Paddling in the Kodiak Archipelago, Alaska

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Philip.AK, Jul 3, 2012.

  1. Philip.AK

    Philip.AK Paddler

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2012
    Messages:
    143
    Location:
    Kodiak, Alaska
    I've lived in Kodiak for over 20 years now, and have paddled a lot of southcentral Alaska in that time. Kodiak has some of the best sea kayaking in the state that I have seen. A combination of abundant wildlife, quiet and undeveloped coastline, and lots of bays and beaches make this place accessible while plenty of exposed coast and capes make it a challenge. Looking around this site turns up precious little regarding my corner of Alaska, so I figure I'll whet a few appetites for those curious about the Emerald Isle.

    First, a map. Kodiak is a bit under 4,000 square miles and the island north of us, Afognak, is 700 square miles. There are many many other islands in the archipelago:

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    To give you an idea what paddling here is like, recently I did a quick trip into Ugak Bay which is accessible from the (rather tiny) road system on Kodiak in Pasagshak Bay. Here are a few shots from that 3-day 2-night trip.

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    Sea stacks outside Pasagshak:

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    I started late in the afternoon, so I camped soon after at Shark Point between Pasagshak and Portage. This is a shot from my campsite looking out, with the Gulf of Alaska on the left, and Ugak Bay on the right:

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    Below the peninsula I was standing on was the most proto-beginning of a sea arch forming. It was about 8 feet tall and 2 feet wide. I climbed through into the setting sun:

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    Sitka black tail deer on the beach the next morning:

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    Heading up Ugak and passing horned puffins:

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    A local seiner catching salmon:

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    Kodiak has about 600 nesting pairs of bald eagles (aka dump ducks):

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    At the head of Ugak Bay is Hidden Basin:

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    Black-legged kittiwakes in the tens of thousands:

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    Arctic terns are among my favorites:

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    Oyster catchers are among my least favorite (they are sort of like car alarms in the wilderness- going off at all hours for no good reason):

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    Lots of harbor seals:

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    Plenty of beaches to camp on:

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    More eagles:

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    A MONSTROUS nest:

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    A large arch under a haystack rock:

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  2. Jurfie

    Jurfie Paddler

    Joined:
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    Messages:
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    Location:
    Semiahmoo, South Surrey, BC
    :shock: WOW! Thanks for posting; great pics!

    I've been to Alaska a few times, but not that far north/west. Looks like I need to make another trip one day! :big_thumb
     
  3. Philip.AK

    Philip.AK Paddler

    Joined:
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    Messages:
    143
    Location:
    Kodiak, Alaska
    Just north of the city of Kodiak is a lovely little island called Spruce Island. You could paddle around it in a single day (I have), but it's a long grunt and so better split into two days. It would be a shame to pass up on some of the incredible camping possibilities anyway. Here is my recent route. Blue is paddling, and green is hiking:

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    Leaving town in Monashka Bay and heading west:

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    Lunch by a babbling brook:

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    The ever-optimistic spruce tree:

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    Sea foam at the triplets:

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    Just under the north cape of Spruce Island is an isthmus where you can portage a very short distance into a lagoon which is connected to a bay on the other side of the cape. In this photo I am landing in the cove that marks the western access to the portage:

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    A quick trip through some spruce trees...

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    ...leads to Seldevoe Lagoon. The inlet/outlet of the lagoon is tidally influenced, and only goes slack at around 8' of tide. I naturally never time it right, but no worries since there are other easy portages to avoid the narrow and dog-legged channel:

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    The second portage is also a great place to camp, so I did.

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    The forest on Spruce Is is pretty amazing, so I took an evening hike out to the north cape to watch the salmon seiners do their thing.

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    Looking down on Seldevoe Lagoon while hiking on the north dome of Spruce Is:

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    There are lots of puddle-ponds dotting the forest:

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    Lush is the operative word for coastal Alaska:

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    A duck's nest hidden among the spruce and moss:

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    At North Cape I watched 5 seiners taking turns making sets in the evening light. Kodiak has a thriving fishing industry. My wife runs a commercial setnet operation on the west side of Kodiak in the summers, otherwise she would have been with me. The island in the distance in the next to shots is Afognak. The next post will be about that one. :D

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    Shooting stars:

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    The east side of Kodiak is exposed to the open Pacific:

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    Back in camp around 11pm, the light over the lagoon was lovely:

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    Looking east in the direction I would be headed the next day showed Mount Herman in alpenglow:

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    The inlet/outlet flow had changed direction and was now rushing into the lagoon:

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    The next morning was beautiful and I made my way along the northeast shore of Spruce Island.

