Just Returned From → Garibaldi Provincial Park, British Columbia. Headed To → Echo Valley Ranch, British Columbia.

Kodiak Island, Alaska: Bears, Beer and So Much More

kodiak-bear

Join me on a tour though Kodiak Island, Alaska—home to big bears, feisty salmon, rugged mountains a host of things you won’t expect.

In This Alaska Travel Article You Will Discover:

  • The Best Bear-Viewing Operation
  • Kodiak’s Most Stunning Hike
  • Craft Beer & Artisanal Coffee
  • Ocean-Going Adventures

Kodiak Island surprised me. Which shouldn’t have been surprising.

I knew little about the place before touching down last September in advance of the Adventure Travel World Summit. I knew it was on the southwestern coast of Alaska. I knew it harboured some really big bears. That was about it.

I didn’t know Kodiak is home to 14,000 people, as well as the largest Coast Guard base in America. I didn’t know it would be so mountainous, or so massive (second-largest island in the U.S.). I didn’t know we’d have to take a floatplane to find the famous bears—I thought they’d be just outside of town. And I definitely didn’t know there would be such great little coffee houses or such an outstanding microbrewery.

More surprises awaited me—like the decommissioned Second World War bunkers speckled throughout the mossy evergreens of Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park. The Yankees really took a Japanese invasion of Alaska seriously—the seven-metre-long cannons still on display are testament to that.

(History factoid: Japan did attack Alaska’s Aleutian Islands in 1942, and a joint U.S./Canadian force was sent to counter. It’s often dubbed “The Forgotten Battle,” despite being a significant military encounter that lasted for more than a year.)

I wandered Abercrombie Beach, famous for its abundance of heart-shaped stones. I hiked to the 2,500-foot-high summit of Pyramid Mountain alongside the chattiest guide I’ve ever met. I caught my limit of chinook salmon and halibut from the back of a 42-foot fishing vessel. My freezer will be full for months.

I hopped a kayak and followed Jennifer into the rough and frigid ocean. A new transplant to Kodiak, eager to make a name for herself as the premier kayak guide on the island, she was all smiles and positivity, even when the waves were breaking over our bows after gusts rushed in suddenly from across the North Pacific.

I met friendly locals, many of whom wore camouflage as business-casual and at least a couple of whom had custom U.S. Constitution paint-jobs on their jacked-up diesel pickup trucks. It is a not-so-subtle reminder that while Alaska looks like Canada—it feels like America.

I did a lot in five days. And all I expected was the bears.

I’ll be writing more about Kodiak Island in the Spring 2017 issue of explore magazine. Until then, follow my journey in these 10 photos:

kodiak-island

We flew 45 minutes over the mountainous inland of Kodiak Island, followed by the Shelikof Strait, to reach the bears of Katmai National Park.

alaskan-brown-bear

Technically, this is not a Kodiak bear, as we flew to the mainland to spot them. It’s an “Alaskan coastal brown bear.” The difference is only at a genetic level; it’s the same beast. (This fella weighed about 300 kilograms.)

brown-bear-viewing

The bears were remarkably non-threatening, and, frankly, disinterested in our presence. (See how relaxed I am?)

katmai-glacier

Hallo Glacier, Katmai National Park—10,000 years old, and melting.

abercrombie-bunker

Fascinating Second World War history abounds in Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park; some now being slowly reclaimed by nature.

abercrombie-beach

Abercrombie Beach is famous for its heart-shaped stones—I’m stepping on dozens of them right here.

kodiak-harbour

Kodiak’s harbour—busy with commercial and sport fishing, as well as the nearby 6,000-person Coast Guard base.

chinook-salmon

Fishing regulations were different that what I was used to back in Canada—I haven’t used barbed hooks for salmon in decades—but it is a good way to fill your freezer with fresh, organic seafood.

pyramid-mountain

Pyramid Mountain was an awesome hike with just enough exposure at the summit to get your heart racing a tad.

kodiak-kayaking

Once the waves got rougher, I had to put away my camera. Weather changes fast in Alaska. But it’s always beautiful, in its own way.

 

 

About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

5 comments… add one
  • David Webb Nov 3, 2016

    Ha ha, nope, no magic needed. I too have encountered bears elsewhere when the last thing I would have done was turned my back. But these ones were different—our guide had readied us for the possibility they might come right up to us for a sniff!

  • Dustin Nov 2, 2016

    Are you some kind of magician that has the power to completely erase your presence in front of bears? Seriously, that bear doesn’t look threatened at all. I used to run into huge brown bears a couple of times and the last thing I thought of was taking a selfie with my back turned on it!

    Anyway, fantastic pictures! It feels as if I was there too, enjoying the adventure.

  • Ashley Oct 30, 2016

    Wow, incredible pictures – I love your shot of the Alaskan coastal brown bear and the one from the float plane.

    And that’s pretty crazy that the bears were so disinterested in you that you had your back turned! When we saw brown bears in Alaska they checked us out for a while and then went on their way, but it definitely got my adrenaline going.

    I can’t wait to read the article, looks like a fun trip!

  • Steven Oct 26, 2016

    Kodiak island mostly i saw it on Discovery Channel and you are lucky to visit there and watching bear on their habitat

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