Snowmachine operation for tourists on Exit Glacier
Hunting in the Exit Glacier area
Airstrip along the Resurrection River
Sanna's childhood memories of Christmas
Seward as the central shipping point in and out of Alaska
Cross-country skiing towards Exit Glacier
Marking first route of Exit Glacier road on the map
Lost Lake trail
Marking moose hunting areas on the map
Caterpillar tractor at upper Russian Lake
Thoughts about establishment of Kenai Fjords National Park
Marking location of Taylorcraft (T-craft) airstrip on the map
Proposed hydro-electric projects and Seward's source of electricity
DUANE LEVAN: -- they built a bar and the earthquake hit, and it was all a plywood building, just hunks of plywood on the outside. And they said it was just nothing but sheets of plywood floating around. Downtown. Yeah. RACHEL MASON: Well, I just remember people telling me that the first things to come back after the earthquake were the bars, and they were built these just like shacks.
DUANE LEVAN: Oh, yeah. RACHEL MASON: And operating out of them.
DUANE LEVAN: They still had the land, so then they built right back where it was.
SANNA LEVAN: Henry's it is now.
DUANE LEVAN: Now it's Henry's now, yeah.
SANNA LEVAN: Yeah. RACHEL MASON: Solly's we call it.
DUANE LEVAN: We got a friend that was in the boat harbor in his boat and rolled over the breakwater and back again. During that tidal wave. Yeah, his boat went over the top going out, and he was over the top coming back and nothing happened to him.
RACHEL MASON: He just got a boat ride.
DON CALLAWAY: He was lucky. DUANE LEVAN: Yeah. It must have been wild. KAREN BREWSTER: So before the road -- before the road was put into Exit Glacier --
DUANE LEVAN: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: -- it sounded like people in town really didn't go out there very often?
DUANE LEVAN: No. No. KAREN BREWSTER: When you were growing up here, you didn't go out there at all? Or people you knew go out hunting there or anything? DUANE LEVAN: I -- I don't know. I don't think probably -- well, like I say, there was always a couple, three guys that trapped up the valley.
SANNA LEVAN: They always told you if there was any ptarmigans down there.
DUANE LEVAN: Wintertime -- wintertime trapping.
SANNA LEVAN: I remember that. DUANE LEVAN: But other than that, guys would go up there and shoot a moose once in a while. Like I say, they have that little strip right up there where the park -- or where the glacier is, or by the glacier. And outside of that, no. People seen it going by, they'd fly by in a plane, there's a lot of traffic, people fly up and down the valley there going to the other side of the Peninsula, there's a natural way to go. And a lot of times there was a natural way to go to Anchorage even, because you go through there and then you go through Russian [Lake], and then you drop over and go over through Jean Lake and you're right on the flat country and you're into Anchorage. You know, I mean, it's a natural way to travel.
So people went by that area, but as far as stopping, a local guy or two tried looking for mines, you know, mining up there and that a little bit. But -- SANNA LEVAN: Our -- our place that we really liked the best was travelling up to Lost Lake.
DUANE LEVAN: Oh, Lost Lake country, yeah.
SANNA LEVAN: Hiking up the hills.
DUANE LEVAN: The high country up there. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I was wondering, Sanna, when you were a kid growing up, did people talk about Exit Glacier and going up that?
SANNA LEVAN: No. I never remember it. KAREN BREWSTER: It wasn't called Exit Glacier then anyway.
DUANE LEVAN: No. It was just a glacier.
KAREN BREWSTER: Just a glacier.
SANNA LEVAN: Yeah. DUANE LEVAN: You know, in fact, I don't know what year, but it was in later years before -- well, before it was a park, of course. But it was at later times after I was here that anybody even talked about an ice field.
SANNA LEVAN: Yeah. DUANE LEVAN: Really. And then a couple of local guys that had planes got into it and they put a little shack up there. Up on the ice field.
DON CALLAWAY: On the ice field? DUANE LEVAN: And they took a snow machine up there to travel around. In fact, the last I heard, the snow machine was still there somewhere. That they lost it. You know, I mean, it just snowed under before they could get back to it. And big snows. They didn't realize what kind of snows happened up in that country, of course, you know. But they were flying just local people up there sight seeing just around the cabin.
RACHEL MASON: Oh, okay. So they would fly around and then stay in the shack, or what -- DUANE LEVAN: Yeah. You don't -- you know, you can't tell her where you heard it, though, okay?
RACHEL MASON: Oh, I won't.
DUANE LEVAN: Because you know somebody --
RACHEL MASON: I do know somebody.
DUANE LEVAN: -- who's been there. She spent a night up there. RACHEL MASON: That spent a night up there.
DUANE LEVAN: Okay.
SANNA LEVAN: Yeah. Yeah.
DUANE LEVAN: Yeah, you know somebody.
RACHEL MASON: Yeah.
DUANE LEVAN: Can't use any names. DON CALLAWAY: What year was that, that -- what years?
SANNA LEVAN: Oh, gee. DUANE LEVAN: Gee. I -- I can't think if it was before -- I always try to relate stuff before and after the earthquake.
DON CALLAWAY: Uh hum.
DUANE LEVAN: Possibly after.
DON CALLAWAY: Uh hum.
DUANE LEVAN: I'm just not for sure. DON CALLAWAY: But in the '60s?
DUANE LEVAN: Or maybe it was before. Yeah.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. In the '60s?
DUANE LEVAN: Might have been '50s or '60s.
DON CALLAWAY: '50s or '60s. DUANE LEVAN: Yeah, got a local pilot had a -- had the idea, and he went up there, and like I say, he took that one snow machine up there with him.
RACHEL MASON: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Who was that pilot?
DUANE LEVAN: That was -- RACHEL MASON: Oh, that certain person told me the name, but I've forgotten it, too, but I've got it written down somewhere.
DUANE LEVAN: Keith Knighten. I think --
RACHEL MASON: No, it -- KAREN BREWSTER: Or Joe Stanton?
DUANE LEVAN: Joe? Maybe it was Joe.
KAREN BREWSTER: Joe? I don't know. It was a question.
DUANE LEVAN: We've flown with Joe a lot. He's a good friend of ours. Yeah. RACHEL MASON: Yeah. I can't remember. But there was --
DUANE LEVAN: I was thinking Keith Knighten, but possibly not, then. You're saying --
RACHEL MASON: Maybe it was Keith Knighten? DUANE LEVAN: That's who comes to my mind is Keith.
RACHEL MASON: Okay.
DUANE LEVAN: Yeah. But he's here, by the way.
KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. RACHEL MASON: Yeah, I thought it was somebody who has passed away now.
SANNA LEVAN: Oh, now, the one that had the -- no, he didn't have any business like that, though, that -- that cracked up so many times and stayed -- RACHEL MASON: Yeah, I've got it written down somewhere.
SANNA LEVAN: -- and stayed out in the -- oh, gosh, I can't think of the name. It's terrible. DUANE LEVAN: Stayed out where?
SANNA LEVAN: He stayed out at his cabin that we looked in where you were going to get some wood from him. About mile 24.
DUANE LEVAN: What mile?
SANNA LEVAN: 20 past, in that area. It has that house back there. And there was a pilot. Flip's father. DUANE LEVAN: Oh, (Jack) Foldager?
SANNA LEVAN: Yeah.
DUANE LEVAN: No, no, it wasn't Foldager. KAREN BREWSTER: The name Jim Arness, was he a pilot?
DUANE LEVAN: Who?
KAREN BREWSTER: Jim Arness.
DUANE LEVAN: Arness. No, Arness is from the other side of the Peninsula. Yeah. RACHEL MASON: Yeah, I can't remember names, but --
SANNA LEVAN: It's so funny, yeah. DON CALLAWAY: How about hunting back up in there? Was there -- I mean, you talk about moose and so forth, but were there any guides take people back in there to...
DUANE LEVAN: Well, local pilots, you know, they were --
SANNA LEVAN: In the Peninsula.
DUANE LEVAN: -- in a way guides, like Bill Schuster was a guide. Not Bill Schuster. Gentry. Gentry Schuster.
SANNA LEVAN: Gentry Schuster. DUANE LEVAN: Gentry Schuster had --
SANNA LEVAN: That's way back.
DUANE LEVAN: -- an airline outfit out of Seward. S.A.F.E. Way Airline.
SANNA LEVAN: S.A.F.E. Way Airline.
DUANE LEVAN: S.A.F.E. Way Airline.
