Crusty old Joe's

Kodiak Alaska Military History

The official web site of the Kodiak Military History Museum

by Dave Evans

Travels with my Aunt
July 29, 2003

My mother's little sister came to visit Fort Abercrombie this past week. It's always a thrill to introduce a newcomer to the Island and the Park, and my Aunt Hettie is a great audience, so I was looking forward to this visit. Her husband was a PBY pilot in the South Pacific, so she was even anticipating the three old seaplane ramps still visible at the Coast Guard Base.

The Kodiak weather was typically perverse. A sunny morning turned into a foggy day, and then for the next several days the fog settled in. It rained, or when it wasn't raining, there was that steady mist that swirls about in the treetops. She was amazed by the green velvet hillsides, though we couldn't see any of the tops because of the lowering clouds.

She's a person who is always ready to enjoy anything new, and we spent a lot of time out in the rain and mist those days. I found that we needed to focus on things that were up close, things that might tend to be passed by on sunny days in favor of the far vistas off Miller Point and the views of the Three Sisters and Monashka Mountain.

We walked up to Miller Point through the wildflower meadow, the fog warning device moaning sorrowfully in the background. But the roses, geraniums and lupines came through for us, even in the rain. My aunt also perceived a park "attitude" that she especially liked-a complete absence of fences to keep people away from the cliff edges, quite a difference from parks in the lower 48.

Next we passed through the moss gallery along one of the Park's lesser used trails. It was once a military road entering Fort Abercrombie, and ran past a concrete generator house that supplied electricity to the Fort's garrison area. The structure is in beautiful condition, considering the more than sixty years that have gone by. Fort Abercrombie's wooden structures have been carried off or rotted away. The metal has rusted or been removed. The concrete structures, though, were overbuilt, and have remained in remarkable condition. My aunt is now one of the few individuals who knows the location of the Enlisted Mens' Shower and Latrine at the Fort, detectable from the concrete slab and drains for the plumbing.

We ended up at the Miller Point Ready Ammunition Bunker, where her favorite displays in the Military History Museum were "all those pictures of naval aviators." Referring to her own memories of that time, she asked where our Zippo lighter collection was. (Not a bad idea for the Museum, come to think of it!) Later on, still walking in the mist, we found where the eagle perches in the spruce grove overlooking Monashka Bay, and we inspected Monashka Bay's hanging gardens, admiring the flowers somehow growing out of solid rock cliff faces. As we searched for the perfect yellow cinquefoil clinging to the rock, we were also rewarded with some of the largest clusters of bluebells I've ever seen.

That Saturday evening was Fran Kelso's Kodiak plant lore talk. My aunt got fascinated by what yarrow could do as one of Kodiak's all-around medicinal plants; good for aches, fevers, skin irritations, stopping blood flow from cuts, and (they say)curing hangovers. Back to Monashka Bay to find a patch of yarrow, and get soundly scolded along the beach by a pair of black oystercatcher birds.

The next day the sun came out and we saw it all. The green mountains had tops, the Monashka eagle made a successful fishing flight in front of the cabin, and Kodiak gave us a sunny grand finale at the end of the visit. But somehow, those most typical rainy misty Kodiak days had become an important and memorable part of the whole experience.

David A. Evans, Naturalist, Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park Updated 2003 August 19