Saturday, 12 March 2011

Afognak Wilderness Lodge - A Visual Celebration

Natural beauty, spectacular display and diversion, and many options for wildlife viewing...
Afognak Wilderness Lodge - A Visual Celebration
Adjacent to Kodiak Island, Afognak Island is becoming "top" for seekers of Alaska’s finest combination destination. The Afognak Wilderness Lodge for many years offers many options for viewing wildlife and some - of classiest accommodations.

It takes a scenic 25-minute floatplane flight from Kodiak or 5- minutes from Homer. In the multitude of forested fjords, this log wilderness lodge was built and has been operated by the Randall family. A forest and fjord, wilderness are setting for viewing a variety of fish and wildlife. The lodge location is excellent for viewing land and sea mammals. Facilities are elegantly rustic, cozy and classy, nestled where the edge of the Spruce forest meets with tranquil waters, rated as one of the finer lodges in bush- Alaska.

The best way we can think of describing your visit here is simply "you’ll want to return", wrote Shannon Randall on the invitation from Afognak Wilderness Lodge, interview

A vacation from the mind – a play of shadows, the beauty of the nature, even the name "Afognak" sounds far…
Shannon: Any Aleutic name that ends with an "ak", means that it was a dwelling place, for example, Kodiak, Shuyak, Pasagshak, Uyak, Umialak. We just don’t know what "afogn" means.

Because it is in a coastal rainforest belt, many people today joke that has to do with the fog.

What is the best way to reach Afognak Island?
Shannon: The best and almost - only way to reach Afognak is to fly to Anchorage, Alaska then connect to Kodiak and take a 25 minute floatplane flight, which we arrange, to our Afognak Wilderness Lodge.

What kind of experience awaits traveler in Afognak?
Shannon: There is a great deal to see and do in the Afognak area, depending on one’s preferences. From May 20th through September 30th, there’s land/marine wildlife viewing, fresh/saltwater fishing, kayaking, hiking and beachcombing. During the Spring, there’s hunting for Kodiak brown bear and during the Fall there’s hunting for deer/elk/ducks and brown bear.

What is your welcoming message?
Shannon: Welcome to the forests and fjord adventures of Afognak Island, in the heart of a true wilderness coastal state park.

Your family, the Randall family, are founders and operators of the "Afognak Wilderness Lodge" since 1974. What brings you to Afognak, any reason to name your retreat "wilderness"?
Shannon: Roy Randall, now retired, first established this location as his home during the Fall of 1964 while making his living by hunting seal, for the state bounty fee, and by trapping. The entire island was then a national forest, established by President Teddy Roosevelt, in about 1905, and special-use permits were then issued.

There had been the Aleut village of Afognak, located in the S.E. portion of the island but that was wiped out by the March 27/’64 Alaskan earthquake & tidal wave. That event brought some dramatic changes to Alaska in the form of construction crews to rebuild coastal towns.

Nevertheless, Afognak remained mostly uninhabited and very pristine, with a very healthy population of land animals, surrounded by much marine wildlife and a wide assortment of fresh and saltwater fish.

To this day, access to our location is via a 45 mile floatplane or a 60 mile boat trip.

The Sea Mammal Act of December, 1972 ended the hunting of sea-mammals. We had just put the roof on our log house in November/’72 so we suddenly found that the best way we could remain living in the wilderness would be by making our living as a "wilderness lodge".

We officially started operating the lodge in the Spring of 1974.

The spacious guest cabins radiate warmth. Would you like to give us a first hand your of your lodge?
Shannon: Perhaps the term to describe it, is "simplest" or "basic" form. When a log cabin or house is empty, it is still beautiful and inviting because each log has character and warmth. Everything that is added to it, just makes it become more alive.

The culinary experience?
Shannon: We enjoy the fresh game meats and sea-foods from our surroundings but also purchase whole grains, which we grind to make breads & cakes. We also purchase much fresh produce locally, in addition to poultry and pork, for wider menu options. We have excellent kitchen staff who do a great job in keeping everyone happy.

A word about Afognak National Park
Shannon: Afognak Island State Park (not National) was formed in February, 2002. This was a bi-product of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), which allowed Native peoples to make claims on federal lands, within certain guidelines.

