Warren and Mary Huss - Tape #ORAL HISTORY 2010-05-07-tp1
Warren and Mary Huss were interviewed on August 5, 2010 by Rachel Mason, Karen Brewster and Shannon Kovac at their home in Seward, Alaska. Originally from Michigan, the Husses moved to Seward in 1971 when Warren got a job as a dentist. He retired in 2004. In this interview, Warren talks about hunting in the Seward area, changes in wildlife populations, life in Seward and how it has changed. He talks about hunting, trapping, snowmachining, skiing, hiking, and trails in the Exit Glacier area, the road to the glacier, changes in the glacier, and his thoughts about establishment of Kenai Fjords National Park.
Part two of this interview.
Click to section:
Introduction and how Warren came to live in Seward
History of dentists in the Seward area before he arrived
Hunting activities when he first arrived
Accessing his goat hunting grounds
Changes in goat population
Hunting in the Madson Mountain area
Choosing to come to Seward in 1971
First experiences when they arrived
Background information on Mary and Warren
Duck and ptarmigan hunting areas
Exit Glacier area uses
Local response to the National Park
Herman Leirer's Cat trail to Exit Glacier
Accessing the glacier from town in 1971 on snow machine
Son's project surveying the glacier in 1994
History of the trails around the park
Hunting bear and trapping wolverine
RACHEL MASON: Okay. We're in the home of Warren and Mary Huss. It's August 5th, 2010. My name's Rachel Mason, I'm here with Karen Brewster and Shannon Kovac, and we're working on a project for the Kenai Fjords National Park on the Exit Glacier. We're looking at traditional activities around the Exit Glacier in an effort to determine what the traditional activities have been there. So, Warren, if we could start with you.
WARREN HUSS: Yeah. RACHEL MASON: First, we'd like to just know some of your early days in Seward, how you got here, what -- what your -- how you got involved with this area. WARREN HUSS: Okay. We moved here in 1971, fall of '71, and I came here as a dentist. We had been in -- two years in Goose Bay, Labrador, in the military, but I was originally from Michigan, so we moved here just because I like to hunt and fish. And Mary had kind of enjoyed the remote, small town atmosphere that we experienced in Labrador. So, we came up here on a five year lark to start a dental practice here in Seward, and at the end of five years, we never talked about moving, we've just been here ever since. I retired six years ago, but -- RACHEL MASON: Were you the first dentist here? WARREN HUSS: No, there had been several dentists here. The first dentist came here in 1917 and practiced in the Arcade building, which is now a vacant lot kitty corner from the Yukon Bar. And he practiced here two years until that building burned in a large fire they had here in town. And then there had been several dentists in and out on a fairly short term stay. They would come in, and usually what they'd do is they'd get their dental license, practice here for six months, and then head up to Anchorage. The last kind of permanent dentist was Dick Williams, he was here up through, I think, 1968, and he was practiced here for about three and a half years. The rest of them were here for just very short periods of time. And then I guess I'm the longest serving dentist because I was -- practiced here for, well, going on 33 years I practiced here in town. So... RACHEL MASON: What kind of hunting did you do when you first got here? WARREN HUSS: A little bit of everything. Obviously, when I was younger, I did a lot of, like, moose hunting. We hunted sheep, goats around here. Not -- there aren't many goats around here, but up the road towards -- in the Crescent Lake area, and Carter Lake area, we hunted goat -- sheep. We hunted goats out along the coast, next bay to the east, Day Harbor, up along the Ellsworth Glacier, we just hunted up in the mountains. I did a lot of hunting up in the area just to the -- across the river from the park now, there's a big stone bridge about, oh, it's mile 8, I think. RACHEL MASON: Could you mark the areas where you hunted before, or --
WARREN HUSS: Let's see.
RACHEL MASON: -- or maybe not necessarily like pinpointing exact spot. WARREN HUSS: Yeah. Let's see here. I've got to find the place here. Where are we. Resurrection. Exit Glacier, so it would be back in here. We hunted up in these mountains up in here. This -- I believe this -- this doesn't connect through here, but this was a drainage that comes down and crosses a road, so we hunted on these areas up in here, on the mountaintops. KAREN BREWSTER: For sheep or goats?
WARREN HUSS: Those are goats up in that area.
RACHEL MASON: Oh, okay. WARREN HUSS: You don't find many sheep down close to the -- the coast here because there's something to do with the saltwater, it does something to their hooves --
RACHEL MASON: Really? WARREN HUSS: -- and they get a fungus or something. I've been told that. So most of what we hunted around here locally were goats, and then we hunted goats over -- Well, I hunted -- well, it's off the map up this way, too, but up in, let's see, Caines Head, well, it'd be up in just n this area up here, we hunted goats. And then up 4th of July, I come over Thumb Cove, we hunted goat up in here, on these mountains up here. They're accessed off Thumb Cove. There's a Lake Creek that drains into Thumb Cove, and we hunted up to the east of there. We also did a lot of hunting, it's just off the map here, over in Day Harbor, over on the east side of Exit -- of Ellsworth Glacier. Where are some other areas that we hunted? RACHEL MASON: How did you know which areas to hunt? Did you have a local -- WARREN HUSS: Well, most of it -- most of it was what was accessible, that you could get -- areas that you could get up the tops of the mountains because goats usually, you know, you get up above them and hunt down on them, so you have to climb up to the top of the mountain, and then hunt down on the goats from the top of mountain. So you had to find an area that was accessible. The closest area, like I say, is this area, we call it Sugarloaf Mountain, and it's where that big cement bridge is about 8 miles up, it comes out of a valley from the right side, and there's a tall peak there called Sugarloaf, and we'd go up around Sugarloaf. And that actually was a trail that an old fellow in town here, Hoff -- Hans Hoffmeister, put in years ago, they used to hunt up in that valley, and he told me about that trail and how to access the area. A lot of the area you just can't start up the mountain, it's just too steep, so what you do is go up one of these river drainages where you work your way up, get to the top of the mountains, above the glaciers and look down on the goats. And a lot of times it was just a matter of spotting them from the road, going out Exit Glacier. At that time it was just a dirt trail. Somewhat of a road, but it was constantly washed out. Other times we heard about areas where there are good goats. A fellow told me about this area over off Day Harbor that was good goat hunting. There's a couple other areas we never got into, the Lake Nellie Juan drainage that comes down south fork of the Snow River, north fork of the Snow River. It's good goat hunting up there. Arley Zimmerman used to have a camp up there, and he's the one that started the snow machine operation up at the top of Exit Glacier.
RACHEL MASON: Oh, really? WARREN HUSS: Yeah. And he was a big -- he was a hunting guide. And he had a camp -- well, he had several camps around, but the one that he had is off the south fork of the Snow River drainage, off the map here again, in the south off of Lake Nellie Juan, and you hunted goats off the east side of Lake Nellie Juan towards the Day Harbor drainage. RACHEL MASON: Did he access them by boat or how did -- WARREN HUSS: No. They would go up south fork of the Snow River at times, but usually he had an air taxi service that flew him in there. RACHEL MASON: I see. And how about you? How were you accessing it? WARREN HUSS: Almost always just on foot, off the road system. And I can't remember, in this area I never even -- well, I -- this was accessed by a boat, the area over in Day Harbor. This area up in here, which is kind of up behind what they call Fort McGilvray, in South Beach area, we hunted goats up in there. And that we accessed off the water. The other areas that we hunted, this area over up Day Harbor we accessed by my boat, went around the cape and went down to Bowen or Anchor, Anchor Cove, anchored there and just hiked up on what would be the east side of Ellsworth Glacier. Areas up in here it was all accessed just by foot. There are a lot of goats around in those days, and with the hunting pressure and stuff, it used to be when we first got here, you could just go out during the season and hunt. Then it got to a, you know, registration hunt, then it got to a permit type of hunt, so it really changed over the years. RACHEL MASON: What -- what was the season? What time of year was that? WARREN HUSS: Oh, it -- it was September --
MARY HUSS: August.
WARREN HUSS: September and Aug --
MARY HUSS: Goats?
RACHEL MASON: Goats.
WARREN HUSS: August. RACHEL MASON: So it would be a month or two that it could -- WARREN HUSS: Yeah, it was open a pretty long period of time. It actually got to the point where the latter part of the season it got kind of dangerous because oftentimes you were already into snow at that -- snowstorms at that upper elevation. And it would -- you'd get up there and it would be a nice day, and all of a sudden a storm would come in off the Gulf, and it would dump 3, 4, 5 inches of snow, and then you're scrambling down rock, and it wasn't fun sometimes. RACHEL MASON: Did you observe any population changes during the -- those early years of the goats, or was it just -- I mean, was that why they made it more and more restrictive? WARREN HUSS: Well, the population declined a lot as the hunting pressure came on -- it actually started to really decline the areas that were accessible in the road system. The areas that you could fly into, which I didn't do much of, but the people I know that flew in still had successful goat hunting, much more successful than what we had on the road system. I know a lot of people used to fly out of Moose Pass and go over to the border between Unit 6 and Unit 7, and they would land up, like, at Lake Nellie Juan, they would fly over to the Icy -- Icy Bay drainage, Kings Bay drainage. And those fly in hunts were still pretty good until -- oh, I can't even remember, it must have been the mid '80s when those really started to decline, as well. There was some shifts in the population. Originally when we got here, there were a lot of goats up along the edge of the Quartz Creek and Mills Creek drainage. On the Quartz Creek side facing the highway, or the Quartz mountainside facing the highway, that was all goats. And then after you got on the east side of Quartz -- RACHEL MASON: Could you mark that, too, where that --
WARREN HUSS: Let's see, is it even on this map? Ptarmigan -- No, it would be further up.
RACHEL MASON: Oh. WARREN HUSS: It's past Grant Lake.
RACHEL MASON: I see. WARREN HUSS: So it's -- yeah, it's up, further up in this area, up past Grant Lake. And it's -- it's an area where for some reason the goats moved into the sheep territory and pushed the sheep out of there eventually. And they were gone for a couple years. And then all of a sudden the sheep started migrating across the highway back up into the Crescent and Madson Mountain area, up in this area. So -- up in this Madson Mountain area, and then all the edge of -- in these areas along here, and up in the bend of the lake on Crescent Lake, these mountains up in here. They used to have goats up in there, and then all of a sudden the population of sheep took off, and they actually -- that was closed for a number of years, and then they opened it, I couldn't even tell you what year it was, probably in the early '80s, and they had a permit -- they issued, like, 10 permits for sheep up in that area. So we would climb up on the mountains there, and I hunted a lot. We had actually had a camp that we would go in. We'd start down here at Lawing, and we'd take a boat up -- let's see, how did we -- we'd take a boat up to right about in here, and we would hike up this valley up to this lake right in here, and then from there, we actually had a camp right in here where we hunted moose, and then we climbed up the mountains up here onto Manson Mountain and hunted these ridges up here for sheep. And this -- yeah, we had a moose camp here, it was kind of a fun place. We just hauled gear in, in the winter, took it up the -- up the trail, down the lake, up this riverbed, and across on the other side of the -- this is a deep valley that goes between Manson Mountain, and I can't remember the name of this mountain, but we established a camp up at the top there. So we left all our gear in big steel barrels up there with closeable rims on them. And we got a lot of moose out of there. I can't remember how many, but -- RACHEL MASON: Yeah. Then you'd have to -- would you have to pack them out on your back? WARREN HUSS: Yes. Yeah. We would -- from this camp, we would go down the lake in the fall, then, because you couldn't get up here by snow machine, this is too long a walk. You could have flown in.
In fact, in later years we kind of quit hunting there because people would fly in, and there's a cabin right here now, a Forest Service cabin. People started flying into that cabin and hunting this area. When they started doing that, we abandoned the camp, but we would go up and actually beyond these little creeks and hike back up here, and then when we shoot our moose, we would have to pack it back down, back down the mountain, down to the lake, and came back by boat, back to Lawing. So it was about a three and a half mile pack to get to -- to get the moose out of there. RACHEL MASON: Who did you go hunting with? WARREN HUSS: I hunted with Dave Hilton, who was the lab tech at the hospital; Ted McHenry, who was the Fish and Game biologist here for a number of years. Let's see. Al Lamberson, Al and Bob McCabe, they were both employed at AVTEC, Al was a counselor, and Bob McCabe was in the clerical program there. And my son hunted with us several times. And that was it, I think. As I recall, basically it was about four or five of us that went up there usually two or these -- three or four at a time. And you'd divide up in twos so you always had a hunting partner with you. Because there were bear up there, there were just black bear, we never saw any grizzly, but there were a lot of black bear up there so we always hunted in pairs up there. RACHEL MASON: Yeah. Did you ever encounter any bears? WARREN HUSS: Not as far as we -- we shot some bear up there, but never had a encounter with one. We had -- one time we had one in camp in the middle of the night, a black bear. Woke -- let's see, I can't even remember who it woke up, one of the other guys, and he went back to sleep, and we woke up in the morning and the bear had walked through our camp. But didn't -- didn't even bother us in the tents or anything like that.
RACHEL MASON: The bear tried to wake the guy up. And he went back to sleep. WARREN HUSS: Yeah. I did have one instance where I was at that camp, I was with my son and Bob McCabe and Al Lamberson, and they were in another tent, I was camp -- I was with my son, and I was up against the side of the tent, we had a little two man tent, and we were camped right along the edge of a moose trail that came off this little drainage and went out into this, there's a long, open valley there. And in the middle of the night I just -- it felt like somebody kicked me in the head, and I kind of woke up with a startle. I got up the next day, and here was a cow moose track, had walked right next to the tent and, I mean, right next to it, and my head was against that side of the tent, and there was a calf because there was a smaller track with it, and that moose, evidently, when it walked by kicked me in the head because -- I mean, the track was -- fresh track was right there, and I mean, like that far from the edge of the tent, so it must have swung its foot and kicked me in the head, and -- RACHEL MASON: Wow. You're lucky it didn't step on your head.
WARREN HUSS: Yeah. Tapped in the middle of the night. That was the only close encounter of any kind we had. So...
RACHEL MASON: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Now, when you were a dentist, were you in private practice here or were you -- WARREN HUSS: Yep. Private practice. Yep. I came here in '71, and just took -- actually, I didn't have a license to practice here. I took -- the board examination had just been offered when I got out of the military in July, I wasn't here in time to take the board, but they gave me a provisional license and I could practice in a town with no resident dentist within 25 miles. And there were about four different communities that were seeking resident dentists, and Seward was one of them. And they -- RACHEL MASON: Do you -- sorry. I interrupted you. I was going to ask if it was easy to fit into the town when you first moved, in or -- WARREN HUSS: Oh, it was. The town was -- it was not a lot smaller than what it is, right? There was probably about, oh, 2500 people in town, and maybe 3,000 people in the whole area. But everybody was really friendly. I mean, we got introduced around real quick and, you know, awful lot of those people that are our age or a little bit older are still here in town. That's why we've never left. I retired and I don't intend to leave. KAREN BREWSTER: I was wondering why you chose Seward, but they were recruiting and you saw an advertisement? WARREN HUSS: No. What I did is I had gotten out of the military, we were looking -- I had had contact with a fellow who had been in the Public Health Service, was here in Alaska, and had come back to University of Michigan where I went to dental school. He came back in orthodontics and he said, "Oh, you've got to go to Alaska." And he showed me bunch of hunting and fishing, you know, things. And so I -- I wrote the Alaska Dental Society and I asked them if there was any place that needed a resident dentist. And they wrote back and they said that, well, you can -- you have to have a license, but we will grant you a provisional permit for one year to practice without a license as long as I was licensed in another state. And I was licensed in the state of Michigan at the time. So they said, well, if you come and practice in one of these smaller communities, we'll let you practice for a year, and then you can take the boards and if you pass the boards, you can stay. And the places that were looking for dentists at that time were Seward, and they were the most positive respondent. Dick Enberg (phonetic) who is the banker here at the town was very helpful. Keith Campbell was the hospital administrator. And he had talked with Geraldine Morrow who was a dentist in Anchorage, and she later became the first woman president of the American Dental Association. And they just made things very easy for me.
Gene Thorn, who built -- had the Showcase Lounge, or still has it to this day, he built an office for me, and charged me next to nothing for rent. And so we came up here and -- oh, and the pharmacist, Jim Warren, was also very helpful in getting us settled here in town and everything. In fact -- KAREN BREWSTER: Which were -- which were the other communities? You said there were other -- WARREN HUSS: Oh, there was Seward, that was the most helpful community. There was Valdez, but that was pre-pipeline days, and everybody said you don't want to go to Valdez. I don't think there had ever been a dentist there at that time. KAREN BREWSTER: Right, it was also not too long after the earthquake, either.
WARREN HUSS: Right. And that --
RACHEL MASON: Which would have been an issue here, too. WARREN HUSS: Yes, it was, it was a big issue. The --
KAREN BREWSTER: So Seward, Valdez. WARREN HUSS: King Salmon, Naknek Borough were seeking a dentist, and then Pribilof Islands. And the Pribilof Islands, they wrote back and said, you know, it's basically a Public Health Service contract, you're really not going to be, you know, a private dentist out there, you'll be doing Public Health -- Public Health Service work. Valdez, like I say, I don't think Valdez ever even responded to my letter when I wrote them. And King Salmon said if you like to hunt and fish, we would love to have you come, great place, we need a dentist, but you better not be married because your wife won't like it. I don't know why they said that, but -- so that kind of -- RACHEL MASON: There was a red flag.
WARREN HUSS: -- that kind of nixed us going to King Salmon, and we made the right decision when we came to Seward, so... KAREN BREWSTER: So tell us about Seward, then, because it was not too long after the earthquake here. WARREN HUSS: Yeah. It was '71 when we got here, and of course, the earthquake was in '64, but there was still a lot of -- a lot of debris around that hadn't been moved. Right out at the end of Nash Road here, there were still three or four of the big tanks that had floated across the bay, and had grounded themselves over off Bill McDonald's property over here at the -- just before you start at the hill to go out to the Spring Creek area. When we got here that first summer -- or the summer after we got here they burned 26 or 29 derelict buildings in town, mainly homes that had just been deserted after the earthquake because people -- people up and left town. Longshoring went to zero, basically. And so they had just started a volunteer fire department, and I believe that started under Oscar Watsjold, and he was the first fire chief, maybe. Don't quote me on that. But -- so they were looking for buildings to practice on, they got all these old buildings in town that they wanted burned down, so they would set them on fire and call up the fire department, the volunteer fire department to go out and put out the -- put out the fires. And a lot of vacant buildings in the downtown area. I couldn't even begin to name some of the -- the Osbow building, the -- there was just a lot of buildings downtown that had been vacant since the earthquake. Those eventually were occupied, and most of those buildings are still here today. They've just been gutted and remodeled and turned into, you know, nice commercial property downtown. So. RACHEL MASON: Where did you live when you first moved here? WARREN HUSS: When we first lived -- when we first moved here, there was nothing -- well, when we first moved to town, there was absolutely nothing available to rent or anything, so we ended up living with the pharmacist who was Jim Warren at the -- Jim and Mary Warren, and they lived out on the start of Bear Creek Road, right after you turn off the highway, that first home on the left side, and we lived in the basement of their house for 11 or 12 days. And it just so happened we knew -- we lived -- we knew Keith Campbell, the hospital administrator, become close friends with him right off the bat, and he knew a fellow in town who was the engineer on Nash Road. And they were -- Nash Road, just a year before that, had just been a trail. And it always flooded out down at the lagoon here, a half mile back down the road. And so they came in and they upgraded Nash Road, and they had just finished that project, raised the grade, straightened the road out quite a bit, and so this Dick Kopeney (phonetic) was leaving, he and his wife were vacating an apartment downtown on Fifth Avenue. And so we moved in on Fifth Avenue, and as it turned out, it was right next door to Keith and Jackie Campbell. Well, out the back door. They lived at Sixth Avenue, so we ended up being neighbors with probably our first friends here in town. And we were there for a little over a year, and then the physician that was here in town with his partner, that was Ed Watson was the physician, and John Noyes were in practice together here in Seward, and Ed Watson decided to leave, and this home came up for sale. So at that time, it was just a little bungalow and we just kept adding on. I put on these additions and stuff just to -- I had a lot of it framed in, but we've kind of putzed around with it, and just kept enlarging it. So this is -- this is really the first place we've lived here in town other than the rented place downtown. RACHEL MASON: So you've been here for over 30 years anyway? WARREN HUSS: In this house? Oh, yeah. Over --
MARY HUSS: It was actually July '72. WARREN HUSS: Yeah, that's right, we bought it in July '72. And we got the house. We were looking for just a house, but the physician, Ed Watson, had a nice boat at the time, it was a boat being Airedale Norway Fjords, it's called. And he wanted to sell the house and the boat, and another person was ahead of us on the house, and Dr. Watson said, well, if you'll buy the house and the boat, we will sell you the house. And I thought, I can't afford a boat. So he -- how did he do that. He -- oh, he approached us and he said -- he took us out the highway, and he had one of those front wheel drive Oldsmobile Toronados, and he says, we are going out the road. We were -- I sat in the front seat and Mary was in the back seat, and he said, "I'll tell you what," he said, "I'm going to sell you this boat for $1." It was a beautiful boat. I mean, I don't know what it was worth at the time, $40,000, or something like that, maybe. I have no -- I couldn't -- I don't even know, but he said, "I'll sell you the boat for a dollar," and he said, "you go down to the bank with the papers on this boat and they'll loan you the down payment on the house." So we -- I said, "Sounds good to me." So we --
RACHEL MASON: That's great. WARREN HUSS: -- took the -- bought the boat for a dollar and went down, and then they loaned me the down payment on the house. And it was kind of nice because the house at that time was built on -- part of the loan was an assumable SBA loan from the Small Business Administration at a very low rate, it was like 3, 3 or 3 and a half percent. So loans at that time were 11, 12, up to 14 percent, you know, on -- for home loans, so we got a pretty good deal right off the bat. RACHEL MASON: A lucky break.
