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2019 Tetlin Refuge Discovery Trip July 3 – 7

Join us as we explore Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge, experience a small town 4th of July and help this understaffed refuge.    We will combine a canoe trip into Tetlin’s vast birdy system of lakes and rivers to begin signage of the refuge’s first water trail with helping the refuge make Tok’s 4th happen.  

We will meet in Tok on Wednesday the 3rd to help the refuge set up the town’s 4th.  On the 4th we will help staff the refuge booth and lead family games, and take down the booths in the evening.  And Yes!  There will be a parade with a refuge float.  The refuge’s prominent role in Tok’s 4th of July has always been a key part of the refuge’s outreach to the community.  Now that the staff has been reduced to 8, it is a struggle to make this happen.  We can help!

On Friday the 5th, we will launch the refuge canoes on highway accessible Desper Creek to a campsite amidst numerous lakes providing perfect habitat for nesting waterfowl, swans, rusty blackbirds and warblers.  Camping for two nights will give us time to begin work on a long-term Friends project to sign a water trail on Desper and Scotty Creeks.   Some of this will be exploratory going beyond where Friends have gone before to identify routes through the lake systems.  Paddling out Sunday against the slow current of Desper Creek should not take more than three hours putting us back at Tok by early afternoon for our farewells and the drive home.   Desper Creek is a very slow-moving creek suitable for beginners.  We may have to lift canoes over beaver dams depending on the water level.

For more information about the Tetlin Refuge check out their webpage or on Facebook.  You can read about our 2018 trip here

The trip limit is 12 and the minimum age is 18 or 16 with a guardian.  You must be a current Friend to participate but you can join here
Registration is now open and limited to the first 12 applicants.


Canoeing Desper Creek on 2018 Tetlin Discover Trip

 Leaders:

  •  Dave Schroyer, david_schroyer@hotmail.com; (907) 240-1375.  Dave was raised in Alaska with life long experience canoeing, hunting, birding and exploring all over the state.  He is bear safety qualified and was co-leader of last years Friends trip on Desper Creek.

  • Moira O’Malley, moiraomalley@hotmail.com; is a long time Fairbanks resident, teacher and avid canoeist.  She also was on the Friends 2018 trip to Desper Creek and has “fallen in love with Tetlin”.

Cost:  $60 for 4 dinners and 4 breakfasts.  Bring your own lunches and snacks.  Contact the trip leaders if you have dietary restrictions.

Equipment needed:  Your own personal camping gear plus bear spray.  Contact the trip leaders if you don’t have a tent.  Canoes and life jackets will be supplied by the refuge.  If you would rather bring your own let us know.  We will not be portaging other than the possible beaver dam.  Also bring binoculars and fishing gear if desired.  Equipment list will be furnished to participants.

Weather, Bugs and Bears:  Average highs are in the 70s and thunderstorms are possible.  Bring good raingear – jacket and pants, and waterproof knee-high boots.   Gortex fishing waders with wading boots are an option to stay dry and allow walking into lakes and creeks when launching canoes.  Bugs this time of year are not supposed to be as bad as up north but a bug net or bug jacket is a prudent idea.  This is not noted as a “bear-y” area but it is Alaska so please bring your own bear spray and a holster system that will allow you to wear it.

Housing in Tok: The refuge staff is reserving 3 of their cabins for use Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday night if needed.  There is also plenty of tent space at refuge headquarters.  We will be able to use their staff kitchen for meals.

How to sign up:  Trip will be limited to the first 12 to complete the registration, including the $60 fee.  Please fill out the registration form below.  Registration payment options will be presented after the form is completed and submitted.   All participants will be required to fill out a Volunteer Agreement for the Refuge and sign a liability waiver for Friends.




Registration for the Tetlin Refuge Discovery Trip July 3 – 7, 2019 is closed.

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Discovering Kenai’s Snowbound Cabin: Refuge Discovery Trip Report (Feb. 2019)

