Kodiak has its own unique subspecies of grizzly bear, the Kodiak bear. The bear is the only large mammal indigenous to the island and generally is non aggressive. However it's best to stay out of their way as it would not be a fair fight.
Pronounced Bah-RON-ov by the locals and those in the know, the Baranov House or Museum is the best representation in town of Kodiak's non-Indian history. The house itself looks fairly modern, in part from extensive renovation after the 1964 earthquake and tsunami. Fortunately, the original house was spared demolition after this catastrophe, and remains the only log building in town still occupying its original site. The interior is well-preserved (or restored), and features a wonderful panorama of early Kodiak life and industries. Admission is $2 for non-members of the Historical Society.
Properly known as the Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Church or Cathedral, this simple white construction with blue onion domes is the fourth building to occupy this site since the Russians built their first parish church here in the late 18th century. The present cathedral was completed just after World War II, and was restored after the tsunami in 1964. The interior follows a simple design, the altar being decorated with icons and other emblems of the church, as well as the tomb of St Herman, Kodiak's patron saint. Photography is not permitted inside, but visitors are welcome.
In the churchyard of the Russian Orthodox Church lie the graves of past Russian adherents to the diocese. Along with the fur trading and otter hunting, the Russians brought a religious culture that has thrived on Kodiak since 1794. While the tomb of St Herman inside the building contains relics of the saint's life, the mortal remains of other prominent churchmen lie outside on a quiet corner of the lawn.
A little farther up the road from the Russian Orthodox Church stands the St Herman Orthodox Theological Seminary, centered by the wooden chapel with small onion domes. Built entirely of wood without a trace of paint, the chapel is a replica of the first Russian Orthodox church built in 1794 (since 1947 rebuilt on a larger scale down the street). St Herman's Seminary stands adjacent to the pastoral school's campus and student housing (for married and unmarried, Alaska natives and non-natives alike). Unlike the main church, photography is permitted inside the seminary.
Icons are an important symbol in the Russian Orthodox Church. The icons inside St Herman's Seminary are the works of master Russian iconographers (the most prominent among them residing in California), who occasionally make visits to the Alaskan dioceses. At present the chapel's interior is largely unembellished, having a simple altar where most of the icons are hung. Elsewhere inside, the wooden walls are only slightly better "proofed" than the exterior.
Of the major works inside St Herman's Seminary (chapel), the highest icon is the face of Christ above the altar. Behind the podia is a large icon of Jesus and Mary, and in the lefthand corner of the stage is a large work of St Innocent (Russian name Ioann Veniaminov), who established and organized the first Russian Orthodox school in North America at Sitka in 1844. He probably stands next in importance to St Herman in the Kodiak diocese.
Kodiak is well known for great sportfishing. You can get on a charter boat for the day for about $250 each and fish the local ocean waters or you can bring your own pole (or buy one locally) and fish the numerous rivers on Kodiak's road system.
Some local favorite creeks are the Buskin River (very close to the airport) and the American River about 30 minutes south. King Salmon run from April to August, Sockeye (reds) in June and July, Pinks from July to September, and Dolly Varden almost year round.
Nonresident fishing licenses run $20 for a day, $35 for 3 days, 7 days for $55.
A favorite of mine is to fish ocean run king salmon on a day charter. In August of 08 I spent a half day on the FV Three Bears, a great experience. A larger boat with plenty of room and ammenities.
Kodiak is home to the country's largest USCG Base, home to several cutters, a buoy tender and an aviation/search and rescue base. Over 5000 folks are based out of Kodiak USCG.
I've been on the USCG base here in Kodiak many times times but I just called there to make sure nothing had changed (487-5555). At the gate they will direct you to the security office for a day pass. You do need a specific destination/purpose for going onto the base. If you were based here before and some time has passed, security will also help you find where you worked and lived back then, because you won't recognize much as it is always growing and changing.
Just need a picture ID and vehicle registration/rental agreement. Good luck and have fun!
