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Camp hosting at Hidden Lake, a 'hidden gem'

Refuge Notebook

Posted: February 24, 2012 - 10:34am

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is recruiting campground hosts for Hidden Lake Campground from mid-May to Labor Day this summer. Hidden Lake Campground is the Refuge's most popular campground located on beautiful Hidden Lake and tucked away off Skilak Lake Road.

To give you an excellent idea of how rewarding the host experience is, here are excerpts from a first- hand account by former hosts Jim and Mary Cramer:

We thought we would write our thoughts about working for the Refuge and our host experience. Hidden Lake is a great place -- truly a 'Hidden Gem' -- mostly because all the people are so helpful and interesting. Add to that the wildlife and it makes for a great summer!

We have never volunteered anywhere that took Campground Host training and safety so seriously. The training included bears as well as the Refuge itself and almost anything else we had questions about. The materials they issued to us included books on the flowers, birds, trees, mushrooms -- well, you get the idea! The support ran the gambit right down to a phone book for Soldotna! Don't get us started on the people; they are the absolute best we have worked for.

The host's campsite at Hidden Lake is a great one -- deep and wide with three picnic tables in the middle loop. Our loop seemed to get lots of kids because there was a circle at the end so parents allowed kids to ride up and down the hill. It was great to watch them learn to negotiate the speed bump! The site is protected from wind, but did usually have a slight breeze. We were totally worried about bugs so we invested needlessly in a screen tent. There were some bugs, but not very many.

Hook-ups -- or rather lack thereof -- we used the vault toilet, our outside shower, and tossed dishwater, so we only dumped two times over the summer at the campground dump station. Water is important -- the clearest water in the campground is the pump at the boat launch. We had solar energy, but also LED lights, which really cut down on our battery drainage. Wait ... maybe that is because it was not dark until August!

Skilak Lake Road from the Sterling Highway to Hidden Lake is gravel, but once you hit the campground it is paved. That was great because it reduced the dust factor!

People who camped at Hidden Lake were mostly families from the local area (Soldotna, Sterling and Anchorage). In July and August there was also a fairly large contingent of Western Europeans in rented RVs. We got to know some of the regulars -- they did thoughtful things like bring us the newspaper, etc. As with anywhere, there were some over-exuberant campers, but they were few and far between and although sometimes a bit loud, but they were always happy.

One of the major differences we noticed was that when it was light until midnight (or later) the campground was also alive and well. Three-year old kids were riding bikes, adults were playing cards, and music abounded. Bottom line is that we had a great time - the campground is a spectacular location and the people only added to it. You can tell how much we liked it by our incessant raving about the place.

Hosts are highly valued members of our Refuge family. Their efforts to care for campgrounds and help visitors are tremendously important. Their rewards include appreciation, new friendships, spending the summer in a spectacular setting, and being of service. If you are interested or know of someone who would like to host, contact Park Ranger Leah Eskelin at 260-2811 or by e-mail at leah_eskelin@fws.gov.

Candace Ward has worked as a Park Ranger at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge for 28 years. She leads the Refuge's Information/Education Program and enjoys assisting the hosts each summer, getting to know them, and building deep friendships with them over the years. You can find more information about the Refuge at http://kenai.fws.gov or http://www.facebook.com/kenainationalwildliferefuge.

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