by the “Dolly Varden Cabin Gang,” Poppy, Sandy, Ellen, Rose and Tim Snow fell soft and deep as we snowshoed back across Dolly Varden Lake after an awesome Friends’ Discovery Trip to the Kenai Refuge’s Dolly Varden public use cabin.   The February 1 – 3, weekend didn’t turn out quite as planned because the community ice fishing event we were there to help with was canceled because of the shutdown.  However, the cozy cabin was already reserved for Friends, so we weren’t going to waste that opportunity.  Five Friends from Anchorage, Soldotna, Homer and Indiana including intrepid leader Tim Shipman made the trek in.   What did we discover?  Sandy Kerns from Soldotna, said “A hidden lake, snowshoeing abilities, how much weight can we pull in a sled across a frozen lake, babbling water in an open creek, how good food tastes prepared camp style, new friends, and that planning service projects for Alaska Wildlife Refuges makes one feel connected to the land and community.”   Yes, we talked into the night about future fun and good work we can do on the Kenai and other refuges.  Kenai is the drive to refuge for Kenai/Soldotna, Homer, Anchorage and the Valley.  Stay tuned for more Discovery Trips and Volunteer Projects on the Kenai. The Kenai Refuge cabins have opened up the refuge to use in winter.  Many are easily accessible.  All are cute and cozy and make winter activities fun. And we had fun!  Rose Lahti of Anchorage on her very first Friends event said “The best outdoor experiences are with like-minded souls and there are no strangers when it comes to sharing what we enjoy doing, just “friends”.   I look forward to another “friends” activity and the memories I made at Dolly Varden cabin are precious.” 
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Kenai Refuge Discovery Trip – February 1-3, 2019

Let’s go play in the snow! 

Ever want to experience the Kenai Refuge in winter? Try out ice fishing with people who know what they are doing in a warm ice fishing tent? Then join our Discovery Trip to the Dolly Varden Lake cabin on the Kenai Refuge the weekend of February 1 – 3, 2019.

Enjoy a cozy, off-road, cabin, ice fishing and assisting the refuge!  Ski, snowshoe or probably even walk into the cabin only a mile across the lake from the Dolly Varden campground.   Since the cabin only sleeps 6, we will have a Friday night group and a Saturday night group.  Both cabin groups will help the Refuge with their Saturday Family Ice Fishing event on Dolly Varden Lake.  

Not up for an overnight? Then come out on Saturday just for the day to help with or participate in the Ice Fishing event which will be held right next to the Dolly Varden Campground, 14 miles up the Swanson River Road from Sterling, from 1 to 4 p.m. with set-up at noon.

Times: Friday group will meet at the Dolly Varden campground at 2 p.m. Friday to pack gear and ski, snowshoe, or walk in. We will haul our gear back to our cars by noon Saturday to be ready to help set up the ice fishing event which opens to the public at 1 p.m.

The Saturday cabin group will meet at the Dolly Varden campground about noon to help set up the event and have lunch with staff. Afterwards, we will ski into the cabin and spend the night coming out by noon Sunday.

The cabin overnights are limited to 6 per night with a minimum age of 16.  You must be a current Friend to participate but you can join here

Day trippers who want to help with the ice fishing event should show up at the Dolly Varden campground about noon to help set up. The event is open to the public from 1 to 4 p.m.  The ice fishing event on Saturday is open to all and free. Families are encouraged to attend, and you do not need to be a Friends member.

Leaders:

  • Friday night: Poppy Benson, poppybenson@alaskarefugefriends.org; (907) 299-0092. Poppy has had 30 years of experience in Alaska and more than that on skis. Poppy is Wilderness First Aid certified and a Friends Board Member.
  • Saturday night: Tim Shipman, tim.shipman@gmail.com; (907) 252-8450. Tim lives in Soldotna and has been hiking and snowshoeing on the Kenai Refuge for 30 years.

Cost: $20 for dinner and breakfast at the cabin plus a hot dog lunch over the fire on Saturday. Bring your own snacks and beverages other than coffee and tea. Contact the trip leaders if you have dietary restrictions.

Equipment needed: Your own personal gear for traveling to and overnighting in a cabin and being out on the ice. The refuge will have ice fishing gear but you might want to bring your own chair or bucket. Contact the trip leaders if you don’t have a way to bring your gear in. A pulk (shown in photo) is the very best for hauling gear but a backpack works too. Bring skis or snowshoes for the mile trip across the lake as snow may be deep. A full equipment list will be supplied to participants.

Weather: The trip will happen unless we have a major blizzard or record low temperatures. The refuge is bringing portable ice fishing tents. The cabin has a stove and will be warm but a winter weight sleeping bag is a good idea.

How to sign up: The overnights will be limited to the first 6 people per night to register and pay but any number can join in on the Saturday ice fishing.   Please fill out the registration form below even if you only plan to go for the day.  You must be a current Friends member to participate in the cabin overnight but you can join here

All participants who are not yet signed up as Fish and Wildlife volunteers will be required to fill out a Volunteer Agreement. Prior to the trip, all participants will be required to sign a liability waiver which will be sent to you.

Please leave your furry friends at home.

