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Dangers on the Kenai

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Sign near a lake in Anchorage.

Living on the Kenai comes with its fair  share of danger and I don’t just mean the type of danger that comes from the weather elements.  Although the cold is not to be trifled with, I’m talking the bigger dangers that exist on the Kena like the wildlife, earthquakes, active volcanoes and the mosquitoes.

There is an abundant amount of wildlife on the Kenai.  Everything from bears, moose, coyotes and other furry creatures with sharp teeth but nothing is scarier than the beavers.  While I have never met a beaver I didn’t like, I have heard that Alaskan beavers are capable of eating small dogs, neutering larger ones and in general making the largest of dogs whimper in utter fear.  There apparently is nothing more dangerous on the Kenai than an angry beaver.

In addition to the wildlife, there are the earthquakes.  Earthquakes are fairly common on the Peninsula.  In fact, this year is the 50th Anniversary of the Good Friday Earthquake that cut off all access to Seward and dropped Homer Spit by 6 foot, which demonstrates the danger of earthquakes.  However, the largest earthquake I’ve experienced since coming to Alaska was a 4.4.  The rest of the earthquakes that have happened have either been too far away to notice or just felt like the earth farted.

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Mt. Redoubt as viewed from my backyard.

Then there are the volcanoes.  The Kenai is home to four active volcanoes–Mt. Spurr, Mt. Redoubt, Mt. Illiamna and St. Augustine.  They sit on the western side of the Peninsula and are all visible by driving from Soldotna to Homer.  They are as beautiful as they are dangerous.  When you look at them from a distance, the beauty seems to shroud the danger that lurks inside them.  Mt. Redoubt seems to be the one that likes to burp its stuff up the most although from the stories I heard, the last time Mt. Redoubt burped, the wind was blowing in the direction of Russia so all the fall out headed that way instead of heading east.

Despite the angry beavers and other wildlife, the earthquakes and active volcanoes, nothing compares to the dangers of the mosquitoes.  There are 27 species of mosquito on the Kenai and they all come alive at the same time–summer time.  What they lack in size, they make up for in numbers and it has been reported that a swarm of mosquitoes is capable of carrying off a small moose or baby bear.

In all seriousness, Alaska, like any rural area, has its dangers.  The important thing to remember is be smart, be safe and be prepared which applies anywhere and everywhere. As an Alaskan Noob, I have experienced a bit of a learning curve but I’ve also found that most of the people on the Kenai are very willing to help when needed whether it is offering advice, sharing some insight or actually lending a hand.  Alaska is home to the friendliest bunch of strangers you will ever meet but if that’s not enough, you can follow the guidelines for preparing for a Zombie Apocalypse published by the Center for Disease Control.

Moose Butt

As a noob in Alaska, I was enamored by everything I saw–the winter-wonderland landscapes, the snow covered mountains, how blue everything looked as the sun began to set. I took long walks in the snow with my camera, snapping pictures of everything I could to send back to share with family and friends. One thing kept eluding my camera though–moose.

It’s not that I didn’t see moose. I saw them quite frequently. I saw them on the side of the road, in the parking lot at work, in my front yard, at the post office and just about everywhere I went. The problem was that every time I pointed my camera at the moose, it would turn around leaving me with a picture of a moose butt. I spent my entire first winter loading pictures of moose butts on my Facebook page because the moose just would not cooperate with me.

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Then in July, when the construction of Kenai Peninsula College’s new residence hall was nearly complete and we were able to start moving in, I had my chance.  Two moose families moved into the area to eat the lush grass around the residence hall.  Bonzai and her offspring Ed and Shenzai and her baby Fred.  After a short while Crazy Charlie joined Bonzai.  Crazy Charlie was just a baby as well and it quickly became apparent that Bonzai had sort of adopted Crazy Charlie.  

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They stayed for the entire summer and visited the residence hall every day, grazing on the grass for hours.  Shenzai and Fred often kept to themselves in the back of the hall while Bonzai, Ed and Crazy Charlie were more bold and snacked on the grass in front.  After hours of snacking, they would lay down in the shade of the building and nap for a bit before wandering off.  We would put up signs around the hall informing students about the moose outside.  The students gave the moose a wide berth walking to and from classes, occasionally stopping to take a picture and the moose were patient and tolerant of everyone’s coming and goings.  They had essentially become residents of the hall and everyone was actually a bit sad when they stopped coming around.

That’s one of the things I love about Alaska–instead of pushing the wildlife out of the area, humans and wildlife are able to co-exist in the same space so its common place to see Moose and other wildlife in and around your home, work and neighborhood.  Yes, they can destroy things and they can be dangerous so signs like these are not uncommon.

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But by being smart, respecting the wildlife, keeping your distance and being aware you can keep yourself safe and still enjoy the experience of a visit by a moose, which is something I have yet to get tired of.

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