SANNA LEVAN: That goes way back. DUANE LEVAN: And he did guiding and flew people around a lot. Because I remember one time he hit -- well, he didn't do it on purpose, he set a plane down up there in the river. Something happened to the plane, and it was above the glacier and in the creek where it's coming down Resurrection Creek. RACHEL MASON: Maybe it was Joe Stanton?
DUANE LEVAN: It was -- she said Joe Stanton?
RACHEL MASON: It might have been.
DUANE LEVAN: Okay. RACHEL MASON: Because I have it written down --
DUANE LEVAN: Okay.
RACHEL MASON: -- "adventure on top of ice field with Joe Stanton."
DUANE LEVAN: Okay. Boy, I wouldn't argue with that. No. I know.
SANNA LEVAN: Oops. Oops.
DUANE LEVAN: I wouldn't argue with her. RACHEL MASON: I didn't say any names. DUANE LEVAN: But Bill Schuster -- Gentry Schuster set his plane down up there, and he was alone, and he had this moose meat he was hauling out for a guy from Cooper Lake and that's a clear water stream up above the glacier. You know, well, west of the glacier. And anyway, he took that meat and it was in meat sacks, and he sunk all that meat in the creek.
DON CALLAWAY: Underwater. Yeah. DUANE LEVAN: Underwater. And then he walked into town. And it was two or three days later or longer before guys got back in there, and that meat was in perfect shape. But this is fall. DON CALLAWAY: It was preserved by the cold water. DUANE LEVAN: But the ice cold water, that's what I was getting at. That's the first time I ever heard of anybody ever trying to do something like that. But he saved that whole moose in there. But anyway, he flew up through that country a lot. But I don't know, some of them guys, undoubtedly they're on that little strip and set people in there for hire, you know.
SANNA LEVAN: What did our neighbor fly us in, that lived across the alley? DUANE LEVAN: Oh, that's the little lake the other side of Lost Lake going west.
SANNA LEVAN: Oh, that's right.
DUANE LEVAN: There's a little lake up there on top. Ptarmigan hunting. We was in there one winter. KAREN BREWSTER: But you said there was an airstrip right along the river below the glacier? DUANE LEVAN: It's -- that airstrip set -- my memory, if it's right, like where the road is now after you go across the river, that airstrip, I think, should have been to the west of that road just a little. That's where my -- I, it seems to me that one.
DON CALLAWAY: Is it -- is it -- DUANE LEVAN: I landed with a guy one time downstream right below where the bridge is, when I went in there that time when my dad was there.
DON CALLAWAY: Right. DUANE LEVAN: We set down on the sandbar about from here to the road from the alders, about that width, with a Super Cub. Right -- and skimmed right in there and landed on the sandbar right there, yeah. But that strip was over the other way further. DON CALLAWAY: And was that a Taylor aircraft flew in there or it was named Taylor --
DUANE LEVAN: The guy that had it -- put it in there had a little Taylorcraft airplane out there, Taylorcraft. DON CALLAWAY: And that's why they call the strip Taylorcraft?
DUANE LEVAN: Taylorcraft strip.
DON CALLAWAY: Okay. KAREN BREWSTER: So did other people use it besides him?
DUANE LEVAN: Oh, I'm sure they did because there were a couple Super Cubs around. You know, there weren't many but there were a couple Super Cubs around. DON CALLAWAY: And what -- what decade or year was this?
DUANE LEVAN: Well, see, that would have been -- well, it would have been in the '50s or so when I was with my dad, yeah. In there. So that was in there before that. I don't remember what year it would have been there. DON CALLAWAY: And when did your dad homestead? What year did he --
DUANE LEVAN: 1950. That's why I was saying '50 because it was before that he was still living here when we -- he was working on the railroad here at that time.
DON CALLAWAY: Okay. DUANE LEVAN: He was still working for the railroad. DON CALLAWAY: Any other striking memories you have of your life here that you'd like to tell us about?
DUANE LEVAN: No, pretty quiet. I don't know. SANNA LEVAN: Growing up, growing up a big excitement for us as children was when the Christmas boat came in. I mean, many other people have talked about that because -- DUANE LEVAN: Well, see, we had steamships, passenger ships come in here, Alaska steam passenger ships, summertime twice a week and wintertime once a week. So they'd come in. You know, that's the way people got to Anchorage was on that ship, most of them. SANNA LEVAN: And then we -- they'd bring plenty of stuff for the kids. That was really nice. I remember that. And then when it was getting close to New Year's, everybody was all excited about a costume for the New Year ball, and it was everybody went, children and parents and -- and that was a big thing. DON CALLAWAY: Tell me about the Christmas ship. I'm not familiar with it. SANNA LEVAN: Well, they set it up every Christmas, and I don't remember what boat it was.
DUANE LEVAN: Well, it would be whichever one was coming. SANNA LEVAN: Whatever one that was coming. And everybody knew it in town, and they were right down to the boat, and they opened up the boat for the kids to come on, and they gave them sacks, candies, presents, everything. It was really, really fun. And we really appreciated that.
And some of my dad -- and as my dad had the bakery, he had a lot of friends on these boats because he baked for the Westward, too. And -- and some of my recollection is talking to these skippers or whatever they were, is they'd stop in for a cup of coffee. And I remember one old fellow, and it was so funny, everything -- he was not that old, but he seemed old, because anything that went wrong with him -- Sammy Shucklin, I think that was his name -- and he'd say "it's my age. Smy age". DUANE LEVAN: See, in that time period, it was --
SANNA LEVAN: It was nice meeting all these people.
DUANE LEVAN: It was so much different, shipping and that, like everything's air now practically. Everything basically for northern Alaska and westward, with the exception of a small amount of freight going through Valdez to Fairbanks, come through Seward.
SANNA LEVAN: Yeah.
DUANE LEVAN: All of it. SANNA LEVAN: Gateway to Alaska.
DUANE LEVAN: And we shipped and -- out of here, well, everything. Westward shipped -- had a westward boat run out of here, the Expansion was its name. Before that the Dora. And they run the Westward once a month, haul the mail out of Seward. And freight, you know, the freight that they could put on for people. That was a once a month boat. It's the only place I ever knew -- of course, that will be getting back to with the railroad, but one thing we did do on the waterfront here that I never -- in fact, they said we were the only part around the whole West Coast, we handled United States mail. In fact, first class mail. Right across the dock out there. We sorted -- we sorted it, not individual letters, but as a sack of mail going to Anchorage, going to wherever, the way it went into boxcars one piece at a time, by hand.
DON CALLAWAY: Uh hum. DUANE LEVAN: The same way going westward. We handled the gold shipments from north across the dock. Worked 15 hour shifts, in the nighttime from midnight to 6:00, there was nobody on the dock but one old watchman keeping the fires going in the winter. And there's a wooden box the express company, used to be an express company in those days, too, they had big, green wooden boxes about like that, locked up. In there was a gold shipment. That sat on the dock all by itself waiting for the passenger ship to come in.
DON CALLAWAY: Wouldn't do that today. DUANE LEVAN: And then the guys used to talk about it because the sailors would tell us when that got to Seattle, when the passenger ship got to Seattle with the gold shipments, shut down the whole waterfront. Except one crew went on the dock, opened that one hatch, took that one piece of cargo out, backed a truck on there to pick it up, and that was it. And then they went to work. But they shut the waterfront down to take it off. But here it would sit for two or three days down there all by itself, you know, at nighttime, nobody around. But where would you go with it if you had it, you know? KAREN BREWSTER: I was wondering as skiers, what's the skiing like going out towards Exit Glacier? Is that -- do people ski out there?
SANNA LEVAN: Oh, sure they do. DUANE LEVAN: Well, we don't like -- yeah, what we don't like is it's -- for Sanna and I, it's too mild, I guess. No, it's too completely flat. The first -- I was against that when I worked for the state, by the way. They closed that first gate. I always wanted the state to keep going and go to the Forest Service gate which is the second gate.
SANNA LEVAN: I'll get it. DUANE LEVAN: Go to the second gate, so that it's better skiing from the second gate up because you do have little bitty hills, and it's pretty nice. And another reasoning is from the second gate up, and you'll find out right now, you can ski up there a lot longer than you can on this end because this end, a lot of times it'll rain from this end up to about that Forest Service gate, and then from there on it snows. So the snow from there on is much better. In fact, it's better yet by the time you get to the river up to the glacier. It's deep -- it's better snow, deeper snow. But anyway, that -- but they said, no, they wouldn't do it, they'd close it down at this end. Well, that's what you get. But as far as skiers go, and as far as I'm concerned, it was better. The dog mushers like this, though.
