July 23, 2012
Our first day in Soldatna, we drive to the Kenai Visitor Center. The visitor center is located in the center of “old town” Kenai. As well as selling the requisite tourist trinkets, the center has a small museum with artifacts and displays about the history of Kenai and an exhibit room for special exhibits. We check out the museum, and Reen is sure that we visited this same museum 8 years ago on our cruise-tour of Alaska.
The special exhibit turns out to be a display/sale of Alaska themed art by local artists. Even though there is an extra $5 per person fee, we go for it. The art turns out to be better than expected. The piece we both liked the best was of two bears feeding and could not be distinguished from a photograph from more than a foot away. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a $48,000 painting! Maybe we could have offered up the airstream for trade but it would have made the rest of the trip a little difficult.
The rain is holding off so we head outside to take the walking tour of the older buildings in town. Most of the tour is underwhelming. The most interesting buildings being the Russion Orthodox church and an associated chapel.
This is the Russian Orthodox Church. It is still in use for regular services.
This is the small chapel nearby, it was built a little later and sits over the graves of the original priest and his assistant.
Part of the tour includes a small group of old log buildings which were moved here. They are each being set up to display different uses such as a home, trappers cabin, and store. As we’re walking in, there is an older couple there who recognize us from the art display. Turns out, they are the caretakers of this little village, and they just happen to be there showing around what looks like their two teen age grand kids. You can probably image how excited those kids were to see those old buildings.
Anyway, once we get there, the nice older gentleman decides that we are going to get a personalized tour of each and every building whether we want it or not. He sends his wife off with the kids and we get more details on 5 old buildings then you think there would be. He really is a nice old guy and he keeps us interested by promising a racy anecdote about the cabins that we are seeing. But we were not getting that tale until the tour was over.
The secret was finally revealed in the last building. The space between the logs in log buildings needs to be filled and the filling is called chinking. They would generally use whatever was available, and in these buildings it looked to be mostly scraps of old clothing, sacks and other fabric. But, when they were working on one of the buildings, they found in the chinking most of a woman’s corset, complete with whalebone stiffeners! Shocking! We even got to see the actual corset. Believe it or not.
Also on the tour was a small park overlooking the river inlet where much fishing takes place. The park includes a boy scout statue which Reen swears we have pictures of from our last trip. So we re-take the shot she thinks we have, so we can compare it when we get home. We high tail it out of there just in time before the local police get wind of this statue molestation.