Kenai Mountains rising above Skilak Lake

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage protects 1.92 million acres of diverse habitat for moose, bears, wolves, trumpeter swans, and salmon.  The snow-covered Kenai Mountains provide a beautiful backdrop for hundreds of lakes in the refuge, including the large Skilak Lake (shown above), which at 15 miles long is only the second largest lake in the refuge.  The largest lake is the 74,000-acre Tustumena Lake, which is not accessible by road.

  

  

Island full of seagulls and a boat in Skilak Lake

Kenai is the most visited refuge in Alaska and offers world-class fishing, along with hiking, camping and canoeing.  Above is a photo of a boat and a small island covered with seagulls in the middle of Skilak Lake.  The seagulls were squawking so loudly that we could hear them even from this vantage point nearly a mile away.

  

  

Kenai Mountains above Skilak Lake

The refuge was first established as the Kenai National Moose Range in 1941 to protect—you guessed it—moose.  The name was changed in 1980 to a Wildlife Refuge to reflect its new purpose of protecting all wildlife.

  

  

Our RV

We got a great campsite in the Skillak Wildlife Recreation Area, which sits in the middle of the refuge.  There was a ridge above the campsite that we could climb for a terrific view of the surrounding forest, the Kenai Mountains, and Skilak Lake.  That’s our RV in the photo.

  

  

Shadow enjoying the view above Skilak Lake

Shadow loves to stand on a ledge and survey the land.  We’d like to think he’s enjoying the incredible view, but more likely he’s scanning for squirrels.

  

  

Skilak Lake

We’ve seen so many pretty blue lakes in Canada and Alaska.  Some are small, and some are rather large like Skilak Lake above.  The Kenai Peninsula is a fisherman’s dream.

  

  

Man playing guitar on a boat on Skilak Lake

When we started our hike up a mountain above Skilak Lake, there was a man playing guitar on his boat just offshore.  Three hours later as we were coming off the trail, he was still there, and he was playing the same song!  I assume he played some different songs and perhaps took a break during those three hours.

  

  

Alpine Lupine

Alpine Lupine

The beautiful purple and white flowers of the Alpine Lupine were in full bloom on our hike to Fuller Lakes in the Mystery Hills Unit of the Kenai Wilderness.

  

  

Grizzly footprint in the mud

As we were hiking in the Kenai Wilderness, nearly every group of hikers we passed had someone carrying a shotgun for protection against grizzlies.  This was the first time we’ve seen hikers openly carrying firearms on a hike.  There were certainly signs of grizzlies along the trail, including footprints in the mud as shown above, along with plenty of fresh scat and tree scratches.  But all that firepower seemed to be an overreaction to the potential threat level.

  

  

Lower Fuller Lake

Lower Fuller Lake is a pretty alpine lake surrounded by mountains.

  

  

Darby, Theresa and Shadow trying to stay warm while enjoying lunch above Upper Fuller Lake

We stopped for lunch above Upper Fuller Lake.  Our stay was brief, as it was yet another cold Alaska day with a chilly wind and temperatures only in the low 50s.

>> Next Stop: Cook Inlet >>

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