WARREN HUSS: Yeah, it was a lucky break. KAREN BREWSTER: So, should we find out a little bit about Mary and her background? MARY HUSS: Nah. All I needed was a road when we moved here.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.
MARY HUSS: A road that went to an airport. RACHEL MASON: Okay. Did you have any kids at that time?
WARREN HUSS: No, they arrived after we did.
RACHEL MASON: Oh, okay. MARY HUSS: So they were both born here. RACHEL MASON: Uh hum. Are you from Michigan also?
MARY HUSS: Yes. Yes. RACHEL MASON: Oh. And both of you were born and raised in Michigan? WARREN HUSS: Yeah. Well, actually, Mary was born in Cleveland, but left Cleveland when she was about a year old, and we were both born in -- or both raised, grew up in Ann Arbor. Old high school sweethearts, so -- married.
RACHEL MASON: Oh. KAREN BREWSTER: When did you get married?
WARREN HUSS: 8/7/65. August 7th, 1965. KAREN BREWSTER: Happy anniversary.
WARREN HUSS: Coming up real quick, Saturday. MARY HUSS: That's why I know when goat hunt -- hunting season was. KAREN BREWSTER: Because he was always gone for your anniversary? MARY HUSS: Yes. And our son's birthday was August 7th. So he -- or August 9th. Yeah.
WARREN HUSS: August 9th. MARY HUSS: So he was usually gone for those events. RACHEL MASON: Oh, okay. well you're going to be coming up on your fiftieth anniversary pretty soon.
MARY HUSS: Right. 45 this year. RACHEL MASON: Yeah. Wow. Well, did -- Mary, did you participate in any of the hunting that went on or -- MARY HUSS: Only in the moose hunting, in my camper. RACHEL MASON: Oh. Okay. Well, how about that boat, that $1 boat?
MARY HUSS: No.
RACHEL MASON: What sort of use did you make of that? MARY HUSS: I never went on the hunting trips.
WARREN HUSS: Not hunting -- fishing. RACHEL MASON: Or fishing either?
MARY HUSS: Well, I go fishing, but -- WARREN HUSS: She used to go hunting, we would go with the Campbells, we had a camper, a little truck camper, and we would go hunting over by Cooper Landing back on the Snug Harbor Road, drive back and just park there and hunt the hillsides. That's the only time she -- you ever really went hunting. But fishing all the time. She loves to fish, so... MARY HUSS: Well, and you also did a lot of duck hunting.
RACHEL MASON: Oh, yeah, where did you go duck hunting? WARREN HUSS: Oh, locally. We -- I just started out just hunting out -- it used to be legal to hunt out around the airport. RACHEL MASON: You can mark that. WARREN HUSS: Yeah. Right -- get the right end of it here. There's tidal flats out here, and we would hunt these flats out around the edge of the airport, and sometimes over on the east side of the airport. And hunted some out on Bear Lake. We'd go up Bear Lake on the right side of Bear -- east side of Bear Lake. Sometimes we hunted up at Crescent Lake, at this end of the lake we hunted up here for ducks. There's a couple of little creeks that would come in there and you would get ducks in here. A lot of my duck hunting, early days was across the inlet over on the Kustatan River, we'd fly across from the east [inaudible] to the west [inaudible], and go up the Kustatan. And some friends had a cabin up there, which is the original -- it sits on the original drilling pad where they dropped the first oil exploratory well for the whole Swanson River oilfield. RACHEL MASON: Really?
WARREN HUSS: And the pipe is still there. The cabin's still there, and we'd fly across there and had boats and we duck hunted out in the mud flats out there. RACHEL MASON: What particular kind of ducks did you like to get? WARREN HUSS: Oh, if -- everything over there. We always looked for mallards, but a lot of them were widgeon, teal. We had some Canadian -- Canada geese. Oh, boy, I almost said Canadian geese. My friend in Canada that we just visited last fall, he said, they're not Canadian geese, they're Canada geese. So -- but we hunt those. Ring wing teal. There's just a variety. A variety. Pintails, quite a few pintails. RACHEL MASON: Yeah. I was just wondering if there were specific areas where you would try to get certain kinds? WARREN HUSS: No. Most of the hunting here, it was best when the ponds froze up in the upper elevations, the ducks would come down, like, around the airport when the upper elevation puddle ponds would freeze up. Then there was sort of like a two or three week period where ducks were really prominent here. And we did some hunting right down here at the slough, you know as you come down Nash Road here, as you're driving around Nash Road, you cross that big body of water.
RACHEL MASON: Uh hum. WARREN HUSS: Just down here about a half mile.
RACHEL MASON: They call that the slough? WARREN HUSS: Well, we called it the slough for years. But it's --
MARY HUSS: The culvert. WARREN HUSS: The culvert. We'd hunt on the south side of there. I had a blind out there and my son and I would go down there to the canoe, paddle out to the blind and sit there. And there were just local ducks. In the evening they would come back off the saltwater and land back up on that -- in that marshy area off to the left. KAREN BREWSTER: And so what time of year are you duck hunting? WARREN HUSS: That's in the fall of the year. You know, that usually starts in September.
MARY HUSS: Ptarmigan. RACHEL MASON: Ptarmigan. Yeah.
WARREN HUSS: Oh. Ptarmigan. To no end.
MARY HUSS: Crescent Lake. Crescent Lake. WARREN HUSS: Crescent Lake, we went up a lot on.
RACHEL MASON: Could you put that on there. WARREN HUSS: Yeah. On the Crescent Lake area, what we would do is we would -- we'd go up in the wintertime by snow machine and hunt -- there's big willow flats right here at the end of Crescent Lake, but the mountainsides, these ridges on either side between Carter and Crescent Lake were really good for -- for ptarmigan. In fact, when my son was really young, that's the only meat he would eat.
RACHEL MASON: Really? WARREN HUSS: Yeah. We couldn't -- I mean, that and baloney. But you put anything else in front of him, he wouldn't eat it. Put a piece of ptarmigan and, you know, saute it up, and he loved it. And this is like when he was two years old. And he stayed that way until he was about four. It was about the only thing he'd eat is ptarmigan, so I did a lot of ptarmigan hunting in the early years. RACHEL MASON: How do you get up there? WARREN HUSS: There's an old -- right past the Trail Lake Hatchery, there's a pull off at Crescent and Carter Lake, and it's a zigzag trail that you could take snow machines up, and we'd hunt up -- during the wintertime we would hunt for them up there. And that trail was put in, I couldn't tell you exactly, it was sometime in the mid or late '50s, and they were looking at a possible hydro electric development from this little lake here, which is Carter Lake, and the drainage that goes off to the -- to the east and south out of Carter Lake, they were looking at putting in a hydro electric, small hydro electric plant there to supply supplemental power to Seward, and I guess Moose Pass. So they put that road in, but they never -- never went ahead with any kind of hydro electric plant of any kind up there. But there was a switchback road that went up there, and you'd just ride up in snow -- that trail was really heavily used in the wintertime for people that want to get up in the alpine and get up onto Crescent and Carter Lake. And, of course, there's now two nice cabins up there that the Forest Service has, one here that's right down on the -- about halfway down on the bend of the lake, and then the other one's kind of off the map, it's down on the very south -- that would be the northwest end of the lake. So there's two Forest Service cabins up there that you can rent. But we did some other ptarmigan hunting some other places, but it wasn't very successful. That was one of the areas that you could get up into high country and on a snow machine in the wintertime. We also -- well, I take that back. South fork of the Snow River, let's see, is this -- is this south fork here? Bear Lake up here, go up the south fork to Snow River. And let's see. I guess it's this drainage here. And up at -- up around Lake Nellie Juan there was good ptarmigan hunting up there, too, so we used to go. RACHEL MASON: So have your hunting areas changed over the years where -- where you hunt? WARREN HUSS: No. Not so much. It pretty much --
MARY HUSS: You don't hunt. RACHEL MASON: The areas have never changed --
WARREN HUSS: Yeah, I've really kind of gotten out of hunting. I still love to camp and hike and stuff, but I don't know, beef tastes awfully good, and packing a big moose right now does not -- is not -- not on my plate. KAREN BREWSTER: Maybe we should talk about the Exit Glacier area.
WARREN HUSS: Okay.
KAREN BREWSTER: And that drainage, in that valley. RACHEL MASON: What kinds of hunting have you done in that area? WARREN HUSS: Well, very little on -- on the -- we never really hunted prior to the formation of the park on the -- what would be the west side of the road, or on the Exit Glacier side of the road. We did some hunting in the river valley, there were occasionally ptarmigan there, and -- but we never really hunted on this side at all. And then after the park opened, I think it was closed to hunting. And actually, after they closed it to hunting, that area, there are quite a few ptarmigan were there and then up, what we used to call Blackstone, they now call it Paradise, which is the valley just to the east of the Exit Glacier Valley. And they call it Paradise now, but we always named it -- we called that valley Blackstone Valley because it was off what they call Blackstone Glacier. And I used to trap up in there with the -- the Forest Service head Phil Gumm, we trapped wolverine up there. It was his trapline, but I went up with him sometimes on weekends, and we'd trap wolverine. RACHEL MASON: When was that? Was that before it was a park? WARREN HUSS: Oh, yeah, that was back in -- in fact, he's in one of these pictures. It's this fellow here. And we used to trap just around this point. RACHEL MASON: Could you hold it so the camera could see the -- WARREN HUSS: Oh. That fellow there, it's not very -- on the far right side. This is a bridge that we were making to get up to Exit Glacier, and this is in '72. RACHEL MASON: Which one is you?
WARREN HUSS: This is me here.
RACHEL MASON: Oh, okay. WARREN HUSS: Standing on a piece of plywood. This is me when I made it to the other side, and all of a sudden a big chunk of ice broke off and I was stuck on an ice floe out in the middle of the creek. RACHEL MASON: Yeah. Well, it looks like you're giving the thumbs up --
WARREN HUSS: This is my son. I think that's -- MARY HUSS: No.
WARREN HUSS: You know, I don't know who that is. It couldn't be -- that was Richard Aldo (phonetic). RACHEL MASON: Okay.
WARREN HUSS: Richard Aldo.
RACHEL MASON: Another one -- WARREN HUSS: And then finally, what, they retrieved an old piece of plywood, I don't even remember where they got the plywood, but I'm stuck on this hunk of ice out in the center, and they put a board out. And so we went back --
RACHEL MASON: Pausing breifly to take pictures.
WARREN HUSS: -- and built a better bridge. We got a great, big ladder, and that's how we made bridges to get up to Exit Glacier in those years.
RACHEL MASON: Oh I see. Wow. What time of year was that? WARREN HUSS: This is -- well, let's see, the date is on this. I think it was November. Where is the date? November 19th, 7 -- 1972. That was one of our early attempts at getting up to Exit Glacier.
RACHEL MASON: Okay. WARREN HUSS: When we trapped, we -- there were several years in the early '70s where we didn't have to build bridges, even though the creek is -- I don't know, it seems like it's as big as it was -- is now. But we used to be able to just find snow bridges and cross those snow bridges, and we would go up and we set our traps up in -- Well, Phil actually was the one that was doing the trapping, I'd just go along for safety factor so he had somebody else with him, and I kind of helped him. RACHEL MASON: Could you mark where you --
WARREN HUSS: Well, it's actually off your map here.
RACHEL MASON: Oh. It is? Oh. WARREN HUSS: And I don't think it carries over on to this map.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, the maps kind of line up with these. WARREN HUSS: Oh, here it is. No. Here they are.
RACHEL MASON: They should line up.
WARREN HUSS: It's Paradise. It's up Paradise Creek here. And what we would do, see, this is your Exit Glacier Road here. Right there. And what we would do is we would cross the river back, which in this picture here, that point right there is -- where was I -- is this point of land right here. So we would cross the river back here a little ways because up here where it's just below the current bridge that goes -- turns and goes up to the Exit Glacier Park, that was always open; but as you got down here, the river got a little braided and was a little shallower, and we were able to find snow bridges across there. And then we would go up Paradise here. And usually what we did was we would -- right where this narrows down, there's a spot on here, and a spot along -- spots along the side of this -- the west side of this peak where there were quite a few wolverine in there. And so we trapped wolverine up there. And then up as far as where this makes a fairly sharp bend right here, and this heads up, this gets real avalanchey, so we very rarely ever got beyond the -- well, this is about 3 miles up there, I would guess. And he was real meticulous, used the regular leg hold type trap, and boiled his traps and, you know, never touched them so -- because wolverine can smell the scent on your hands and stuff. So he would boil his traps, whenever he cleaned -- used ptarmigan and rabbits for baits. He used to go over to Skilak and hunt rabbits and always wore gloves, never touched them, so there wasn't any human scent on the animal. And then -- but that's about the only hunting or trapping I did on the park side of the -- of the -- KAREN BREWSTER: Now, how did you get up there? Were you using snow machines?
WARREN HUSS: Snow machines, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: When did you start using snow machines here? WARREN HUSS: I brought a snow machine from Labrador with me, so we started right in '71. I shipped, of all things, kind of stupid to do, but the military was paying for it, so I had a snow machine, and I shipped it up here. And we started out with one snow machine and a dog and the three of us on a snow machine. RACHEL MASON: Did other people around here have snow machines at that time? WARREN HUSS: Uh hum. Yeah. It was -- it was pretty popular. There weren't the trails that there are now, but the Lost Lake area was accessible at that time and had been for a number of years. RACHEL MASON: Was it in -- was it 1980 when the park was established --
WARREN HUSS: Park started. Yeah. RACHEL MASON: Can you tell a little bit about how the local response to that, or how that affected -- WARREN HUSS: Well, you know, it was -- it was real negative to begin with. People were really afraid that especially not the Exit Glacier Park, that part of the park, but the whole Kenai Fjords National Park, a lot of people were afraid the whole place was just going to get shut down, that you weren't going to be able to go onshore, you weren't going to be able to fly over the area. I mean, there were just some bizarre rumors that went around. And fortunately, one of -- the first person that they brought in here to head up the park was Dave Moore. And Dave Moore was a very personable -- person with the Park Service. And he really calmed a lot of the fears. And, I mean, I can't remember that we were really all that negative about it. We kind of were a little worried about the boating activity because we always had enjoyed going over to Aialik and going to shore there. But Dave just did a real good job in dealing with the public and making -- making the point for having the park. So... And that's kind of -- you know, the park, actually, the real visionary for Exit Glacier Park, I think, goes back to Herman Leirer. Herman Leirer was one of the -- I don't know if you talked with other people about Herman, but Herman was -- RACHEL MASON: We've heard about him. WARREN HUSS: He owned -- right after the earthquake, he bought a lot of property here in town. He owns -- he or his sons own and still own a lot of the property that's in the industrial area down around Seward Ship's Chandlery, in that area and he acquired all that land. And he was a heavy equipment operator. And so after the earthquake, you know, the town itself had very little going on until the pipeline days. So Herman was one that could see the potential for tourism in the area. And I couldn't tell you, I think it started shortly after the earthquake, Herman just took it upon himself, and I'm not sure he even had the permits to do it, but he had a big bulldozer and he started knocking a road up the -- the north side of Resurrection River towards Exit Glacier because he'd, you know, seen Exit Glacier and he thought, wow, what a tourist attraction that would be if we could just build a road up there. And as I understand it, for years he just putzed along, built that road; it kept washing out and -- but he kept, you know, persisting. At one point he walked the -- his Cat across the creek where the current bridge is, and from there, just knocked down the brush right up to the glacier, made a couple passes with his Cat. And then over the years, that was overgrown, so it was all overgrown with alders, but all the big trees had been knocked out of there. And so by the time we got here, a few people had already started using the Exit Glacier area where the -- where the visitors center is now, but you couldn't get across the river. There was no bridge or anything. And the road from town starting out at the highway, it just constantly washed out. He would build -- you know, work on the road, and then maybe get a mile or two done in the summer or something like that, he would come back and the river would overflow its banks and take the road out. And, you know, once every couple years, starting when we got here, you could -- with a four wheel drive vehicle, you could get up the road to the bridge, as far as the bridge. Sometimes you couldn't quite get -- there was one area that you couldn't quite get past, because oftentimes it was a big river that washed out -- and I can't remember which river it was, but so what we do is we would haul a canoe, or let's see, I had a little raft that went with my boat, a little plastic we called a sporty-ack, and we would go up there, and Mary and I and her folks and Campbells, a lot of people would just -- we'd go up there on a lark and launch our canoe and paddle across the river. And then at that point, we only did that every year or two because it would overgrow with brush so quick. So we'd whack our way up to the glacier and just go up to see it. And then we learned the trick in the wintertime of going up Exit Creek, which is the creek that comes out of Exit Glacier now. And we'd just go up the creek valley. RACHEL MASON: On foot?
WARREN HUSS: No, on snow machine.
RACHEL MASON: Uh hum. WARREN HUSS: Well, in the -- in the summertime, we always hiked the -- in the summertime we always hiked that Cat trail that was overgrown. People -- enough people went up there they kept it open, it was -- you know, it was just brushed out with an axe or whatever, but you could hike it. And I think the moose helped to keep it open. But then in the wintertime, we usually just went up Exit, Exit Creek on our snow machines. We crossed the river down south -- I mean, east of -- of where the bridge is now, and then we'd get on Exit Creek and go up to the glacier that way. KAREN BREWSTER: So is that why you were building these bridges to take your snow machines across
WARREN HUSS: Yeah, we would take --
KAREN BREWSTER: -- Resurrection River? WARREN HUSS: Yeah, we just started out just trying to use snow bridges, and they were constantly getting washed out, and it wasn't very dependable. So then we went to building ladders, and we would put the ladders across. The first thing we started doing was cutting trees and hauling the trees out and standing them up and letting them fall. Well, we soon learned that that was just too much work. So we built ladders, looked like a ladder, and we'd drag it up behind the snow machine, drop it across the creek, and then go off and cut a bunch of spruce boughs, put the spruce boughs on top of it and wait until the next snow. And the next snow, it would cover the spruce boughs over and you could drive -- it would form an ice bridge that was stable, and then that ice bridge would last for a number of years -- or a number of months -- RACHEL MASON: Wow. Sounds kid of dangerous --
WARREN HUSS: -- before it'd get washed out again.
KAREN BREWSTER: That ice looks pretty thin. MARY HUSS: I was not involved. I had babies, you know -- WARREN HUSS: Yeah. Well, not -- off on the side here, it's not that thin.
KAREN BREWSTER: But to get up there to put the bridge, it looks thin, no? -- WARREN HUSS: No, right along the edge, it would be -- you know, the snow would accumulate. The river was fairly well channeled. MARY HUSS: But you were on the other side of the river from the road.
WARREN HUSS: Right. MARY HUSS: Yeah. If that makes sense. Where the current road is.
KAREN BREWSTER: Right. MARY HUSS: A ladder, this was on the -- against the other bank.
