Leppkes in Alaska: Couple sees the sights in Last Frontier
After Wilbur Leppke's parents were no longer able to travel to Alaska, Wilbur and Helen began flying there in the summertime after wheat harvest. They have been to Alaska and the "Gaede Eighty" 13 times since 1991.
They have observed as tourism has grown to be big business in the Kenai Peninsula. During their stays in Alaska, they have joined tourists in traveling to many other parts of the state.
The peninsula, which juts out into the Gulf of Alaska from the southern coast of Alaska, has a moderate climate, with summertime highs in the 60s and wintertime highs in the 20s. Wilbur said the temperature dips into the mid-40s by the middle of August. Extreme temperatures and temperature swings are common.
The Kenai Peninsula is one of the few places in Alaska where crops can be cultivated.
The road which goes by the Gaede homestead is named Gaede Street. The homestead is four miles from the nearest town, Soldotna, a city of approximately 4,000, and three and one-half miles from the peninsula's western coast along Cook Inlet.
There are only two to three hours of darkness during the summer months. Asked how they can sleep when it's light almost all night, Helen said, "We close the curtains and go to bed."
The Leppkes noted that cool season produce such as cabbage, carrots, and rhubarb grows huge in Alaska. Wild cranberries are abundant in the fall.
"The air is so fresh," Helen commented.
During their first few trips to Alaska, the Leppkes renovated the original cabin. It was their summer lodge, but in the winter of 2005, fire damaged it. The building was demolished in 2007. Naomi is building a new one.
Wilbur, 74, and Helen, 69, won't be going to Alaska this summer but plan to go back in 2009. Helen said she would like to live there year round, but Wilbur said it's too cold. Being a farmer who likes to spend most of his time outdoors, that's understandable.