We sometimes laugh at many Alaskan “historic sites” which date all the way back to the 1940s or 1950s. Saint Nicholas Memorial Chapel sits atop the graves of Igumen Nicolai, his assistant Makari Ivanov, and an unrecorded monk, on the site of Soldotna’s original Russian Orthodox Church from 1840s.
The Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church was built 1894, and still holds church services regularly. The church community recently completed major preservation work and the church looks great. This is a real historic site, said to be the oldest Russian Orthodox Church in America.
The priest explained this church’s history and significance here and explained many of the icons and saints. We enjoyed listening to his explanations and answers to our many questions.
We followed the Old Town Kenai walking tour to view the eighteen named sites. Along the way we stumbled into Scout Park atop a bluff overlooking the river and across to the mountains. Click on Mt Iliamna and Mt Redoubt for information about these active volcanoes we were seeing.
Toured-out for the day, we needed a food or coffee fix. Veronica’s Coffee was way too busy, we couldn’t get in the door. But Burger Bus nearby has more seating and a great local reputation. Our burgers were fabulous, and the helpings of fries were generous. We had strength to make it through our next tour, our grocery shopping.
We barely made it back to Diamond M Ranch, our campground, in time for a nap before it was time for the great campfire. The good folks at Diamond M put on a huge campfire complete with marshmallows, graham cracker squares and chocolate. They even prepared 6′ long marshmallow roasting sticks for us. Afterward we stayed a long time visiting with the owners and each other before calling end to a long day.
Early this morning we’re at it again, walking up to the old double-decker bus for fresh rolls and coffee. Another beautiful day, we have been so blessed with great weather on this caravan. We ate our yummy rolls upstairs in the bus and talked with the owner’s sister and brother-in-law, both teachers who spent several years teaching in the Alaskan bush. Neat folks, we enjoyed meeting them.
A morning walk in the woods is a great idea after hot rolls and coffee and we were lucky to have Blair, the owner, leading us through their 80-acre wooded campus. He showed us around the barn and to the bluff overlooking the river, explaining to us history of this local area.
We had an interesting conversation with Blair about the newest building on the Diamond M Ranch, the future resort. He built his large new building with a cool structural styrofoam/concrete building block called ICF by LOGIX. 5.5 inches of foam serve as the form for poured concrete walls and provide vapor barrier and system R-value north of 25. Interesting system, seems very strong.
We toured the very interesting Kenai Visitors Center and returned to Diamond M in time for dinner hosted by Ronna and Blair. They served baked or grilled fresh salmon and a salad with freshly picked lettuce. The food was divine and the dining area very cool, literally and figuratively. We ate on their second floor deck, twenty feet up, with a great view to the north.
Soldotna and Kenai pleasantly surprised us — we badly underestimated the attractions and Diamond M Ranch. Lots to see and do, more than we can handle in just two days. We’ll look forward to another visit to see how Blair’s Diamond M Ranch Resort is developing and to catch more sights and experiences here.
Jim and Debbie
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