Originally inhabited by Alutiiq natives for over 7000 years, the city was settled in the 18th century by Russia. As part of the Alaska Purchase by the United States in 1867, Kodiak became a commercial fishing center which continues to this day. A lesser economic influence includes tourism, mainly by those seeking outdoor adventure trips. Salmon, halibut, the unique Kodiak Bear, elk, Sitka Deer (black tail), and mountain goats invite hunting tourists as well as fishermen to the Kodiak Archipelago.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game maintains an office in the city and a website to help hunters and fishermen obtain the proper permits and learn about the laws specific to the Kodiak area. The city has four public elementary schools, a middle and high school, as well as a branch of the University of Alaska. Transportation to and from the island is provided by ferry service on the Alaska Marine Highway as well as local commercial airlines.
What I enjoyed from Kodiak was the remoteness of the place. It was nice to get to a place where time seems to slow down and even though I was there only a week it didn’t feel rushed or short. We had a pretty low key time not truly going to deep into the island. Even still the breathtaking views from even the main parts of the island are some of the most beautiful I’ve seen in my short time on this planet.
We took several hikes, going up Old Women’s Mountain (called that due to the ease of the hike being for old women) which provides great views of Chiniak Bay, the Coast Guard base and Kodiak city and harbor. The surrounding mountain scenery is breathtaking. An old, washed out road leads up to the ridge. At the far end of the ridge you will see a small lake down and to the right. This is a popular swimming hole in summer.
After the easy hike up Old Women’s Mountain we made our way to Fort Abercrombie State Park. Loved by locals and travelers alike, this 182-acre state park has numerous trails, beaches, and rocky viewpoints. For history buffs, the trails take you past bunkers and relics from WWII outposts in the area.
We found numerous paths to follow. The loops open onto great cliff views, mossy forests, and fields of wildflowers. You can wander the beaches and check out the tide pools, or walk the 2.5-mile trail around Lake Gertrude. The meadow trail is filled with wildflowers in the summer.
One of our last trips was to the top of Pillar Mountain. One of the area’s more popular hikes (or drives, as there’s a road to the top), Pillar Mountain offers a moderate, 2.5-mile climb to an alpine summit overlooking town. Your heart, lungs, and legs may burn, but you’ll have great views and see excellent wildflowers, as most of the trail is above treeline. I recognized the peak, since it dominates the sky over Kodiak. And if you get winded on this hike, consider the runners who race up here in the annual Pillar Mountain Trail Race; the winners go up and back in just under an hour! There are multiple wind turbines on the mountain peak. The “Pillar Mountain Wind Project” is part of Kodiak’s goal of having 100% renewable energy; they hope to be at 95% in 2020. This energy will not only power homes and businesses, but the large fish processing plants in town as well.
Over all my time in Alaska was very short and I would love to return. It is certainly on my list of places to explore in more depth when time allows.