It’s been two and-a-half weeks since we arrived Kodiak, the center of Kodiak Island and our launching pad to Raspberry Island and adventures beyond.
Arrival at Kodiak Airport (think really, really, really small airport) was pleasant but cold, I mean, winter cold. Tom and I were greeted and picked up in one of Tom’s three vehicles. Happily for me this car was the nicest or I would have had second thoughts if it had been one of the other two! The “other” two trucks are the workhorses, one fondly known throughout Kodiak as the “Green Bomb”. Everyone in Kodiak knows when Tom is in town. Pete, our greeter and an old friend of Tom was our chauffeur. Their longtime friendship was cemented during Pete’s six-year tenure as a winter watchman at Port Vita. Pete is a character to say the least. Let’s just say that he is wonderful and has a lot to say which is usually opinionated, amusing and/or funny. After lunch, Pete delivered us to Shelikof Inn where we checked in for what we thought would be two nights but ended up being three due to inclement weather.
Kodiak is a town right out of a fisherman’s dream. Boats everywhere and harbor side buildings that do everything from building your boat to gutting and packaging your fish. Not pretty, but I found it interesting. This is a workingman’s town. There are no woosie’s here, this is “man’s” country. Big trucks, big meals, lot’s of bars, well, you get the picture.
We had 3-square’s a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner for three days which was a perfect way to visit and catch up with Tom’s long time Kodiak friends. In between meals we shopped for provisions that would last two weeks, went to the car repair shop, visited with the boat builders and went to Walmart, the Neiman-Marcus of Kodiak. That’s where I got my hip waders. The brand name is “Alaskan” so they must be good and some groceries.
In addition, we shopped Safeway, Cost-Savers and Mack’s for everything from food to clothing. Tom is quite the shopper and knows the best places to go for the best price. We purchased items that wouldn’t need refrigeration. Why? Tom was unsure of the state that we would find Port Vita. It has been seven months since he closed up the camp and without a winter watchman, he was unsure if a bear may have made itself comfortable. If so, we would turn around and head back to Kodiak and start planning a remodel!
The day before we left, Shane, Tom’s friend and long time sidekick arrived in Kodiak after a long over-night flight from Montana where he lives during the winter. An incredible young man, Shane has been working with Tom for 12 summer seasons at Port Vita. He is a vital necessity to the success of the camp and it’s upkeep. Not only is he awesome, he is a really nice guy.
That afternoon, Tom and Shane took off to take care of boat business and shooed me off with Pete. Pete drove me to all of the little places I wanted to see as well as a final I wanted for camp, my favorite body lotion. Pete took me to the only health food store in town that carried the product line, which in Hawai’i costs $8.00 but in Kodiak $14.00. Highway robbery, No thank you! No body lotion. Oh well. With that done and my shopping list complete, Pete gave me the grand 15-minute tour of the Kodiak residential area, which is where I saw my first Bald Eagle. Very cool.
That evening myself, Tom, Shane and our new friend, Dan drove out for a wonderful dinner at some remote part of the island and ate what was like the “Last Dinner” for me as I had no idea what to expect the next day. Onward Ho!
Departing from Kodiak on Saturday morning was interesting to say the least. The weather was “iffy” but our “ride” to camp was with a friend who offered to deliver Tom, Shane and myself to Port Vita. We boarded the boat with our luggage, groceries and other items we would need to survive (obviously without my favorite body lotion!) in the middle of the wilderness.
All in all, there were six of us in the boat. During the boat ride we experienced 5’ waves, large kelp fields, otters and PUFFINS, I have finally seen a real Puffin. It was nonchalantly floating on the ocean, happy as a clam, err, I mean Puffin.
BTW, Port Vita is on all maps of Alaska, how cool is that?? It’s kinda like Monterey or San Luis Obispo or Manhattan Beach being on a map, it’s a LANDMARK!
Our first view of home/camp was lovely from a distance, however, as we approached it became apparent that the region and Port Vita had suffered a long, harsh and very windy winter. The boat landing area looked like there had been a garage sale that had been abandoned. Tools, fishing rods and other items were strewn all over. The building that housed these and many other things had been BLOWN down. Tom and Shane estimate that the winds must have been over 100mph for it to collapse the building. High tides did the rest of the damage with salt corrosion. Not a huge loss, but nonetheless, a loss with some costly items and a big mess to clean up.
