Nature series revives days of guide, hunter

Posted: Tuesday, July 29, 2003

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge's nature walk series has been popular with tourists and locals this summer.

Last Friday morning's presentation was no exception. It was titled "A Hunter's Heart" and chronicled the life and times of Andrew Berg a Finnish immigrant who came to the Kenai Peninsula in 1888.

"Come on into my cabin and get yourselves out of the rain," said Josh Tkacik, a summer intern at the refuge playing the role of Berg for the morning presentation.

Dressed in garb from the period, Tkacik seemed in his element in the role of Berg, as he told numerous tales of guiding, hunting, cabin building and what life was like at the start of the 1900s.

It took some off the participants of the lecture a little longer than others to figure out Tkacik was portraying Berg and not just out of his mind.

"You made these snowshoes?" asked a curious tourist while running a finger down the winter foot gear mounted to the wall.

"Yep, made 'em myself back in 89," Tkacik said.

"1889?" replied the stunned tourist.

"Of course," said Tkacik. "This is only 1900 after all."

Although famous for many things, Berg is perhaps best known for becoming Alaska's first licensed hunting guide, and he held guide license "No. 1" for more than 20 years.

However, most of the participants of Friday's lecture seemed more interested in learning what pioneer life was like, as opposed to hearing harrowing tales of big game hunting.

"Do you have an outhouse?" asked another concerned participant.

"Sure, do you need to used it?" Tkacik said. "Just grab some devil club on your way back leaf only!"

The small crowd burst into laughter.

After the performance, many of the participants stuck around to ask questions about Tkacik himself and how he became so knowledgeable on the subject of Berg in the few months he has been in Alaska.

"To be honest, I didn't even know who Berg was before I came up," said Tkacik, here from Pennsyl-vania until August.

"I learned most of what I know from Gary Titus, who is a tremendous body of knowledge on the subject and from his new book," Tkacik said. The book he was referring to written by Titus and Catherine Cassidy is "Alaska's No. 1 Guide" and details the history and journals of Berg from 1869-1939.

Tkacik said he did a lot of hunting and trapping while growing up, which also lends to the authenticity of his performance while in character.

He said he learned a lot about historical hunting techniques and frontier life from his last internship in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the Badlands of North Dakota, which required some character role playing, as well.

The refuge will take this upcoming weekend off from the series to celebrate the centennial of the national wildlife refuge system, but will continue its lecture series Aug. 9, 10 and 11 for those who missed them the first time around.

Aug. 9 will be "A Hunter's Heart" again; Aug. 10 will be "From Lupines to Leaches," a presentation that will give a glimpse into the plants and animals of the wetlands; and Aug. 11 will be the final lecture in the series, a nature walk titled, "Those Amazing Moose." The presentation will be a hands-on activity and will highlight the adaptations of moose.

The nature walks begin at 11 a.m. Participants are asked to wear comfortable walking shoes and to leave pets at home. For more information, call 262-7021.

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