Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)

Life in the Pedestrian Lane: The Balding of Kenai

Kenai is slowly loosing all its spruce trees to the infernal beetle

I know you have noticed although it came on slowly, like the balding of the old man’s head.

First a few trees at the cemetery. The only reason I even noticed that a couple of years ago is because I drive by there nearly every day. But then one day, the trees at the corner of Main Street Loop and the Spur Highway were gone.

Took me a minute to figure out what exactly had happened to change the view when we stopped for the red light.

A couple of trees near the library, and one of the Christmas light trees on the corner across from the Fire Department, then recently all the trees at the Post Office, and now the final scalping of the cemetery.

Kenai is slowly loosing all its spruce trees to the infernal beetle.

It is easy to spot the brown, brittle trees needing to be taken out all over town. Any drive around shows big spruce being removed by property owners and by the city.

The neighbor catty-cornered across the intersection from us had all of the big spruce removed from his front lot and we had some cut from our yard. The neighborhood is slowly loosing all the spruce and being taken over by birch and a few ornamental types (lots of lilacs).

At a block party this week, one topic of conversation was who can cut the trees, and how busy all the “loggers” are clearing dead trees.

And it isn’t only the peninsula. As you drive north, the beetle kill is obvious. The fire stopped it as you go toward Cooper Landing, and north of Willow it has abated some, but a friend who lives off the grid near the Igloo on the Parks complained of her big spruce trees around the house dying and sure enough, the beetles were there.

She is the curious type, and delved into researching what she could do, which of course at this point is cut the trees. But in her reading she discovered that it has been one hundred years since the beetles were prevalent in that area. And sure enough, the trees she had cut down were a hundred years old, give or take a few. And yes! She is the type to take a magnifying glass and sit down and count the rings to find out if someone really knows what they are talking about.

I couldn’t find an invasion cycle for the peninsula but did learn that the spruce bark beetle is a native of Alaska and has a life cycle of two years. The spring weather we have enjoyed the past couple of years is also prime to aid them in their quest, which, if all things were as they should be, is to rid the forest of dead and dying trees. Unfortunately, the summers have only served to prolong their efficiency, and healthy trees have become infected, to serve as hosts for the next brood. We need another wet cold spring to dampen their spirit.

Other news from the Pedestrian Lane is that Miss One-Year came to visit early in June. Of course now she is 2 and we renamed her Tornado. I had forgotten that a maturing 1-year old turns into a Terrible Two. Not terrible, Bad, but terrible Enthusiastic. She was loud; she was hungry, and she was ambitious.

Luckily I had a container of Knox Blox in the fridge, so that took care of the need to have something to nibble on constantly, and didn’t really ruin her appetite. She likes to go for walks, so her Grandpa took her around the block a few times, ending up with her on his shoulders of course. The “loud” was a little harder to contend with for a couple of old people in a house where the loudest noise most days is the ding of the oven timer.

Her auntie, Granddaughter #7 took her shopping in the toy racks at Salvation Army, where she came away with a big truck, some dolls and a telephone (that talks of course) to add to the truckload of toys she arrived with, so she was well occupied at least some of the time.

And next year she’ll be 3. Ready to learn all there is to know in the world, and more than willing to share it, I’m sure, if she is anything like her parents and Auntie!

So the summer continues. Great-granddaughter growing up. Trees coming down all over town. If it were December and I had time to contemplate, I might make a profound allusion to the cycle of life, or some such. But for now, I am enjoying the lupine and thinking they are a good exchange for brown, brittle dead spruce.

Virginia can be contacted at

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