Kodiak has an amazing stretch of paved road heading south out of town for 40 miles. At the end of those very scenic forty miles you come to a T. A left turn takes you to Chiniak and a right takes you to Pasagshak and the rocket launch facility. Chiniak calls itself a town but there isn't anything you'd recognize as such. A post office and a school and a library. No stores but quite a few homes.
It is a wonderful feeling of freedom to be able to hop in the car and go for a drive, especially after 18 years living on a much smaller island with a whole lot less road.
All along the way are secluded beaches with spectacular vistas and miles of shoreline to beach comb. Lots of creeks and rivers with salmon. Bears. Sheep. Deer.
We've made the drive several times now. Our favorites (so far) is Myrtle Beach just before your reach Chiniak, and Fossil Beach at the end of the Pasagshak road.
We live about a mile from this beautiful park and it is a favorite walk of ours. The park is a huge, dense, grove of Sitka Spruce on the waters edge with many trails, Lake Gertrude, wildflower meadows, World War II bunkers and artillery pieces. We discover something new each time we go.
Our favorite walk so far is the 2.5 mile trail around Lake Gertrude. The midway point has a few picnic benches right on the ocean. There are other picnicing areas around the lake.
We have seen a few black tailed deer and signs of recent bear activity (a euphamism for bear poop). For being so close to town it is amazing how often we haven't seen another soul on the trail.
There is a small number of campsites here, mainly designed for tent camping and smaller RVs. Larger RVs should try Buskin River close to the airport.
There is a WWII museum inside a bunker but we are always there after it is closed.
A newer building set on a hill two blocks from the ferry terminal, the Alutiiq Museum has an outstanding collection of pre- and post contact Alutiiq artifacts. As well as a museum it has an extensive archaelogical repository and is quickly becoming the center of preserving Alutiiq culture and language.
This summer (2008) they have on display on good portion of Pinart's collection. A young French anthropologist who visited Kodiak and other parts of Alaska in the 1870's, he collected an amazing number of masks, boat models, bowls, spoons, etc and they have been well maintained at the Chateau Musee in Boulogne, France. To see them back home again is a moving experience.
The oldest Russian building in Alaska, The Baranov Museum sits on a slight rise overlooking the ferry terminal downtown. The ground floor is filled with artifacts from the Russian Era and before that. Took me a few hours to go through the exhibits quickly - plan on returning and spending the day there. A 3 man skin kayak from the 1800's hangs from the ceiling. Several rooms have been furnished as they were when this was the Erskin House, home of a Russian Fur Trader. Fascinating stuff.
A small park surrounds the house with some benches to rest and look over the water from. We sat on what we thought was a log - turned out to be whale bones.
Get out and enjoy life, specially here on our beautiful Island. Beg, Borrow, or Deal to get your hands on a ATV and ride out to Saltry Cove for a great fishing and camping adventure.
The "Camping" part is not for everyone though, because of the fact the Kodiak Bear lingers all over, and ventures to all the rivers "Hot" spots too. It's like, First Come First Served! So get up early and claim your area. Usually the Bear won't kick you out. But it is best to keep your distance, and Make Some Distance even while taking pictures!
Don't forget the 3 C's. On this type of trip- Common Sense, Camara, and a Cooler with food and water. Wearing a Helment is "Automatics" so it's part of the common sense thing. And yes, it is a good idea to take a First-Aid Kit, and maybe a Tow Strap as you can see in the picture after a good rain, there are areas that may be a little deep.
I hope you enjoy your journey as I do 4 or 5 times a year.
Alternately known as the Erskine House, the Baranov Museum once served as the home of William Erskine, an employee of the Alaska Commercial Co., a natural descendant of the Russian commercial activities on Kodiak. From 1911 to 1948, the year of Erskine's death, both he and his wife lived in the Baranov House, leaving a charming trace of an early Kodiak livelihood in the home. In 1962 the setting was preserved as a National Historic Landmark, the home still showing its earlier Russian and American influences.
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