The good news…No bears! Tom and Shane were immediately at work, starting generators, lighting fires in the bunkhouse, and eventually getting the hydro-generator pumping (for electricity). They are like “automatons” when it comes to getting this place “open and running”. Hmmm, “automatons”. Is that a real word??
The remainder of us emptied the boat and carried luggage and grocery boxes up to the Bunkhouse. I nearly made a terrible mistake by walking onto a bear board. I was holding a box in front of me as I went up the hill to the bunkhouse. I didn’t have a view of my feet because the ground was wet and slippery. I wasn’t looking ahead, I was looking down. Well, I nearly walked onto it. What’s a bear board? It’s a large piece of wood with nails coming out of it from the bottom. I giant “pin-cushion” that thwarts bears from entering buildings. Yikes, straight out of a midevial torture chamber!
Port Vita is beautiful and is surrounded by snowcapped mountains. We look out onto Raspberry Strait that separates us from the western edge of Afognak Island, directly across the strait. I have seen just three boats & one barge go by since we arrived. The weather has been chilly, peaking at 40-degrees during the day and the sun came out for a couple of days, it was well received.
As you know, Alaska has long days. The sun is up until 10pm and then dusk starts. One evening we were on the deck BBQ’ing when we noticed a lot of Bald Eagles circling on the beach. We walked to the stream where it meets the beach and found that the eagles were having their own dinner, a freshly caught halibut. As we approached, they flew away, but not very far as they were hoping we would leave and let them get back to dinner! I walked over to look at the fish, although the birds had picked it nearly clean I noticed the entrails hanging out, obviously eagles don’t eat fish entrails. Tom made a comment suggesting I pull open the tummy portion of the dead fish, which I did. And guess what? There was a dead fish inside the fish’s stomach! It had just had it’s own dinner before becoming a dinner!
I’ve seen otters in front of the camp, a fox on the beach combing for food and we’ve had three to four whales pass. Shane saw one of them breach, but I didn’t. Tom say’s they will be here all summer so I’m sure to see them again.
All of our electricity is run from a hydro-generator. It’s pretty nifty. Powered by the stream that runs on the property, we have free electricity all day. The only appliance I wish we could have is a dryer, but the voltage is too high so it’s laundry line drying! Anyway, the snowmelt has been extreme this year and we have had to clear the hydro filter twice a day. It’s a nice 10-12 minute hike up the hill to the pool where we clean the filter (freezing water!) and head back down to re-start the hydro. We ford through streams, pick fiddleheads for snacks and are always aware of bears. It’s good exercise, which gets my heart rate up, but I need it, the cold wet weather is perfect for snacking.
One of my self-imposed “jobs” is to replenish the firewood each morning for the Bunkhouse. The only part I don’t like is making the kindling. It’s tedious and I’m scared to death I will cut my hand off with the axe should I miss the piece of wood. Well, I’ve gotten better at it and can produce a hearty stack of kindling in a short period of time. And, I still have my hand.
You should see the kitchen. Located in the Bunkhouse, it has EVERY single cooking tool, spice, pan and fryer you can imagine. So, I am starting to bake. Tom whipped up a sourdough starter and it’s doing well. I’ve made two things, Sourdough Applesauce Cake and Sourdough Cornbread. I even know what “setting the sponge” is. Watch out Martha!
While baking I really spooked myself. Being used to conventional ovens, I had turned on the oven to pre-heat it for a recipe and forgot to light the pilot light. So, here I am, mixing away, adding the flour, sugar, this and that and smelled something un-ordinary. The odor was like that of a dead animal that may be under the house and becoming pungent in the mild weather. It was vague but nonetheless smelly.
Well, I turned around to put the bread in the oven when I realized I had been running propane for about 10-minutes! I could have blown the Bunkhouse and myself to smithereens. I was petrified and immediately opened every window and door air out the house as well as confirm that the fireplace door was closed. Needless to say, I will remember to light the pilot light when I bake from now on.
We went back to Kodiak today, it’s Saturday, June 2nd and the most beautiful day since we arrived. It’s amazing how quickly time goes by when you are re-provisioning. There was much to purchase since our last trip. On our way back I saw my first bear. We were all exhausted.
Sunday, we were all exhausted. In the morning we hunted for fish bait and found a perfect octopus under a boulder. Later in the day we walked all over the property looking for morels and found bear scat and fresh bear tracks. Dinner that night included a fabulous bar-b-que octopus, it was delicious!
Well, I hope you enjoyed reading my adventures, I’ll keep you “posted” when I publish again.
A hui hou!
Oh, this is Tom, Pete & Shane. My heroes!!