For those with the time and means to do so, there is an opportunity for a very special "add-on" to the Eagle River Institute. Each year Holy Resurrection Orthodox Cathedral, Kodiak, hosts an annual pilgrimage to Spruce Island on the anniversary of the canonization of St. Herman of Alaska which took place on August 9th, 1970.
The schedule of events and activities is normally available on the Alaska OCA web site
, though at the time of this writing (June 21) the page is not yet ready. For further information please contact Rev. Innocent Dresdow at 907-486-3854. The "Frequently asked questions" page
has helpful information, and contact numbers for transportation and local lodging.
There used to be a warning on the itinerary that said "Subject to Change", referring to the unpredictable weather and ocean conditions. It isn’t there now, but the weather can still be unpredictable and play havoc with the pilgrimage plans-there have been years when the visit to Spruce Island had to be delayed or canceled due to bad weather. In any event, you would still be able to venerate the relics of St. Herman during the Divine Liturgy at the Kodiak cathedral.
Weather permitting, the fishing boats that carry pilgrims to Spruce Island depart the Kodiak docks around 8am. Weather conditions are often cool and damp, so it would always be prudent to have a windbreaker or other wet weather clothing on hand. The year I attended I made the mistake of going over in a vintage Navy landing craft, and was drenched with sea water each time the flat prow smacked into a wave. You should try not to make the same mistake!
Lunch is provided at the beach on Spruce Island by the women of the church following the pilgrimage so you needn't bring your own food. You may want to bring a small bottle to fill with holy water from the spring, and a bag or small container for soil from the island.
Both Alaska Airlines
and Era Aviation
operate flights from Anchorage to Kodiak. Since Era Aviation is a regional carrier that only operates in state, they have no security screening requirement. Alaska Airlines does not operate separate check-in gates for in-state destinations, so all their passengers are processed through the same security gate. At the time of this writing, the lowest round trip airfare from Anchorage to Kodiak is quoted as $298 on Expedia.com, with a discount advertised for flight+room.
For a more adventuresome and leisurely connection, the Alaska Marine Highway System
operates a ferry between Homer and Kodiak. I found their published schedules to be difficult to read, and wound up phoning their Anchorage office at 907-272-4482 for personal assistance.
The high-end commercial lodging is the Best Western Kodiak Inn, the only national chain lodging in Kodiak. They can be contacted directly at 907-486-5712. Current rates range from $92-$140 per night. They offer an airport shuttle service, which makes hiring a taxi unnecessary. Once in Kodiak, everything is within easy walking distance - in fact, the Inn is directly across from the boat harbor where the pilgrimage departs from. Of the other two establishments, the Russian Heritage Inn (a modest motel, actually, despite the name) is the most centrally located, and folks who’ve stayed there reported that they were entirely satisfied with their rooms.
Directly across the street from the Russian Heritage Inn is Monk's Rock Bookstore, which is not to be missed. Operated by the faculty and youth of the St. Innocent's Academy, they offer coffee, tea, sandwiches and snack items; books on theology, history, society and culture; icons, prayer ropes, incense and other miscellaneous items of interest. If Fr. Paisius offers an Open House of the Academy again this year, go and learn about the wonderful work being done in turning around the lives of "at-risk" teens.
In years past the Academy would throw a post-pilgrimage party in the parking lot of the bookstore. It was not part of the "official" pilgrimage itinerary, but nevertheless it was an exuberant musical celebration that often lasted late into the evening, unforgettable for anyone who was able to attend. Fortunately, the Academy has now been incorporated into the official program, and they perform at the 5pm "Festival in the Park". Don't miss it!
If you do decide to make the pilgrimage we pray it will be a very special and significant experience for you. If you care to write a little something about it we'd love to hear from you!
For questions, comments, or more information about the St. Herman pilgrimage, please contact me, St. John's pilgrimage coordinator at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
St. John's Pilgrimage Coordinator