Join me on a journey from Monashka Bay, up Reservoir Ridge, around and back down the picturesque Monashka Mountain. This is a hike for the reasonably fit, if a champ at trail-finding, or the happily masochistic, if you seek to mimic a bear-like bulldozer, charging through the brush with abandon.
“A rational being would judge this a fools endeavor…”
The trailhead is found at the northern terminus of Kodiak Island’s one-hundred mile road system. From this graveled parking lot, the willing may access Two Bear Cove, White Sands, Termination Point, Monashka Mountain, and Reservoir Ridge. The trail is well-hidden, but you may find assistance from a GPS and the waterproof Kodiak Audubon’s Hiking & Birding Guide, available at the local visitors center in front of the ferry terminal.
Setting off across the frozen swampy land, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to complete your route. I headed out after a half-day of work and began my hike with just over two hours remaining before sunset. A rational being would judge this a fools endeavor, since the trail, if followed, totals 3000' of elevation change over 8 miles. Since I took sun-seeking shortcuts, my distances totaled 4000' of elevation change over 5 miles.
Thirty seconds forward and you will step around and under a large spruce, skirting the edge of a shallow but swiftly flowing creek. Here I clambered up the bank and over an L shaped tree trunk, grown out from the bank and stretched tall to the sky. Your path will take you down the bank, across the creek, through brush grown out of graveled creek medians. I danced across boulders, jutting just above the creek’s surface, to begin the ascent into the woods. My breath increased with my heart-rate pumping me up for the heightening elevation. I continued into the woods.
Within thirty minutes, the trail devolves into a crashing bushwhack through chest-high cane. Joy fills the beleaguered hiker when his stumble enters low-lying brushy trees, for one may squeeze a body between spaces in sparse branches much easier than pushing through the surrounding growth. Where evergreens foster islands of duff and needles, game trails may be found on one side and lost again on the other side. After a little more than an hour’s travel, I pushed down to the ravine and charged up the opposing slope to reach Monashka Reservoir Ridge. Charged is a charitable description for a lunging, grabbing, upward motion. Madman yells interspersed the drunken reeling. About 100' from gaining the ridge, I looked up to see a large deer observing my progress. A good excuse to pause and breathe. Five more minutes of scrambling and I summited. Jogging when I could, I made it to the highest point prior to reaching Monashka Mountain with twenty minutes of sunlight remaining visible above The Three Sisters to the west, frozen in chilly repose.
From this vantage point, the willing and able will find a view to stun them like a cattle prod. Most will exclaim in similar form, a bovine bellow of cud-cutting joy. Across Narrow Strait, lies Spruce Island. On this spit of land sits Ouzinkie to the northwest, one of six native villages in the area; and to the southwest end, the Monastery of St. Herman, still occupied by Orthodox monks.
To the distant northeast, a distant light was visible at some unknown, illuminated location on Afognak Island. Beneath the dimming sky, I skipped down a depression in the ridge, and then back up to top out at Monashka Mountain, somewhere between 1600' and 1800' elevation. Here, the lights of Kodiak beckoned me onward, and I could spy the parking lot of this trip’s origin far below. Noting the time as five pm, nearly a half hour past sunset, I sped off down the steep slope, doing my best impersonation of a mountain goat.
As you, the hiker, follow this route down, you may find, as I did, that the trails at first return to visibility and then disappear into swampy murk. Retrieving a flashlight as I dipped into the thick woods, I found the trail again, though it was saddled with a creek running down its middle. Soon my sloshing steps stomped upon graveled trail, and the mantra of “Hey bear”, turned into “Hey car!” Two miles towards my home, I stopped to take in a darkly lit view of the range just traversed. Join me in bidding Monashka Mountain good night, then make plans to come to Kodiak and relish in this fine place yourself.