“To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world.” – John Muir
Alaska! What do you think of when you hear the word? I'm sure it's different for everyone. For me, I think of wilderness, wildlife, boats, and beautiful, pristine landscapes surrounded by clear water. But how many people actually experience Alaska? Many people opt for an Alaskan cruise and that's fine if that's your gig - but if one wants to truly appreciate this rugged state, one has to become immersed in it...and that takes a little more effort. In the paragraphs that follow, I will relate our adventure in the Kodiak area. So, if you are interested...read on!
Let's face it - Unless you live in the Pacific Northwest, getting to Alaska is a major endeavor requiring at least two plane legs and probably more. A couple of tips:
#1. Plan ahead. Book your flights as early as possible for reduced cost and greater availability. This also applies to accommodations for your final destination. Lodging is at a premium during the short summer season and fills up quickly in Alaska so think about making reservations for your final destination at least 6 months in advance and maybe even one year or two years ahead for optimal timing.
#2. Allow yourself plenty of time to travel. No doubt there could be weather delays, etc., so give yourself plenty of wiggle room. Considering how far you must travel, you might need to stay overnight in Seattle...hopefully you won't but don't rule that out. If your plans take you to remote areas beyond Anchorage or Juneau, the two major airports of the state, you might need to consider an overnight before heading for your final destination. A good lodge will be happy to advise you in this regard. When we went on this adventure in the summer of 2018, it was Jim's 14th trip to Alaska and my 4th. I can't say yet I'm a seasoned traveler to this wonderful state, but I think you can agree that he is!
Kodiak was not our final destination on this adventure but is still a nice place to visit. We elected to stay overnight on the front and back ends of our trip at the Best Western Kodiak Inn and Convention Center, http://www.kodiakinn.com due to possible weather delays. Alaska has some of the most fickle weather with fog often being the culprit in the summer.
The rooms at the Best Western are comfortable with a complimentary breakfast and the staff is friendly. They have a concierge that assists in coordinating shuttles to and from the airport plus they will facilitate small plane taxi service to remote areas if asked. In addition, they will offer advice for things to do while you wait out the weather or the timing of your flight. The on-site Chart Room restaurant has good food - no need to search further if you are tired after a long journey.
Kodiak is a small town, very walkable with the marina being just a short distance from the hotel. When the sun shines in Kodiak, it is a bluebird kind of day which you can see from my photos below. On a foggy day, the moodiness provides an ambiance inherent of Alaska.
Monk's Rock Coffee House and Bookstore
An easy walk from the Best Western Kodiak, Monk's Rock Coffee House will satisfy your desire for a delicious latte and fresh pastry. Breakfast and lunch fare is also available in a cozy environment. Religious icons, books, and trinkets are for sale in the bookstore.
Still walkable but further distance than Monk's Rock Coffee House is the Japanese Hana Restaurant serving fresh seafood and vegetables. If the weather is warm enough, sit outside on the balcony and watch the boats and ships as they cruise the channel leading out to the open water. Bald eagles and other birds and wildlife are known to make appearances within view.
The Baranov Museum
Touted as the oldest building in Alaska, the Russian American Magazin was built in 1808 and served as a warehouse for the Russian - American Company when Alaska was still part of Russia. Here you can browse the history of Alaskan trapping and fur trading back in the days before Alaska was bought by the United States on March 30, 1867, for the sum of $7.2 million.
Also in 1867, the Russian - American Company was sold to merchants in San Francisco with the new company being renamed the Alaska Commercial Company Station. Still being used as a major site for outfitters, the building housed people who worked there in addition to supplying trappers and hunters with the provisions needed before setting out into the wilderness.
There is a famous story about a murder which took place in this building in 1886. An employee, Benjamin McIntyre, was sitting at the table one evening finishing his dinner when a gunshot was heard followed by Benjamin immediately slumping over his dinner plate. The murderer, who shot through the window and killed him from behind, was never found. The most likely motive was an unhappy customer upset with McIntyre for not outfitting him with his requested provisions using credit instead of full payment. For more information go to:
Quartz Creek Lodge
Quartz Creek Lodge, Alaska
Now for the real reason we are here. We have a cabin booked at Quartz Creek Lodge on the shores of Uganik Bay, surrounded by the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, and the only way to get there is either an 8-hour boat ride or 45 minutes in a floatplane. We chose the floatplane. Andrews Airways took us and two other guests on a beautiful, sunny day - a perfect day for flying. Jim, who has always been a bit nervous in small planes, asked to sit upfront in the right seat. My mountain man is getting braver on each trip!
David and Pam Pingree own the lodge and two of their five children, Aaron and Faith, help with running the operation. Pam is a native of Kodiak and the two fell in love when David was stationed there as part of the Coast Guard. After purchasing the land on which to build their dream, they started a family and at the same time, they started building the lodge - by hand. Each board, each nail - hammered by family or dear friends who showed up, weather permitting, to assist. Large items such as beams and windows were ordered and then delivered by barge. Smaller items were brought by floatplane. After hearing their stories and turning the pages in their photo album, I think you would agree that this family is pioneer material. Still off the grid, their power is generated by a hydro turbine David built and installed by hand in the creek, solar panels or diesel generators. The individual cabins are heated and quite cozy.
Pam and her daughter, Faith prepare some of the most delicious meals you will find anywhere. Second and third helpings are not frowned upon, and my guess is you will ask for her cookbook before you leave. Meals are served family-style in the main lodge with organic fruits, herbs, and vegetables grown in her garden. One evening we had a crab boil with the crabs caught right in front of the lodge. Talk about fresh!
David took us out every day in his boat looking for wildlife, but we didn't have to look hard, because he knows every creature within 25 miles, and some he calls by name. There are just two permits allowing tourism in the area, and David holds one of them. That being said, we never saw another boat on Uganik Bay - it was just us and the natural world. An amazing experience. I hope you enjoyed the video of our trip to Quartz Creek.
You can read more about Quartz Creek Lodge here: http://www.quartzcreeklodge.com
Comments? I'd love to hear from you!
- No Comments