Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Visitor, Reservations and Soldotna Homestead Museum

We awoke to a visitor in our campground this morning.


The moose cow wandered in and out among the RVs for awhile, but this was the only shot I could catch since I wasn’t dressed for traipsing around the campground to follow her.

Later this morning I spent about 45 minutes on the phone with Denali Reservations getting 6 sites for our group in Riley Campground for July 10-13. We weren’t able to get into Teklanika, where we wanted to stay. But we’ll take the shuttle bus to the Eielson Visitor Center, 66 miles into the park, an 8-hour round trip, that will allow us to see more of the park and to visit the newly rebuilt center. (Private vehicles aren’t allowed past mile 15 of the park road.)

I paid with credit card for the whole group (total $621 for 6 rigs’ parking for 3 nights, and 12 shuttle bus tickets) and will be repaid by our travel companions. However, imagine my shock when I got the confirmation by email and saw that I’ll owe another $1,890! Somehow their computer hiccupped and made 72 shuttle reservations instead of 12! I called back, spoke with another agent who verified with the supervisor that it was just a “glitch” but I also replied to the email as well. I wouldn’t mind paying for the whole bus if people reimburse me, but I’m afraid it would be a mostly empty bus and I’d be stuck with the bill!

After lunch Don and I visited Soldotna’s Homestead Museum. We had our own personal tour by a woman who was born and raised here. Her parents were homesteaders with 40 acres, and she still lives on the property. She told some wonderful stories as she showed us the various log buildings that have been moved from various places to this location to represent a homestead village.

The cabin below was built by a homesteader in 1949 and 1950. He cut the trees and fitted logs together by hand. WWII veterans were exempt from requirements of clearing and planting crops, and merely had to reside in some type of living quarters on the land for a minimum of 7 months to quality for 160 acres. After being awarded the “patent” as a homesteader, the builder went to work helping to construct the Sterling Highway to Anchorage. He returned with his bride for two months in the summer of 1951, but has since lived in Tucson, Arizona. He visits this area about twice a year now.


Interior of the cabin is spartan, but liveable.


Another homesteader built his cabin in the late 1940’s with larger windows for more light, and furnished the interior with a few more amenities. (The porch was added recently.)


He returned to California to marry his sweetheart, brought her here and they raised their family in this cabin until 1956.


They even had a washing machine!


This cabin served as a one-room schoolhouse.


Inside there was room for the 13 students, ranging from first through seventh grade. Classes were taught here 1958-1960. Soldotna Elementary School opened in the fall of 1960, making this schoolhouse no longer necessary.


Damon Hall was built in 1967 as a community center/church/multi-purpose building. It was originally connected to the schoolhouse (see the faint outline of the smaller building where the two joined). The former schoolhouse served as an administrative office.


Inside Damon Hall was a wonderful display of wildlife and hand-made objects from various periods.




Carroll, our guide, allowed us to run the back of our hands over the seal, beaver and fox pelts. They felt incredibly soft!


I got a bear hug, and appreciated the enormous size of this grizzly bear.


Later, our happy hour included two Escapees RV Club members who had pulled into the park today: Don and Betty Spitler. They made an enjoyable addition to our group. Their path is just crossing ours as they’ve been to Seward where we’re going tomorrow, while they’re heading to Valdez where we’ve been! Nice to meet you, Don and Betty. Hope to see you again down the road.


While Larry was away talking with the RV repair guy, Dennis decided to try Larry’s Manhattan. This photo followed the grimace I didn’t catch. I’ll bet he won’t do that again!



  1. I am having a great time reading your adventures in Alaska! Thank you for taking us along with you, smile! If we can't be there, your blog is the next best thing!
    Hugs to you and Don! C.

  2. Glad they got that "glitch" worked out!
    I think any of us RVers could manage to live in those log cabins if they'd just put wheels on 'em.


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