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: