By Joseph Robertia
From four-wheeler riders mudding in spring and summer, to hunters in fall, and to snowmachiners and dog mushers in winter, the Caribou Hills beckons temptingly to many who enjoy the outdoors.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a cabin there, though. For those who don’t, new ownership of a well-known establishment at Mile 16 of Oil Well Road will offer weary travelers some respite.
“People in the Caribou Hills needed a place and we wanted to give it to them,” said Lynn Pollard.
She and her husband, Freddie, have been working hard for the past year to renovate the structures and property of the old Rocky’s Straight-In Lodge, now called Freddie’s Roadhouse.
“My husband always liked the place when it was Rocky’s, and was sad when it closed,” Pollard said.
The establishment went on the real-estate market, and the Pollards made their move.
“The price was right,” she said. “I don’t think we’ll ever make money on it, but that wasn’t the goal. The goal was to give people a place to come and have fun, and that it’s more of a family establishment than a bar atmosphere.”
The Pollards have renovated the six cabins and two rooms for rent within the roadhouse, all of which have heat and electricity. They have also created a website and Facebook page. On the latter, they make regular updates about snow conditions in the hills and trails, some of which they are maintaining with grooming equipment until there is enough snow for the Caribou Hills Cabin Hoppers to break out its much-larger trail groomers.
“My husband is hoping to get snowmachine races going again up there, so he bought a groomer to work on a race strip and he has been putting in the Straight-In Trail,” Lynn said.
As fall turned to winter, Freddie’s has been staying open seven days a week, rather than five. Tawny Osmar manages the roadhouse during the week and said the place has been staying busy.
“We’ve got it going on,” she said. “In addition to the cabin and room rentals, we’ve got a restaurant where we serve burgers, Phillies, chicken strips and things like that. We serve beer and wine. We sell gas. We have Wi-Fi, and a big TV, and lots of games for families tired of sitting around their cabins — pinball, foosball, air hockey and pool.”
Osmar said that, in summer, most of the clientele were locals from Kenai, Soldotna or Ninilchik, but as snow has flown travelers from farther away are starting to stop in.
“We have a lot of people on day trips come up and stop in for lunch or a drink and then head back down, but we’re also starting to get cabin rentals from people coming down for the weekend from Anchorage, Eagle River and all over.”
With few other lodges open to the public in the Caribou Hills, and the Clam Shell Lodge no longer open to host races, fundraisers and other events, Steve Attleson, a board member with the Caribou Hills Cabin Hoppers, said that having a roadhouse on the road system is a boom for snowmachiners and others.
“It is, for sure, nice to have the place open again,” he said. “In addition to the food, drinks and lodging, there is plenty of room for parking. You could easily park 100 snowmachines or better there. So, for what we’re trying to do with our Napa Fun Run, the (Way Out Women) Ride, and helping with the (Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race), this should make a great place to stop, start or gather.”
Even when not taking part in an organized event, Attleson said that the roadhouse is a tempting treat after spending a day in the cold and wind.
“When getting together to go for a ride, it’s nice to have a place to go in, warm up, dry off and get some lunch before turning around and heading home,” he said.
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