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    Alaska was colonized by the Russians (long after Native people lived here) who came for furs, but also brought Russian Orthodoxy to the new world. Kodiak, and Spruce Island specifically, was home to the new world's only Russian Orthodox saint, St Herman. He ran an orphanage on Spruce Island in Icon Bay/Monk's Lagoon in the early 1900's for kids whose parents' died in the influenze epidemic. Events in his life were deemed miraculous and he was canonized. The site where he lived became holy, and while largely abandoned, the buildings are still kept up and really pretty amazing considering they are in the middle of wilderness.

    The monastery on the beach in Icon Bay, with Mount Herman in the background. My plan was to hike to the top.

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    I parked my kayak and walked amongst the buildings. Some old, some newer. Days or even weeks may go by with no one visiting this place. It's remote and very peaceful.

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    This is a tiny chapel at the end of the beach. Two people inside would be a crowd.

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    The iconography inside is spectacular. This is looking at the back wall and ceiling. The four scenes surrounding the image of Jesus are of St Herman's life:

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    St Herman is usually depicted standing on Monk's Rock (an actual sea mount- see below) with Spruce Island in the background:

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    Passing by St Herman's spring where a miracle was said to have occurred:

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    A larger church back in the forest:

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    Starting the climb of Mt Herman (in background):

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    On the ridge looking down at Icon Bay:

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    The top of Mt Herman is at the end of the ridge on the left:

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    The area where I camped the night before:

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    The new cross replacing the old wooden one is impressive:

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    Eagles rode the wind below the peak:

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    The peninsula partially obscured by the top of the rock cairne is where the city of Kodiak is, and my destination (after a descending the mountain and taking a quick nap on the beach):

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    Hiking down:

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    The lakes in the forest have thick lily pads:

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    Paddling by Monk's Rock on my way home:

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  4. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

    Joined:
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    Messages:
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    Location:
    Victoria, BC
    Fantastic pics and trip notes! :big_thumb @
    Thanks!
     
  5. Philip.AK

    Philip.AK Paddler

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2012
    Messages:
    143
    Location:
    Kodiak, Alaska
    Last summer I paddled around the large island north of Kodiak called Afognak. It was a 210-mile solo trip (I do almost all my trips by myself since my wife fishes in the summers) I did in 6 days. I want to do it again this summer. The island north of Afognak is Shuyak, which is possibly the most spectacular and idyllic place to dip a paddle in Alaska. I made a slideshow/video of my trip last summer and posted it to vimeo.

    https://vimeo.com/26152533

    If you're not sure you want to watch the video, here are a couple of stills from my trip to help you make up your mind. :wink:

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  6. Tootsall

    Tootsall Paddler

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2008
    Messages:
    661
    Location:
    Southern Alberta
    Philip, looks like you live in an incredible place that you have all by yourself: too bad because after posting those great reports I rather suspect you're about to get company!

    Thanks.
     
  7. tharg

    tharg Paddler

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2010
    Messages:
    13
    Looks great. Nice photos.

    What is the sunny day versus rain day ratio?
    All I got in SE Alaska was 1 in 7.
    The 1 good day was fantastic though :D

    Thanks,
    Tom.
     
  8. BigandSmall

    BigandSmall Paddler

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2012
    Messages:
    233
    Location:
    Northern BC (FSJ)
    Thank you for posting this report. Beautiful pictures and fabulous video editing. I'm looking forward to showing it to my family later.

    Mike.
     
  9. mbiraman

    mbiraman Paddler

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2010
    Messages:
    300
    Location:
    west kootenays
    Great pics. Beautiful area. Thanks
     
  10. Philip.AK

    Philip.AK Paddler

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2012
    Messages:
    143
    Location:
    Kodiak, Alaska
    Thanks for all the kind words. Life up here is pretty good, I must say.

    That varies considerably. We sometimes have wet, cool summers, and sometimes it's quite dry and sunny. Three years ago there wasn't a cloud in the sky for all of June and half of July. It was hot and dusty (well, as dusty as lush Kodiak can get). During other summers we get one Aleutian low after the other and it can rain and blow big time. In general, however, I'd venture to say that we get better weather than Southeast AK. Probably more wind, but a little less rain, and when the rain does fall it falls harder so we get it over with faster. :wink: The east side of Kodiak is the wettest with about 65 inches of precip per year. The west side of the island is drier with some spots getting barely 1/3 that much. I usually look for a good 2-3 day forecast, and after that you just take your chances. Anything beyond 3 days out is pure guesswork by NOAA. So far this spring has been very nice. :big_thumb
     
  11. pryaker

    pryaker Paddler

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2010
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    198
    Location:
    Powell River BC
    Holy Crap, I just spent a bunch of this morning looking through your posts and videos and like everyone else am in awe! My wife is going to go nuts when she sees them and probably start planning a visit. I'd show them to her now but she's currently here:




    She has talked about going up there in the future and your photos and videos make it more likely I'll go along but I have to admit there's a few things that make me nervous, especially camping around bears and becoming part of the food chain instead of top dog. C has much experience being around Polar Bears but for me I think every little noise in the night would freak me out. I guess it's something you get used to...