WARREN HUSS: It'd be the south side. Against the other bank. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, you started on the other side. WARREN HUSS: Actually, early, or when we first started here in '71 and started snow machining up there, we didn't even go up the road. We used to leave from town, our friends Jackie and Keith Campbell had moved to Forest Acres at that time, and we would drive from their place in Forest Acres out through what is now the dump, and there was a trail there, and then we'd just go up the river valley. KAREN BREWSTER: You can mark that on the map, maybe. WARREN HUSS: Oh, okay. What we'd do is -- Forest Acres is this area right over here, the residential area, and what we would do is we'd go out the back of this residential area out onto the riverbed, and then go up the riverbed on our snow machines. And the only problem with there is all along in here we got into trouble several times, the river was very well channeled up here, it would get down here and it'd kind of get braided, ice bridges would form, but then a lot of overflow. So several times we got caught in the -- trying to get up to Exit Glacier, we got caught in the overflow. We'd be riding along and all of a sudden your snow machine just sinks in this slush and you're stuck there. Stand on your seat, take your boots off to keep boots and socks, and try and wade your way out of the thing, pull the snow machine up onto good, solid ground again, put your boots back on, and usually at that point we'd turn around and head home. KAREN BREWSTER: So how do you get the snow machine out? WARREN HUSS: You'd just physically get in, take your boots and socks off, roll up your pants, and wade in there. Your feet would get numb and you'd pull it out. KAREN BREWSTER: Because it would weigh a ton with all that ice. WARREN HUSS: Oh, yeah. You'd get it packed in the tracks, it would take three adults, three adult men to pull the snow machine that's stuck in overflow and you just drag it. You know, usually it was only, like, 20 feet one way or the other, and you'd be out of that area of overflow, and then -- MARY HUSS: Well, machines were lighter then, too. WARREN HUSS: Yeah, they were these little -- we had little 250 twin cylinder Elans, they were made by Skidoo, they only weighed about 270 pounds or 260 pounds. So, you know, they were pretty light. Not like the big machines nowadays. RACHEL MASON: Well, did you go up for day trips or did you ever camp out around the glacier? WARREN HUSS: Almost all that was -- prior to the park was just -- just day trips. We never stayed the night over there, never -- never camped. I know some people did. We did -- a couple times we went out after it was a park and stayed in what's now where their visitor in the park stays, there's a little A frame in there. And then -- RACHEL MASON: Was it a cabin?
WARREN HUSS: Yeah, it was a cabin, it was put in, actually -- MARY HUSS: That was in the '90s. WARREN HUSS: That was in the '90s, though. And that's the only time we stayed overnight over there. Our son did a project out at Exit Glacier in coordination with the DePaul University and Anne Castellina, who was the head of the park at that time, and they spent winter term out there. One guy was a writer, one guy was a biologist or botanist, and the other was -- our son is a geologist, and they spent a month out there, and they did surveys across the face of the glacier. It's 70 some survey points. And what they were doing is they were mapping the glacier every 12 hours, and then they put that on a computer to show how the face of the glacier moved. And they put that all on a computer program. And they -- they went out there, they did a lot of just observations. They would get up on the edge of the glacier where the upper trail is now, that upper trail, they would hike up there, this was in the wintertime, it was in February, I think. And there were nine or ten moose in the valley, and there was a pack of eight wolves in the area that constantly were harassing those moose, and so they would go up in the evening and just watch these moose and wolves interact out there on the outwash plain and down Exit Creek, in that area. It was kind of an interesting project. I took them food out at night, several times ran into the pack of wolves; about halfway up, I ran into and saw five of them at one time. Just past, like, where the last gate is now, which is about mile -- right at the -- right at the Forest Service boundary there, where there's a gate. And I was -- I had just gone another quarter mile beyond that, and out in the flats I saw one wolf, and pretty soon five of them, five of the eight came out and were visible, like they just watched me. I was on the snow machine, and it was really, really a lot of fun. It was good. RACHEL MASON: Wow. How long ago was that?
WARREN HUSS: That was in '94. Yeah, well, after the park was -- RACHEL MASON: Do the trails around Exit Glacier, do they precede the park or are those -- they have just been made since the park was there? WARREN HUSS: Most of those trails, like there's a trail from Paradise that constantly changes, and they went from Paradise, or what we call Blackstone, over to Exit Glacier. And that -- that -- all those little trails and everything are all new since the park was formed. We never cut through from Paradise Valley over to Exit Glacier in those days because there just wasn't a way through there. KAREN BREWSTER: Are you talking about snow machine or hiking? WARREN HUSS: Snow machine. And there weren't any hiking trails. Today I don't think there are any hiking trails in that area. There are the little hiking trails that they've established around the edge of the glacier. RACHEL MASON: Well, like, how about that Harding Ice Field trail? Does that -- is that -- WARREN HUSS: No, that was -- that trail -- I think some people had climbed up there, but that trail wasn't even put in until after the park was established in '80. I don't believe there was a trail there. The people that went up on top of the glacier, at the top of Exit Glacier to this snow machining operation that Arley Zimmerman had, and Norm Waggee (phonetic), who was another fellow here in town, they flew people in. And you'll be interviewing Gary, his son, later.
RACHEL MASON: Oh, we did.
KAREN BREWSTER: We already did.
WARREN HUSS: Oh, you already did. Okay. And he's one of the few, his dad -- no. I can't remember if it was his dad or Norm Waggee was one of the few that snow machined out of that place, and they came down -- they came out Paradise Valley instead of coming down Exit. They went over and came down Paradise Valley out that way. He got caught up there in a snowstorm and couldn't get out of there, and finally he was running out of food, and the cabin was buried and just for the first time in -- I don't know, I mean -- MARY HUSS: What about Resurrection River trail, was that there? WARREN HUSS: Yeah, that was -- yeah, there is one trail right at the bridge where you cross over. There was always been a trail that went from there -- I mean, not always, but there was a trail there in '71, I believe it was -- it was already there, that used to go up to a couple cabins up Placer Creek, further up past Exit Glacier, and that trail eventually, and by the time we got here in '71, I think that trail actually went all the way through to Upper Russian Lake, Upper Russian, Lower Russian Lakes. So you could hike all the way up that valley. There were a couple cabins of there. Arley Zimmerman used to have a bear hunting cabin up there, Gary's father. And there were a couple old mining cabins up there that when our son was doing this project with DePaul, I know he and the three boys went out, there was so much snow that year that he had talked with the -- somebody at the Park Service, and they were afraid that cabin was going to collapse. So they went up and got up there, and I think they said there was 9 feet of snow on the roof. And it was an older logging -- mining cabin. And the three of them went up there and spent a day and shoveled that cabin off, to keep it from collapsing. I'm not sure whether the cabin's there or not, yet. It was five or six miles further up the valley. KAREN BREWSTER: And have you hiked up that trail yourself? WARREN HUSS: Yeah, we've hiked up it several times. It's not very far. We've gone up in there two or three miles. I've never hiked it all the way over to Upper Russian Lake, but it's a fairly popular hiking trail. And I can't remember, it was probably in the late '80s they -- the Forest Service came in and put a nice series of bridges and stuff in over the creeks, and widened it and improved the trail. Put in some things to stop drainage, little like culverts underneath the trail to keep it from washing out. And there's still a lot of people hike that trail now. I know mountain bikers like to run down that trail. It's kind of a risky area. There's brown bear up in there, it's kind of an area populated by the same brown bear that moved down into the Russian River area and Upper and Lower Russian Lakes area. So... RACHEL MASON: You were saying you shot a few bears over the years. Was that hunting them or just in defense situations? WARREN HUSS: Yeah, I was -- you know, we shot one bear that didn't taste very good. That was up at Crescent Lake, and I thought, I don't need another bear. I never -- I never hunted for -- we always hunted just to -- for meat. I never was after, you know, the racks or anything. RACHEL MASON: Trophy hunting
WARREN HUSS: I just -- we enjoyed the meat. Take it up to Alaska Sausage and Indian Valley Meats and had it made into everything under the sun. MARY HUSS: But not bear.
WARREN HUSS: But not bear. Bear didn't seem to keep very well in the freezer, and just decided we didn't like it. KAREN BREWSTER: You mentioned a wolverine. When you were putting on the map those dots for the wolverine, were these wolverine dens? WARREN HUSS: Well, the -- I've never found a wolverine den, but we'd see them moving around, tracks and stuff.
KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay. WARREN HUSS: This area, there was quite a few wolverine, like up Paradise, up south fork of the Snow River, up Johnson and Bench Lake out of Moose Pass, which is probably off your map here. But Johnson, Bench Lake is an area where there -- we used to see quite a few wolverine. Up in Ptarmigan Lake area there are wolverine. But any the only place I actually trapped them or helped trap, I really -- Phil was the one that trapped, the Forest Service had here, was over in this area here. There was another fellow in town who did a lot of trapping up here, Arnold was his last name, and I can't think of his first name. He was the -- now they moved from here to Glennallen, but they trap -- he trapped a lot up in the Mount Alice area. But we would just go out there, and you would find an area where they frequented and put your set, usually we used a -- he had all kinds of different types of set, use a slanted log, and bait it with, like I say, ptarmigan or rabbits, and -- RACHEL MASON: Is he still around? Your old trapping partner. WARREN HUSS: Phil -- no, Phil left Seward here in about '74, '75. And he went on to be -- they moved to Juneau, and he was the head for the state fire. RACHEL MASON: Oh, really. WARREN HUSS: Yeah. He managed all the firefighters's efforts, firefighting efforts in the state. And I think he was at that job for about ten -- maybe five, ten years, and then he and his wife Audrey retired down to Washington State and bought an apple orchard down there, and they're still around. They travel. Our friends Keith and Jackie Campbell have seen them down in Padre Island, Texas, and stuff, but --
Percy Blatchford was interviewed on April 12, 2010 by Rachel Mason, Don Callaway and Karen Brewster at the Van Gilder Hotel in Seward, Alaska. Percy was born in Teller, Alaska in 1929. His father was a fox farmer originally from England and his mother was from Shishmaref. After World War II when fur prices crashed, the family moved to Nome. Percy came to Seward in 1954 after serving in the Army. In this interview he talks about his childhood, working as a longshoreman, the Native community in Seward and organization of the Qutekcak Tribe, hunting around Seward, changes in wildlife populations, and the 1964 Earthquake. He talks about helping build the Herman Leirer Road to Exit Glacier, especially the blasting work he did, how people have used the area, and how the road affected use.
Click to section:
Personal background and coming to Seward
Growing up on a fur farm in Teller, Alaska
His father's background and work history
How his father met his mother who was from Shishmaref
Moving to Nome, Alaska
Moving to Seward
Meeting his wife and getting married
The Native community in Seward
Hunting in the Resurrection River Valley
Changes in moose populations
Sheep and bear hunting
Other hunting activities
Observations of changes
Construction of the Exit Glacier Road
Marking the road route on the map
Working as a driller and blaster on the road construction
Goat hunting up Box Canyon
Working on the Exit Glacier Road construction
Effects of the Exit Glacier Road
Effects of the establishment of Kenai Fjords National Park
His hunting partner, Aron Wiklund
Establishment of the Qutekcak Tribe in Seward
More about working on construction of the Exit Glacier Road
Experience in the Army in World War II
Changes in Seward
RACHEL MASON: Hi. We're here with Percy Blatchford in Seward. It's April 12th, 2010. My name's Rachel Mason, and with me are Don Callaway and Karen Brewster. So just to start out -- -- PERCY BLATCHFORD: Okay. RACHEL MASON: -- what we'll ask you first is to tell us about your life story. PERCY BLATCHFORD: My life story? RACHEL MASON: Yes. You know, the things that you -- PERCY BLATCHFORD: I was -- I was born in Teller. RACHEL MASON: Teller, Alaska? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah, that's right out of Nome, about 70 miles away. My dad was a fur farmer. RACHEL MASON: Okay. PERCY BLATCHFORD: And when the war started, that cleaned us out because we couldn't get -- get rid of our fur. So we moved to Nome. RACHEL MASON: I think I'm going to move here, and then I'll -- I'll talk to you here.
So you moved to Nome? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yes. KAREN BREWSTER: What year were you born? PERCY BLATCHFORD: 1929. November 11th, 1929. RACHEL MASON: How did you happen to come down to Seward? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Well, I was -- after I got out of the Service, I went to Veterans school at Mount Edgecumbe. And my mom and my dad's family moved down there because she had tuberculosis, and we thought she could get into the ANS hospital there but she couldn't because at the time, there was a federal law saying if they were married to Whites, you couldn't -- she couldn't get in there. RACHEL MASON: Oh. PERCY BLATCHFORD: So mom had tuberculosis, so we kept her in a separate room and boiled her dishes and everything, and the health nurse would come once a week and check up. And they found out there was a san [sanitarium] here, so pop -- we were going to settle in Sitka because pop liked it there, you know, and the family liked it there. And mom had tuberculosis, so we had to -- there was a san out here where the Army is now, that used to be the Seward sanitarium for... And that's how we got to here. Now they changed that law. It used to be if you're married to a White, you couldn't go into the -- that's the silliest law. RACHEL MASON: Yeah. PERCY BLATCHFORD: You know. I mean, you're a Native and --
RACHEL MASON: Yeah.
PERCY BLATCHFORD: That's -- RACHEL MASON: What happened to White people that had tuberculosis?
PERCY BLATCHFORD: They -- they came to here.
RACHEL MASON: Oh. PERCY BLATCHFORD: My sister and brother in law both got it. He was in the service. Yeah. RACHEL MASON: So how many brothers and sisters do you have? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Well, by my mom, it was six boys and six girls. RACHEL MASON: Wow. PERCY BLATCHFORD: And dad was married before, but in the flu of 1918, he had -- had been married before, and he had four boys, and his wife and three boys died, just within days. And my brother Tom was two years old, he survived, he was there two -- two days by himself, two years old -- RACHEL MASON: Wow. PERCY BLATCHFORD: -- until pop came home. RACHEL MASON: And he survived? PERCY BLATCHFORD: He survived. He's the only one. He's my half brother. RACHEL MASON: So where -- where do you stand in the family? PERCY BLATCHFORD: I'm the next to the oldest now. RACHEL MASON: Great. PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. My sister in Kentucky just passed away this -- this year. And I've got one brother older than me. He's 82 now and I'm 80. Yeah. RACHEL MASON: Uh hum. What's your brother's name? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Eugene.
RACHEL MASON: Okay. So he's still alive.
PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. DON CALLAWAY: So where -- where were you -- were you in Teller? PERCY BLATCHFORD: We were in Teller. I went to grade school in Teller. And when the war came on, you know, we couldn't get rid of our furs. That was our business. They had a -- right across from Teller is the -- Grantley Harbor is the name of that harbor there, and right across, oh, about maybe not even a mile away, we had our fur farm. And we had -- DON CALLAWAY: Foxes? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Foxes. We kept them selective. You know, I mean, we keep breeders so we would get good fur, and had them all in the pens. In fact, when my brother went back there, he said that the place is -- we called it the platform, it was off the ground, and the pens were off the ground about 5 feet, I guess. That's what we did. RACHEL MASON: What did your dad do for a living when they came to Seward? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Well, he just went -- he went to -- he went to work for the Army there. He was just -- he always worked for himself, but I guess that's the first time him -- he really worked. Him and his brother had a saloon in the Gold Rush days called the Golden Gate. And Uncle Will migrated to Canada, and he started a dairy farm there. He was a -- Uncle Will was a businessman. He was always -- in fact, he was -- his company was one of them that started the Alaska Steamship Company. RACHEL MASON: Did you guys trap any foxes or anything when you got -- PERCY BLATCHFORD: No, we -- my brother trapped a little, but we were in the fur business, so it... KAREN BREWSTER: Where did your father come from originally? PERCY BLATCHFORD: From Stratton, England. He was a Cornishman. Because I remember my youngest sister here in Seward, they brought -- what do you call that language? She brought it -- RACHEL MASON: Welsh? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Welsh -- it's Welsh, but it's a -- you know, the Irish do it, too. RACHEL MASON: Celtic.
KAREN BREWSTER: Gaelic.
RACHEL MASON: Or Gaelic. PERCY BLATCHFORD: Gaelic, yeah. She brought a bunch of Gaelic papers home and pop read it for them. And my mom came from Shishmaref. RACHEL MASON: Oh, okay.
PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Do you know what inspired your father to come to Alaska originally? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Uncle Will was here and sent for him. Pop was going to be a veterinarian, he went to one year of college, I guess, and they were writing back and forth, and the whole family, all the boys left, I guess. They -- most of them ended up in Canada. RACHEL MASON: He made his way to -- PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. There's a air -- there's an airfield in Canada named after my cousin. He was a fighter pilot in the Canadian Air Force, he got shot down in the Battle of Britain. Yeah, I forgot how many German planes he shot down. He didn't have to, he volunteered to go over there. KAREN BREWSTER: Did you say what year your father came to Alaska? PERCY BLATCHFORD: I don't know, but he was one of the original dog racers. He had to come in the early 1900s, because I still got -- my mom had the original autographed books that showed us Scotty Allen and Leonard Seppala, and all of those. There was -- they were supposed to go to my -- maybe I better not say. My sisters might hear. KAREN BREWSTER: And so your father was involved in that serum run? Did he -- PERCY BLATCHFORD: No, he didn't get in that, but he was a dog racer. KAREN BREWSTER: He was a dog racer, huh? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. That's where dog racing started was in Nome. And he said it was big business. He said that before the race, they had to have a guy guard their dogs because the gamblers would try to poison them. It was big money in those days. RACHEL MASON: How did he meet your mother? PERCY BLATCHFORD: I don't know how he -- he never did say, I never did ask him. RACHEL MASON: She was from Shishmaref --
PERCY BLATCHFORD: I think he's --
RACHEL MASON: -- probably come to Nome or -- PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah, I think he was going to start a little store there, and mom said he was too easy going, he'd give everybody credit. And they just --
RACHEL MASON: Yeah. DON CALLAWAY: So how old were you when you moved into Nome? PERCY BLATCHFORD: I was 13. DON CALLAWAY: 13. And you went to school in Nome? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah, I went to high school. I didn't finish, though. I went three years and then went in the Army. RACHEL MASON: And how old were you when the family moved to Seward? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Well, I was there already. RACHEL MASON: Oh, you had already come?
PERCY BLATCHFORD: I was 20 years old.
RACHEL MASON: Oh, okay. PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. They went there -- the reason they went there was because mom thought she could get in the san there, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: And so that was in the '40s they came here? PERCY BLATCHFORD: No, this was the -- they came here in the '50s.
KAREN BREWSTER: Oh okay. PERCY BLATCHFORD: I came here in '54, they came here in about -- I'd say '50 or '51. I'm not sure. Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: So you got out of the Army and came to Seward? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. I stayed in Nome a year, and then didn't see any future in Nome, there was no -- I don't think any of us ever went back. I mean, or settled there. Ernie my older brother stayed there for a while, but he moved -- moved here. RACHEL MASON: Well, what did you do for a living when you came to Seward? PERCY BLATCHFORD: My brother?
RACHEL MASON: No, you.
KAREN BREWSTER: You. PERCY BLATCHFORD: No, I longshored.
RACHEL MASON: Oh, okay. PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah, I was -- when I left Edgecumbe, I was a storekeeper and purchasing agent at Mount Edgecumbe in the central kitchen. I supplied all the -- well, there was the school and the sanitarium, and I took care of the food department, you know, ordering the food, and I had a guy under me who delivered. But I left the government service after that because I made more money other places. RACHEL MASON: How did you like longshoring?
PERCY BLATCHFORD: It was good. Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: So when you moved to Seward, what was the first job you got? PERCY BLATCHFORD: It was hard to find a job. I longshored. Then I worked construction later on. I started out in the Carpenters [Union], I went to carpenter school at Mount Edgecumbe, and I got more work. There wasn't too much carpenter work around here. Then I got on the Laborers Union, I got a lot more work there. In fact, I retired from there. And my wife was a -- going to nursing school, and we got married at Mount Edgecumbe. They had an LPN school. She's one of the first ones to graduate from there, I guess. RACHEL MASON: Is she from Southeast Alaska? PERCY BLATCHFORD: No, she's from Fairbanks.
RACHEL MASON: Oh, okay. PERCY BLATCHFORD: She's Athabascan, half Athabascan. KAREN BREWSTER: What was her maiden name? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Barnabas. I remember Elizabeth Andrews interviewing my -- my mother in law. RACHEL MASON: Oh, okay. DON CALLAWAY: From ADF & G. PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. There's no more -- there isn't any more full blooded Athabascans from the Salcha Tribe, they are all -- they are all mixed. RACHEL MASON: How did you meet your wife? PERCY BLATCHFORD: She was going to school there. RACHEL MASON: At Mount Edgecumbe? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. Yeah. She was -- KAREN BREWSTER: Your wife's first name is Daisy; is that correct?
PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yes. KAREN BREWSTER: And did you have children? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Oh, yeah. Two boys. One, three years ago, my oldest boy died of leukemia. So I've got one -- one son, he works in accounting in Anchorage. He worked for the IRS for years, and he quit and went to work for the Native Corporation. And I've got one granddaughter. RACHEL MASON: Were there very many other Native people living in Seward back in the '50s? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Not too many. Yeah, there was quite a few. The Hatches. And Tommy Hickland was right up the street. And Wemarks (phonetic). They've been here for years. Yeah, there was quite a few. Not as many as now. I think this AVTEC has drawn a lot of Native people to this region. KAREN BREWSTER: I always wondered if the -- was the Jessie Lee Home still operating --
PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yes, it was still here when I -- KAREN BREWSTER: -- that if that brought a lot of Native people to Seward? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. There was a -- they were predominantly Native kids going there. KAREN BREWSTER: And did they -- when they grew up, did they stay and live here or they -- PERCY BLATCHFORD: Some of them stayed; most of them left, though. Yeah. Because you know, what is there for -- you couldn't find work or anything, so why stay here, you know. RACHEL MASON: And the same with the san, that maybe some of the Native people --
PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah.
RACHEL MASON: -- that had TB -- PERCY BLATCHFORD: Well, a lot of them settled here --
RACHEL MASON: Uh hum. PERCY BLATCHFORD: -- after they got out of the san. In fact, they had a little store out there that they -- you know, it was right up -- right at the intersection there. But I think a lot of the townspeople that owns the stores here, they didn't like it, you know. RACHEL MASON: Oh. They -- they ran a store that was --
PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah.
RACHEL MASON: -- run by Native people? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Well, it was run not by all Native people. No. It was the Seward san store, but it was open to everybody.
RACHEL MASON: I see.
PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: The local stores didn't like the competition, you mean? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. That's it. Maybe I shouldn't say that, but I know -- KAREN BREWSTER: That was a long time ago.
RACHEL MASON: Yeah, they're probably gone. PERCY BLATCHFORD: They are all gone anyway. Seward Trading used to be right here where this green building is. RACHEL MASON: Oh. Well, what was Seward like back in those days? What was it like for you living there as a young man? PERCY BLATCHFORD: I -- I liked it. I used to hunt ducks are out here where the railroad is. RACHEL MASON: Did you used to do a lot of hunting? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Hell, yeah. I'm a hunter, yeah. RACHEL MASON: So what -- in the early days since you were here, maybe you could show us where you hunted. This -- let's see. PERCY BLATCHFORD: Right around here, are the only thing I hunted --
RACHEL MASON: Let's see. PERCY BLATCHFORD: -- big game was goats. RACHEL MASON: Here's the Exit Glacier here. KAREN BREWSTER: This is the whole -- the road and the valley all the way up. RACHEL MASON: Yeah. Yeah. This is the town of Seward. PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. I hunted up in here somewhere. We called it the -- RACHEL MASON: You can mark it with the pen if you want. PERCY BLATCHFORD: Well, we called it the goat pasture because there was always goats there. RACHEL MASON: Oh, yeah? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Aron and I. The old --
RACHEL MASON: Mark -- PERCY BLATCHFORD: -- Swedish friend and I --
RACHEL MASON: Mark the goat pasture here. PERCY BLATCHFORD: -- hunted a lot.
RACHEL MASON: Where was it, around -- PERCY BLATCHFORD: This side of Blackstone Point up there.
RACHEL MASON: This side of Blackstone Point? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. On that side.
RACHEL MASON: Oh, this side of the mountain. Okay. PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. Right about in there. We hunted goats in there because it was accessible. They didn't climb too high, and there was mountains on both sides, and it was kind of flat in there, you know. It was a good place to get goats. RACHEL MASON: How did you get up there? Did you climb up? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Climb up. Yeah, we'd just climb up. KAREN BREWSTER: It sounds like hard work to be getting there. PERCY BLATCHFORD: It's hard work. And I used to get two every year because it's pretty good meat. And I'd quarter them and just take the meat and the horns and tie them on my pack board and come out. RACHEL MASON: And who did you used to go hunting with? PERCY BLATCHFORD: I hunted a lot with Dan Wheeler, Senior.
RACHEL MASON: Okay. PERCY BLATCHFORD: And Aron Wiklund. RACHEL MASON: And who were they? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Dan was a half -- half Native guy from up north around the Noatak, I think. But he settled here, and Aron was a Swedish friend from Sweden. In fact, when he went in the home, he gave me a lot of his guns because I hunted with him. I didn't want to take them, but this real good friend of his said take them because if you don't, you'll hurt his feelings, you know. Because I thought people would say I'm taking advantage of him, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Now, was Aron older than you? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yes. He was about 40, 50 years older than me. In fact, when he was 85, we were going up to Carter Lake and he was complaining about being old, and here I'm -- I'm about 40 and trying to keep up with him. RACHEL MASON: He must have been a tough guy. PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah, he was. He was a good -- good friend. Honest man.
RACHEL MASON: Yeah.
PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. RACHEL MASON: Did you just hunt goats with him or did you -- PERCY BLATCHFORD: No, I hunted moose with him. We didn't hunt moose around here, we'd go up to -- we'd go up the Snow River, then we'd go up by Summit Lake. RACHEL MASON: Is that near here? PERCY BLATCHFORD: No. That's way out the road.
RACHEL MASON: Oh, okay. PERCY BLATCHFORD: It's out there by Summit Lake.
RACHEL MASON: Oh, okay. PERCY BLATCHFORD: And then we'd hunt down in the burn off -- they called it Mystery Creek Road.
RACHEL MASON: Okay. PERCY BLATCHFORD: We hunted that. That's in the moose refuge, I think. We hunted all over, wherever. KAREN BREWSTER: Before we were on tape, you mentioned something about how common or not common moose were up in this valley PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. That was --
KAREN BREWSTER: -- back in those days. PERCY BLATCHFORD: -- that was in the '20s. There wasn't any moose there. Aron said that they'd go for days before they'd see a track. But after the -- after the fire of '47, I think it created a lot of moose feed, you know. I was in the Service and -- I mean, Fort Rich when that fire was -- Great -- Great Kenai Fire they called it. It was all down in the -- and when you go towards Kenai, all that low land out there, that was -- that's all under fire.
RACHEL MASON: Oh. PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. RACHEL MASON: And how -- how did that affect the moose population? Did it bring it back? PERCY BLATCHFORD: It brought it back.
RACHEL MASON: Yeah. PERCY BLATCHFORD: In the '50s, '60s, there was a lot of moose out there. At that Summit Lake, you could see trails in the -- up on that side because you could see good on that side. You don't see those anymore. There's regular trails all over. I think I killed the biggest moose there in '56. It was 62 and a half inches.
RACHEL MASON: Wow. PERCY BLATCHFORD: And that was in the -- he was still in the velvet. I remember how heavy he was because I weighed one -- one leg when we got back, at Riley's down at the meat and fish plant, and it was 173 pounds. KAREN BREWSTER: Jeez. PERCY BLATCHFORD: More than I weighed. KAREN BREWSTER: And you packed it all out? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. Well, I had a friend took three -- three trips apiece. Well, it's -- I packed a couple moose off by myself, one in the burn, way back there, too. RACHEL MASON: Wow. PERCY BLATCHFORD: And that was tough packing because there were downed trees and everything. RACHEL MASON: Yeah. PERCY BLATCHFORD: And it was the last day of the season, so I thought I had to have it out that day, so I got it out. I started packing it, I think it was 11:30 in the morning, and 9:30 that night I got the last load out of there. RACHEL MASON: Oh, brother. PERCY BLATCHFORD: And I didn't have any water. That was the main thing. RACHEL MASON: Oh, that must have been hard. PERCY BLATCHFORD: I didn't have any water and I was so thirsty, I stopped at Sportsman's Lodge, that's where the Ferry is now, there used to be a lodge there. I bought a six pack of Coke, and before I got home, I drank every one of them. I lost 9 pounds that day. I guess it was water. RACHEL MASON: Yikes. That's it. Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: That would have been in, what, say, October? PERCY BLATCHFORD: No, it was the 20th of September. I was 40 years old then. RACHEL MASON: Wow. KAREN BREWSTER: That's good. But you mentioned -- did Aron talk about going up the Resurrection River Valley? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah, he said they'd -- they'd pull a sled in the second season and hunt moose up there. Because there wasn't hardly any around here. Even on the Kenai Peninsula, there wasn't that many moose. KAREN BREWSTER: So he went up that valley -- the Resurrection Valley? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Oh, he went up there, yeah. He said he camped up there under a tree sometimes. He said he'd find a good tree where the branches came way down, you know, and he'd make his camp in there. RACHEL MASON: Oh. PERCY BLATCHFORD: And he -- I can remember him saying one year the snow was so thick he had to go way down to get under the tree to get shelter. RACHEL MASON: Wow. KAREN BREWSTER: And so was he successful on his hunting up there? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Sometimes, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: And he packed moose all the way back out? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. Well, he put it on a sled and pulled it out. KAREN BREWSTER: So he did it in the winter. PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. RACHEL MASON: Did you ever use any of those cabins that are up there for staying in? PERCY BLATCHFORD: I -- I never did. I stayed at Lost Lake. There used to be a cabin up there. Most of my moose hunting was farther out, you know. RACHEL MASON: Are you retired from moose hunting now? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Oh, I go out. I don't get anything.
RACHEL MASON: So you -- PERCY BLATCHFORD: I haven't got anything for about 10, 12 years.
RACHEL MASON: Oh, okay. KAREN BREWSTER: Nature retired you. RACHEL MASON: What -- what are some of the other changes in the population that you've noticed other than from the fire? PERCY BLATCHFORD: You mean the population change? RACHEL MASON: Yeah. Had they grown? Have there been more moose or less, fewer? PERCY BLATCHFORD: There's -- I think there's less. I remember in the -- when they had all those cow seasons on the Peninsula, and they'd go from -- they come out of -- before you -- well, after you leave Gene Lake, you climb up and you hit a big flat, I remember going down there and had these cow seasons, and looked like a slaughter place, people never hunted moose before were --
RACHEL MASON: Oh, really? PERCY BLATCHFORD: -- were shooting them and shooting them in the foot, and --
RACHEL MASON: Oh, gee. PERCY BLATCHFORD: -- you know. They weren't hunters.
RACHEL MASON: Like a battlefield. PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. I thought that was a -- and I talked to a biologist, he said, oh, you're going to have a lot -- lot better moose hunting now. Well, it hasn't come back, far as I can see. DON CALLAWAY: When was that? When was that? PERCY BLATCHFORD: That was in the '70s, I think. DON CALLAWAY: Oh. PERCY BLATCHFORD: They had one -- one season for cows for 40 days, I think. They thought they had too many moose. RACHEL MASON: What about sheep hunting? Have you ever done any of that? PERCY BLATCHFORD: I went once, but most of the time you have to have fly in, you know, and I couldn't afford it.
RACHEL MASON: Uh hum. PERCY BLATCHFORD: So, that's why I hunted goats, I could climb right here. RACHEL MASON: Yeah. Or how about bear? Have you ever done any bear hunting? PERCY BLATCHFORD: I've shot bear but I don't care for it. Gave it away. RACHEL MASON: Is that black bear or brown bear? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Black bear, yeah. Once in awhile you have to shoot a bear because they won't leave. RACHEL MASON: Right.
PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. RACHEL MASON: Have you noticed any changes in the bear population? PERCY BLATCHFORD: I think there's more bear now. Yeah. We never used to have brown bear come into town here, but the last few years, there's been sightings of brown bear, back right up where I live at Forest Acres. My neighbor said he saw one one day and another time he saw a brown bear chasing a cow down the road. RACHEL MASON: Oh, gee. That's terrible. PERCY BLATCHFORD: Right down the main road. RACHEL MASON: Well, when you used to get goat there and carry it back, were there other people doing the same thing or were you the only one? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Not too many of them there. They thought it was too tough. KAREN BREWSTER: Did they go other places, do you know?
PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Do you know other places people hunted for goat or sheep or anything? PERCY BLATCHFORD: A lot of them would go out the bay here if they had a boat, you know, and get them closer there. They land and they are not too far up. But it's dangerous landing in the surf. So I'd stay -- I'd hunt inland. RACHEL MASON: Did you do any seal hunting or beluga or -- PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah, I did it for my mom. Used to do it years ago. But I haven't done it for -- mom moved away in the '60s, so I just quit -- quit hunting it. KAREN BREWSTER: When you were -- when you first got here, did you -- or even since, have you done any trapping up in this area? Ever tried trapping? PERCY BLATCHFORD: No, I didn't trap because we had a fur farm, and I didn't -- KAREN BREWSTER: You were -- you were tired of furred animals? PERCY BLATCHFORD: I hunted though. I'm a hunter and a -- not a trapper. DON CALLAWAY: How about fish? Have you done any commercial fishing or -- PERCY BLATCHFORD: No, I never did. We -- we used to -- I had a friend that had a 40 foot J boat. In between working on the dock sometimes we'd go out and get some bass and sell them, but we didn't make it a real habit out of it, you know. I remember going out to Rugged Island there and getting a deck load, got so many bass they were going out the scuppers, you know. We'd filet them and sell them to different people. Now you can't do that. RACHEL MASON: Once the snow machines came into town, did you ever get one or did you -- PERCY BLATCHFORD: No, I don't -- I didn't like snow machines. RACHEL MASON: You never got one? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Four wheelers.
RACHEL MASON: Oh. PERCY BLATCHFORD: I noticed since the snow machines came, Snow River out here, we used to go out in the evening or in the morning and the kids were little and we'd look at the moose, you don't see them anymore. Another place was Portage, with all that feed there in the -- in the wintertime, there's moose all over that place. But now all there is is snow machines, I think they've driven them back. Yeah, I know they have because we don't see them anymore there. That was one thing going to Anchorage, we'd slow down and see how many moose we could count. You know, you don't see any moose. Once in awhile you'll see one there, but very seldom. I believe that snow machines have chased them out of there. DON CALLAWAY: Did you ever ski or mush dogs?
PERCY BLATCHFORD: No. KAREN BREWSTER: I think -- I think Dan Seavey mentioned that you gave him some good advice for his first running of the Iditarod for dog mushing. PERCY BLATCHFORD: That was my brother. KAREN BREWSTER: That was your brother? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah, Ernie. I remember he told him -- I remember when I was a kid we used to -- dad would mix up Neatsfoot oil, and what else was it? And we'd put them on the dog pads. I forgot the other ingredient, but those dogs would get -- they'd hold up their paw and we'd rub their -- rub it. It toughens their pads, you know. And I remember putting -- putting mukluks, we called them mukluks on the dogs. Especially towards spring. You know, they -- they just are regular -- like a little bag with a couple string. And mom would make them out of canvas. Put them on there so they don't cut their feet. KAREN BREWSTER: That's when you lived up in Teller? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. Teller. Nome. Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: You guys used dogs? Yeah. PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. Our last team when we moved to Nome, they just -- we just kept them until they died off. They died off one by one. We didn't go out and -- a lot of people go out and -- when they are done with a dog, they shoot it. We didn't believe in that. They are part of the family. I know people that when the dog was no good, they just take them out and shoot them, you know. I don't believe in that. RACHEL MASON: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: So when you came to Seward, you didn't start up with a dog team? PERCY BLATCHFORD: No. There was no dogs here. In the early days, though, I remember seeing pictures of dog teams on this main street here. Yeah. I think it was a lot colder in the older days. KAREN BREWSTER: Have you noticed a difference just since you've lived here? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Well, yeah. I think it's -- I think it's warmer. I remember a north wind used to blow, you'd work on the dock and you would come -- after 10 hours, you would come back and your face would be all red from the wind and it would take three or four hours before it would go down. Yeah. RACHEL MASON: Over the years of hunting did you notice any changes like in the ice of the glaciers or of the ice fields? PERCY BLATCHFORD: I never paid attention. KAREN BREWSTER: You never -- you never walked up -- went up the glacier up into the ice field? PERCY BLATCHFORD: No. I've been to the base of it, you know, and just to look at it. RACHEL MASON: Maybe you could tell us a little about when they first started talking about building that road, the Herman Leirer -- PERCY BLATCHFORD: Herman Leirer, yeah. I don't know, he just -- you know, I worked construction, he just came and got me because he knew I worked that kind of work, you know. RACHEL MASON: Did he tell you or do you have an idea why he wanted to build the road? PERCY BLATCHFORD: They wanted to build it to the glacier.
RACHEL MASON: Uh hum. PERCY BLATCHFORD: So he thought it would help the community to have a road there where tourists come and look at it, you know. I remember we'd drill and we'd load our holes, and I remember one time there was a pickup parked down the road, and we were going to shoot, and I told Herman, I said, let me walk through the shot one more time, make sure nobody's there. "Oh, nobody's there," he said. But what happened is two guys went up and they went that way, went beyond us, and came down, and when I walked down there to where the shot was, they were walking right -- right in the middle of the -- they didn't know, you know. And we would of blew them up. RACHEL MASON: Oh, gee. What year was that when you first started doing it? PERCY BLATCHFORD: That was in the '70s, I think, yeah. I remember I hated to -- all this bare ground, all these little birds would land there, and I'd try to shoo them away and I'd walk back to -- and I'd look back and they are right back in there. I didn't want to blow them up, you know. But we had to. Yeah. I'd chase them away, and then by the time I turned around and walked back, they'd be landing again, so we'd just have to shoot. RACHEL MASON: Oh.
PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Can you show on the map where you were doing that blasting? PERCY BLATCHFORD: I don't know. Just -- KAREN BREWSTER: Do you remember where? PERCY BLATCHFORD: It's this side of Blackstone Point. KAREN BREWSTER: On the north side of the river? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. On that side. RACHEL MASON: Okay. Yeah, if you could mark it here. Here's Blackstone Point.
PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. RACHEL MASON: And here's the road. PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. It's -- they were -- wherever there was, you know -- RACHEL MASON: Yeah, you can actually write on there. PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. Actually, I don't know where we are at here.
RACHEL MASON: Oh. PERCY BLATCHFORD: Wherever you saw, wherever we saw --
RACHEL MASON: Okay. I'll just write. PERCY BLATCHFORD: -- rock, we had to go through it, you know, we couldn't go around it. KAREN BREWSTER: So it's wherever there was rock that came right down to the river? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. We had to -- we had to drill it and shoot it. KAREN BREWSTER: So did you have to do that a lot? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Quite a bit. KAREN BREWSTER: So how did you know how to do that? PERCY BLATCHFORD: I just -- I just worked with the driller. He -- he was the one. He was a powder man and I helped him. I remember making the primers at Herman's basement. We'd take a piece of dynamite, run the screwdriver through there and take your primer cord and tie it, and then you'd drop it down the bottom with a shot. Then you'd put your fertilizer, you know, just that explosive is nothing but fertilizer and you put diesel oil on it. Let it sit for several hours. Then you load your hole with it. It's explosive -- RACHEL MASON: it sounds like it. Yeah. PERCY BLATCHFORD: -- after you put diesel oil in it. Yeah. RACHEL MASON: Was it just you and Herman working on that? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah -- no, Herman and Leon Maloney.
RACHEL MASON: Okay. PERCY BLATCHFORD: He was a regular driller and powder -- powder man. RACHEL MASON: How did Herman know to come to you -- PERCY BLATCHFORD: He knew I worked construction. Yeah. Yeah. RACHEL MASON: What's -- oh. I just wanted to know if everybody in the community supported that idea, or if you had to fight to get to build the road. PERCY BLATCHFORD: No, they didn't seem to have a -- there wasn't any opposition, I don't think. I never heard of any. Another one that worked once in awhile is Del Branson. He'd -- sometimes he'd fill in. KAREN BREWSTER: And so how were you getting paid for that work? Did Herman just pay you or you worked for free? PERCY BLATCHFORD: No. It was appropriated money and they paid us union scale, you know. So they paid us good. I remember when twelve o'clock came, I could hear the coyotes yelling, we knew it was twelve o'clock. But they could hear the -- you know, they hear the whistle down here. We couldn't hear it but they could. Yeah, they'd start howling, and Herman would say well, it's lunchtime, he said. RACHEL MASON: Did they make a -- make food for you or did you have to bring your own lunch? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Oh, we brought our own lunch, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: It's not like -- PERCY BLATCHFORD: They didn't give us nothing. We even -- sometime we even use our own vehicles to go up there. Most of the time we did.
RACHEL MASON: Oh. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I heard it was Foster Brothers Construction Company?
PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. They -- KAREN BREWSTER: They were involved? PERCY BLATCHFORD: They did the Cat work.
KAREN BREWSTER: So you didn't work for them? PERCY BLATCHFORD: No, I worked for -- I don't know who I worked for. I worked for Herman. Well, actually, Herman, I don't know what they called it, but the -- they appropriated money in Juneau, and that's how we got to get to work. RACHEL MASON: We heard something about start -- it starting out the road in one -- one direction and then it ended up having to be on another place. Do you -- PERCY BLATCHFORD: I don't remember that. We were the early -- they might have changed it after, you know. RACHEL MASON: Changing it -- PERCY BLATCHFORD: After awhile, they -- they put it out for bid and they got a regular construction company, so I don't know anything about that. KAREN BREWSTER: So where did you start putting the road in? Off the highway, where did you come out, start out? PERCY BLATCHFORD: No, it was -- there was a -- there was a road out there by -- RACHEL MASON: Here's the Tom Gillespie's place.
PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: Seavey Corner. PERCY BLATCHFORD: Well, there was a road up through about here. There was a few people living here. And Dr. Gentles in here someplace. And the real road started about here. RACHEL MASON: Oh, okay. PERCY BLATCHFORD: After you get away from the flats, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: So there was already a road to Seavey's house? Was Seavey out there? PERCY BLATCHFORD: No. He's -- that wasn't Seavey's then, it belonged to some -- KAREN BREWSTER: Rutledge? PERCY BLATCHFORD: I forgot his name. KAREN BREWSTER: Was Rutledge the name? I think that's who Seavey bought it from. But out to there, there was -- PERCY BLATCHFORD: Another thing, I used to -- in October, when it was -- when it was stormy, Dan Wheeler and I would go up Box Canyon because the goats would come right down and we could shoot them right from the canyon floor. RACHEL MASON: Was that after you built the road? PERCY BLATCHFORD: No, that was before. RACHEL MASON: Oh, okay. PERCY BLATCHFORD: There was a road just to where Seavey's is now. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. And then you'd walk in from there? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. That -- Box Canyon used to be -- that's where the -- you usually see the first black bear, you know, I'd walk up there just -- sometime I'd just take a hike, and take my rifle. I didn't hunt anything, I just went for a hike. DON CALLAWAY: What -- how about the earthquake and the tsunami? PERCY BLATCHFORD: We lived on the -- you know that green building out there. There was a community on the other side there. Five or six families. And the earthquake destroyed it. DON CALLAWAY: Were you in town? PERCY BLATCHFORD: No, I was out there when it hit. My wife's a nurse, she was at the Wesleyan. My other older boy was 11 years old, he was at the dentist, and I was home with my 3 year old boy. And it just started shaking. He was playing on the other side of the room with his little truck, and my wife made stew just -- the stove was over here, and it just came and hit the wall. And I grabbed my little boy and I tried to get out of the house, and the doors were jammed, so I just kicked them down, and went outside and my car was just bouncing and black water shooting out of the cracks of the ground. And my neighbor down the road, Geo Nelson (phonetic), he said, "Percy, what are we going to do?" I said, "We better get the hell out of here." He said, "Well, I'm going to wait around and see." And then I went down the road and the culverts had popped up and Joe Lemas (phonetic), my other neighbor, was there, he said, "What are we going to do?" And I said, "Well, I'm going." I went and hit bottom when I went over them and I got through. DON CALLAWAY: Oh, wow. PERCY BLATCHFORD: And headed towards town, and the Airport Road -- we used to call the Airport Road -- there was debris all over there from the shockwaves. And I looked out and there was a big, black swell coming, so I poured the coal to that car, and debris and everything, I think I tore something because it quit. I stopped and grabbed my boy and ran to the highway. And the next morning, when I looked, my -- you know where they keep the horse at the end of town here, Herman Leirer's property, I -- my car was in that pasture. RACHEL MASON: Wow. What happened to your boy that was at the dentist? PERCY BLATCHFORD: He start running home, and my sister and brother in law were coming from Anchorage and they saw him running and they grabbed him; otherwise, I wouldn't know where he was. RACHEL MASON: Yeah.
PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: And so your house was destroyed?
PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. That's -- PERCY BLATCHFORD: Then two neighbors, Jim Elliott and Chip went out there, they were going to see if anybody was left there, and they spent the night in a tree, and they said the waves would come and the dogs would run ahead of it barking, and the water would go down, they'd go back where the houses were. RACHEL MASON: You said your wife was at Wesleyan. Was that in Anchorage or PERCY BLATCHFORD: No. That's -- it was the Wesleyan Hospital next to the mountain up here. RACHEL MASON: Oh, what happened to her during the earthquake? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Well, she -- I came -- after I got my kids out to Forest Acres, I went and got her. Yeah. And we stayed -- we stayed out at Forest Acres. Next morning, four o'clock, I grabbed my family and put my little boy in a sleeping bag, we walked out to -- three miles out there, a friend of mine, stayed with him for a... KAREN BREWSTER: So that night in Forest Acres, you were just camping out? PERCY BLATCHFORD: No, we went to a house in Forest Acres.
KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, I see. Okay. PERCY BLATCHFORD: Everybody was there, though. There was aftershocks and a bunch of old women and they started yelling and praying.
RACHEL MASON: Oh, gee. PERCY BLATCHFORD: I was glad to get out of there. RACHEL MASON: Did you -- did your house get restored or how --
PERCY BLATCHFORD: No. No. RACHEL MASON: What did you -- PERCY BLATCHFORD: Nobody -- they -- they wouldn't let anybody build out there anymore. KAREN BREWSTER: So you built a new house someplace? PERCY BLATCHFORD: No. I bought one in Forest Acres.
RACHEL MASON: Oh. KAREN BREWSTER: It must have been a busy time for your wife as a nurse, huh, after the earthquake? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. She didn't work for a while, though. She wanted -- we didn't have a house or anything, we had to try to -- hard to find a place after the quake.
KAREN BREWSTER: Sure. RACHEL MASON: Sure. Yeah. There must have been a lot of people out of a home. PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. All this lower end of town, that's -- that was destroyed. That -- where -- where the boat harbor is, that's all -- I worked on a dredge that brought all that fill, that came from the sea, that whole lower end of town.
RACHEL MASON: Oh. PERCY BLATCHFORD: I didn't think it would compact. It didn't -- I thought all the fines would wash out of there but it did compact after awhile. DON CALLAWAY: Did you think of leaving Seward after the quake? PERCY BLATCHFORD: I thought about it, but there was quite a bit of work. And all my family was here, you know. Is there a bathroom around here?
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.
(Recess.) KAREN BREWSTER: I just had some more questions on the road, and your experience of working on the road. And what that was like. And it seems like that is -- was that hard ground to build a road through? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. It was. It was -- some places was hard and other places was -- you know, we were going through the trees, why we'd fall them and then the Cats would come in and push -- push everything out of the way. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, so you were cutting the trees by hand?
PERCY BLATCHFORD: Chainsaw. KAREN BREWSTER: Chainsaw. Yeah. That's what I meant by hand.
PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: What year did you start working on that road, do you remember? PERCY BLATCHFORD: I forgot. It was in the '70s, I know.
KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. PERCY BLATCHFORD: Or late '60s. I don't know. KAREN BREWSTER: And how -- what time of year did you work on it? PERCY BLATCHFORD: We worked in the winter. Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: How come you worked in the winter? PERCY BLATCHFORD: I don't know. That's -- seemed like we just did it in the winter. KAREN BREWSTER: So you didn't have to deal with swamps and mosquitos and -- PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah, that's one thing, the swamps and bugs and stuff. RACHEL MASON: Yeah. Well, after you were done, did that make a big difference in how many people came up to the glacier? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Well, I think it did, yeah. Before they used to walk -- very few of them would walk up there because -- the hunters walked up there, and that was about it, I guess. Oh, there was a lot of -- later on in the years, there was sightseers that would go up there just to take -- take pictures, you know. RACHEL MASON: Did it help your hunting out at all to have a road going up there? PERCY BLATCHFORD: I didn't hunt there much after the road.
RACHEL MASON: Oh, okay.
PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Did you think having the road was a negative thing for your hunting? PERCY BLATCHFORD: No. It was easier. I'd drive right to the bottom of the place we hunted and climb up. There was three ridges came down, I think, and I forgot which one, but if you didn't take the right one, you got into trouble. RACHEL MASON: And did the establishment of the Park in 1980, did that affect your hunting and your use of that area in any way? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Well, I was getting where I didn't hunt that much, and in the '80s here, I'd go up north and hunt because it was easier.
RACHEL MASON: Yeah.
PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: So you never did any -- trying to hike all the way up this Resurrection Valley and --
PERCY BLATCHFORD: No, I never did.
KAREN BREWSTER: -- up there? PERCY BLATCHFORD: No. I had friends that had planes that used to go up there and land someplace and hunt moose. I remember -- KAREN BREWSTER: People didn't talk about using that Exit Glacier valley up there? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah, the -- they did years ago, I guess. But it would be mostly in the second season they'd -- this is when the moose was scarce, you know, they'd go up there and hunt. I remember Aron saying that hunting up there by Moose Pass. It was just a trail then. He said he'd pull his sled. He had a sled they called a Yukon sled. It was just a flat sled, you know. He'd pull that with his gear. KAREN BREWSTER: Sounds like he was a pretty tough guy. PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. He was. A little skinny guy. You wouldn't think he's -- but he was tougher than nails.
RACHEL MASON: Oh. KAREN BREWSTER: He was Swedish you said?
PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. RACHEL MASON: How did you get to know him? PERCY BLATCHFORD: I worked with him. Yeah. He was a finish carpenter, real -- he did all the -- a lot of the finish work around town here. DON CALLAWAY: What about -- there was an attempt to have Native peoples recognized in the town of Seward. Were you -- PERCY BLATCHFORD: No. We are -- now, you mean?
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: In recent years.
PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. We --
RACHEL MASON: It's going on now. PERCY BLATCHFORD: We started a tribe called the Qutekcak Tribe, which in the Aleutic language means a big beach. We're working on tribal recognition now. We haven't got it, but we're working on it. But we served, I forgot how many hundred people from here to Hope, Native people we -- my wife is one of the founders. I was one of the original ones, but I dropped out. They all would say the Blatchfords are getting into everything, so I -- people get jealous, I guess they say. Blatchfords get into everything there is around. KAREN BREWSTER: Why did you guys decide to try and organize as a tribe? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Because we couldn't -- they used to get funds from the ANS, and about five days after you'd go up to the hospital and they'd say, oh, the funds are all gone. There was no accounting of it. So I think we put a stop to that. And we -- we had -- I figure we had to do something for our people, you know. They were kind of put back on the back burner, you know. DON CALLAWAY: So tribal recognition brings with it Federal funds for a lot of services? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah, if we get Federal recognition, you get funds. And they are giving us some now, but not as much as -- we've got our own building down here right down the street down here. Before we used to meet -- I worked at AVTEC for one winter, and I got to know Bob Boulier (phonetic) pretty good, and if we'd need a place to meet, I'd just call him up and he'd give me a key to one of the rooms, you know. DON CALLAWAY: So are you going through the BIA recognition process?
PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah, that's what it is. KAREN BREWSTER: Do you know what -- what year you started trying to do that? PERCY BLATCHFORD: '70 or '71, I think. '71 or '72. It was just a few of us start it. And gradually kept growing and growing. And now we've got Bear Mountain Apartments, and I don't know how many homes, you know. A lot of them -- some of them we'd have White people in there, too, you know, because you can't -- RACHEL MASON: Discriminate. PERCY BLATCHFORD: -- you can't discriminate too much, you know. DON CALLAWAY: So these are extended care facilities, in a sense?
PERCY BLATCHFORD: Pardon? DON CALLAWAY: These are extended care facilities? PERCY BLATCHFORD: We didn't have -- the only ones was Wesleyan up here, but they took anybody, you know. Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: So how -- do you have a sense of how the community of Seward has responded to your efforts? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Pretty good. Yeah. They are -- I lived in Nome and there was a lot of discrimination there when I was a kid. And not on the surface, but you can notice it, you know. Like I remember the Native, they'd get -- they didn't get the real good jobs, you know. Seward has been pretty good to Natives, though. KAREN BREWSTER: You haven't felt that discrimination? PERCY BLATCHFORD: No. Once in awhile, you run into some -- of course, you run into that every -- anywhere, you know. DON CALLAWAY: What did you say, after your mom got out of the sanitarium where did your mom and dad move to? PERCY BLATCHFORD: They stayed right here.
DON CALLAWAY: Oh, they stayed here? PERCY BLATCHFORD: They're both buried out here at the cemetery. DON CALLAWAY: Did your mom recover? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah, she recovered and lived to be 83.
DON CALLAWAY: Oh, okay. PERCY BLATCHFORD: I remember when she was sick in Nome, I remember the doctor saying she's not going to make it, you know, and she said, I'm going to -- I'm not going to die, I got all my little kids to take care of. And she lived. RACHEL MASON: All right. That's good. KAREN BREWSTER: Is there anything else about the work you did on the road that we haven't asked you about you want to mention? Any of your memories of being on that road crew? PERCY BLATCHFORD: I remember one time the -- we shot on that side and one line didn't go off. And they wanted me to go in and try to find it, and it was just hanging like this. You know. And I said, no, I don't think I should do that. Well, we were talking, and the thing came down, and I found the line anyway and retied it and we shot it. And the guy I was with, he never -- he never told me to go back in that much. I wasn't going anywhere. I looked at it. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, it sounds like scary work, working with all those explosives.
PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah, it was.
RACHEL MASON: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Nobody ever got hurt? PERCY BLATCHFORD: No. We kind of watched it. If you don't watch it, you're done. KAREN BREWSTER: Did you work on the road every year, or you worked off and on? How did that operation go? PERCY BLATCHFORD: I worked just about every year there for a while, and then they -- when they got money, they bid -- bid it out and a regular contractor came and did it. KAREN BREWSTER: They finished it off? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. We just started, you know, going through the bad spots. And then Maloney, he was a Catskinner, too, he'd -- he'd bring in fill and put it in the bad spots. But it was kind of a shoestring operation. KAREN BREWSTER: So it was kind of a rough road when you were doing it? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. It was drivable. I'd drive my pickup up there, yeah. Because I kept a chainsaw in the back of the truck. Once in a while you'd run into a tree, I'd knock it down and push it out of the way. RACHEL MASON: Gee. And you said you're the last one left that -- PERCY BLATCHFORD: I'm the only one left.
RACHEL MASON: Oh. PERCY BLATCHFORD: All the other guys are dead. DON CALLAWAY: What were your experiences during the World War? What branch of the Service were you in? PERCY BLATCHFORD: I was in the Army. My two brothers were in there, too. I was in right at the tail end, the war was just about over. But my brother was in England, but he didn't get in the fighting, he just -- it was right after the war he said that they crossed a channel, he said that was the roughest ride he had ever been in. 20 miles across. He said the GIs were puking all over the place, you know. And my -- he was supposed to meet my Auntie over there, but he never got a chance. They kept in contact, you know. Since dad died, we lost track of our relatives in England. KAREN BREWSTER: You said you were stationed at Fort Rich? PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah. I was an MP up there. And then I was at Big D, Delta, they call it Delta Junction now. I remember we were supposed to be on patrol, and I took the Jeep, go down to the dump, because that's where all the buffalo were. They finally fenced it off. RACHEL MASON: Big D. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, that's what they used to call it.
PERCY BLATCHFORD: Yeah, Big D, they called it. RACHEL MASON: Well, can you think of anything else that you need to tell us about Seward or about the road? PERCY BLATCHFORD: I just know that the -- the head of bay, there wasn't anything out there years ago. That railroad dock wasn't there. It was a little stream by there and John Paulsteiner had a little shack, powder shack we called it, he kept all his dynamite in there. RACHEL MASON: Oh. PERCY BLATCHFORD: And that big green building, you see that used to be the Army communications center out there. They used to have a big -- oh, antennas up there -- not antennas, I mean big, tall, you know, all metal. In fact, the bases are still there out there. I remember that building right -- right next to it, there was an artesian well, every spring it would open up and run. The best tasting water you ever drank. And we drilled -- after the quake, we drilled out here by the railroad dock, it must be the same -- same artesian well, because the water came up there real -- real good water.
John Elgin, photographer and early pioneer in Seward
Observations of glacier and seasonal changes
Construction of the Exit Glacier Road
Effects of establishment of Kenai Fjords National Park
Use of snowmachines
Running dog teams and the Iditarod Sled Dog Race
Running into wolverine and wolves on the trail
Dog mushing up the Resurrection River Trail
DAN SEAVEY: Now, what, 6?
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. No, that's 16.
DAN SEAVEY: 16?
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DAN SEAVEY: Martin -- okay. We've got to back way up. It's probably -- okay. Here's Exit Glacier. Okay. It's probably -- hmm. I can -- I can tell you where it is on the road. RACHEL MASON: Okay. Yeah. Maybe that will work better. DAN SEAVEY: It's -- it's the only bridge you cross, concrete bridge you cross between here and the park. I mean, not counting Box Canyon here. I'm trying to find No Name. RACHEL MASON: And it did appear on here.
KAREN BREWSTER: I remember recently. RACHEL MASON: I remember we -- we marked it.
KAREN BREWSTER: Somebody else talked about it. RACHEL MASON: Somebody else talked about it. And I thought it was actually marked No Name. KAREN BREWSTER: I thought it was, too.
RACHEL MASON: And was it along here somewhere? DAN SEAVEY: And Boulder, but see, that's too far up the valley there. Where are we?
KAREN BREWSTER: Here's Martin. DAN SEAVEY: Okay. It's back toward Seward from Martin. KAREN BREWSTER: Primrose, that's too --
RACHEL MASON: Is it this close to Seward? KAREN BREWSTER: I think Tom mentioned that that was -- one of these was No Name. But it's not on the map, but didn't he say he went up No Name on this run thing that he did? RACHEL MASON: I don't remember that. I thought Duane was the one that mentioned No Name, but --
KAREN BREWSTER: That's Martin. DAN SEAVEY: That's way up, see. And this must be the business coming out of the glacier, and out of Primrose, right? KAREN BREWSTER: And this is -- that's Paradise.
DAN SEAVEY: I mean, not Primrose, Paradise and -- KAREN BREWSTER: That's Paradise. This is where the Taylorcraft airstrip used to be. DAN SEAVEY: Okay. So we're talking about something like this. RACHEL MASON: Okay.
KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. And this says Black something point. Black -- DAN SEAVEY: Blackstone. KAREN BREWSTER: Blackstone Point?
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. I bet that's it. RACHEL MASON: It doesn't have a name.
DAN SEAVEY: No. But I tell you what, it's -- if you drive out there, it's -- KAREN BREWSTER: Also there's a parking lot right in this area.
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: There used to be a parking lot on the old road. DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. And there is a little bitty one there right now.
KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. DAN SEAVEY: Look, if you go out -- okay. You cross Box Canyon bridge here. Okay. It's the only cement bridge between here and when you turn into the park.
RACHEL MASON: Okay. DAN SEAVEY: It's the only one -- it's the only one you're going to see. And that's No Name.
RACHEL MASON: Okay. DAN SEAVEY: And now I forgot what context we were.
KAREN BREWSTER: Bear baiting. DAN SEAVEY: Oh, bear baiting.
RACHEL MASON: Oh yeah. DAN SEAVEY:Right. There's one -- there's one up there. And there's at least two -- two more between there and back this way, or there were last year. KAREN BREWSTER: Is that a new thing, bear baiting?
DAN SEAVEY: No. No. No.
KAREN BREWSTER: No? RACHEL MASON: What were they using for bear bait?
DAN SEAVEY: Oh, I don't know. Any old thing that works. RACHEL MASON: Donuts, or...
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. Yeah.
RACHEL MASON: That's what they do use. Yeah. DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. Yeah. Dog food. KAREN BREWSTER: Have they been doing that -- for how long? DAN SEAVEY: Oh yeah, I don't think it's -- I don't know but what -- it couldn't be considered a traditional use. I mean, I don't know how far back it goes. I've -- I've been aware of it for maybe 10 years. DON CALLAWAY: Oh, no, it's decades --
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah, I'm sure. It almost have to be. But we're talking up here. See, I don't know. KAREN BREWSTER: That's what I mean, in this area.
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah.
