sweeps Homer ski races

After a ski meet was canceled last weekend at Government Peak Recreation… Continue reading

The moon sits above Mount Redoubt on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021 near Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Out of Office: Chasing sunshine

The winter solstice fell on a beautiful Tuesday last month. I woke… Continue reading

tease
Hoops roundup: Homer boys take 4th at Shootout

The Homer boys basketball team defeated Service 50-45 last Saturday to take… Continue reading

Sports in brief

DDF Upcoming meets: TBA Friday, Jan. 14: DDF Competition at Dimond TBA… Continue reading

Winter view of one of the Refuge’s many treasures, Skilak Lake, Credit FWS/L. Hupp
Winter view of one of the Refuge’s many treasures, Skilak Lake, Credit FWS/L. Hupp
80 years of conservation and counting

Just a few weeks ago, on Dec. 16, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge turned 80.

A flowering roundleaf orchid (Galearis rotundifolia). A splash of bright color on a green ground cover. (Photo by Samuel Artaiz/USFWS)
Refuge Notebook: A needle in a peatland haystack

Touching down, we could feel the widened skids sink, yet securely, on… Continue reading

Most Read