SANNA LEVAN: They go -- they like that. We had so much fun going from the other spot because it wasn't too far we could get clear to the glacier. DUANE LEVAN: From this -- oh, yeah, well, just going up the valley, yeah, if you had the right conditions. KAREN BREWSTER: So now people ski on the road?
DUANE LEVAN: Oh, yes.
SANNA LEVAN: Oh, yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: On the closed road. DUANE LEVAN: What it is, what people do, modern people, with -- with skate skiing, they love that road.
SANNA LEVAN: It's got to be groomed. DUANE LEVAN: Because they groom the snow, they'd be like --
KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, they do groom it?
DUANE LEVAN: They've got a groomer up there and they groom that road. And it's beautiful for -- SANNA LEVAN: You should see them go. They can really go fast.
DUANE LEVAN: Skate skiing, I wish I could, but no. KAREN BREWSTER: But so, before the road, the people would ski up there?
DUANE LEVAN: No.
KAREN BREWSTER: No?
DUANE LEVAN: Never see a skier up there.
SANNA LEVAN: We snowshoed --
DUANE LEVAN: No.
SANNA LEVAN: -- in those days. DUANE LEVAN: No. Or walked up the valley from this side, but see, the road ended right -- the old road, that new road wasn't there.
KAREN BREWSTER: Right.
DUANE LEVAN: Ended right at Seavey's.
KAREN BREWSTER: Right.
DUANE LEVAN: That was the end of the road right there. KAREN BREWSTER: And the -- the conditions just weren't -- I mean--?
DUANE LEVAN: Oh, no. And there weren't that many people really around Seward that went recreationally cross country skiing, really.
SANNA LEVAN: We didn't pick that up for -- DUANE LEVAN: There was a few. I mean, there was -- like, there was some downhill skiers used to pack up into the bowl on Marathon and things like that. But as far as just that type of skiing, no, there weren't that many, really. Just a few. KAREN BREWSTER: And you can't travel -- can you travel on the river in the winter but either --?
DUANE LEVAN: Oh, there --
SANNA LEVAN: You have to be careful. DUANE LEVAN: -- most of the river stays open in the winter. You can get around it by what you've got to find is ice bridges. You get enough, you know, freeze up, and then you'll get some ice bridges. So you can -- like, that's how we've walked up there years ago was wander around, you know, you'll come to an area and there's a little ice bridge and you take it and you know. So. Otherwise, we go out, like, Snow River out the road, the other side of mile 12 up the valley there, back in that country, and get away quite a ways up in there. Same way, though, looking for ice bridges. But it's something else to do, though. KAREN BREWSTER: And then, people go sheep hunting out there?
DUANE LEVAN: No. The closest sheep -- the closest sheep to Seward is -- and I don't -- there are hardly any -- well, there was a few left. There's a small band that lives in Paradise, up Paradise Lake, they range on the north side of the valley there. They go into Victor Creek through one of those, and then they go over towards Ptarmigan Lake through another valley up through there, back in that area. There's a few sheep there. A few sheep at -- well, there used to be, and I haven't seen them for I don't know how many years, there was a few sheep up in -- on the mountain, we called Black Point, it's across Kenai Lake. You get this side of the ranger station, you look down the lake to the west, the Black Point, timbered point right there. It'd be -- you look in there and you're looking down the lake towards Cooper Landing, and it'd be on your left side, and that mountain that sticks up there, in that valley there, there was a few sheep. We always suspected that they probably swam across from Crescent Lake area. But there's sheep in Crescent, a few. KAREN BREWSTER: I know in earlier times, was there sheep up in the Resurrection Valley up there. DUANE LEVAN: There's still, yeah. And in fact, not too many years ago, there was still some sheep up closer would be like go up to Boulder Creek. Yeah, I think Boulder Creek would be the one, and go towards Lost Lake up on top there, going, and then that would be -- connect you with Cooper Lake, and that range there would be the mountains south of Cooper Lake, up in that area right there, there was a band of sheep in there. And then the sheep -- there's some sheep that come over onto the ice field, I'm told. I've never seen them but there are local guys that have seen them that told me about them, have seen them clear out on -- they have a name for it, the mountains that stick up in the ice field. [nunatak] The type of mountains they are that stick up in the ice field. There's a -- KAREN BREWSTER: There's a geological term for them?
DUANE LEVAN: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I don't know what that is. DUANE LEVAN: Anyway, up on those, there's been sheep seen on those coming from Tustumena Lake side, there's quite a bunch of sheep over at Tustumena Lake. But other than that, well, to the saltwater, or down this way, the closest is out -- there were, a large number years ago, they had said at Wolcott, that's at mile 18, this end of Kenai Lake there, that Tust -- going up Paradise Valley way, there used to be a lot of sheep in that country. RACHEL MASON: What about goats? Are --
DUANE LEVAN: A lot of goat around here locally.
RACHEL MASON: Oh, yeah? DUANE LEVAN: Oh, yeah. In fact, the goat population over the years, we always watch goats. And there -- there's a lot more goats than we had for a number of years around here. A lot of goats. I don't know what Exit Glacier is now. There was a nice band in them cliffs right there above where the buildings are. And I don't know what they're doing anymore. I haven't kept track of them. But right here locally out of the canyon behind town, what did we have? Seven, eight? Over here on the face of Marathon every spring here lately coming out of the canyon here.
DON CALLAWAY: Huh. DUANE LEVAN: And then across the valley, there's...
They have a tough life. I don't understand how they possibly make it.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. Me either. DUANE LEVAN: Well, this time of year now, see, they have the kids in the last part of May, you know, and their food right now is down to practically nothing. They're eating on old alders, you know. I don't know how they live. Pretty tough. RACHEL MASON: Do very many people hunt them?
DUANE LEVAN: No. Everything now in goats, line of goats on the Kenai Peninsula is all by permit.
RACHEL MASON: Oh. DUANE LEVAN: And they keep track. And they only allow so many permits for -- for each area. And then we have, of course, this large area here now, the park area, and that, of course, is all closed. And then there are some more closed besides the park, the area here from town going north, that's closed. So there is -- but they keep them permits down pretty low so they can keep track of what's going on. And they have it set so they can shut the season down if they -- if they deem it has to be shut down, they can do it.
DON CALLAWAY: Right. Right. DUANE LEVAN: So everything is that way. Same way with sheep, of course, is all permit. DON CALLAWAY: Well, do you want to do some maps? KAREN BREWSTER: Sure. You've just described it all, now we just have to put it on the map, right?
DUANE LEVAN: Yeah.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah.
RACHEL MASON: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: Sure. DON CALLAWAY: What -- what's going to be the best way? Do it on the table I think would be best.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: I was thinking maybe what you were talking about that -- when you first put that road in on the south side around Mt. Benson --
DUANE LEVAN: Well, I didn't but -- KAREN BREWSTER: -- where that was? Yeah. And how people used to use that side to try and get -- DUANE LEVAN: Right. Well, here's the road -- the road right here goes up to the garbage dump, comes out of here, goes to the garbage dump. DON CALLAWAY: You can draw on it.
RACHEL MASON: Yeah, you can draw right on it. DUANE LEVAN: Well, then it -- then you'd follow along here, but about here somewhere when they tried to put it in, this is about the area off of Mount Benson that that slide I was talking about that come down.
DON CALLAWAY: Oh, sure. Yeah. DUANE LEVAN: Well, they got to that slide and they discovered that that wasn't the way to go up the valley. So in those years, we could go along and keep going along this side here and go right up this side. Where are we now? We're up to -- up to Paradise Creek, yeah. And stay basically on this side all the way up. And you have a couple of places where it's close to the mountain which you'd have to cross, then you could just keep on going right up here. You can cross most of these stream here because it's so wide and braided, especially in the winter, you could go right on across here and then come clear across over onto the glacier. And that would be Exit. Lowell. RACHEL MASON: This here's Lowell, but this one they told me is Exit. DUANE LEVAN: Yeah. Hmm. We got here. Here's the creek. Redmen Creek. Cottonwood Creek. Placer Creek. Yeah. Yeah. Well, that's got to be it. But anyway, that -- that land here, then, it'd just -- you'd be right in here, then.
RACHEL MASON: Right. DUANE LEVAN: At the glacier. But you'd come off this side of the glacier. One over here, it would be up in this side, right over in here. Getting to there. KAREN BREWSTER: So that was a winter trail? DUANE LEVAN: No, there was no trail. Just people went up that way, you know, I mean, no trail at all because if -- it would be basically for winter because -- and some guys went up that way in the falltime, moose hunting, you know, September like that. So it was open for summer. But then the wintertime, no. And then they built the other one. The other one, oh, let's see, we're -- the road went up across Resurrection. Now, where am I here?