Questions about this awesome opportunity to experience the wilds of this refuge in the company of Friends and refuge staff? Please contact Poppy Benson, Outreach Coordinator: 
poppybenson@alaskarefugefriends.org



Register for the Kenai Refuge Discovery Trip – Feb 1-3, 2018

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Kenai River Cleanup – Sept. 7-9, 2018 (Volunteer Opportunity)

Kenai River Cleanup – Do good, have fun and see more of the Kenai Refuge.  September 7 – 9.  Sportsmen’s Landing, Cooper Landing.  

Friends will join Alaska Fly Fishers in doing an end of season clean-up of Sportsmen Landing, and downstream beaches.

Event begins Friday evening with a potluck and music in the Sportsmen Landing/Russian River Ferry campground.  After a continental breakfast Saturday morning,  teams will either float the river cleaning beaches or clean around the landing, campgrounds and parking areas.  The Kenai Refuge will bring at least one raft to take Friends downriver to clean refuge beaches.  That evening the Alaska Fly Fishers will put on a free BBQ for all participants with prizes!  Sunday at 10, Friends will sponsor a hike on the Hidden Creek Trail off Skilak Lake Road. 

For more information and to sign up, contact Poppy Benson, Outreach  chair, poppyb.ak@gmail.com or call (907) 299-0092.  Check out our event co-sponsor’s website.

This promises to be a very fun event that will also help build an alliance with the Fly Fishers, Kenai Watershed Forum and other partners.

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2018 Tetlin NWR – Refuge Discovery Trip Report

Refuge Discovery Trip Report – by Meg Jensen, Friends Member

Over a long Memorial Day Weekend, a 12 member cadre of refuge friends from around Alaska embarked on an exploration of Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge. The group included some new friends as well as “old timers.” The group met up at Refuge Headquarters in Tok. On Thursday afternoon, Mary Timm, the retired Tetlin Refuge Educator and her husband Hank, invited us to their home to visit and chat about “all things Tetlin.” Over pizza and salad, they shared their extensive knowledge about the wildlife refuge. Mary and Hank homesteaded in the area years ago, and were a great source of information about Desper Creek, our destination for our canoe trip. A fun evening was shared by all.

Friday morning the group met with Refuge Manager Shawn Bayless and his staff. Over a yummy breakfast, topics covered included: an overview of refuge programs and priorities, including the refuge’s boreal lynx project; priorities and staffing challenges in a declining budget environment; potential opportunities for Friends of Alaska Wildlife Refuges to help the refuge; and the Friends upcoming weekend canoe trip on Desper Creek. A number of ideas were generated for assistance friends could provide, including help with bird banding and river patrols, as well as assistance putting on the May migratory bird festival. A friends refuge visit includes a volunteer project – so after our breakfast get together we helped refuge staff pick up litter on its “Adopt a Mile” mile along the Alaska highway. 

After lunch, the group headed out to the Refuge Visitor Center, located on the Alaska highway a few miles from the Canadian border. Cora and Sylvia, two long-time refuge employees who grew up in nearby Northway, shared their extensive knowledge of the refuge and its resources with us.  What a wonderful visit we had with these two ladies!

Our home for the night was Deadman Campground, in Tetlin where we spent the evening bird watching and socializing.

SaturdaySunday and Monday we explored Desper Creek by canoe. This was a great way to immerse ourselves in Tetlin NWR. Our home for two nights was a beautiful camping spot 3 miles in, on a narrow peninsula surrounded by Desper Creek.  We set up camp under a raven’s nest, filled with four young birds who looked like the were ready to fledge. What a noisy group they were, especially  when Mom or Dad brought them food(which happened all hours of the day and night)!  The layover day gave us time to explore on foot and by canoe the nearby refuge areas.

After a great weekend (including delicious Dutch oven cooking by friends member Dave), we all set off for home. What a wonderful time learning how we may be of assistance to Tetlin NWR, exploring the outdoors in Alaska, and making new friends.  I am already looking forward to the next Refuge Discovery Trip, organized by our fun & fearless leader Poppy Benson.

Contact Poppy with your ideas for future trips at poppy.b.ak@
gmail.com

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Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge Discovery Trip – May 25-28



Join us as we explore 
Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge over Memorial Day Weekend, Friday through Monday, (4 days) May 25-28. Tetlin is an undiscovered wilderness yet it is easily accessible from the Alaska highway. Tetlin is birdy, with a vast system of lakes and rivers supporting nesting birds and the most important flyway to central and northern Alaska. Enjoy the height of bird song season while camping, canoeing and exploring this seldom visited country with Friends. Registration is now open and limited to the first 12 applicants.

