For months I had been planning my summer trip to Kodiak, Alaska and I was excited. I told everyone I ran into that I was headed there, and without exception they questioned me on my choice of destinations. I was somewhat at a loss – there was no particular reason I could point to. Somewhere over the years I must have seen pictures of the island and stored away the knowledge that it was a beautiful place. I knew about the bears, but I wasn’t making a trek for that reason. I just knew something internal was telling me that I needed to go there, and so I headed to Alaska to follow my internal voice.
I am so glad that I found my way to Kodiak Island. From the original approach of the island by air, to my last glimpses of it as I ascended into the fog to return to mainland Alaska I was enthralled by Kodiak’s beauty. As I talked to the locals, I expected to hear a lot of people tell me that they were native to Kodiak. I didn’t. But I did hear the same story over and over again. They came, fell in love with the island, and have been there ever since. It was easy to see how that could happen. It is easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.
Kodiak Island is second in size to America’s largest island – Hawaii’s Big Island. However, it far outshines all competitors in shoreline. There are an impressive 1,343 miles, whereas the Big Island can boast only 266. Most of the employment on this working class island is centered on the fishing industry. Kodiak’s St. Paul harbor was full of fishing boats, and the large cannery in town had a large, full parking lot. Maybe I didn’t find many natives because they weren’t walking in the city by day for me to run into. They were working.
This was a kid-free journey for me. I find it important to travel alone occasionally, and enjoy it immensely.
However, I couldn’t help noticing all the things my children would absolutely love about Kodiak! The opportunities are incredible, and range from easy to advanced. They’d have an absolute blast exploring the tidal pools, and could spend hours finding fossils and shells on the beaches. When I return, I’m positive I will have my children in tow.
While I would think twice about bringing my children along with me to watch the bears at their current ages, I know they would love that. Well, my thrill seeking son would love it. My daughter might find the danger too high to truly enjoy the experience. They would both enjoy watching the other wildlife on the island, like the salmon runs and bald eagles.
Blessed by clear blue skies, I took as many photos as my memory card would allow. While I didn’t know anything but this beautiful weather, locals told me that I was lucky to have it during my all of my visit until the morning I left. “Back in World War II, the Japanese flew over three times to bomb us. Couldn’t find us with all the fog! Never did bomb us once!” I was told laughingly by one. (More on this in Part 2)
That sheltering fog is a double-edged sword, sometimes keeping air traffic from being able to aircraft from being able to service the island. The ferry comes to Kodiak, but to travel that way is slow and sometimes impractical. But, such is the price you pay for living in such a beautiful place I suppose.
Fog isn’t the only thing that Kodiak Islanders have to worry about. Volcanoes are a part of the Alaskan landscape, and at least 6 lie directly across the Shelikof strait on the Alaskan mainland. The most destructive one was Novarupta in 1912. This volcano was created during this eruption which released over 30 times as much magma as the 1980 erruption by Mount St. Helen’s. Ash rained down on the island for three straight days, killing virtually all wildlife on the island. There was so much ash, that strong winds can still stir up ash from that eruption and causing a haze over Kodiak a whole century later.
Alaska is also home to earthquakes, and Kodiak is no exception Kodiak was part of the epicenter of the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake, and was hit by the resulting tsunami. The loss of life was low for such an event, but the damage was staggering. This event leveled many of the waterfront businesses in the city of Kodiak, and demolished several coastal villages on the island. Yet both the people and landscape of Kodiak have bounced back from these disasters to become vibrant and beautiful. And I fell in love!
To be continued…
Historical 1964 photo was a creative commons find. All other photography is mine.