(in background) SANNA LEVAN: Yeah, isn't that neat? DUANE LEVAN: There's the railroad. These come back here. Well, now, where it goes up here, what I was going to show you here, see, the other side of this creek right here, where the -- the Pit Bar is, this is Clear Creek, I think. The road went the other side of Clear Creek, around this swamp area here, and then come back and hit here. And then stayed over.
KAREN BREWSTER: You can draw it. If you -- DUANE LEVAN: But see, Glacier Creek, then -- so it would have had to have been -- hmm. Yeah, there's something wrong there. KAREN BREWSTER: These are old maps, too.
DUANE LEVAN: Yeah. This isn't -- KAREN BREWSTER: So it may not be what it actually looks like now.
DUANE LEVAN: That isn't showing that right there. Because anyway, where the read goes now, is -- hmm. KAREN BREWSTER: Is this the -- is this the current road? DUANE LEVAN: No, I can't see much -- yeah, this is the road, Exit Glacier road where it is now, going right up through here. But it used to end up clear down, oh, just after you got on it here a ways. But all this in here, I don't -- I don't get this. This here where it comes -- this come out of Lost Lake. Yeah. Because -- not Lost Lake, it don't come out of the lake, it comes out of this side of the lake, comes down where it crosses the road right here, but where -- and it does cross the road right here somewhere, but they -- they got the other channel of it here. Okay. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, this?
DUANE LEVAN: Yeah. See, that -- that creek there comes --
KAREN BREWSTER: Right. DUANE LEVAN: -- it don't come out of Lost Lake, it comes from this side of the lake. It drains the country about a couple hundred feet this side of the lake here.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. DUANE LEVAN: Because there's some high ground in there.
KAREN BREWSTER: That's Lost Creek and this just comes from that little lake up here. DUANE LEVAN: Right. This is from that little lake, and that little lake is just this side of the --
KAREN BREWSTER: And it has it split into two. DUANE LEVAN: Yeah, so this split here is the one then that goes under the road, where the first cement bridge is on Exit Glacier, it goes under there. Well, then, the old road, that's what I was wondering, it was back -- hmm. RACHEL MASON: Now, this map is from 1997, the one that you're on.
DUANE LEVAN: Yeah. What it is now. RACHEL MASON: This is 1951.
DUANE LEVAN: Right. Oh, yeah.
RACHEL MASON: So it -- DUANE LEVAN: Well, this one here because, yeah, she said it don't even say Exit Glacier. KAREN BREWSTER: Well, it's interesting that you said that people used to use this south area.
DUANE LEVAN: Oh, yeah. Anybody that. KAREN BREWSTER: So why did they build the road on the north side? DUANE LEVAN: Well, basically, like I said, this one area right here, Benson --
KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, right, they couldn't get through there. DUANE LEVAN: -- on Benson Mountain there, they come to where this slide comes down off of the corner here.
KAREN BREWSTER: Uh hum. DUANE LEVAN: And in fact, if you go up there right now, I bet you, just as you get -- well, no, you can't drive through there. Well, you can even see it from where they've got the gate probably, looking northwest, that you could see where that big slide comes down. It's that close to the -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. And so that's what blocked them? DUANE LEVAN: That's what changed their mind and moved them to the other side of the valley. And that's why it went to the other side of the valley, that whole thing there. But then the Lost Lake Trail, the Lost Lake Trail, they put in a -- a winter trail. Yeah, they put the winter trail up here, too, yeah. The Lost Lake Trail, it's divided clear down here, and right here is the divide. And our summer trail, always, this goes way back. Forest Service at one time was going to try to keep from working this end of it, and I got together with a couple different guys, Doug McRae, in fact, and a few more of us, and we insisted that they keep our end of the Lost Lake trail open because this end had been opened, we could date it back to '27 --
KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. DUANE LEVAN: -- that the trail was in. And they wanted to do -- what they wanted to do was eliminate this end here and cut down on expenses and just do the Primrose end, the north end into there. So anyway, then, we got that done, but then some local guys, like I was saying, put the winter -- what they call the winter trail.
KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, that snow machine -- Yeah. DUANE LEVAN: And the winter trail goes up, and that is the only practical way to get you up on top. Because --
KAREN BREWSTER: Is that marked down here? DUANE LEVAN: It's -- it's on here. Yeah. The winter trail. But the thing is it gets you away from this steep mountainside that's along here that comes from the south, and it avalanches along there. So they was looking for a way so you could get up into it, and it was a real practical way. So that's -- that's what the winter trail was put in for. Before that, there was another trail used to come in, oh, clear down here. Let's see. Grouse Creek. Grouse Creek comes across right here. There was another trail used to go in the country from about in here and climb up on top and get on top into Lost Lake right there. But anyway, up at Lost Lake, then, where Sanna and I went, where we went a lot for -- for hiking and spending nights, we'd go around here, and there's no trail, we'd come to the lake here, and then we'd go around this side of the lake, the south side of the lake, and come back in this country here, and go over here in this little lake here. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, yeah. DUANE LEVAN: And then stay in there and then we'd go hiking, hiking back into this country here. This is Martin Creek, it comes down into the Glacier Creek the first one -- let's see, it should be -- I think this one right here. No. That comes off of this one.
KAREN BREWSTER: Martin Creek. Right here. DUANE LEVAN: Yeah. And then Martin Creek --
KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, yeah. Right there.
DUANE LEVAN: -- see, comes in right here.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. DUANE LEVAN: I always thought maybe a guy could go up through Martin Creek. And I think Bill -- Pat O'Leary, Forest Service, Pat O'Leary? I think he's went up through there. But it's real steep trying to get into that country that way. But that's a real nice area there for -- for hiking and that. KAREN BREWSTER: What about when you were moose hunting?
DUANE LEVAN: Oh. KAREN BREWSTER: Where did you go? DUANE LEVAN: Well, see, it was -- it don't show much here, but it would just be this flat country. See, this is that big, black on -- I want to say black -- the timbered ridge before you get to the bridge on the Exit Glacier, on the right side. Well, this flat country below the -- below the glacier is a lot of willow brush in that, and that's where we hunted. In later years, guys got so they are going up this valley; now they go up the valley and hunt way up in here with horses.
KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. DUANE LEVAN: And they go up and then hunt on the Forest Service side
KAREN BREWSTER: Who does that? DUANE LEVAN: -- of the river. One guy that I know hunts in there a lot, he's got two horses, Bob White, lives here locally, he hunts in there quite a bit. That's where most of the guys trapped years ago, would have been in this flat area or the face of the glacier, and just above the glacier, mostly. Because that narrows down, and there are more animals in that country. KAREN BREWSTER: What are they trapping for? DUANE LEVAN: Well, some of them were after coyote. There's mink in there. There's marten in there. Beaver. There's some big beaver ponds up in that area through there. All the way up clear up in the -- towards Russian Lake. They took one time and took a Caterpillar tractor from this end and walked it clear up there because the glacier at Upper Russian was dumping the water into Russian Lake, upper Russian Lake, instead of coming this way, and they took a Cat and -- took an old Army Cat and took it clear up in there and then they left it there. KAREN BREWSTER: Is it still there? DUANE LEVAN: As far as -- I think the last I ever heard it was still up there, yeah. And they diverted that and put it back to where it belong coming this way so the water would run this way, so that glacier water didn't get into the clear water at Upper Russian. KAREN BREWSTER: And it's held? DUANE LEVAN: And it held. Yeah. Gee, I don't know, that would -- that would have had to have been at least in the '50s.
KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. DUANE LEVAN: Yeah. I bet that was -- but I'm sure, yeah. Maybe earlier? KAREN BREWSTER: Do you have any thoughts about the park having been put in, and if that's made any difference around Seward? DUANE LEVAN: Well, I -- I had kind of mixed feelings about it at the time. I didn't know about what was going to happen. But I guess it did, it did help the town. I mean, it did, no question about it. And today, I think from what I understand, what I said before there, moneywise, they are putting more money into town, the people that are hiring are getting more pay than the local people that they are having to hire.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. DUANE LEVAN: So that's good. And it's year around jobs. In a small town, if you can get 10 or 15 year around jobs in a town like Seward, well, you're doing good, I think. KAREN BREWSTER: So why did you have concerns about it? DUANE LEVAN: Well, restrictions on it, a lot, yeah. I mean. And some of the people like that were -- their self were thinking about it. I was never into mining, but it shut down that completely. Of course, it shut down hunting. And in that period of time, too, there was two things going, or another thing going against it was the fact that people like myself that subsistence life style a lot, we was getting shut down all over Alaska. I mean, there was parks everywhere you -- you know. I mean, that's what was happening to Alaska. We was becoming a big park. Really. I mean, we ended up with more park land than a lot of states have got land, in -- in Alaska. And like I say, I was never a miner, but it was cutting those kind of people out and different things. But then, I don't know, the way that everything else is going, like I say, they did end up they hired more people here and built facilities and stuff. So it's -- it's worked out, I guess, you know, for the better. There's several businesses that's made good off of -- off this park has come here, you know, because it's a park.
