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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.