DON CALLAWAY: I'd say it's probably decades, too. DAN SEAVEY: Yeah, it could well be. Yeah. But the point is, times have changed, in my opinion, and there's -- I mean, this is a recreational corridor. And it -- the attraction of black bear is one thing, but I mean, we have brownie -- brownies around here where we never had before. I mean, they are just -- we lived out here for 20 years and I think I saw one set of tracks in the early fall on the first snow. And now, I mean, last few summers we've had them in the yard. I mean, they're -- they're common. And I can't help but feel that -- that that -- that that baiting doesn't do a whole lot to -- to discourage them. So that's a little campaign I'm on.
RACHEL MASON: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: You had mentioned at the beginning that the road, that basically went over your dog team trail, when they put the road in? DAN SEAVEY: Well, yes. Some of -- some of it did. There wasn't -- we had a marked trail, and -- and if you go out, again, to, say, the Box Canyon Bridge here, drop down on the right side of the road, you -- you pick up my trail. I mean, and that's become what we're calling the non-motorized trail right now. It's pretty much -- it's on -- some of it's on state land, some of it goes through Forest Service. It's pretty well been -- it's pretty well flagged and, you know, and some of it's used. A lot of us use it all winter, and sometimes in the summer even. I can't -- honestly, I cannot say where, you know, what section of the road went -- overlaid the trail and all that sort of thing. Back to this John Elgin, I know he probably was more persistent in keeping the thing marked than I was because whenever I could, I'd dart out onto the river flats, you know, and just go. There were sections where there'd be overflow or something where you were forced to kind of mark a trail and what have you. And I'm assuming that most of that's been covered over by the road. It's sort of like the story of the Iditarod Trail out of Seward, you know, either the Seward Highway's gotten it or the -- or the Alaska Railroad, or both. So yeah, I couldn't -- I would be hard pressed to point out any specific areas where that -- where that happened.
Now, I do remember John, he was a photographer, and I wanted to talk a little bit about that. Kind of was a quiet guy, tall, very athletic looking guy, older at that time, graying temples, and what have you. But he showed me some of his photography, and the wildlife and fauna and flora both that he had taken up there, and it was just gorgeous, gorgeous pictures. And he had -- I forget what camera, one of those expensive German. DON CALLAWAY: Hasselblad?
DAN SEAVEY: Probably, at the time, with a 4 by 4 format.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. Yeah. DAN SEAVEY: Something beautiful, beautiful. And rumor has it that -- and I think Duane -- again, Duane might be privy to this -- that his -- all his photos went to a guy named Bernie Hulm who lived in town. RACHEL MASON: Really?
DAN SEAVEY: Uh hum. And either Bernie bought them when they -- see, I don't know what happened to this John. If he died, and then all his stuff went through the estate, or what have you, but supposedly, this Bernie Hulm ended up with them. Well, we know Bernie's no more. He's gone. So now where these -- and I don't -- as far as I know, they never got donated to the museum or whatever, but --
DON CALLAWAY: Or archived them. DAN SEAVEY: Somebody -- well, somebody might have those. But I'll tell you what, if we could get our hands on those, you would have -- you would have a treasure trove. RACHEL MASON: That would be a good question to research. Yeah.
DAN SEAVEY: Yep. But they were absolutely stunning. I mean, he was just so patient. And, I mean, he would do his little thing and wait for hours for a -- DON CALLAWAY: Bird?
DAN SEAVEY: Well, what's -- marten is what I'm trying to say. A marten to show up, you know. Spent hours up there. And, you know, he got it. It was pretty cool. RACHEL MASON: Well, looking at his photos might be a good way to document the changes in the glacier, too.
DAN SEAVEY: Oh, yeah. RACHEL MASON: If it showed differences.
DAN SEAVEY: I don't know as if -- you know, if the glacier has changed that much. I mean, obviously, it's -- it's disappearing --
RACHEL MASON: This one's for Dan --
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah, thank you -- it's disappearing but -- RACHEL MASON: Oh this is mine, yeah. Thanks.
DAN SEAVEY: Thanks, hon. But it's just accelerating it. It was disappearing when -- it's always been disappearing, you know. It's just that we're noticing it more now. DON CALLAWAY: How about spring and fall? Do they seem to be coming earlier than later? DAN SEAVEY: Oh, boy. That's a good question. I -- see, I still like snow, so I would say that, yes, the falls, I really do think the falls are -- the winter's getting here more slowly. Because we could almost be assured of -- of freeze up and good snow something like a couple weeks before Thanksgiving. I say "always," the first -- seemed like the first ten years out here. Well, that keeps getting postponed. There were a few years, and I have pictures of Christmas Day, green grass out here, you know. Sometimes we don't get serious snow until January. The first -- fortunately, the first two races in '73 and '74, I could use Kenai Lake to train. I mean, it was safe, hook at to Mile 18, and like I say, go to Hope, come back on the ice. And there were several years starting in probably -- oh, certainly by the mid -- say, mid '80s, but probably the early '80s when this end of the lake never froze. It didn't freeze this year. You look at it and it's as froze now as it's ever been, and it's basically open. So yes. The winters are less severe. At least I hope it's just cyclular there, a short cycle. But no, I still like winter. So I have noticed that. And we -- we -- as far as spring coming, I think we've had earlier springs. I do a little gardening here, and I know it's not unusual -- the first years we were here, if we had a garden in by June, say 1st of June, that was pretty lucky. And there have been years now where I know I've planted two years ago, three years ago now, I planted potatoes on the last day of April. And the rest of it mid -- mid May. So yeah. So that part I think is pretty well documented. KAREN BREWSTER: Do you remember, were you around when Herman Leirer and those guys were talking about putting that road out to the overlook?
DAN SEAVEY: Oh, yeah. DON CALLAWAY: And why they wanted to do it? DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. They basically -- was to promote Seward as a tourist defini -- definition. Destination. And, of course, I knew Herman, I had -- by the way, I had his kids in class, as well. And you know, he'd stop, I'd get reports from him off and on. And he was always trying to get me on a Cat, Caterpillar, you know, I keep playing dumb, I don't know how to run those things. All I do is break them down for you. So I never -- he never got me on one. But he -- yeah. He and a few others, I want to say Ollie Amend was one of those guys, I think this Luke Reed that we talked about. They'd just peck away. I mean, they -- you know, maybe get a mile in this year, or two miles. And something that you may not know is that they originally started on the other side, on the dump side. RACHEL MASON: We heard something like that.
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah.
DON CALLAWAY: And that proved impassable. DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. Because I think that had sloughed off more over there during the -- over the years because the military, I was told when I first came here, the military had a road when there was Fort Raymond here during the war. And that they had a road on that side that went all the way out to Skilak Lake, or -- yeah, Russian Lakes and out that way anyway. Out there. RACHEL MASON: So how come it didn't work out the first --
DAN SEAVEY: It must just have changed. You know, the river -- the river prior -- when we first moved out here, most of the water was on that side. And then after the quake, it came -- for whatever reason, you know, the bed changed, and most of the water has been, until just in the last few years, been on this side. And that was unfortunate, like, for our neighbors down there, Dr. Gentles, because every fall they would get these horrendous rains, you know, and the floods would come. And I'd stand down there, and these huge, mature, you know, spruce trees, Sitka spruce, down the river they'd go. And I mean every -- every fall, another chunk of his property would get washed away, so... But now, recently, it's been kind of -- I think what happens, it fills up, you know. Over here. And then it all just naturally gets shifted over to the other side, so it's probably back -- over the years, if you've watched it, probably the main water shifted all the time, you know, over a period of time, but... DON CALLAWAY: You haven't experienced the floods, then, that Tom's family did? DAN SEAVEY: Well, see, back then, it flooded every fall. I mean, and we just -- we rolled our pant legs a little higher in the Jeep and didn't think too much about it. DON CALLAWAY: But your house was -- DAN SEAVEY: No, not -- no. Now, this Box Canyon, you know, that has recently, and since '68 there have been, what did we figure, three or four hundred year occurrences or incidents, whatever you guys call them, that have scoured out Box Canyon. And has taken -- let's see, the last time, two years ago, two falls ago, I mean, it really got it. There was, again, huge, mature, 200 year old spruce come out of that canyon and make their way down the road here, from that corner, you know. And like that Seavey Corner sign, I mean, that thing's temporary. I mean, next flood, that'll be gone. And it just goes down the road. So yeah. And, I don't know -- KAREN BREWSTER: But you haven't had a problem with the flooding in your dog yard or anything here? DAN SEAVEY: We had -- in '86, we had the whole dog yard scoured out. We were -- Shirley and I were in Minnesota at the time visiting -- our daughter was here taking care of the place, and she was out there unsnapping dogs, and waist deep in flood water, let those dogs go. We never lost any dogs, but --
RACHEL MASON: That's good. DAN SEAVEY: -- it sure changed the -- it made a big hole where the dog lot was. And we had to do some new housing and stuff. But oh, yeah. Yeah, it -- I mean, there's stuff happens, and you live with it. You kind of take it in stride. But fortunately, no, we haven't had any real flood damage here at the house. RACHEL MASON: Did the formation of the park, I think we think it's in 1980 --
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah.
RACHEL MASON: -- but did that interfere with any of your activities on -- on the park, or in the park or -- or even around in the area? DAN SEAVEY: Not really. I don't think we -- I personally, you know, I'm not that much of a hunter, so -- and I never hunted up there. I mean, that would probably be the major change. We still go up there, we can still -- if you want to ride a snow machine up there, you can still ride it. So that part, I don't think it probably made it more accessible to me. In fact, I kind of like it because you go out there now, if there's snow on the road, it's a nice winter trail. You know. You're not having to cut brush or worry about snow bridges or what have you. So no, it -- I think it's a plus. I mean, I don't see -- yeah, I really do. DON CALLAWAY: Have you owned snow machines? I think you talked about this earlier, but I can't quite remember. You're not a big fan of snow machines? DAN SEAVEY: Oh, I love them. They make the best dog trails in the world. Yeah. Yeah. I probably, in my whole life, I've probably ridden, that probably a stretch there, 20 miles on a snow machine. I don't -- No, I don't own a snow machine. I have broken down in my old age, though, and gotten a four wheeler to hook my dogs to. It's got -- it's a 2006, it's got 500 miles on it, and it's hardly run, it's all the dogs that have pulled it. DON CALLAWAY: Just hold the clutch and have them pull you. DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. So I'm not very mechanical when it comes to that stuff. I'm not a Mr. Zimmerman, let's put it that way. KAREN BREWSTER: But you're still out running dogs in the winter? DAN SEAVEY: Oh, yes. That's my dog team across the way here. Yeah. And that's been, like -- I haven't been without sled dogs for, I guess it's like 47 years, or it will be this summer anyway. 47 years. DON CALLAWAY: How is retirement? DAN SEAVEY: Great. Wonderful. I wish I could have started this a long time ago. No. It's -- it's good. It's all good. It's all good. KAREN BREWSTER: Not being -- no go ahead.
DAN SEAVEY: I was just going to say Alaska's been extremely good to us, and I'm sure glad Sergeant Preston steered me this way. It's been a wonderful ride. KAREN BREWSTER: I was going to say, not being an Iditarod aficionado, what's --
DAN SEAVEY: I'm shocked. KAREN BREWSTER: I don't know if you ever won race or what your highest finish has been. DAN SEAVEY: No, I was third in the first one. Fifth in the second. Took 24 years off, ran in 1997, the 25th anniversary run. And although I came in -- although I came in a week earlier, I -- DON CALLAWAY: 15 days, huh? DAN SEAVEY: -- I -- yeah. I came in in 13 days, actually, and I was -- and I had fallen 30 places. I was 35th. And then in 2001, we did the three generation Seavey bit, and Danny, my grandson, and Mitch and I, so I've only made the trip four times. And I finished about the same spot. KAREN BREWSTER: And did you do other racing? DAN SEAVEY: Not really. Nothing to brag about. Just, you know, local stuff. DON CALLAWAY: You just like to get out on the trail with the dogs? DAN SEAVEY: Oh, yeah. I just -- dogs is the way to travel. I've had some very cool experiences with dogs. Like wolf -- wolf packs in among the dogs. Wolverine, chased a wolverine down the trail until he turned around and decided that was enough. DON CALLAWAY: Tell me about that one. DAN SEAVEY: Oh, just, I think it was the first race. The first and second race kind of blend anymore, but one of the first two races, probably out beyond Skwentna, going up into the Alaska Range, wolverine sitting right on the trail and we -- okay, it a wolverine, let's chase him. So the dogs took off. And he ran for a while, and he still didn't leave the trail. And all of a sudden he turned around, and you know, of course, he goes on the defense. Hissing and carrying on. And the dogs stopped and kind of looked back at me. And so I stopped them, and fortunately, we sat there, nothing happened. And we sat there, I'll bet you -- I couldn't believe I was that patient in those days, but sat there probably 5 minutes, and nose to nose with the leader and that wolverine, and finally, the wolverine backed off, and I held the dogs, and nobody -- nobody wanted to do any more chasing. And then another time with a wolverine, going up into the south fork here of Snow River, I did turn real quick run, going up about 7 miles, and I hear this chain, like trap chain rattling, and I thought, well, I thought it was this Doug McRae because I saw his pickup. And I thought, well, Doug is rattling his traps around in his pickup or something. Didn't think much about it. Go up there turn around, come back, it's almost dark, and then going along and not thinking much, I was a mile from the highway, all of a sudden the dogs duck under this spruce tree, and I stopped -- what in the world? And I put the snow hook in and go over there, and here they are, nose to nose with this wolverine in this trap. And that was interesting, too, because there was like, well, what in the world are we doing here. And that wolverine had dug -- you know, had just all the moss under the tree, just around and around and around and he was down in that moss. And these guys are wondering what in the world we're doing there. And I had no problem just pulling them back and getting on our way. Probably a couple things like that with wolverine. Yeah. It's interesting. DON CALLAWAY: How about the wolf pack? DAN SEAVEY: Oh. My youngest son, Darian and I, we were camping out on Mystery Creek Road, second airport, that's about -- we say airport, it's the airstrip with brush growing in it. It's the -- oh, about 40 -- 35 miles from the highway, at Mile 66 or something, Sterling Highway, you go out. And you know what I'm talking, about that road that goes into the wildlife refuge there.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. Yeah. DAN SEAVEY: You know, it goes north. And it hits that gas line, it runs from Swanson River.
DON CALLAWAY: Right. Right. Yeah. Yeah. I've bird out there. DAN SEAVEY: Okay. So we were out on that direction toward Hope, right?
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DAN SEAVEY: And we were camping. And it's getting dark and we were going into camp, and hear these wolves off in the distance. Well, that's not anything unusual out there. And then by the time we get settled down and think about going to bed, fire's going everything, we're sitting around, not doing a whole lot, and all of a sudden the dogs woof, woof, woof, you know. Oh, okay, what's going on? Well, here comes three wolves. They come down the trail right into our camp. The fire is like where that chair is there. And they go right past us. The dogs are all strung out here on a chain, and they go -- and they go right down the line with the dogs, and not a dog -- I mean, it was like we're not here, you know. You really don't see us. We're not here. Maybe one of the pups or younger dogs yapped a little bit. And then they went on, went across the trail and then over a bank and then you hear them down there playing. You know, they had to be juveniles. They were pretty good size, but they were just curious. You know. That's probably one of the coolest things that I ever had happen. Yeah, it's neat. There's so much of that. I mean, it happens and you don't think too much about it, but you know, like three minutes behind an avalanche -- in front of an avalanche, that's significant, you know. It makes you start looking a little bit and being a little more cautious.
DON CALLAWAY: Make you an existentialist.
DAN SEAVEY: Right. Yeah. So... KAREN BREWSTER: So about how far up this valley did you take dogs? Did you just go to the glacier and back or did you go farther up -- DAN SEAVEY: I started -- I have gone -- I hadn't gone beyond the glacier before the Forest Service put that trail in up, you know, they call it the Resurrection River Trail, not to be confused with the Resurrection Pass Trail on the north end of the Peninsula. And so I hadn't -- to be honest, I had not gone beyond the glacier then. But when that went in, I tried that one time. I went in there with more dogs than I should have, I went further than I should have, and I get in to where the trail was glaciated, you know, it was all rounded off. Gosh. Hit that, ended up in the -- down in pucker brush. I mean, big ball of dog, sleds, me. And man, that's as far as I went. It's not a dog trail, it really isn't. I've hiked it. I've hiked it several times, and I've had horses through there several times, but no dogs. That's not -- not the place to go. Yeah. I think that's about all I can tell you, unless you've got some really good questions. RACHEL MASON: No. No. Unless there's something else you really want us to have on record --
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. RACHEL MASON: -- then I don't think we have any more questions.
DON CALLAWAY: I don't. It's been a pleasure. DAN SEAVEY: Well, it's been my pleasure. And I do appreciate your work. And you're doing what so many of us have talked about, you know, who are concerned with history. I have basically a history background in teaching and so forth and training. And that is, we talk about getting this oral stuff down, and before the old dudes all fade out of the picture, you know. And -- but a lot of us haven't. And it's great. I mean, it's -- it's a wonderful program. I'm happy to participate. RACHEL MASON: All right. Well, thank you.
Dan Seavey was interviewed on April 11, 2010 by Don Callaway, Rachel Mason, and Karen Brewster at his home in Seward, Alaska. Originally from Minnesota, Dan moved to Seward in 1963 for a job as a high school social studies teacher. Dan became involved in dog mushing and dog racing, ran the first Iditarod Race in 1973, and operated a sled dog tour business. He also had a bus tour business. In this interview, Dan talks about changes in Seward, the 1964 Earthquake, commercial fishing, his dog mushing career, and training and racing sled dogs. He talks about living on a homestead on Old Exit Glacier Road (Seavey's Corner), using horses, dogmushing, snowmachining, hunting, and trapping in the Exit Glacier area, the road to the glacier, local use of the area, climate change and changes in the glacier, and his thoughts about establishment of Kenai Fjords National Park.
Part two of this interview.
Click to section:
Coming to Seward, Alaska
Working as a teacher
The homestead he settled on in Seward
Road access to the homestead
Effects of the earthquake on the schools
Hunting and fishing
Marking moose hunting locations on the map
Hunting bear in Box Canyon
Using horses on hunting trips
Early years of dog mushing
Traveling around the Exit Glacier area by dogteam
Training is dogs for the first Iditarod Sled Dog Race
Dogteams and accessing Exit Glacier
Getting interested in dog mushing
Running a sled dog tour operation
Operating bus tour business and service to Anchorage
Construction and effects of Exit Glacier Road
Changes in uses of the Exit Glacier area
DON CALLAWAY: -- April 11th, we're in Seward. We're -- Rachel is with me and Karen Brewster's behind the camera. And today we're talking with Dan Seavey. And Dan, as I mentioned earlier, we'd kind of like for you to elaborate on your -- your life, just tell us what events, you know, you think we -- you want to discuss, and we'll probably interrupt and ask questions during the process. And then at the end, we're going to start concentrating a little more on your experience with uses of the area around Exit Glacier in your lifetime. DAN SEAVEY: Well, I could tell you just wait and read the book I'm working on.