KAREN BREWSTER: Right. DUANE LEVAN: And in fact, like you were saying, how many people went up there, well, we're telling you nobody went up there, and they made it a park, and the minute they name it a park, well, then, thousands of people go there. You know. It's that way, it is what it is. But parks as such, well, the park people are finding out themselves that there are bad parts of parks, because you're getting more people there than what you really want at one time, and they are running into some big, big problems on a lot of them. And even you notice it at Exit Glacier where we walk there practically every summer and walk up, you know, around it, the little rolling parts and that. And I noticed there that parts are wearing away, even though they do have trails around. So, I mean, but it can't be helped. If you're going to put a thousand people in there a week or whatever, well, you're going to have -- some deteriorating has to happen. So anyway, I had kind of mixed feelings about it. KAREN BREWSTER: Don, were there any other things you wanted marked on the maps? DON CALLAWAY: The Taylor airstrip, the Taylorcraft airstrip. DUANE LEVAN: Well, as far as I can tell you on this, as far as I can see the way they've got it here, I think it probably was close into -- yeah, it had to be close into here somewhere. Right in that area there.
DON CALLAWAY: Okay. Can -- can I label that, just -- DUANE LEVAN: Yeah. That's about as close as I can come to it.
DON CALLAWAY: That's good. That's fine. DUANE LEVAN: Because, see, they don't -- I'd have to look at my other map. Where am I at here? I can't even find it.
Right -- right here is Exit Glacier, and the creek comes down out of the glacier. See, the only creek comes out is way over here. Well, that strip would be right in this area here.
DON CALLAWAY: Oh, okay. DUANE LEVAN: It would be upstream from where the road is. KAREN BREWSTER: Do you want to mark it on that map?
DON CALLAWAY: Well, that's his map.
KAREN BREWSTER: No, on my map. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. Yeah. Maybe this is a better map. Is that easier to find stuff on, do you think? DUANE LEVAN: Holgate, Holgate -- way up there somewhere.
DON CALLAWAY: Quite a ways up.
KAREN BREWSTER: There's Exit. DUANE LEVAN: Yeah, the Exit Glacier, I would say -- see it would probably be over in this area here.
DON CALLAWAY: Okay. DUANE LEVAN: It would be north of this road.
DON CALLAWAY: Okay. DUANE LEVAN: I'm sorry, west of the road. When you cross the creek.
DON CALLAWAY: Right. DUANE LEVAN: West of the road when you cross the creek. Yeah, that would be where it would be at. But like I say, this one creek here, this Paradise Creek is where a lot of their water comes -- comes because it comes off all of these places here, plus way up into this. KAREN BREWSTER: I heard that they once proposed a dam for hydro electric in that Paradise Creek area.
DUANE LEVAN: Never heard that one. KAREN BREWSTER: Back in the '50s.
DUANE LEVAN: Hmm. I'll be darned. Don't know it. The only -- KAREN BREWSTER: It never happened, but there was --
DUANE LEVAN: The only hydro one I ever knew of, I've got some maps on that, was at Lost Lake.
KAREN BREWSTER: Hmm. DUANE LEVAN: And they were going to dam -- there's a little lake on the east side of the big lake, where it narrows down, a small lake. They was going to dam that off, and then run water down to the highway down by Grouse Lake to Seward. And have a -- have a hydro project there, the city was going to have one there at one time. And I don't know, it come up with -- they didn't think there was enough water year round or something like that, I think, the way they talked about. DON CALLAWAY: So did you ask him where Seward got most of its electricity?
KAREN BREWSTER: No. DON CALLAWAY: Where does Seward get most of its electricity from now?
DUANE LEVAN: Chugach Electric. DON CALLAWAY: What have they got, diesel or --
DUANE LEVAN: Out of Anchorage.
DON CALLAWAY: Oh. DUANE LEVAN: Comes down here. It's a gas -- gas, yeah. They get a small amount, I understand from -- well, it's all hooked together now. Homer and Seward.
DON CALLAWAY: It's a grid now. DUANE LEVAN: Yeah, it's on a grid. And it comes -- but Seward buys theirs from Chugach Electric, out of Anchorage.
KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.
Doug McRae was interviewed on April 10, 2010 by Don Callaway, Rachel Mason, and Karen Brewster at his home in Seward, Alaska. Doug was born in Seward in 1944. Return to part one of this interview.
Click to section:
Using snowmachines in the Exit Glacier area
Exit Glacier Road
Increases in number of people using the area
Serving on the Fish and Game Advisory Board
Story about being chased by a bear
Changes in the brown bear and moose populations
Use of the Exit Glacier area before there was a road
Using horses for hunting trips
Changes in Seward
Making antler carvings
Local reaction to Kenai Fjords National Park
Marking cabin locations on the map
DON CALLAWAY: You were talking about the study you did, I guess, on wolverines. RACHEL MASON: For the Forest Service. DOUG MCRAE: I participated in one because I like think I said earlier, they are my favorite animal, bar none. They are just interesting. DON CALLAWAY: I'm a Michigan graduate, so -- DOUG MCRAE: Oh, ok, the wolverine state. Anyway, they -- there was a woman biologist who asked my son, she lived next door to him, that they were studying wolverine. And I was -- right away I was a little reluctant because I've had lots of stories about the Forest Service, good and bad, but mainly about mining, they are -- they are death on mining. Anyway, they wanted to do a study of the wolverine, and it was '91 or '92, somewhere about the time I quit. And I was worried about this hut to hut. They were wanting to build trails through here, and what -- what impact it would have on the wolverine, the denning areas. Because when I was talking about Turnagain Pass, while I was there you could drive down the road after the snow had been on a couple of days and you'd always see where two or three wolverine crossed the road, could have been the same one. And I -- and I caught a few of them up there in about a 5 or 10 year period until too many people showed up. But shortly after they showed up, you drive to Anchorage, you rarely saw -- I haven't saw a track there for 20 years. I don't think they are there. And that leads up to this Forest Service deal. Reluctantly, I gave them eight wolverine, to study the carcasses. I don't know what they were learning from it, but they were cutting them up, I guess. Anyway, when the report come out and I got it somewhere. Christ, it's 2 inches thick. They said wolverine were abundant on the Kenai. They're not. They never were. They are not really abundant anywhere. They are one of the few animals that, if you catch a dozen of them, you're doing good. And they're just not. They said they're abundant; not only were they abundant, but they were abundant in Turnagain Pass. And that they're -- they're -- that part I didn't like because that -- that was -- that's totally wrong. I say that the wolverine in the Kenai are only on the edges, like the coastal areas, the harder to get places like between here and Seldovia. And there's -- there's a few, one or two out and, oh in Summit Lake area, where you'll see a track once, once in a great while. But basically, they are -- they are gone in Turnagain Pass. But I think mainly -- mainly because of the activity up there. And they're an animal that nobody's really ever studied them. They don't know whole lot. They know a lot about wolves and other animals, but I've known people that live their entire life here and have never seen one in the wild. They just -- you have to get above timberline. While I was sheep and goat hunting, I'd see them not weekly, but you see a lot of them above the timberline. Flying, when you're flying in the wintertime it can be 50 below and blowing, you see them above the timberline. A lot. What they are doing up there, what they find is beyond me. DON CALLAWAY: They cache stuff, too. DOUG MCRAE: They do. They like to hide stuff. Yeah.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: So, I'm curious. You mentioned the military recreation area. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. They are right over -- right over here, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. They've been there for a long time. Can you talk about that and maybe -- DOUG MCRAE: I don't know -- KAREN BREWSTER: Do they go out and use the area? DOUG MCRAE: Well, they -- they use your park area a lot, yes. Yeah. I don't know a whole lot about them. I mean, I have nothing -- I'm military myself. They come down here, they have boats, they take -- they go out in the bay, and then in the wintertime they have snow machines that they use. And one of the most popular areas for them to use is the Exit Glacier up -- up the road and into the park. I haven't been up there at all when they -- when they were around, but you can drive out there and see their trailers. There's still gates up there, it's still gated off. So are they allowed to drive in the park? I think they go in the park. DON CALLAWAY: I don't know. DOUG MCRAE: I'm not -- to be honest, I'm not sure. I never went in the park. I stayed on the Forest Service trail with the snow machine, but that's a nightmare there. I don't know if they go in the -- I think they go in the park. I'm not sure. KAREN BREWSTER: Well, they go on -- you're saying they go on the road. DOUG MCRAE: They go out that road. It's 9 miles up that road. And you're going through, you start out on state land, then you have got a Forest Service gate, then you go Forest Service up to the bridge, and then you're in the park. I really don't know if they're allowed to go in the park. DON CALLAWAY: I don't know either. DOUG MCRAE: It's controversial in McKinley Park, I know. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. No, I -- I honestly don't know either. DOUG MCRAE: Overall it's not a -- it's a very poor area to try snow machining. It's -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, you mentioned that before. DOUG MCRAE: Oh, it's just a nightmare. I was right side down more than I was right side up. When I -- there, it's what they call three bridges when you go up to Martin Creek, and oh, it was -- you're going along a steep side hill, and there was always glaciers running off, and man, I spent more time. It was easier to walk up there. And I'm not -- I'm not a fan of snow machines, even though I bought one so I could keep doing what I was doing, but I spent a lot of time trying to get it out of where I was stuck. DON CALLAWAY: When did they build the military -- DOUG MCRAE: It's been here a long time.