    Anyway thanks for the dream fodder, please keep posting.
     

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  12. pryaker

    pryaker Paddler

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    Location:
    Powell River BC
    PS: Love the "whirligig" (that's a guess since you never show it!) camera in your snowboard and fat bike vids. You had me going for awhile trying to figure out how you did it! Is that your invention?
     
  13. Greg

    Greg Paddler

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2006
    Messages:
    113
    Great photos Philip, I love the fisheye lens ones. Kodiak looks like Kayaking Mecca, at lest at this time of year and when it sunny and dry and somewhat warm. How many boats do you wear out a year dragging them around the countryside :D
     
  14. Philip.AK

    Philip.AK Paddler

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2012
    Messages:
    143
    Location:
    Kodiak, Alaska
    I got the inspiration for it by seeing reverse-POV footage in some online vids, but I may have taken the concept a bit further than any of those examples. It is just a light telescoping ski pole which can rotate freely via a bearing attached to the top of my head with a camera on one end and a small counterweight on the other. Through design refinements I can put it on my bike or snowboard helmet and even (precariously) on a baseball cap and can be attached and removed quickly via a small camera quick release.

    I freely admit that I am an inveterate boat dragger. My original 15-year-old plastic Valley Skerray is a bit thin on the bottom, but still floats fine. My Nordkapp is much thicker and should withstand plenty of hikes. There are people who have used their kayaks as gear sledges for portages of hundreds of miles, so I'm hardly the worst offender. :mrgreen:
     
  15. Philip.AK

    Philip.AK Paddler

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2012
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    143
    Location:
    Kodiak, Alaska
    We have some really incredible paddling right here in Kodiak City. Here are a couple of shots from last night. After work my wife (who is back from salmon fishing now) and I paddled out to Long Island, just outside town.

    Approaching Long Island:

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    We landed in a nice lagoon on the north end of the island and walked out to the northeast tip where there is a sea lion haulout:

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    It got a bit late on the way home and we finished by moonlight.

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  16. Greg

    Greg Paddler

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2006
    Messages:
    113
    Once again fantastic photos. I think I asked in an earlier post what camera you use, but can you answer that again? What lense are you using for the fish-eye shots, I really like those shots.

    Also I looked at some of your earlier shots and noticed in a few photos your kayak is missing it's front perimeter lines and it appears the front point on the boat is sawed off or flattened out...what happened?

    Another question that probably ought to be in the gear forum, but that compass that is mounted in front of the front hatch, can you make out your heading in low light or cloudy conditions? I know this is a common placement on many a kayak but they seem like their a long ways from the cockpit to make out your heading. Is it just me and my old age and eyesight? :(
     
  17. Philip.AK

    Philip.AK Paddler

    Joined:
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    143
    Location:
    Kodiak, Alaska
    I needed a bit of line on a trip and stole it off the front of the boat temporarily. It's back now. No changes to the plastic of the kayak. The compass is pretty easy to read though if it were closer I wouldn't complain. It's a Silva 70 compass that is pretty sun faded. Rather than being black, the bezel is a purple-brown. It works great and has for about 15 years now. Don't leave home (shore) without it. This model needs a recess molded into the deck to mount it flush.

    The camera is a Panasonic Lumix ZS20. I love the thing. Shoots great stills and video. The fisheye shots are stills from a Gopro 2. Also a superb camera.

    Cheers!
     
  18. Philip.AK

    Philip.AK Paddler

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2012
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    143
    Location:
    Kodiak, Alaska
    Tonight we paddled along the barrier islands that separate the city of Kodiak from the open Gulf of Alaska doing a 2-hour loop from a beach right in town.

    The city electrical cooperative just put up 3 more windmills. We're on nearly 100% renewable energy electricity now. :)

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    Greasy smooth waters:

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    Rain showers and sunny breaks moved through:

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  19. innerfish

    innerfish New Member

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    Jul 2, 2009
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    4
    Loved every minute! The whales at 14:00 were incredible. Thanks for sharing.
     
  20. Philip.AK

    Philip.AK Paddler

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Kodiak, Alaska
    I recently got a packraft (aka "bathtub toy" among the sea kayak literati) in order to be able to get to Shuyak Island on the mail plane (aka "cheap" among the Alaskan dirtbaggers). In order to get my feet wet for the trip, I did an overnighter to a series of islands just off the coast of Kodiak this weekend. This place never ceases to deliver. :D While I have paddled these islands countless times over the course of 25 years, packrafting offers a whole new take on the islands as it encourages overland travel in addition to paddling. Amazingly, when the conditions are calm, I can cruise at over 3 mph in my packraft. That's only a bit over 1 mph slower than my Nordkapp.

    Follow the link if you have 7 minutes to spare:

    Chiniak Packrafting