"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa
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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Summit Lake Lodge's Big Reveal




The history of roadhouses in Alaska isn’t very long, mostly because Alaska hasn’t had roads for very long.  Before the construction of roads for wagons or vehicles, roadhouses were located about as far as a man carrying a heavy pack could walk in a day, or as far as a dog team could carry freight in a day.  Their locations didn’t seem to follow a set plan, but more a fortuitous place where there were trees for firewood and water for drinking.

Alaskan roadhouses were places of safety and necessity and comfort and very loved and appreciated, thus they do not carry the usual stigma usually attached to  "roadhouse." They were as important to Alaska as the Pony Express stations were to the Old West.








Sourdough Roadhouse, Richardson Highway

Some were simple cabins, a place where a traveler could find a meal and a place to lie down.  Others were elaborate affairs near settlements.  After the roads were built, many roadhouses became well-known for their food and the traveling public looked forward to stopping for a meal, or in the case of Eureka Lodge, a piece of pie.
 
One by one, the famous roadhouses disappeared—many succumbed to fire.   You would plan to stop at a certain roadhouse for a meal and all that was there was a scorched chimney standing in the ruins.  Others closed because of  the economics of the changing times and the construction of newer, more direct routes from city to city.


Alaska Nellie's Grandview Roadhouse on the rails north of Moose Pass





Alaska Nellie at right

A roadhouse in Moose Pass that became known as The Jockey Club, and now as Trail Lake Lodge.




The ones that survived evolved into businesses much more grand.



Eureka Lodge, the "pie place" north of Anchorage, is still in business because it evolved with the changing times.



Such is the case with Summit Lake Lodge on the Kenai Peninsula, which opened for business in 1954, just in time to serve travelers on the newly completed Seward Highway from Seward to Anchorage.   Once a popular roadhouse in the finest tradition, the lodge had its ups and downs through various operators.   They weren’t owners in the true sense of the word because the lodge was located in the Chugach National Forest, and the land was leased to those who operated the restaurant.



Approaching Summit Lake Lodge from the south.

 
Times and circumstances continued to change, and thirty years ago Marty and June Arnoldy purchased the lease.  Their dedication and hard work has made the lodge one of the most popular places on the Kenai Peninsula.









From the typical roadhouse meal and a bed, the Arnoldy’s changed their business plan to accommodate the crowds of folks that head to the fishing grounds of the peninsula.  They expanded the restaurant after a few summers of lines of prospective diners out the door, waiting for a vacant table.   They remodeled the few cozy motel rooms.

Eventually they were able to purchase the land from the Forest Service, allowing them to make many changes without exhaustive reviews.  Some of the employee housing cabins were turned into nightly rental cabins a couple years ago.   A gift shop/ice cream parlor was built, then a few years later the space allotted the gift shop portion of the log building shank considerably and a pizza/pie/dessert section built in its place, and the main restaurant began serving more upscale meals.   Geothermal heating was installed, drastically lowering their heat and domestic water bills, as well as providing a non-stop supply of hot water for the restaurant.



The guest lounge






The restaurant.

A few years ago, the Arnoldy’s, exhausted at the end of a long summer with more than 50 employees, put the lodge up for sale.   They started closing during the lean winter months, giving themselves a break.   Then, they once again modified their business plan.   They removed the for sale sign and remodeled part of the restaurant into a pleasant lounge for their motel guests.









Front part of the original motel rooms.


On Saturday, May 16, the Arnoldy’s welcomed a number of invited friends to the Big Reveal of their eight brand new deluxe lakeside cabins, and I was one of the guests.   This is yet another step in an evolving business plan that they hope will make the lodge into a destination place, rather than a stop-eat-and go lodge.   They now have 16 deluxe cabins for overnight rental.







The party began in the bar where beer and wine was complimentary, and appetizers were wolfed down.   Then a dinner, featuring either macadamia nut encrusted halibut or stuffed roast pork tenderloin and Fruits of the Forest (mixed berry with rhubarb) pie and ice cream.















Appetizers



My roast pork with garlic mashed potatoes and green beans.



Mac nut crusted halibut.









Marty and June, center.



The Arnoldy’s had booked Alaska musician Hobo Jim for after-dinner entertainment, but he was stuck in Nashville.  I went to my cabin to enjoy it. 































 

Shower stall floor.







Robe hook











The black bar at top is a pull-down screen for privacy.







Within a week, all this was green with new grass.












































 
After watching the various ducks and gulls in front of my cabin, in had a great night’s sleep.




Mergansers in front of my cabin.










Midnight.   Soon, it will be light all night.


Kudos to Marty and June for their success.   The meals, the cabin, and the view were wonderful.