DON CALLAWAY: 20 years? DOUG MCRAE: Oh, at least that. Before that, I think. It's been here quite a long time. I would say maybe closer to 30 years.
DON CALLAWAY: 30 years? DOUG MCRAE: I really don't know the date on it. Right where it's built there used to be a sanitarium for TB patients. They tore that down. And then they -- the military come along pretty -- not too long after that.
They were always here in Seward. Right here where this house sits, two houses over when they dug the basement, they found a live bomb. So this -- this was called Fort Raymond in this area during the war. In fact, I went to school up here a couple blocks. The school was all painted camouflage trees. Yeah. The school was all -- RACHEL MASON: Is there anything left of the old Fort Raymond? DOUG MCRAE: The foundations. There's a couple of them over here. This Steve Leirer, the friend of mine, his dad built the road up there, all the -- the foundations are still there. And then right on the corner where Duane LeVan's daughter lives, on the corner where her house is.
DON CALLAWAY: Sue? DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, Sue. Okay. Well, right where her house sits, that was where the -- what do they call it -- their dance hall was, the military dance hall. Yeah, right exactly. They just took the stuff out of there when they built her house there. I remember being in there once on a square dance, of all things. Maybe I was just 13, 14 years old. There was a big fireplace sitting in there, and all that stuff was out of there, it was laying there just until a couple years ago when she built her house. DON CALLAWAY: I'm -- I'm also trying to still pin down, you know, snow machines came into Seward early '60s, but was there a lot of recreational use during the '70s up into around the Exit Glacier area? DOUG MCRAE: I think -- no, I don't think around Exit Glacier because it just simply -- back then, the snow machines were -- they weren't very good.
DON CALLAWAY: Right. DOUG MCRAE: These new ones, they have wide tracks, paddles, you had to be on a good surface. I don't remember. Like anything, it took years for them to take hold. And the first time I ever heard of them going in the park, into the park, and they went all the way to Placer Creek. But they must have caught it at -- I can remember a couple of guys named Stan Kirk was one of them, older fellows that I -- eventually, I worked with him on the dock. Three or four of them made it all the way to Placer Creek and Boulder Creek. To this day, I never made it up there. I tried. It's just -- it's not a -- not an easy place to get to on a snow machine. KAREN BREWSTER: Did they go up on -- did they go along the river? DOUG MCRAE: You know, I think they -- that's probably the only way they could have. If they caught the year just right when it was colder than normal, and they made it up -- they made it all the way up to that cabin. They are the only ones I know that have done that. KAREN BREWSTER: I've been wondering what the river was like to be travelling on, on snow machine. DOUG MCRAE: I would be a little bit nervous about it except I guess if you fell through, you're not going to drown because it's not too deep because the water in the winter is really, really low. You know, and like a lot of rivers, it glaciers up, and you've got to be careful. Even with an airplane you've got to be careful when you land on a lake that it doesn't have a water flow under the snow because, man, you get stuck like glue there and you can't get out. Well, I don't know. You could probably count the people on one hand that made it up as far as Boulder Creek. DON CALLAWAY: How about in this area -- when the road come in, they built the road, is that when the recreational uses started to increase around in here? DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, yeah. Slowly. Slowly.
DON CALLAWAY: Slowly.
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, Slowly. DON CALLAWAY: When did they put the road in?
DOUG MCRAE: To -- you mean to the park?
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DOUG MCRAE: Oh, gosh. I'd have to ask Steve. I don't have a clue. Duane didn't know?
DON CALLAWAY: He -- I forgot. DOUG MCRAE: He was involved with it a little bit.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah, '60 -- KAREN BREWSTER: '65, Duane said he started working for the state. DOUG MCRAE: Oh, the year after the earthquake.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, for the Highway Department. And it was somewhere in the late --
RACHEL MASON: '68 is what I remember.
KAREN BREWSTER: -- '60s, they started it.
RACHEL MASON: Yeah. DOUG MCRAE: '68? See, I'm learning something there. I was busy doing other things and it was right after the earthquake, and I worked for a paving company, and we re-built the bridges between here and Anchorage. KAREN BREWSTER: But I think the -- you know, road across to get to the actual base of the glacier, I think that didn't come until '80 when --
DON CALLOWAY: Right. KAREN BREWSTER: -- the Park Service -- you know, the -- the bridge didn't go in. DOUG MCRAE: They wasted one or two years on the wrong side of the river, and then there was a tremendous slide that they -- I don't know, they didn't walk up and look or didn't fly over it. It might have come down and takes out, goes halfway across that valley. It's a monstrous slide. So they give up on that so they lost a year or two. And when they started to cross, I don't even know if they had permits when they first started, they just started doing it. It was an idea. But I -- I don't have a clue -- I don't even know if Steve would know that. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, we just wondered if you noticed a change in people using that area when there's a road versus -- DOUG MCRAE: Oh, definitely. You know, there -- I can't remember when I was up there. I spent about 4 years up there with a snow machine in the late '80s, right up to '92. I know that was the last year I trapped. I had traps there, I had traps up there, and also had them in Paradise, Lower Paradise, and different places. And I quit because of the volume of people. That's the only reason I quit. I guess I say "volume of people," when you have a volume of people, you also have a volume of dogs. And they were -- they were getting caught where they shouldn't get caught. I know -- RACHEL MASON: Oh, in the traps. DOUG MCRAE: In my entire life I only caught two and they were both released at Summit Lake, but a lot of the other people weren't paying attention. I've seen dogs 7 miles from the road, loose, and their owners are maybe two or three miles behind them. And when you're -- when they're following a snow machine track, if it's a trapper's snow machine track, there's only one place it's going to go is to a trap. DON CALLAHAN: Yeah. DOUG MCRAE: And it's unfortunate because it's happened at Chugach Park. I got involved in that deal up there, too. KAREN BREWSTER: So when you were trapping out this way, up the Resurrection River and stuff, were there other people trapping, or you were the only guy out there? DOUG MCRAE: No. Pretty much, Resurrection, I can't remember. There's other people trapping up there today as we speak. No, there was nobody else up there when I trapped. There were signs that there had been people there before me, this John Elgin (phonetic), the guy that I talked about, he trapped there. You know, I don't remember -- now, Paradise Valley, I mean, North and South Fork were a different deal. That was if you didn't check your trap every day, somebody else had one tied to yours. And it just got too competitive for me. I was used to, you know, not having the competition. And then the -- and then the federal people over in Kenai have such strict regulations over there about trapping. They didn't used to have. You have to get a permit to trap over there. It got so bad that all the Unit 15 people, if you talked to somebody you didn't know, that's where they come from because their regulations are much easier over here to abide by. DON CALLAWAY: Can you talk to us a little bit about your experience on the -- you were on the advisory board for Fish and Game? DOUG MCRAE: Yes. DON CALLAWAY: When you started that and some of the issues. DOUG MCRAE: Oh, I don't remember the year I started, maybe 10 years ago. And the issues, I was on it mainly -- we have a, you know, sport -- sport -- sport fish DON CALLAWAY: Right. DOUG MCRAE: -- commercial fish, and game. And I do all. I do all three. I love sport fishing. And I have commercial fished in Bristol Bay for a number of years. But I was -- I was on there mainly for -- I wanted to -- my input on hunting on the Kenai, mainly in Unit 7. And we were starting to have problems here with moose. And cars. Cars kill 150 or 200 moose a year here.
