Cooper Landing

Posted: Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Kathy Tarcon with her brother, Peter Mlynarik, his wife, Kim, and daughter and son, Kemarrae and Koebryn, made a winter ascent of Slaughter Gulch last week.

The Mlynarik's Karelian bear dog Khitrost found only rabbit tracks on the hike up the mountain.

Eleven-year-old Kemarrae broke trail through snow eight inches to two feet deep where it had drifted. They chased the sun and finally climbed into it at the top, where the wind had exposed rocks and ice patches.

We watched through binoculars and then enjoyed the digital pictures from Kathy's camera on their return. Kathy and Peter are my kids, and they grew up here and have always been active in the outdoors, but this was their first time up Slaughter Gulch in the winter.

Kathy, her oldest son, Jim, and four of his friends are here from Wisconsin for a week's vacation. Jim and the guys are snowboarding, here and at Alyeska, and hoping to see at least one moose. Peter and his family are at the old family home on the lake.

One of the Wisconsin visitors had a particularly exciting experience at Alyeska. Jeremy Chapman had only been on a snowboard a couple of times when Deacon Fleisner took him up the mountain on the wrong chair lift which went as high as lifts were running.

They watched nervously as the "bunny" hill disappeared beneath and behind their moving chair. Jeremy's board bindings were set for a right-footed person and Jeremy learned too late that he is left-footed, but the bindings couldn't be changed until they could get inside the chalet.

Forming a barrier, the four young men helped slow Jeremy on his descent while gasping as he approached close to sheer drop-offs, since he couldn't maneuver well. It took them over an hour to get down.

Jeremy's "I'm still alive," answer to "How are you doing?" will probably be the trip's best quote. Alyeska and our local mountains are pretty impressive to people from Wisconsin, I think. The highest point in that state isn't as high as Slaughter Gulch.

Andy Smedegard is my best kitchen helper and Dustin Fleisner entertains us during long road trips with tales of his U.S. Air Force boot camp days.

Why is Cooper Landing special to you? Why did you move there in the first place? These and other questions were asked of me last week and I, in turn, asked some friends. I thought now, as a new year begins, this was an appropriate time to think about things like this.

Some people, like Tom and Arlene Knock, came for the location, and others, like Mayme Ohnemus, came because they had a job here.

I came to Cooper Landing first as a visitor with my aunt and uncle more than 50 years ago and then came back to work for them in 1958 at Bryson's Place. I was smitten from the first time I saw the place, though, and wrote in my scrapbook: "Coopers Landing is the most beautiful town on the Kenai Peninsula."

What is special, besides the gorgeous setting, we all agreed, are the people. The high degree of volunteerism and neighbors helping neighbors can't be beat.

We are an active community of many interests. If people want to interact, there must be at least one group to join, such as the library, historical society, quilters, chamber of commerce, gun club, seniors, Sexy Senior Dumpster Cleaners and community club.

The Turnagain Arm-Kenai Mountains Corridor Communities Association's Federal Highways Administration grant funded three books. One is called "People of the Kenai Mountains and Upper Turnagain Arm." The corridor is the area, rectangular in shape, from Bird to Girdwood to Seward to Cooper Landing to Hope and back.

From the interview of Jane Behlke about her young life in Seward and Cooper Landing: "The early years at the Landing for me were times of peace and perfect freedom to wander in a beautiful place, to have grand meals with Charlie and Beryl, who were as tough on table manners as my mom, and chores that required keep the fires fed, the water carried, the gardens prospering and berries picked. I remember breaking dried egg shells to toss back into the coop for the chickens. As the summer wound down, there was meat and fish to can and vegetables to store for winter. I leaned that it's a long job, watching a pressure cooker, waiting for it to process moose meat."

Mona Painter can be reached by phone at 595-1248 or by email at

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