Because Afognak was a national forest at the time, the Natives claimed the entire island, much of it under false claims. They then brought in two logging companies from Oregon state, selling the timber to the Japanese & Chinese, for very little profit. There were many protests as they eliminated this virgin Spruce forest but they prevailed until they started cutting timber at the north end, in our bay.

We organized with other concerned citizens and were successful in stopping the cutting by means of having some of the penalty monies from the Exxon Valdez oil-spill of March/’89 be used to buy the east & north Afognak Island lands from the various native groups.

Who are your guests or travelers who shared your "paradise"?
Shannon: To date we have had guests from about 24 countries, with many repeat & referred guests.

Any memorable event or people you hosted?
Shannon: Some well known sport and film personalities, but most folks are just the hard-working people who saved their money for a nice vacation.

What facilities are available for wild life viewing?
Shannon: No artificial facilities for viewing wildlife, because we are in an island environment, we use boats (cabin-cruisers, skiffs and kayaks) to get out to see and do everything.

Your postal address reads "Seal Bay", how are contacts with the "outside world"?
Shannon: Our mail is delivered via floatplane to our dock. From October through May, delivery is once a week, weather-permitting, so we for 3 weeks without mail during the worst part of some winters. From June through September, we get two deliveries per week, weather permitting. However, although that was a very big problem 35 years ago when trying to run our business, today we have satellite radio-phones, internet & television, very much like the rest of the world.

Your undertaking, the Wilderness lodge" was also honored several times, which honor is of importance, or dear to you?
Shannon: We have won several awards for excellence in our field, which are all equal for us. e appreciate the various spheres of interests that are represented by the many people who value both this pristine environment and our part enhancing.

The people of Ag’waneq village enjoyed a subsistence lifestyle of fishing and hunting sea mammals from skin-covered kayaks. The Alutiiq believed that all things, be they living or not, possess a spirit, which they honored. Is the oral history alive today, perhaps a story?
Shannon: There is an on-going effort to preserve the oral & archeological history of the Alutiiq people. They have built a large new museum, using Exxon-Valdez oil-spill funds and they have, on the SW side of Afognak Island, a summer archeological retreat called, "Dig Afognak", whereby guests pay to go there and work in the diggings.

In the mid 1800’s, the Shamans lost their power when the Caucasians arrived and provided equal-opportunity educations. The Natives were then able to combine the best of both worlds . . . nature & educated minds with a wide array of skills.

Many people, both Natives and otherwise, have come to learn more about the spiritual side of our world. We know that there are many levels, comparable to different frequencies on a radio. The world of the deceased is apparently at a higher frequency than most of us can see but some are occasionally allowed to see "through the veil". Evil spirits also have their own frequency. This fulfills our purpose on Earth of being TESTED in every possible way.

Final word?
Shannon: We have been living on Afognak Island for four decades and, although we travel, but our home here in Afognak is still the best place. By working hard in a cold remote location, our bodies stay healthier, our minds are more alert and our spirits can be in better tune with how the Creator intended us to live.

Thank you.

Afognak Island, with its wildlife and scenery, redefines "great outdoor".
Seal Bay, Alaska – Kodiak is more than bears, it is whales, eagles, land and sea-otters, sea-lions, seal, fox, birds and salmon. The salmon so thick in the river mouths of Afognak Island you can see 20 Silver Salmon jumping at once. It is a place I`ve dreamed about all my life, off the cover of an outdoor magazine. It`s teeming with fish and games and a loveliness that draws independent souls like Roy Randall, who came in 1961 to hunt seal for a living and loose himself.

We finished the day fishing at another river mouth that produced countless Silvers that seemed to be showing off with dramatic leaps. Eric and I had seen Afognak beyond the bear and caught salmon usually only found in dreams. Sadly it was time to leave this great wilderness.
Tim Chapman, special to the Miami Herald Thursday, October 3, 2002

Afognak is an island 5 km (3 miles) north of Kodiak Island in the US state of Alaska. It is 43 miles from east to west and 23 miles from north to south and has a land area of 1,812.58 km (699.84 square miles). The coast is split by many long, narrow bays.
Situated in the Gulf of Alaska, the Kodiak Island Archipelago parallels the Katmai Coast along the Alaska Peninsula for 177 miles. Sixteen major islands and many smaller one encompass nearly 5,000 square miles/

Photograph courtesy Afognak Wilderness Lodge
The Afognak Wilderness Lodge
Hom Page of Afognak Wilderness Lodge
   By Irena Knehtl