DON CALLAWAY: Right. DOUG MCRAE: The last -- and what we just -- and I finally about halfway give up because I just can't -- I was hoping to get something done where we could just try to help here, but there are only -- they only seemed to target Unit 15 over there as far as -- moose habitat's better over there apparently. They say the feed is -- there's not enough feed here. It's never changed. The only thing that's changed, there's no moose here to eat it. But we -- we have a lot of different issues, but mainly -- mainly it's brown bear. Brown bear and black bear, as far as the hunting part of it goes. DON CALLAWAY: So you think that -- after the selections in the park in the '80s, the brown bear population gradually increased, and then they -- they -- they move out of there and start knocking off moose? DOUG MCRAE: Oh, yeah. Yeah, big time. Yeah. I got chased by a brown bear up there by -- that's a short story. Right where the -- right where the bridge goes into the park, I parked my car there and walked up there just a few years ago, because I collect shed antlers, which you can't do in the park. But I have to pay $12 a pound for them when I buy them. I carve as a hobby. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DOUG MCRAE: And I walked maybe a half a mile up, and I got on the edge of the river, it was in the springtime there, the snow was just -- that's the ideal time to go up, before the squirrels start chewing on the horns, but you can't -- you collect across there because it's in the park. And anyway, I'm standing there and looking, there was -- it was -- the grass was just coming up along the edge of the river, and I looked over there and there was a cow moose walking toward me, kind of looking over -- it wasn't looking at me, I was in plain sight, looking over her shoulder. And she walked up -- upstream and walked up to her belly in the water like she was going to swim across, and I happened to look just back where she come from, here come this big brown bear. And he's not very far away but he's on the other side. I don't have a gun or I don't have my pepper spray like I was supposed to have. And as he got closer to me, he was only maybe 75 yards away, he's looking, of course, at the cow moose. I -- I don't know what possessed me to do what I did. I stepped out on a little sandbar and I screamed and hollered at him. Boy, instantly, here he dove in the river coming -- coming right at me. Full bore. I -- I was concerned that the cow moose was going to swim over to me and bring him with her. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DOUG MCRAE: You know, and bring him over there because she was in the water above me, and he was directly across. As she got on my side -- luckily, it was a -- the current was really swift. I -- these trees are this big around, you can't -- even when I was young, I couldn't climb up the tree. I tried -- there was no limbs there for the first 20 feet. I was trying to go up the tree there. And I see the current was washing him down the creek. And so I -- you're not supposed to run, but I did. I got up -- I was not too far from the Forest Service trail and I got out of there. But yeah, there's -- there's plenty of brown bear. I've had lots of experiences with them. For every one you see, you probably walk by ten of them. They -- they -- they -- growing up here, they just were not here. They're here now. And I'm not -- I don't advocate killing all of them. They just need to be controlled a little bit. We have more maulings in the Kenai Peninsula than all of Alaska put together. There's one guy here in town, he was mauled out here at Mile 5, Carl Backland; and then last year his sister was mauled in Cooper's Landing mushroom picking. And there's just endless story. Well, there's one guy that was mauled in the Resurrection Pass trail 20 years ago, 20 some years ago, and almost a year to the date he was mauled again. Twice. And medevaced both times. Yeah. So that -- but the other thing is there's such a volume of people. You know, there's always been a lot of bear in Unit 15 in the Russian Lake area, but now they're -- I don't know if they are getting forced out of there. DON CALLAWAY: So the moose are getting hammered by the bear and by cars? DOUG MCRAE: Well, cars, but you know, growing up here in the 1960s, almost three things happened at the same time. I can remember the very first wolf track I ever saw on the Kenai Peninsula. It was on Jerome Lake in 1962. Okay. So you got wolves there now. They were here at one time, but they disappeared around 1900.
DON CALLAWAY: Uh hum. DOUG MCRAE: And nobody knows to this date how they reentered the -- you know, they can walk here. They one -- one is left here, one of the ones they planted here is left here. They followed it. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. Went hundreds of miles. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, a female. She didn't like it here and she left. They couldn't hardly keep up with her. She was hooked up, she had a radio on her. But anyway, I saw the two wolf tracks on Jerome. I didn't even know what I was looking at and I'm a trapper. Just the first ones I had ever seen. And then the brown bear started in the early '60s, I started seeing brown bear tracks. So you've got that. And then you've got volumes of people coming at the same time, moving down to the Kenai, and then they -- the wolves, my son caught 14 of them one year at Quartz Creek, Red Mountain, between there and Cooper's Landing. And I think he saved a lot of moose because now they have got a few moose growing up there. And then the volumes of people, you know, it was -- it was fairly, fairly rare for a car to hit a moose growing up, when I was growing up here; and then eventually, I worked for the Fish and Game a couple of winters picking up winter kill -- roadkill moose. But between the cars and the wolves and bears that weren't here, you know, they brought big wolves down here from the Forty Mile. The environmentalists wouldn't let them kill them, so they -- they hauled, I don't know, 30 or 40 of them down here one year and dropped them on the Kenai. We didn't need them. But between that -- between that, the moose just went downhill. And then every once in awhile you have a bad winter, and you know what that does to them. DON CALLAWAY: Sure. Right. DOUG MCRAE: Their numbers are so low here right now that I don't know if they can recover. DON CALLAWAY: What's the bag limit on that? How many permits they put out? DOUG MCRAE: I -- you know, I don't -- they are not on permits.
DON CALLAWAY: Really? DOUG MCRAE: They used to have a couple trophy areas, you probably heard about above Tustumena and Skilak, they had for years and years, you had to draw permits there, but I don't know if they even have permits anymore. I should know. The permits just come out yesterday. I'd applied for a brown bear permit, but yesterday was the day. Actually, it should be closed here in Unit 7. But I don't think that will save them. I mean, you could close the hunting and you can't stop the cars from hitting them and the bears and the wolves. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah, the bears and wolves will go down when the moose hit the -- DOUG MCRAE: That's the natural thing, they will go down. And what happened to wolves here years ago, and that's what I -- nobody loves dogs more than me, but these loose dogs running around. Well, they contacted lice here. And what year was it. Domestic lice, and they have no immunity to it. The saddest thing I ever saw in my life was to catch a wolf in a snare or a trap or whatever, they are -- most -- killing them is the thing to do because they're in sad -- hypothermic, they are shaking, they are just -- it's like you poured heavy engine oil on their fur. They have no fur. Just -- it's from domestic lice, these dogs -- dogs running loose.
