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.

The concept of StoryWalks came from Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vermont, who developed the concept in collaboration with the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition and the Kellogg Hubbard Library. Because of copyright laws, institutions that implement such programs must display the actual dismembered pages of the book, as opposed to making photocopies.

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 News

Alaska Rep. David Eastman, a Republican from Wasilla, sits at his desk on the Alaska House floor in Juneau, Alaska, on March 5, 2020. Alaska lawmakers are discussing whether to sanction Eastman who is also a member of the Oath Keepers far-right paramilitary organization according to the Anchorage Daily News. Eastman, who is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, confirmed with the Associated Press, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, that he joined the Oath Keepers a little over 12 years ago, “along with 38,000 others who have committed to honoring oaths we have taken.” (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File)
State lawmaker could be sanctioned over Oath Keeper ties

Eastman was identified as a “life member” of the Oath Keepers last year

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
As cases surge, public health officials contemplate how to live with virus

Contact tracing and data collection will have to be reworked if COVID is here to stay

Upper Cook Inlet Exclusive Economic Zone can be seen on this map provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (Image via fisheries.noaa.gov)
Soldotna approves filing of EEZ lawsuit brief

The lawsuit seeks to reopen commercial salmon fishing in the Upper Cook Inlet Exclusive Economic Zone

University of Alaska Interim President Pat Pitney, bottom left, spoke to UA students in a virtual forum on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, and was joined by several UA administrators including UA Southeast President Karen Carey, bottom left, and UA Anchorage Vice Chancellor Bruce Schultz, top left. At top right, an American Sign Language professional provides translation services. (Screenshot)
UA President: University has turned a corner on funding

System sees modest increase in budget for first time in years

Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer; Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna; Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak and Sen. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks, spoke to reporters Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, immediately following Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s State of the State address. Members of the Senate Republican leadership said they appreciated the governor’s optimism, and hoped it signaled a better relationship between the administration and the Legislature. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Lawmakers welcome tone change in governor’s address

With caveats on financials, legislators optimistic about working together

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID deaths, hospitalizations climb statewide

The total number of statewide COVID deaths is nearly equivalent to the population of Funny River.

A fisher holds a reel on the Kenai River near Soldotna on June 30, 2021. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Restrictions on sport fishing announced

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced summer sport fishing regulations Wednesday

Community agencies administer social services to those in need during the Project Homeless Connect event Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
‘It’s nice to be able to help folks’

Project Homeless Connect offers services, supplies to those experiencing housing instability

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce attends the March 2, 2021, borough assembly meeting at the Betty J. Glick Assembly Chambers at the Borough Administration Building in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Former talk-show host to manage Pierce gubernatorial campaign

Jake Thompson is a former host of KSRM’s Tall, Dark and Handsome Show and Sound-off talk-show

Most Read