Caribou Hills epicenter of cabin culture

Cabins provide haven in the hills

Posted: Friday, February 23, 2001

His cabin in the Caribou Hills is a family thing, said Soldotna snowmachiner Steve Tarries.

"We still have kids. It's something we can all do together," he said. "You don't have to go riding. Some people just sit in the cabin and enjoy."

He watches the school calendar. When his children get four-day weekends, his family heads for the hills.

"The longer we stay, the better," he said. "It's an attitude thing."

It takes several hours to warm up the cabin, he said. A one-night trip means arriving in the afternoon, warming the cabin, going to bed, and waking up knowing he will have to head back.

"If you're there for a three-day or a four-day weekend, you wake up that first day, and you can do whatever you want," he said. "The kids can go in the yard and play on snowmobiles, make a snowman or go on the sledding hill."

The Caribou Cabin Hoppers Snowmachine Club has the name for a reason, he said.

"You go visit your neighbors every once in a while," he said. "We have a pile of trash wood. We can have a bonfire any time we want. We generally do a couple of times per year."

Neighbors get together for trips.

"You can go riding through the trees for a long time and never get too far from home," he said. "Or, if there are advanced riders, we do that, too."

Kenai's Margaret Goodman said she does plenty of snowmachining when she and her husband stay in their cabin.

"It's easy access. You just hop out your door and go," she said. "You don't need to worry about road traffic -- you're just there."

She likes long rides.

"You get out and you see things. People who have never been snowmachining don't have a clue," she said. "You can see McKinley, then turn around and see into Kachemak Bay."

She said the neighborhood is friendly.

"People come and visit. You go visit them," she said. "They may have a bonfire going. Some play cards. Some sit around and visit. Some people have pie socials. We had one at Christmas. We did one at New Year's, too."

There was a big New Year's party at the Straight Inn (off Oilwell Road in Ninilchik), with a bonfire, fireworks and pinatas for the children, she said.

"If anyone needs help, someone is right there. We get together and go for big rides," she said.

If someone gets lost, the neighbors search, she said.

"We've had people whose machines broke down, and they're way up in the high country. Everyone suits up and goes to help bring them down," she said.

"When we added onto our cabin, we had people from all over coming to help. It's kind of like an old-fashioned barn raising. That was especially true when we were stacking logs and building."

She and her husband stacked logs for the cabin at the Straight Inn.

"From there, Chet Wilhelm, when he was alive, had two Alpine snowmachines hitched together and a trailer. He'd load logs onto that and take a trail he'd groomed to our spot," she said. "He'd bring 16 or 20 logs at a time."

Cabin Hoppers president Doug Blossom of Ninilchik has a cabin at the trail intersection called Four Corners.

"The dog mushers, everyone uses it for their checkpoint," he said.

"The door is never locked. On the whole, they treat it pretty good."

His cabin is just a 40-minute ride from his house, he said, so he usually rides home each night. The cabin is more of a way point.

"We usually stop there, maybe have lunch and start up the fire, maybe leave some spare gas if we're going farther," he said. "I have to keep it pretty bare, because everybody uses it. It's not fancy, but it's warm and livable."

He takes to the hills with family and friends.

"I've got a whole fleet of grandkids. We might pack eight or 10 of them along," he said. "You get up there, you've got scenery that's unbelievable. You don't have to stay on a highway. You just get up there and drive around."

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