Friday morning we will meet at 9 am at refuge headquarters in Tok for a meet and greet and light breakfast with refuge staff. We will learn about their challenges and the marvelous resources of this migratory bird corridor.  Afterwards we will help them clean up the section of highway the refuge has adopted. Then we will move on to the refuge’s Deadman Lake Campground (pictured below) and set up camp for a night and check out the Hidden Lake Trail and the old Seaton Recreation Area (site of the former Seaton Roadhouse) as time allows.  There will be an opportunity for an evening canoe on Deadman Lake to enjoy birds and warm up our canoe skills.




Saturday, we will visit the Tetlin Refuge Border Visitor Station, meet their Native staff, and learn how they share their perspective and culture. We will also visit Seaton Roadhouse site and the trapper cabin if we haven’t already done so. Saturday afternoon, we will launch the refuge canoes on Desper Creek for an easy, three mile paddle to a campsite amidst numerous lakes providing perfect habitat for nesting waterfowl, swans, rusty blackbirds and warblers.  Camping for two nights will give us all day Sunday to explore the surrounding lakes.  Paddling out Monday against the slow current of Desper Creek should not take more than three hours putting us back at the visitor center by early afternoon for our farewells and the drive home.   Desper Creek is a very slow-moving creek suitable for beginners. We may have to lift canoes over beaver dams depending on the water level.

For more information about the Tetlin Refuge check out their webpage or on Facebook.

The trip limit is 12 and the minimum age is 16.  You must be a current Friend to participate but you can join here





Leaders:

Poppy Benson, poppybenson@alaskarefugefriends.org; (907) 299-0092. Poppy has had 30 years of experience in Alaska and more than that in canoes. Poppy is Wilderness First Aid certified and has taught canoeing. She is also a Friends Board Member.

Dave Schroyer, david_schroyer@hotmail.com; (907) 240-1375. Dave was raised in Alaska with life long experience canoeing, hunting, birding and exploring all over the state.

Neither Poppy nor Dave have ever done this trip and both are looking forward to exploring new country and a new refuge with you.

Cost
: $60 for 3 dinners and 3 breakfasts in camp plus a welcome coffee and continental breakfast Friday morning. Bring your own lunches and snacks for Friday through Monday. Contact the trip leaders if you have dietary restrictions.

Equipment needed
: Your own personal camping gear plus bear spray. Contact the trip leaders if you don’t have a tent. Canoes and life jackets will be supplied by the refuge. If you would rather bring your own let us know. We will not be portaging other than the possible beaver dam. Also bring binoculars and fishing gear if desired. Equipment list will be furnished to participants.

Weather, Bugs and Bears
: Average lows for this time of year are near freezing with highs in the high 60s and little rainfall. Bring a sleeping bag good to below freezing, good raingear – jacket and pants, and waterproof knee-high boots. Gortex fishing waders with wading boots are an option to stay dry and allow walking into lakes and creeks when launching canoes. Refuge staff assure us that bugs aren’t that bad especially not this early. None the less Poppy is bringing a bug jacket. This is also not noted as a “bear-y” area but it is the season for bears to be looking for food so please bring your own bear spray and a holster system that will allow you to wear it.

Camping in Tok before or after
. The refuge staff has volunteered an empty space on their grounds for Thursday night. Other possibilities include state recreation areas or B & Bs or motels in Tok. Eagle Trail State Recreation Site is about 16 miles west of Tok towards Anchorage and Moon Lake State Recreation Site is 15 miles north of Tok towards Fairbanks.


How to sign up: Trip will be limited to the first 12 to complete the registration, including the $60 fee.  Please fill out the registration form below.  Registration payment options will be presented after the form is completed and submitted.   All participants who are not yet signed up as Fish and Wildlife volunteers will be required to fill out a Volunteer Agreement at the Friday meeting. Prior to the trip, all participants will be required to sign a liability waiver which is currently under development.

Please leave your furry friends at home.


Questions about this awesome opportunity to experience the wilds of this refuge in the company of Friends and refuge staff? Please contact Poppy Benson, Outreach Coordinator: 
poppybenson@alaskarefugefriends.org






Trip Registration

This trip is full; registration is closed.




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Canoeing & Communicating on the Kenai

Refuge Discovery Trip Report by Poppy Benson, FANWR Outreach Coordinator and Barb Veeck, Friends Member

The first ever Friends Discovery Trip to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge was a success! Eleven Friends met on a rainy Saturday fall morning with the Kenai Refuge manager Andy Loranger and staff to learn about the unique volunteer opportunities within the Refuge: from front desk, to adopt a trail, to refuge advocacy.  This most visited and accessible refuge in Alaska has experienced budget and staff cutbacks.  Visitor center manager Leah Eskelin shared a laundry list of volunteer opportunities suitable for locals with an afternoon to spare or Anchoragites who could give a weekend.

