Late for Nowhere

From life in Southeast Asia to backyard adventures in Kodiak, Alaska

Posts Tagged ‘Hiking

Kodiak backyard hikes: Mission Beach gallery

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Mission Beach is only about 1.5 miles from our apartment. Getting there involves walking through quiet neighborhoods rather than trail hiking. The beach is usually calm and quiet. People sometimes come to exercise their dogs, collect seaweed for fertilizer, or launch sea kayaks. We come to walk on the stones and the rippled black-and-tan sand, looking down in search of sea glass, looking up to breathe deeply and take in the ocean and the wide sky. On some days, silver-gray water melds with silver-gray clouds on the infinite horizon; on others, the blue waves shimmer with unimpeded sunlight. We’ve seen sea otters swimming and bald eagles searching the shoreline for food. We’ve skipped rocks, and we’ve simply sat watching the sunrise or the fishing boats coming to and from the harbor.

Written by latefornowhere

November 16, 2020 at 5:22 pm

Kodiak backyard hikes: A spine-tingling animal encounter

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Kodiak Island is a wild place. My wife Pauksi and I never set foot in the forest without carrying bear spray, and rare is the bike ride outside of town when I don’t spot at least one Sitka black-tailed deer crossing the road.

During a hike last weekend, we had an unusual encounter with a wary species of mammal that, up to that point, we had not yet seen on the island.

We started our walk by heading for Pillar Mountain, the base of which is only a few blocks away from our apartment. The sun was shining, and the temperature in town was cool but had not quite dipped below freezing during the night. As we gained elevation, though, we saw more frost as well as a few puddles topped with an icy glaze.

We hiked about three-quarters of the way up the 1,240-foot (378-meter) peak on the gravel access road, and then followed a forest path that branched off to the north and descended for a mile to a paved road leading out to White Sands Beach.

Another half mile of pavement walking brought us to a dirt lane leading not to White Sands Beach, which was 5 miles farther along the paved road, but to a coastal cove with black volcanic sand that we had previously seen from the mountaintop but had never visited.

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After spending an hour or so eating lunch and hanging out at the beach, we set out to return home the same way we had come.

While walking back along the short stretch of paved road, I spotted movement in the bushes bordering the left shoulder up ahead. At first, I thought it was a small dog, but when the animal stepped out onto the road, I saw that it was a red fox. In its teeth was what appeared to be the spine of a rather large animal, which it was laboriously dragging across the road.

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My wife and I stopped and watched from afar, but when the fox reached the other side of the road, it suddenly noted our presence, dropped its prize, and scampered up a steep embankment into the forest.

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We slowly walked forward, stopping to look at the spine, which appeared fresh and bloody. I thought it might have belonged to a deer but wasn’t sure. I couldn’t imagine how a fox could have taken down such a large animal, and thought it more likely that the deer had been killed by a bear or hit by a car.   

As we contemplated these possibilities, we realized the fox was still there, sitting motionless and observing us from the trees with its sharp, intelligent eyes. Was it merely curious, or was it waiting for us to leave so it could come back down and reclaim its food? For a few minutes, we watched the animal watching us. Then we moved on, retracing our steps over the mountain and back down to our neighborhood on the other side.

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Written by latefornowhere

October 24, 2020 at 6:13 pm

Kodiak backyard hikes: An autumn morning in North End Park

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After a week of stormy weather that brought heavy rain and gale-force winds to Kodiak, the first Saturday in October dawned bright and clear. My wife and I were keen to get out of the house and enjoy the crisp fall weather.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of Kodiak is the amount of exploration that can be done without the need to get into a car and drive somewhere. Forest trails and beaches abound within a 3-mile radius of our apartment.

On this day, we headed for North End Park, just 1 mile from our front door on Near Island, which is accessible by bridge. With the previous week’s storms now passed, as we crossed the bridge, we were able to catch our first view in many days of the mountains to the west.

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We entered the park the back way on Channelside Trail, which at the start is lined with salmonberry bushes that bear fruit in the summertime but whose leaves were just beginning to show the discoloration of approaching winter. Farther along, Sitka spruces and some deciduous trees started appearing. The mossy forest ticked with water droplets from the all-night rain that had tapered off shortly before we left our apartment.

Channelside led us to the Northend Trail system. We followed the path to a set of wooden stairs that descended to a rocky beach. The tide was low, and the shoreline was strewn with seaweed, tangles of bull kelp, and other debris washed up by the previous week’s high waves. At one end of the beach, a small, temporary waterfall cascaded down the rocks.

Re-entering the forest on the other side of the beach, we picked up a trail that took us to land’s end, providing a clifftop view of the ocean and local fishing boats heading to and from Kodiak’s two harbors.

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From there, we followed the forested coast, where mushrooms sprouted in the shade beneath the trees and, on one occasion, an unseen but vocal squirrel bombarded us with pinecones from high up in a Sitka spruce tree.

We stopped at another small beach, drenched in sunshine and caressed by the cool wind blowing off the ocean. The calm was occasionally broken by small aircraft landing at the Near Island floatplane base.

We later happened across another interruption in the natural splendor of the forest in the form of a rusted vehicle dating back to World War II – a remnant of the U.S. military forced deployed on Kodiak to defend Alaska from invasion from Japan.

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We eventually made our way back to the first beach, where the tide was reaching its highest point and the morning’s waterfall was now silent.

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We climbed back up the stairs and followed the forest path through the tunnel of trees to exit the park at the main parking lot. A short walk back across the bridge to Kodiak Island had us home before noon.

Written by latefornowhere

October 17, 2020 at 4:46 pm