DON CALLAWAY: Oh, well -- DAN SEAVEY: But since I've already got that little plug in there, I suppose we can move on.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. When -- when do you plan to publish your autobiography? DAN SEAVEY: Well, it will be a couple years, yet. But I'm beyond the worst part of it, I've got started.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DAN SEAVEY: But -- well, we are -- I figured out this morning, we're 46 year resident of this spot right here. So that, of course, predates the earthquake. Actually, it doesn't predate the earthquake. We moved out here right after the earthquake, so that -- that's not true. Both my wife Shirley and I come from, that would be North Central Minnesota. And we were up in farming and mining areas of Minnesota. Went through the educational mill back there, got a teacher's degree. Had three -- three of, the only three kids we had, we had while we were still basically in college. And moved up here impoverished in 1963. I was 25 years old at the time. Got here in August of '63, into Seward. Of course, we drove up over the Alaska Highway in a station wagon, and pulling a trailer -- three kids and a wife, who did the laundry on the way up on beating rocks, you know, beating it on the rocks. 14 days from Minnesota to here. The best trip we've ever made. I probably made 30 of them since then, but that was by far the most exciting, and so forth. Our last camp on the road was at Bird Creek up by Anchorage. And it was a beautiful, beautiful, clear August day when we came down, not a cloud in the sky. And it wouldn't have mattered what kind of a dump we were moving to; by the time we got down here, I mean, we was completely sold on the Kenai Peninsula. I mean, it is awesome. And this is after coming up through the Rockies, you know, all the way and I just thought, you know -- you go along Kenai Lake, water coming off the -- off of the banks and so forth. So anyway, we arrived in Seward. And Seward, at the time, I wouldn't necessarily call it a dump, but it's -- it was close to it. And I don't say that disrespectfully. We fell in love with the little place right -- right from the beginning. But you know, dirt, the main street was dirt, the dandelions growing all over the place. There was the remnants of a landfill type dump at the north end of the lagoon. But it had charm. It had charm. And, of course, we came up here as a teacher in high school, and got involved right away, of course, with -- with teaching duties, got settled in. And things went along well. We got -- let's see, what else did I do. I'm a social studies teacher. And I brought the wrestling program to Seward High School. At the time, there were three -- three schools in Alaska that had wrestling: Lathrop in Fairbanks, there's only East and West in -- in Anchorage. Take it back, and Kenai. There were four. And then we became the fifth -- fifth school for wrestling. I taught that or coached that for 13 years, social studies and so forth. Well, then, of course, that was in -- that was in August. And -- and then we get into winter and into the following spring, and now we're at March 27th of 1964, and the earthquake. So went through that. I remember we closed school down early because -- well, people were leaving and, you know, things was all -- it was very chaotic times. So we closed school down. But then, there was such a mass exodus out of here that -- I'm not sure, I guess it was the mayor at the time decided to reopen the schools, keep people here, which we did. We opened the schools; and didn't do a whole lot of work but we kept the schools open. RACHEL MASON: How big was the high school then? DAN SEAVEY: It was not a whole lot smaller than it is now. 165, 70. I don't know, I think there's something like a little over 200 now or -- I'm not sure of that figure. But anyway, I don't know how successful that was, but we did open the schools. And then, of course, from then on it was rebuilding and -- and what have you. We came out here -- the earthquake was the 27th of March, we signed the papers on this place on the 1st of April of '64, and we moved out here in May of '64. A lot of people were leaving. I think we had almost a hundred percent turnover in teaching staff and what have you. And get out of this place. I think if you'd had a hundred thousand dollars, you probably could have bought most of -- most of the place for cash. I mean, there was some good deals, let's put it that way, this place being one of them.
So we came out here, then, 1st of May, and that's, what, 70 -- I mean, 46 years ago, so... RACHEL MASON: Where were you living when the earthquake struck? DAN SEAVEY: Oh, in town. We rented up on the -- pretty much on high ground there. Oh, let's see. Red Carpet Realty is in there, across from the -- the Resurrect Art, right -- right up there, by the Senior Center. RACHEL MASON: Okay.
DAN SEAVEY: Museum.
RACHEL MASON: So sort of up the hill.
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah, we were up pretty high ground. Yeah. Yeah. We didn't sustain a whole lot of loss. A few dishes broke, I guess, about it, but for the next couple of weeks, of course, we'd load the kids every time there was anything of a tremor of any size, you know, up the hill we'd go with the kids in the station wagon and so on. But it's interesting is we -- it was the earthquake, I think, that caused us both, both Shirley and myself, to decide to stay here. I mean, people were leaving and they were frightened, and you couldn't blame them; but in -- in a way, we looked at it like, you know, is it right -- I mean, we loved the place, right? Is it right to leave, you know, a place when it's down? You know, why not stick around and see what you can do to help out. So basically, it was kind of unspoken, I don't think we talked about that for several years afterwards, but I think we both decided, well, the two year kind of contract we had to go home in two years, that went by the boards, and another two years, and another two years, and pretty soon, we're here. So...
I -- of course, I don't know where to start or where to end here. KAREN BREWSTER: Well, I have a question about --
DAN SEAVEY: Maybe a questioning, would be more --
KAREN BREWSTER: -- about here, when you say here, house here, about -- was it a homestead -- DAN SEAVEY: Yeah, it was a home --
KAREN BREWSTER: -- talk about how many acres you have.
DAN SEAVEY: It was a home site from BLM. Yeah. BLM controlled it at the time. And it had been taken out by a man by the name of Rutledge, who was the administrator for the Jesse Lee Home. And I believe that was about 1952 or right in there. He was the one that started, did the foundation, and started what you saw, you know, basically the frame and something on the exterior, keep the wind out. And then it was -- he moved on and it was -- it was purchased or was in the process of being purchased by a man by the name of Dick Moll, who is a barber in town here. And after the quake, of course, things just went downhill and he couldn't make a -- thought he couldn't make a living here, so he moved over to Kenai. And then he wanted to sell the place, so that's where we bought from him. So we were the -- we were the third owners, actually, but we -- the initial, the original, I guess is the way to put it, the original patent was issued in our name because it either hadn't been applied for or something, you know. So we had the original patent on it. KAREN BREWSTER: And how many acres do you have? DAN SEAVEY: Just five. And in the interim, oh, about 10 years ago, we bought a few more acres that came up around us, but the original was five acres. The -- there was no road back here, just a Jeep trail. Went from here basically straight south to -- to Resurrection River, and then along the river. And then you -- you said you talked to Gillespie, and you went kind of through their yard and across the little bridge and popped out behind the Pit Bar, on the south side of the Pit Bar. And that was it. I would plow it and maintain it and all that sort of thing over the years, until in either '73, '74 when Herman and those guys started poking a road through here out to the glacier. RACHEL MASON: Was anybody else living back here then? DAN SEAVEY: No. We were the only ones with the -- the closest was Doc Gentles down on the, where Dr. Forman lives now, that place right down there. RACHEL MASON: I don't know the place.
DAN SEAVEY: It -- it's on the paved road now to the glacier. It's -- let's see. If -- it's the next place, if you're coming this way, it's the next place beyond the Windsong, the Resurrect -- Resurrection Roadhouse or what ever they call it now. So that was the closest.
And then the Gillespies were the next, probably the next closest behind the Pit Bar, you know, right in there. So yeah. So we were pretty much by ourselves. Which was nice. DON CALLAWAY: So you'd grade the road, but could you -- did you have a Jeep or something to get in? You had four wheel drive? DAN SEAVEY: Right. Oh yeah. And many a times, especially in the fall when the rains came, we would be going out the road and the salmon would be swimming, you know. We'd have to -- RACHEL MASON: In the same road. DAN SEAVEY: Well, yeah, swimming in the road, you know, and you'd have to lift your feet up. That military Jeep is what we had. Lift your feet up because the water come in the -- you know, on the floorboards. RACHEL MASON: Oh, boy.
DAN SEAVEY: Lift your feet up, the salmon… we were going that way and the salmon are going upstream. Yeah. DON CALLAWAY: Did you catch any of them? DAN SEAVEY: No, never did. Never did catch any. But yeah, that sort of thing. Then in the winter, Doc Gentles, of course, he -- he was the medical doctor in town, and I used his equipment to plow the road. He had a small Cat, a small crawler. And -- so I used that to plow, plowed him out and plowed me out, and that worked out fine. Yeah. And I don't believe I missed any snow -- had any weather days or anything, I don't think I ever missed a day of school because of roads or anything while we were back here. Not that I remember anyway. DON CALLAWAY: Is Shirley a teacher, too? Was she --
DAN SEAVEY: No. No. DON CALLAWAY: You're the only teacher?
DAN SEAVEY: Yep. DON CALLAWAY: And how long was the high school closed after the quake and tsunami?
DAN SEAVEY: Oh, a couple -- a couple weeks. DON CALLAWAY: And then it reopened again?
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. There's that -- say, it probably was in March. It probably was open again by mid April. And in those days, you know, it was an independent school district. It was before the borough, the governments had been formed. And we got out of school in the spring, like, 14th -- middle of May, basically. So we only had about a month that we kept it open. So that -- that worked out fine. Then everything was pretty much back on schedule and that by the -- you know, after the summer, so for the next term. DON CALLAWAY: So when you came from Minnesota, you grew up in Minnesota, I assume?
DAN SEAVEY: Right. DON CALLAWAY: Did you hunt a lot there? Do a lot of outdoor recreational activities? DAN SEAVEY: Everybody in Minnesota, at least in my crowd, hunted, you know, deer, basically. That was the big game. And, of course, everybody sports fished, you know. Yeah. Oh, yeah. We did a lot of that. Hardly ever -- I mean, we were camping and stuff, canoeing in Boundary Waters, you know, all that kind of stuff. Oh, yeah, very active outdoors. DON CALLAWAY: And how did that transfer when you came -- came to Seward? What -- how did you integrate yourself into those pursuits here? DAN SEAVEY: Well, I left my -- my sports fishing because I got into commercial fishing. Yeah, we -- we gillnetted in the -- in Cook Inlet for -- I think it was 13 years, with the -- commercially. DON CALLAWAY: When did that start? DAN SEAVEY: Oh, gosh. About '69. We beach site -- we beach fished one year, that was about '68, '69. I think we bought the -- bought our -- well, then we did a leased boat in probably '69. '71, we bought our own boat, and that continued for about 13 years until I lost all my child labor, the kids all grew up and left home. DON CALLAWAY: I was going to ask you. Yeah. DAN SEAVEY: So, it just wasn't fun anymore without the kids. And -- and then so we -- I just got rid of it, that part of it. But yeah, the fishing and the hunting, you know, I guess every -- not everyone, but my crowd, anyway, you had to become the Great White Hunter, right? And so we -- our kids were raised on moose and wild game, pretty much. But I haven't -- I haven't hunted now for maybe 20 years. I gave my rifles to my sons, and anymore, I use a camera. It's a lot easier. Well, I mean, we don't need -- I mean, we don't need it. I don't hunt game anymore. RACHEL MASON: When you first moved out here did you hunt right -- right away, out in this area? DAN SEAVEY: My very first moose was shot along this logging road out there. RACHEL MASON: Oh. Well, can you show us on the map?
DAN SEAVEY: Well, what we call Manthey's cabin down there. RACHEL MASON: Oh, I don't know what that is, maybe you can show us where --
DAN SEAVEY: Oh, I don't even know where we are. RACHEL MASON: Let's see. Where -- where -- where's Seavey's Corner here?
DON CALLAWAY: Around in here somewhere. RACHEL MASON: So this must be Seavey's right here.
DON CALLAWAY: No. No -- that's --
DAN SEAVEY: Let's see. Here we go. Nash. Okay. Then we come in here -- RACHEL MASON: This is the Seward Highway.
DAN SEAVEY: -- Seward Highway, wait, and this is the road going up. Okay. Who you got here? RACHEL MASON: That's Tom's dad --
DAN SEAVEY: Okay.
RACHEL MASON: -- Tom's dad did something there. I don't know --
KAREN BREWSTER: Logging -- logging. DON CALLAWAY: No, no, no -- that's a logging --
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. And -- that was Ray Gillespie. He -- according to him, this whole area had been logged off probably, oh, gosh, I'd have to think on that, but he told me, probably 50 years before I ever got here. RACHEL MASON: No kidding?
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. DON CALLAWAY: So that was second growth he was logging, Ray -- Ray Gillespie was logging.
DAN SEAVEY: I think he is. I think he was in on some of it, on the tail end of it. I'm trying to -- I'm having a hard time. What are we looking for, again? DON CALLAWAY: Just where you're at.
RACHEL MASON: Where you got your first moose.
DAN SEAVEY: I can tell you. I can tell you, but I can't necessarily -- I don't see where we are here. DON CALLAWAY: I think you're about right here. KAREN BREWSTER: Well, that big dot is Tom's place.
RACHEL MASON: No, this is the Seward Highway. This here is the Seward Highway. DAN SEAVEY: This is the road up -- up -- here's the glacier road here.
DON CALLAWAY: Right. DAN SEAVEY: So I think we've got to get --
KAREN BREWSTER: No, no. I think --
DON CALLAWAY: No, no, no, that's way up by the glacier. DAN SEAVEY: This is Box Canyon here.
KAREN BREWSTER: This, this, this dot here, that is what Tom wrote is where his family was, the Gillespies. DAN SEAVEY: All right. So --
KAREN BREWSTER: And this was where his dad went logging up there. DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. And that's Box Canyon, that's this canyon right here.
DON CALLAWAY: Right. Right.
KAREN BREWSTER: So there's little roads in there. DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. So here's where we are. Right -- the moose was right -- okay. Right -- I'd say -- I don't want to make a dot on it, but -- DON CALLAWAY: No, go ahead.
RACHEL MASON: Go ahead. Go ahead. That's --
KAREN BREWSTER: That's why you have a colored pen.
RACHEL MASON: Yeah, that's why we gave it to you. DAN SEAVEY: It's right here. Right -- right on the edge of that swamp.
DON CALLAWAY: Okay.
RACHEL MASON: And that's where Tom said he did some moose hunting there, too. DAN SEAVEY: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. And that's Clear Creek right in there. DAN SEAVEY: Yep. Exactly. So yeah. On Clear Creek, and there's an old cabin down there, Manthey's, what we call Manthey's cabin, it belonged to Mrs. Manthey. And I had her daughters in class, too. But if you go -- if you go back, you go out here instead of going out, you know, to the bridge, you go on the old road, and you go over a bridge, and right over that bridge to the left is where the moose are shot, and that's where that old cabin, Manthey's cabin, is in there. Yeah. And the reason I shot it in their yard was it -- they -- they had moved into town because of the quake had unsettled the water, you know, and she was getting old, too, and -- too. She moved into town, and that place was vacated at that time. And it never has been lived in continuously since. But that's the spot. Yeah. RACHEL MASON: It must have been a different experience from all the deer hunting you did in Minnesota. DAN SEAVEY: Oh, yeah. Yeah. And then I just backed in there and loaded it up. That was pretty easy. That was the easiest one I've had.
RACHEL MASON: Yeah. DAN SEAVEY: And I might also say that -- let's see. I'm trying to think up here in the valley. I don't know if I've ever hunted, actually actively hunted up into the valley here, up to where the Exit Glacier. I've gotten bear out of Box -- Box Canyon here. That was -- those were easy hunts, too. They go up on the side and you pop them and you just throw them in the creek, and then you bring them along, and you float them down to where I could get them with my Jeep, and -- RACHEL MASON: Were these black bears or brown bears?
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah, black bear. Yeah. I never shot a brown bear. So yeah. The hunting we did, I might mention again, when my kids were growing up, we did have horses. I think we had horses for -- what did we figure, 17 years here we had horses. Up to 9 head at a time. And again, they were used for fun and games, but come fall, we -- we hunted. And mostly on the Peninsula, Resurrection, you know, Pass out, you know, in the Northern Peninsula here. I've never taken horses up here. [points over his shoulder] DON CALLAWAY: Oh, you never took horses up to Exit? DAN SEAVEY: No. I've been up behind, you know, like Lost Lake and up in that area, and down Primrose to Kenai Lake and that, but not -- I don't ever remember taking the horses up there. And they, too, eventually -- it's kind of a reverse deal here. When my daughter got married, the understanding -- because we kept the horses for her for the longest time. When she got married, I told the guy that married her, the horses go with her. DON CALLAWAY: That's her dowry.
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah, they're going with the daughter. So -- but yeah, so that kind of ended that era, as well. DON CALLAWAY: They are a lot of work, especially --
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. And in this country, in particular. I mean, I used to let them just run out here when we were by ourselves, and then have a bell on them. And when you need them, you know, of course, it would take you a day maybe to find them, but I imagine they went up -- up the canyon there a ways. But this one time, oh, gosh, I was -- I don't know, I was out dinking around in the yard, and my neighbor, Kenny Knutson comes up, he -- he lived right -- right across Clear Creek from Gillespie's, Tommy's home place there. He comes up, he says, Seavey -- and I thought he was disturbed. And I said, what's the matter? He said, your horses just rolled in my garden. And he had just gotten his garden, spring of the year, just gotten his garden all planted, all the plants out, and those darn horses ended up down there, and of course, they all had to roll in the dirt. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. Yeah. Dust themselves off. DAN SEAVEY: I said, did you shoot them? He said, no. I was -- I wanted to. And I said, well, maybe you should have. So anyway, I went down and got them, and then I started corralling them after that. And of course, I had to go buy new plants. And he was good about it, but see, he was probably better than I would have been about the whole deal. But yeah. So that free range wasn't altogether free, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Well, I'd think you'd have to worry about bears with free range horses. DAN SEAVEY: Oh, not -- not really. Horses are pretty -- I -- we've had horses here put shags to bear. I've -- I've watched them.
KAREN BREWSTER: Really. DAN SEAVEY: I had a big black in here, it was my horse for years, a little scroungy bear came up the trail behind the place here, and he's in a -- in a fence, kind of a corral like sheep wire, you know. Woven wire. And the top of that is 6 -- 6 feet. And he sees that bear, and I -- I saw him do it. He up and over and he comes down on that fence and he squishes the fence, and he gets his back end over it, and the last I saw him, he was after that bear, and they're heading back down the trail. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.
RACHEL MASON: Wow.
DAN SEAVEY: And I didn't see it, but my boys did, a bear, a good size one came in the corral over on this side. And same thing, I mean, he just kicked the living daylights out of that bear, wished he had never showed up. So I don't think horses -- now, brownies or something, you know, if they got them in a corner or something, that would be different, but black bear. So anyway, that was kind of an era. The only thing that's probably been constant throughout all the years are sled dogs. Yeah. That's -- and I have been -- spent many, many, many, many hours up -- up Resurrection with dogs. RACHEL MASON: Where all have you gone with your dogs? I mean, can you tell us, like, how you first started doing that? DAN SEAVEY: Well, I mean, you know, you have to take the road out of the picture.
RACHEL MASON: Yeah. DAN SEAVEY: And I did have, eventually -- see we came out here in '64, and we had dogs that first -- that first winter. I mean, of sorts. And so I -- basically, I just worked my way up there. I would cut a trail. The road -- the road that -- the Exit Glacier Road has covered over a lot of that trail, but I did have a trail there. And I got on the ice with the dogs. Gosh, I wouldn't know just when, but certainly by '67 I was going up there pretty regularly. I also had traps up there. It didn't work every year because in order to cross -- cross over to the glacier, you had to have snow bridges. You know. Otherwise, the water is just too deep. Not only that, but the banks, you know how it gets, you get a lot of snow, and then the water's down here all right, but you know, then there's a sharp edge of snow banks, you know. And so I always would cross wherever there was a -- you know, a snow bridge. And sometimes that never happened, so maybe that winter I wouldn't get up there. But I do know I have pictures somewhere of me with the dog team, just up -- not way up on the glacier, but up on the ice before the Park was, I know that. KAREN BREWSTER: Can you draw on that map the route you would take? DAN SEAVEY: Well, I don't know if I could do that or not, really. I did want to mention a man by the name of John Elgin, like the watch. E L G I N. RACHEL MASON: Yeah, somebody else mentioned him. E L G I N? DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. He was a longshoreman in town here. And Duane, if you talk to Duane, he -- he knew him quite well.
RACHEL MASON: I think he mentioned him before.
DAN SEAVEY: Oh, okay. RACHEL MASON: Is -- is John Elgin still around?
DAN SEAVEY: No. I don't even -- I doubt if he's still alive. He was fairly old at that time, and when I say that, I mean the late '60s. But he -- I know I met him many times up there. Basically, it's -- it's not a trail. I mean, it's -- I couldn't draw a trail here because we would go -- you know, leave here, and go down and hit the river, and then follow -- you know, follow the brush line or whatever. Sometimes there would be a point or something, I'd brush over it, and you know, basically, work along this right bank, the north bank, if you will, until such time as I could find a way where there would be a snow bridge or something, and then I'd cross over and head to either the Exit Glacier or Paradise over here. I've been up, way up in there, too. That -- I remember the first time I was up in Paradise. That was -- that got to be a little spooky because the further up in there you go, the more this is, you know. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. Yeah. It's avalanche alley.
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. Right. DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. And I -- the first time up there, I chickened out. I got up, and I said, what in the world am I doing up in here. So I bailed out of there, but eventually I would sneak back up there when the snow -- I thought the snow was right, and I got quite a ways up there, up to where it goes pretty straight up. And now that, you know, they do take snow machines up there. That's one way of -- probably the best way for snow machines to get up on the Harding is -- is by the way of -- is this Paradise? RACHEL MASON: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
DAN SEAVEY: But --
RACHEL MASON: How many dogs would you have? DAN SEAVEY: Oh, I didn't run many dogs in those days. Probably five, seven, nine would be a pretty decent team. And then I might say I also had traps up in there on occasion. I did trap when I was back in Minnesota. Never had real good luck here. Caught a dog once. Caught my own dog once.
RACHEL MASON: Your own dog, oh.
DAN SEAVEY: Does that count? DON CALLAWAY: Is he all right? DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. Well, he got loose, the bugger chewed loose, while I was up toward the glacier, and of course, okay, so you're going home, right? No problem. Get home, that Sinook was his name, big yellow dog. Get home and no dog. Well, there's only one answer to that. So back I go again, and sure enough, about the third trap up, set up, there he is. That's quite an ordeal to get a dog out of a trap by yourself, especially, yeah, without getting all chewed up. But anyway. I remember that about him.
