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Monday, October 22, 2007

A Visit to the Ayakulik Flats

Late Saturday night I got back from an impromptu camping trip to the South End of Kodiak. Mike Sirofchuck, Paul Zimmer and I spent three days hiking, hunting and exploring the Ayakulik Flats region of Kodiak's southwest corner. This area is known as the refugium because it was not glaciated during the last ice age, but the massive ice sheet in the shelikof, at that time, did dam up all the rivers, and the area was one big lake. That is why it is so flat today - it was all lake bottom! Well not all lake bottom - tall mountains stuck up out of the lake. The area is also riven by deep river channels, far deeper than one would expect given how little water flows in them today. When the ice dam finally melted away the lake water flowed out in one huge cataclysmic rush and carved all the canyons at once. Imagine a lake 3 or 4 times the size of Karluk Lake emptying out in just a day or so - for a day or two, Kodiak had a river with as much water in it as the Amazon does today.

Kodiak locals Mike and Paul joined me for the trip when my brother cancelled his visit from Maine at the last minute. You got to love Kodiak, I imagine that in most communities people would have needed at least half a year notice before going on such a trip. Paul, a medical doctor, joined us at the floatplane after spending a night on the ER shift at the local hospital. From delivering babies to hiking on the South End in just a few short hours - quite the contrast. Needless to say, but Paul was a little tired the first day.

All three of us camped in big white teepee heated with a wood stove (top photo). Quite comfortable. We spent the first two days climbing mountains and searching for reindeer (middle four photos). The reindeer were introduced in the early 20th century as an employment opportunity for the local Alutiiq Villagers. They went feral after a big fire burned the corals and scattered the herd shortly after WWII. We eventually did find the herd and harvested three animals. Then humped the meat across the tundra back to camp. Ironically, we woke up the last day to find the entire herd walking by camp. We watched them amble by for 20 minutes or so, and pondered whether hard earned meat 'tasted better' than meat shot close to camp. I still contend that searching for a herd, and then humping meat for miles across the tundra is more character building than shooting them close to camp. Mike did not agree. We did not need any more meat and did not harvest any more animals.

Finally, on the last day we went exploring on the beach. Miles of sandy beach and big crashing waves (bottom photo). My trip was complete after I found an archaeological site and a Japanese glass net float. We later determined from the tracks in the sand that on our trip down the beach we had surprised a brown bear. But we never saw the bear because our eyes had been peeled to the ground looking for glass balls. Patrick

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