Year-round cabins across the state await you
September 1, 2020
Gone are the big cruise ships from our waters. And although the small cruisers of last month's column have had some COVID cases, but sanitized and are back on the Inside Passage, we still find ourselves prohibited form traveling to Canada or Europe.
Safer to stay close to home, but at the same time strike out for parts unknown - the rest of the Last Frontier.
State cabins offer retreat from civilization
With the pandemic still playing with our lives, many of us want to retreat somewhere private, to turn off the electronics, peacefully collect our thoughts with the space and time to figure out what is truly important to us.
And Alaska has all that to offer to you.
For less money than a hotel or a motel you can rent one of the 80 public use cabins overseen by the State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation.
"Prices vary from $50 to $100 depending on location, demand and quality of cabin," said Wendy Sailors, the division's development specialist.
There's old cabins and new ones, small ones and large ones. You can get away by yourself or with your family.
There's hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter and some cabins are near hunting locations. They're near the road system or way off in the Bush.
State park cabins sleep from three to eight people and are equipped with wooden sleeping platforms, a table, chairs or benches, and a nearby latrine. Designs vary from log to stick built, one-story to two.
Equipment to bring includes insect repellent, an air mattress or pad, a sleeping bag, gas or propane stove for cooking, and some way to purify water. Most public use cabins have a nearby water source, but you should have something to purify the water or boil it before use.
Bring an axe or a saw line to get firewood nearby or bring your own. Only dead and down wood is allowed. Fires are limited to the inside stove - outdoor fires, for obvious reasons, are not allowed. If firewood is supplied by the state park, please use it in the fireplace or stove only and leave a supply for the next guest. Some of the newer cabins have oil or gas stoves instead of wood stoves, so make sure you know which kind of heat source your cabin has.
Charter aircraft services are available in almost all communities near cabin sites, including Anchorage, Willow, Homer, Kodiak, Juneau and Ketchikan, so check individual cabins for aircraft accessibility.
Many cabins are located near excellent hunting and fishing areas. Copies of hunting and fishing regulations are available from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, 333 Raspberry Rd., Anchorage, Alaska 99518, phone (907) 344-0541, or visit their website: Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Bring layers of clothes for the varying Alaska weather you might encounter. Being wet and cold is not the way to enjoy your stay.
And check what the weather will be at your cabin's location. Snow can occur any time of the year in some parts of the state.
Always confirm whether the cabin has mattresses, otherwise you'll need to bring a mattress pad and definitely a sleeping bag.
Reserve America is the booking system and there is a small transaction fee. Go to https://www.reserveamerica.com.
Head north or south
Get a view of Denali and the mighty Alaska Range at the Hunter Cabin. One late fall, I saw the Alaska Range double in size and reflected skyward in a Fata Morgana, a complex mirage, so that the range loomed above us. Not to be missed.
The Hunter is a brand, spanking new log cabin built in 2016, with a wood stove, table, benches, built-in
wood sleeping bunks, and a covered deck. A 16'x10' loft is accessed by spiral stairs for extra sleeping space or gear storage. No mattresses, bedding, or cookware are provided. A combination lock provides security on one door (combination provided upon reservation). There are vaulted toilets, waterless, non-flush toilets that store waste in a large airtight underground container (vault) - better known as outhouses. It is ADA accessible.
At MP135.4 George Parks Highway, Hunter is in K'esugi Ken Campground and two miles up a winding road and near the tent campground. All-wheel drive vehicles are recommended during winter months.
Head south to the Kenai Peninsula and the Beluga Cabin, available year-round, and just off Mile 101 of the Seward Highway. The cabin
is located on the south end of Bird Campground nestled in the birch trees just off the Indian to Girdwood National Recreation Trail and about 200 yards down the bike path. Access it in summer by bike or foot and in the winter by foot, snowshoe or skis.
A 16x20-foot log cabin nestled in the woods, it has four bunkbeds and a sleeping loft, a picnic table and a Monitor stove.
There is a stay limit of three nights and it accommodates one to eight guests. No pets are allowed.
Go farther south
Kachemak Bay is just down the road a piece and has several cabins. I have a soft spot in my heart for Tutka Bay near Homer, as Tutka Bay Lodge is where I had my first job in Alaska and my parents built a cabin nearby.
I've seen the Sea Star Cove Cabin as we passed by in the skiff and the waters around it are filled with all colors of starfish and colorful sea urchins - and you know that means lots of sea otters too.
Sitting above the bay, Sea Star Cove Cabin faces directly up Tutka Bay with a great view toward Eldred Passage and Cook Inlet.
Up to six people can spend seven days here and pets are allowed but on leash because there are other animals that view your pets as food on paws.
There are so many activities to do here - fishing, boating, kayaking, hiking, bird watching, and clamming, but get a license first. There are seals, porpoise and whales passing by. Bears are about, so be mindful of food and trash.
Check out all of the cabins that span the state and get out into the wild. Don't forget to pack out everything you packed in.