RACHEL MASON: Poor dog.
DAN SEAVEY: I -- I don't -- I didn't catch much up in there. I think I got a fox once, and yeah. I wasn't a very avid trapper. KAREN BREWSTER: What were you trapping for?
DAN SEAVEY: Fox or wolverine. Yeah. DON CALLAWAY: So would you get out on your line two or three times a week, or -- DAN SEAVEY: Oh, I tell you, no, whenever I trapped, I'd try to get out there every day. Yeah. I don't like that once a week stuff for traps. But yeah. And I was running out there anyway, see. That's my -- my main trail was out here. But you know, back -- back then, too, it was pretty quiet around here, and I would hook up here, run down -- out our driveway, hit the Seward Highway, go over to the -- to what's Nash Road, and go all the way to the end of Nash Road, and come back, maybe see one or two cars. Do the same, take off, go north on the Seward Highway, up the Bear Lake Road, and circle around Bear Lake, come back, you know, there just wasn't much traffic around in those days. But then when I started getting -- you know, training for the Iditarod that first race and that, and I had to, of course, forsake all of this, there's not enough trails here to bother with, I started going over, like on the Mystery Creek Road, I guess they called it, we called it the Gas Line Road. Mile 67, Sterling Highway, north to, you know, the -- the gas -- gas line that runs from Swanson River to Anchorage. Hit that. That -- that's a hundred miles of trail you can get over there, so we got a little more -- a little more serious then. RACHEL MASON: When did you start running the Iditarod?
DAN SEAVEY: I ran the very first one in 1973.
RACHEL MASON: Oh, okay.
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. That was the first one. But we also had a gold claim, a mineral claim over at Quartz -- on Quartz Creek. That's -- are you acquainted with that area? Out behind Sunrise Inn, on the Sterling Highway there, Kenai Lake. We had a claim there. And never worked it much. It was pretty much for dog mushing. And we used that a lot. RACHEL MASON: Is this on this map here? No.
DAN SEAVEY: Kenai Lake.
RACHEL MASON: Here's Kenai Lake. DAN SEAVEY: Well, it would be -- yeah. See, that's another thing, I'd run from Primrose to Hope, that was another way of training. RACHEL MASON: Oh, wow.
DON CALLAWAY: Oh, yeah. Yeah. DAN SEAVEY: But this is -- isn't that -- what's that creek -- is that Quartz Creek?
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DAN SEAVEY: Yeah, that's Quartz Creek. Okay. The cabin was up in here.
RACHEL MASON: Oh, okay. DAN SEAVEY: And we would drive in, you know and get up in here. RACHEL MASON: Yeah. There's the Quartz Creek landing strip here.
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. Yeah. DON CALLAWAY: So when you're training with your dogs, you do it two or three times, long runs two or three times a week, or how would you do it? DAN SEAVEY: Well, you know, having to -- yeah. Having to make a living, it kind of interfered with my dog mushing. But yeah, you're right. At night, you know, two or three times a week at night, weekends, holidays. Then when it got close to race time, both the first and second race, I petitioned the school board and they let me off. So I got a substitute. And then I trained pretty hard for a couple weeks prior to the race. And then ran the race. And, that's you know, in those days, it was 22, 23 days. And then back to school. The third year they said, nah, probably not. RACHEL MASON: Well, your kids must have loved that, following you. DAN SEAVEY: Oh. Oh, yeah. Yeah. We got some good -- some good feedback from the kids on that. Yeah, it was -- it was a good time. DON CALLAWAY: So when you brought your dogs up here, would you ever get up on the Harding Glacier? Would you take them up?
DAN SEAVEY: No. DON CALLAWAY: No? You just take them a little way up the --
DAN SEAVEY: Just up -- like the face of the glacier where we could get up. Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: That's not too steep?
DAN SEAVEY: It wasn't at that time. Excuse me just a sec. I believe this was taken in -- in 1980 with the dog team up there. Nothing real spectacular, but you can see the ice is -- is -- you know --
DON CALLAWAY: Jagged. DAN SEAVEY: It's a long ways up there from there. And that -- so that's -- gives you some idea. And you'd find a place that you could get up and over. I have pictures of earlier than that. RACHEL MASON: When was this taken?
DAN SEAVEY: I'm going to say about -- about '80. DON CALLAWAY: How about, you know, when the -- the snow is off the sides of Paradise here, would you ever take your dogs all the way up -- up then?
DAN SEAVEY: No. DON CALLAWAY: Just a little ways up?
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah, just a little ways. I never -- never liked that avalanche business. I used to run up the south fork of the Snow River, that's if you go over mile 12 here, hill here, and off to the -- it'd be off to the right, it comes back south. One time up there, I go all the way up to Nellie Juan -- Nellie Juan Lake, and you can actually get up there and overlook, like, Prince William Sound, that used to be a nice run for dogs. And one time when I -- again, when I was younger and dumber, I did -- I just missed an avalanche up there by -- I bet it wasn't 3 minutes. And I -- yeah. Because they come down, I was crossing and I know more than -- I mean, I just was sort of out of the chute, and down it comes, you know. No more chances, so... Yeah. DON CALLAWAY: So you mentioned your children were born before you got here. And what are their names? DAN SEAVEY: Well, Mitch is the older one, and he's, now, of course, real active. He lists his occupation as dog musher. He's real active in the Iditarod. He was the 2004 champion and, of course, won the All Alaska Sweepstakes in 2008, in -- in Nome. A little bit of cash involved with that, a hundred -- 100,000. So he was the oldest. And then we have a daughter, Tracy. She's -- was horse -- was and is horse nuts, even today. In fact, so much so they -- she and her husband and her daughter, our granddaughter, moved to Oklahoma to be closer to horses. RACHEL MASON: Really?
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah.
DON CALLAWAY: Just quarter horse or -- DAN SEAVEY: Just anything, it doesn't matter. She's basically a -- she's in the medical part of it, and so --
DON CALLAWAY: Oh, I see. DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. So anyway, she's down there. And then we have a younger son, Darian, he's our baby at about 50, I guess. But he's -- he's been around here for pretty much right along, and now just -- he retired, sold his business and retired, and he's kind of a gypsy on the road right now with one of our grandsons, who is a triathlete. And so consequently, we had to go over to Hawaii here last week to see him in a -- you know, it was obligations.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah, sure. DAN SEAVEY: Grandparents staff, yeah. But anyway, they're kind of doing the circuit here for the next two, three years with that -- with Taylor, who is a -- he's waht -- 19 come the 17th of August, so... DON CALLAWAY: Does he do the Iron Man or --
DAN SEAVEY: Lava Man. He's not -- he's got a ways to go for the Iron Man yet, but he's doing well. And he's training. He's got a good coach, Conrad Stoltz, who's won the Iron Man a few times. And so yeah. And he's into it. That's the main thing. KAREN BREWSTER: And you have another grandson who races dogs, too? DAN SEAVEY: Oh, boy, they all. Okay. Mitch -- Mitch has -- he has four sons. And Danny, who's -- like he says, my grampa's named after me. He has the same -- and it gets confusing. He -- he's Dan Seavey, same middle name and everything.
RACHEL MASON: Oh, jeez. DAN SEAVEY: So anyway, he's the oldest of Mitch's son. And he runs the family business, which is the Iditaride Sled Dog Tours, and they have a glacier dog operation out at Alyeska. And then the Wild Ride Sled Dog Show in Anchorage. So Danny manages those -- those things, plus tours in the winter. And, you know, a bunch of stuff with dogs. And then there's Tyrell, he's the next youngest, and of course, he's running a race and this is sort of a right of passage. None of these kids have been -- have any school housing, they are all homeschooled kids. So their graduation is run the -- run the Iditarod, you know. And then there's Dallas who is actively running now. He's got a good sponsor, and he's nipping at Mitch's heels pretty good here. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, just this last one...
RACHEL MASON: Yeah, I remember reading about him. DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. He is the third son, number three. And then there's number four, which we joke about, as kind of an oops. He's a -- and that's Conway. He's, like -- I think he's 12 now, and he's sort of the musician in the family. He -- he's -- he's a singer and a bunch of stuff he's working on. So... KAREN BREWSTER: You mentioned that you -- as soon as you moved out here, you got dogs. I mean, what inspired you to get dogs and start mushing? DAN SEAVEY: Oh, like so many people that I talk to my age, from my era, Sergeant Preston of the Northwest Mounted Police, of course.
KAREN BREWSTER: Of course. DAN SEAVEY: The radio program. Get the farm chores done, get in there so you can hear that, you know, see how Yukon King does, who he brings down for all in the name of justice, you know.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DAN SEAVEY: So yeah. I mean, there was that glamorous sort of thing, you know, the -- Call of the Wild, you know, Jack London. You know, boys' stories, kids' stories. I can remember a one room country school, best schoolhouse I've ever been in for about three years, bar none. College, you name it. Just got through with a geography lesson on Alaska. You know, the mining and the trapping and the hunting and -- oh, and the dog mushing, and you know, the mail going -- being carried by dogs, and you know. I suppose even that textbook was old in those days, but anyway, I can remember telling my map partner, I said, "Hey, what do you say, why don't we go to Alaska when we grow up, all right?" "Yeah, yeah, yeah." Well, you know, 20 -- DON CALLAWAY: You made it.
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah, I made it. You know, three kids and the wife and about, you know, 16 years later, yeah. Made it. But yeah. So that -- I mean, you know, to be honest with you, that's what it was. And the deal with Shirley was that two years, and then we'd go back to the Midwest and do whatever, but that didn't happen. KAREN BREWSTER: How did you get your dogs? I mean, people don't associate Seward as the dog mushing capital of Alaska. DAN SEAVEY: No, but it's too bad they don't because you want to keep in mind historically, the Iditarod Trail began, ended, or however you want to look at it, in Seward. It was laid out in 1908, in fact, from Seward to Nome, basically. So -- and -- but you're right in that the race has messed up a lot of history, you know. And -- but I didn't let that bother me, that there -- and you're right, there were no sled dogs left in the Seward area when I -- when I came here. And in fact, the closest teams that I'm aware of were over on the, like, Soldotna, Kenai, and the sprint racers, you know, there were a few over there. But none -- no utility teams or long distance. There was no long distance racing, so there was -- there wasn't much reason to have them, you know. But anyway, we -- we, when we came out here, we used them. I mean, we hauled water, we didn't have a well, we hauled water from Clear Creek down there by Gillespies. Of course, there was a lot of nearby wood down, you know, old fallen trees, hauling the wood with dogs. Then, of course, using them for recreation, went family camping and all kinds of stuff in the winter with them. So I had 10 -- a good 10 years of dog experience before -- before we ever started -- we ever organized that first Iditarod. I felt pretty confident with dogs. You ask how did I get them? Probably like most beginning mushers, you take castoffs from ones people didn't like. The -- the judge in town, the magistrate called me up, "Seavey, we've got a dog we've got to put down. Do you want to take a look at it?" You know, it was a stray or something, right? So I'd go in, if it looked like a husky, I'd -- you know, he'd get his reprieve; if not, you know, good bye. And basically, that was the way it went. And started breeding dogs. And I think Mitch and I figured out the other day, we have about 18 to 20 generations of dogs now, selected breeding from that breed that we started here. And of course, Mitch has carried it to a whole different level than I ever did. I mean, he's got super, super race dogs, where I was just more concerned with just good forward oriented, you know, honest dogs, as we called them. But, you know, maybe get one dog that was worth keeping out of the litter. And then pretty soon, you're getting half, halvsies, you know. And then pretty soon you could almost predict if that female has six pups, they are going to all be good dogs, you know, good forward oriented dogs. So and that's -- that's just the way we went. But it didn't cost us a lot of money to get in. In fact, the first dog I ever -- let's see, how did that work. First dog -- yeah, the first dog I ever got was $25. That was a pup in -- when we still lived in town before we moved out here. And got it, and the neighbor's dog came over, munched it, killed it. And of course, it was a tragedy for the kids. And so anyway, hey neighbor, you owe me $25, right. Well, okay. You know, so I get $25. And I -- then I think the next one I bought, another puppy like that from a different source, and that was like 50 bucks. Now we're getting high dollars, you know. High bucks for those days for dogs. But now, you know, if you've got a decent leader that can be used for breeding purposes, you start at about 5,000, and you know, there are dogs that are sold for 10 grand easily. Yeah. So times have changed. Inflation it's called. DON CALLAWAY: Where does Mitch and Dan live now? DAN SEAVEY: Mitch -- Danny lives right over here, in fact; adjoining property here.
DON CALLAWAY: Okay. DAN SEAVEY: The -- and Mitch lives in Sterling. Yeah. He's got a big -- I say a big place. Lots of room over there for a lot of dogs. That's sort of the depot for all the summer -- Mitch -- the boys try to keep him away from the day to day operations. They've given him the -- RACHEL MASON: He's just the star -- DAN SEAVEY: Well, they've given him the job of trucking dogs to these various places. They rotate them in and out, you know, so the dogs are maybe here for a week or so, and then they go home on R and R, and then another load comes in. So he's pretty much a trucker in the summer. KAREN BREWSTER: So did you ever lead tours with your dogs? DAN SEAVEY: Oh, yeah. Yeah. In fact, we -- we started that, what was called, that's what this was all about, Trails North Tours. And we had -- oh, boy, that's when the cruise ships were started in Seward. And I'm talking here now about '85; '84, '85, right in there. It was right after I retired anyway. And -- from school. And yeah. We had, gosh, could be 350 people at a time out there. I'd do a dog demo and tell them lies about the Iditarod, and that. RACHEL MASON: Did you take them on a ride? DAN SEAVEY: No, no. No. We had a, like, an arena. And I'd cut figure eights and stuff with dog teams, and they could -- they get out and it was a good -- good tour. The cruise ship companies liked it. Yeah. And then -- DON CALLAWAY: This was during the summer, though?
DAN SEAVEY: Uh hum. Yes. RACHEL MASON: After they built the road out here? DAN SEAVEY: The road -- gosh, you know, I can't even tell you when they -- this road, the -- the dirt road, which is now just a loop, that -- I am pretty sure that was -- started in '73, '74. But it wasn't -- it wasn't usable, really, for busses and stuff until, I don't know, probably '76. I know when we first -- we bought 14 busses, and we did quite a business then. And a lot of times we'd get out -- at first we could only go to the overlook, you know, that overlook out there. KAREN BREWSTER: Before the bridge. DAN SEAVEY: Before the bridge was put in. And so that's as far as we would go. And a lot of times, I guess it would be in the fall when the rains came, I mean, we'd be through water like this with those busses, you know, in the low spots, going out there. People got -- yeah, it was kind of -- it was quite an adventure for them in those days. And it was all dirt and, you know, rough and -- RACHEL MASON: Did they ever get stuck? DAN SEAVEY: We never got stuck. No, they were solid. They were solid. But yeah. So then we sold that in -- in about '91, '92, right in there, '91, I guess, and we bought the Seward -- another business, Seward Bus Line, has daily service between here and Anchorage. And we -- I say "we," Shirley and I, we operated that. And also I had a fleet of charter busses and we operated that for about 10 years, I guess. DON CALLAWAY: Were you the mechanic for the busses? DAN SEAVEY: Oh, yeah, mechanic, and you name it. Driver and, you know, small business, you've got to do --
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DAN SEAVEY: -- whatever it takes to make it go. Yeah, so you know, we've been fairly busy. And finally got retired though, two years ago, sold the last bus. I'm official. RACHEL MASON: Is somebody still operating a Seward Bus Line? DAN SEAVEY: Oh, yeah. Seward Bus Line, it was old -- it was an old business when I bought it. I mean it goes back to -- certainly back to the '50s, 1950 maybe. Well, whenever the road, '52, I suppose, whenever the Seward Highway was first opened up. So yeah. Then it was an old, you know, fairly successful -- it had its ups and downs, but it was good to us. Yeah. It was a good business for us. KAREN BREWSTER: So when was the Exit Glacier Road that's out there now, the new Exit Glacier Road, the paved --
DAN SEAVEY: That's --
KAREN BREWSTER: When did that come in? DAN SEAVEY: That's what I can't remember. I don't know. Probably -- I -- you know, isn't that strange? I should know that, but I don't. I want to say -- KAREN BREWSTER: Is that the one that Herman Leirer started or he started the one you're on --
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: -- on Old Exit Glacier? DAN SEAVEY: He started -- he and -- I think even this Luke Reed that I mentioned was in, there were several guys in on that, but he -- okay. Come in the dirt road right by the highway, that part of the loop, that --
RACHEL MASON: The old Exit Glacier Road. DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. Okay. That was the old road. That's when this started. And they came out, right up here past Manthey's cabin, and up here, right past our corner here, and then on down, the stretch you came in on. And the -- and the -- if you look down there, there's a -- a barrier of some -- it's suppose to have been a gate to keep people out of there, but that was actually a -- where the road went. And the bridge then went across Box Canyon Creek right there, and then pretty much where the -- where the road is -- where the paved road is now. So as far as new route, or what have you, the only new route was from the highway along the river, the rip, wrapped and paved. And they went -- Herman and that bunch, they pushed it all the way through. Blast -- did the blasting and everything all the way to that -- that lookout there. You know. That they -- RACHEL MASON: Uh hum. Yeah. Yeah. DAN SEAVEY: And as far as the date, I'm sorry, I can't -- I'll tell you what, do you have that problem? I can't tell you if it happened yesterday or seven years ago. DON CALLAWAY: We were look -- Rachel had to wait out in the cold, or actually she got in the alcove because I couldn't find the car keys. They were just in another pocket. I went back to the room. DAN SEAVEY: Not enough keys or too many pockets, right? DON CALLAWAY: Too many pockets, right.
DAN SEAVEY: But I want to say about '80, 1980. KAREN BREWSTER: When they straightened it, basically? DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. When they -- the park got. And then it was dirt for a while, and then they paved it. And yeah. So... KAREN BREWSTER: Can you maybe talk about how it's changed with the differences in your road? Your -- DAN SEAVEY: Well, it was less dust. That's for sure. But, you know, I welcomed the road. And when we had the public meetings for -- for the, what would result in the paved road, the -- by and large, the people out here and people, just the general public were in favor of keeping the same route and upgrading the dirt road for the bigger busses and stuff. And -- and basically, keep it dirt. Keep it. But in the process, after the hearings and so forth -- oh, and another thing, we were supposed to have a bike path. A pedestrian way associated with the road. And of course, we didn't get our way on the route, and we didn't get the bike path, so -- we're working on that, though. We've got a little project going that hopefully will result in a bike path out along the road. Out along there, yeah. So... DON CALLAWAY: Up to the -- up to the base of the glacier? DAN SEAVEY: Well, up to -- basically, as far as our group is concerned, up to the Brown -- what we call the Brown Bridge where you cross and go into the park. Now, the Park Service does have some money. They're doing a study on -- on a non-motorized, and it includes this. But they -- they, in turn, would do something within the park, I presume, up to the glacier. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah, hopefully. Yeah. I'm a bike rider. DAN SEAVEY: Oh, good. Cool. Yeah, so that's in the works, you know. RACHEL MASON: Over the years, what are some of the changes you've noticed in what the uses that people have made of the glacier or of that whole area? DAN SEAVEY: Well, of course, originally, I mean, we were no doubt the first tour company to go -- to use the glacier, so to speak, even though we could only go to the outlook to start with. So there wasn't much local traffic, and the local traffic probably more in the fall and that, hunters going out. You know, there wasn't a whole lot of interest in the glacier locally, I don't think. You know, I could be wrong there, but it didn't seem like -- you know, we didn't -- people didn't talk -- they've been -- you know, have people been out to the glacier or what have you. I think it's used more now by locals because there are more facilities out there. I mean, there's picnic areas and that sort of thing. Visitor's center. Definitely more use, that -- than it used to have. As far as the valley itself, I -- I couldn't say there except I -- there are some controversial uses out there, like bear baiting stations, for instance. There's a lot of us, me included, that feel that that's not an activity for a recreational corridor and it should be banned. KAREN BREWSTER: Where is that happening, that's farther -- DAN SEAVEY: On the -- on the right side going out, on the land, mountain side. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. But like farther up the valley, where or -- DAN SEAVEY: Well, there are bear -- there used to be at least three. And if you go out -- let's see. One up above -- do you know where No Name -- do you know where No Name Bridge is? RACHEL MASON: If you can find it on the map, that would be -- I remember seeing it at one point.