The clouds parted just in time for us to drive through golden fall leaves to launch our canoes at the Swan Lake Canoe Route trail head, 20 miles north of Sterling.  We paddled across Canoe Lake to set up camp for our evening activities.  Lots of awesome Dutch oven cooking and late night fraternizing around the campfire followed, including Robert Service poems dramatized by Friend member Tom Choate.  We were accompanied by two refuge staff who coordinated our volunteer trail clearing. 

The next day, we paddled to Waterfall Lake to do some trail clearing and exploration of the lake and its’ lovely island.  The calm and clear waters offered a perfect reflection of the beautiful fall colors of the lake. 

 
(click to enlarge photos)

Barb Veeck reports, “As a new member, I felt that I gained awareness of the purpose of the Friends program and enjoyed meeting other members.  It was fun to discuss future volunteer and group trip activities such as this one. 

Prior to this trip, most of us were only familiar with 1-2 people in the group which hailed from Anchorage, Kenai, Anchor Point, and Homer.   By the end of the trip we all felt we had new “Friends” and were already planning our next refuge trip.”

As a Board member and trip organizer, Poppy Benson says, “I felt we met the objectives of familiarizing ourselves with at least part of the vast and wonderful Kenai Refuge and its volunteer opportunities, increasing communication and collaboration with the Refuge, and facilitating and building relationships between Friends.  I think refuge familiarization trips should be an annual part of the Friends program.   Email me with your ideas for future refuge trips at poppybenson@alaskarefugefriends.  This trip was cheap ($20) and easy because participants only needed a weekend and a way to get to Soldotna.  Other refuges such as the Arctic Refuge would take more time and money.”

We encourage all of you to get out on a refuge through Friends sponsored trips or volunteer opportunities or with your own family.   The Refuges need us and we need them.

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Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Canoe Trip – Sept. 16-17, 2017

Refuge Discovery Trip: Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Canoe Trip
September 16 and 17, 2017 (Saturday-Sunday)

Discover the canoe country of the Dave Spencer Wilderness Area within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge during the height of fall color. Canoe, fish, berry pick, listen to loons from your sleeping bag, and enjoy good company. 

Meet at Refuge headquarters in Soldotna at 9:00am Saturday, September 16th.   Refuge staff will orient participants to refuge issues, resources and volunteer opportunities and we will tour their new (2015) Visitor Center.  Carpool to the Swan Lakes Canoe System north of Sterling.   Canoe across the lovely Canoe Lake and make a base camp at the far end.  Portage to other lakes as time and weather allows.  A small volunteer project, as yet to be determined, will be part of this experience.  Return to cars about 4 p.m. on Sunday.

This trip is suitable for beginners as we will not be traveling far to the base camp.  Those with the desire to see more will be able to portage to other lakes.  Trout fishing can be very good in Canoe Lake and all the lakes and lowbush cranberry picking can be excellent right at the campsite. 

Trip Leader:  Poppy Benson, poppybenson@alaskarefugefriends.org; (907) 299-0092;  Poppy has over 30 years of experience in the canoe country, has taught canoeing, and is Wilderness First Aid certified.  Poppy serves on the Friends Board as Outreach Coordinator.

Cost:  $20 for dinner and Sunday breakfast plus a Welcome Coffee with pastries on Saturday morning.  Bring your own lunches for Saturday and Sunday, plus snacks.  Indicate on your registration if you have dietary restrictions.

Weather:  This Refuge Discovery Trip is a rain or shine event. Fall in the canoe country will be cool and possibly rainy.  A communal dry tented area will be provided for cooking, as well as a campfire. 

Equipment needed:  Please provide your own personal camping gear, including fishing gear and berry pickers if desired. Canoes can be supplied by the Refuge but please bring your own if you have a light one. Contact Poppy if you don’t have a tent or would like to borrow a Refuge canoe. Given the possibility of rainy/cold weather, please bring a 30 degree and below sleeping bag, rain gear – jacket and pants, and waterproof knee high boots.   Poppy recommends Gortex fishing waders with wading boots, which allow one to stay dry and to walk into the lake when launching canoes. Please bring them if you have them. A complete  equipment list will be furnished to participants after registration. 

Please leave your furry friends at home.

How to sign up:  Trip will be limited to the first 12 to complete the registration, including paying the $20 fee.  Please fill out the registration form below.  Registration payment options will be presented after the form is completed and submitted.   All participants who are not yet
signed up as Fish and Wildlife volunteers will be required to fill out a Volunteer Agreement at the Saturday meeting.