Piloting the Dutch Star travel blog

SWIFTWATER CREEK CAMPGROUND IN SOLDOTNA WITH MOOSE AND FISH: We camp near Soldotna, since we have a flight scheduled there Friday morning at 9. It’s along a beautiful turquoise (color caused by unique mixture of silt and sun) river and we learn from our host (whose parents homesteaded 50 years ago in Kenai) that the campground road used to be the main road. Jim decides to get some fishing gear and a two-week license, since it will be good in Silver Salmon Lodge too. We enjoy walking along the river, then sitting in the sunshine for a few hours. As we read in the evening, we have a wonderful surprise visit from a moose and her calf; they munch willow right around our RV as Jim and I scramble from window to window watching them. Jim clicks for what we think will be some great photos but unhappily they don’t seem to have turned out—but we surely enjoyed the about 20-minute experience about 8:30 pm our first camping night here. Then we get quite a bit of rain so opt for a museum foray to Kenai. Thursday brings great sunshine. I take a nice bike ride while Jim tries his hand at fishing and lands a delicious Dolly Varden for lunch. [He runs into the man who was our neighbor in Homer and gets a few tips—that Alaskan native stops by later to tell us he caught 3 king silvers at another creek—we are glad, since Jim has hopes for Silver Salmon Lodge fishing. In the afternoon, after he picks up a few more fishing items for Silver Salmon Lodge, we visit the Kenai Wildlife refuge center in Soldotna, and then prep for our trip Friday. We are pleasatly surprised by another moose visit, but aren't quick enough this time (and they don't return) to allow for good pictures.

KENAI- Kenai, about 12 miles west of Soldotna, on the coast, is one of the oldest (non-native) settlements in Alaska. Fort St. Nicholas was built at the mouth of the Kenai River in 1795. Father Nikolai Militov came from Russia to Sitka with Bishop Innocent and established a parish in Kenai. The parish house is one of the oldest buildings, built in 1881, on the Kenai Peninsula. The area grew a lot with homesteading after World War 2, in the early 1950s (veterans got a break on homesteading 160 acres—for example, they only had to stay on their property 7 months of the year). Soldotna seems to have been the last part of Alaska where there was substantial homesteading. St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Chapel (a log building) was built in 1906 as a memorial to, and over the graves of, Father Militav and Makary Ivanov, who helped saved hundreds of native Dena’ina (Athabascan natives) from smallpox. It is near the site of the original 1849 church that stood in the northwest corner of the original Fort St. Nicholas Russian fur trading post. The current church structure, the Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church, was built in 1895, with funds from a $400 grant from the St. Petersburg, Russia, Holy Synod. One priest, Father Paul Shadura, served Kenai for 45 years, beginning in 1907, without salary. We visited the church and cemetery, recalling our visit 8 years ago with my mom and dad on their wedding anniversary. The current retired volunteer priest (who served from 1974-1993), provided lots of information, including the fact that the church now needs repairs so donations and proceeds from the small gift shop will go toward an offered matching grant for repairs. Since our visit 8 years ago, the visitor center has expanded and includes a nice video about Alaska, some great homesteader stories, and modern artworks.

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