And you probably heard over the years that -- it started around Fairbanks, where the wolves learned that an easy meal is a dog tied to a house. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DOUG MCRAE: Now it's starting to happen down here. There's been quite a few dogs killed while they are tied -- tied, and the wolves come in and get them. In fact, we just had a real deal here a couple days ago at Quartz Creek where guys up were up a tree with wolves, six or seven wolves. Did you hear about that? KAREN BREWSTER: I read about that in the paper. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. And the wolves were chasing a moose and hanging off his throat, and a guy that I know, a game warden, a Forest Service game warden, he thought -- well, it was April Fools Day, he thought it was a joke when they called in. There was -- but now right after that girl that got killed in Chignik, here that's the first time ever in the history of Alaska. And now we get another incident -- KAREN BREWSTER: The paper said it was the moose that were -- they were up a tree and the moose wouldn't leave. DOUG MCRAE: Well, the moose -- I -- I think the -- I think the moose sought protection from them. He saw people -- because we have had two of them born in our backyard, calves. I think they come to people. ( KAREN BREWSTER: The moose --
DOUG MCRAE: There's some safety
DOUG MCRAE: There's some safety there. Yeah, them guys are -- KAREN BREWSTER: They couldn't get -- the guys were treed by the moose, they couldn't get away. DOUG MCRAE: It -- it was the wildest story I ever heard. There was seven -- seven wolves, and the moose was bleeding all over, the guys, they were almost hypothermic trying to -- one guy tried to go up a tree. And I'd never heard of such a wild story, and it -- it actually happened just in the last week. DON CALLAWAY: So what was the resolution? Did the pack finally move off? Or... DOUG MCRAE: You know, I really don't know. My kid wanted to move in and catch them because that's where -- that's exactly where he catches them. KAREN BREWSTER: The story I heard was there was the one wolf hanging on the moose, and the guys got up the tree, and then the moose wouldn't leave. There's -- there's no mention about the wolves anymore, that it was the moose. And they waited and waited and waited and finally -- DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, I read it, a wild story. KAREN BREWSTER: -- called because the moose was the problem. An angry moose. DOUG MCRAE: They -- there's a bar and cafe down there, it's called -- what is it called -- Sunrise. They showed up there, the guys were wet and scared and hungry. They warmed up there, so there people, the local people are going to put a wild story. KAREN BREWSTER: I have one more question for you --
DOUG MCRAE: Sure. KAREN BREWSTER: -- on the Exit Glacier area and the Lower Resurrection River. We've been talking about snow machines and stuff, but was that ever used in the summer before there was a road? Is there -- was there a way to get up there? Did people go up there? DOUG MCRAE: No. No. In the summer -- that's a good question. I don't know if I was ever up there in the summer. Late in the falls, but no, I -- I don't know what they would have done up there, other than -- other than mine maybe the Placer Creek, and that -- I think that was done back in the '30s. Well, no, I lied. There was a friend of mine named Bob Olson, he -- he was -- gold bothered him more than it bothers me. He loved it. One time he took a weasel somehow up there and he tried mining under that waterfall, but it was such a fiasco. He spent more time working on the equipment. And that's -- but the summer use, I -- man, I sure don't -- I don't remember much summer use. RACHEL MASON: I have one more question that's about the horseback hunting. Is anybody still doing that? DOUG MCRAE: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I don't like horse. I've been on a lot of horse. I don't know if you ever heard of going in the park again on the Canad -- the Chitistone Gold Trail, probably one of Alaska's best books, Troph -- it's called Trophies Won and Lost, the book. I made the entire trip twice, wrote a little book about that, too. It's about 150 miles one way. You can go either in from Canada, Burwash Landing, and come into the park from that way. Or the Bridge That Goes to Nowhere, Chitina. That's -- when they built that bridge, we started going in that way into the -- into the sheep hunting with horses. But oh, man, they are -- you can write books about horses, or I could. Yeah. There's lots of action when you have horses. Sometimes you spend a couple days trying to catch them. You have to get in the airplane to try and figure out where they went. On -- on the White River, it's a big river right on the Canadian border, we had them there, 18 -- 18 horses, and we spent as much time chasing horses as we did hunting. I didn't care for horses, but they could move a lot of stuff. KAREN BREWSTER: So people using them --
DON CALLAWAY: And a lot of work.
KAREN BREWSTER: -- in this area.
DOUG MCRAE: Pardon? KAREN BREWSTER: People use them around here? DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, there's a few. I mean, they are right -- right down here in what we call the horse corral there, you'll see a few horses there. They -- they use them -- Blaine Bardarson is his name, he uses them to hunt up around Swan Lake and General Lake, not in the park, but I don't know if anybody's hunted horses. It's kind of a -- it would be tough now to count on horses up in this -- this park here. RACHEL MASON: Well, it would be tough for them to go in the snow. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, they don't go in the snow much. I don't -- KAREN BREWSTER: Falltime moose hunt up the --
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: -- river valley?
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: And along the trails. DOUG MCRAE: They used to hunt moose a lot. There was a few pilots around back when I was growing up here that really knew how to fly, and they -- they did hunt in the park. Right -- right where the bridge is, there used to be a nice little strip right where the road lays. It went straight ahead there. And it was fairly easy to land, but it had kind of a delta there, the moose kind of come down from up the creek as the snow pushes them down. And there was -- there was quite a bit of activity up there where people hunted over the years, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: They -- they did that with airplanes? DOUG MCRAE: Pretty -- I can't -- other than John Elgin (phonetic), he -- he was up there in the late '50s and early '60s, and there was another guy named Martin Goreson who was just an animal around -- he was the only person in Alaska to catch his goats, live trapped all these goats around Seward here. The Fish and Wildlife tried for years and years, and the ones there in Kodiak are a result of right here where he caught them with roped snares. But they tried -- many people tried, but Martin Goreson used to hike up there. Now, I don't remember in the summertime, but in maybe toward the falltime when hunting moose season was open and stuff. DON CALLAWAY: He's a real nail, huh? DOUG MCRAE: Oh, he was a tough boy. Yeah, he was tough, tough. And they -- they wrote some stories about him. The goats -- he got hurt a few times by these goats. Yeah, they are -- they are a tough animal to get close to if you've got them in a snare. They were paying, like, $150 an animal, I think. And I've got pictures when I was a little kid standing -- he lived just a couple houses from -- kept them in his basement. Yeah. Now -- now they are -- now -- now in Kodiak they've got about 3500 goats as a result of that. There's too many of them over there, probably. DON CALLAWAY: What's his name again? DOUG MCRAE: Martin Goreson.
DON CALLAWAY: Martin Goreson. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, Seward's really -- there's been tremendous changes here from -- not all of them good. DON CALLAWAY: So what does bring you back here? I mean, you've said you've gone down to the Lower 48 a couple times, and I imagine the winters are a little tougher, but what does bring you back here now? DOUG MCRAE: Just too many people for me. DON CALLAWAY: Oh, just too many people? DOUG MCRAE: I'm kind of a stranger here in my own town. I don't -- there's -- yesterday I was 35, and now I'm 65.
RACHEL MASON: Yeah. DOUG MCRAE: I don't know where them years went. I couldn't go sheep hunting again if I tried. I'd love to try it again there. But I don't know. I just like it here. It's super nice when it's nice, like yesterday, and then weather gets -- it can get really, really bad here. And that keeps, I think, the tourists away and people from building here. But Seward hasn't changed a whole lot population wise. Growing up here was around 2000, 2500, and it still is within the city limits, but there's another 2500 to 3,000 live outside of the city is -- is the only difference. DON CALLAWAY: So -- so you spend your time carving and -- DOUG MCRAE: I do a lot of carving. It's a recreational thing, but I love -- DON CALLAWAY: -- You did a beautiful piece for Duane. We saw it. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, I did that for him. I -- there's a bunch right here. This --
RACHEL MASON: This -- this must be your antler -- DOUG MCRAE: Some of it there. There's a store downtown called Brown & Hawkins, that asked me 20 years ago to do some carvings for them. And it's just a hobby. Now they bought a second store, just they're finishing it right now. So they sold more than I could carve last year in a year. KAREN BREWSTER: So, how did you learn how to do it? DOUG MCRAE: I -- years ago I found out I was colorblind when I painted a moose green, and so I started -- actually, that's what -- actually what started it. I just started carving when I was in high school, actually. DON CALLAWAY: Do you use electric drills and sanders? DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, dental type tools. I use a Dremel mostly, but I use dental bits and different -- I probably get less than minimum wage. Even though some of them are spendy, but...
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: What inspires you? How do you know what you're going to put as a design on it? DOUG MCRAE: The horn kind of tells you what you can put on it. I didn't learn that -- took a long time to learn that. I guess what inspired me was years ago, 25 or 30 years ago, they were called Berger Brothers, they owned a bunch of chain stores in the Lower 48. And I was always picking up horns, and they wanted to know what I was picking them up for. And I said, well, to carve on them. They asked me to do some carvings for them. But these -- these are big stores. I couldn't carve enough in my lifetime to stock them for a month, you know. I had to have some kind of mass production. They bought 20 or 30 of them, but I couldn't keep up with it. They were cribbage boards, actually, back then. But these -- these carvings here I would spend probably 40 or 50 hours on them one's here, a piece. And there's a big one over there. That I do one or two of them a year. That's -- that's probably 200 hours of working. But I enjoy doing it, it's something -- I can't -- can't climb -- can't climb them mountains much anymore, so... DON CALLAWAY: Do you have a little shop that you use? DOUG MCRAE: Oh, yeah, I do it out in the garage out here. KAREN BREWSTER: Do you carve other things besides antler, like ivory or other -- DOUG MCRAE: No, I've never really got into ivory. Ivory gets -- there's so many legalities of what you can and can't do. And I've carved a little bit of mastadon ivory, but antler is -- you can find your own, for one thing. Not so -- it's getting harder. I have a good source. A friend of mine flies every day out of Anchorage, weather permitting, and he finds -- finds some nice -- nice antler. But it's spendy. You can -- like that antler there is probably a $200 horn, at $12 a pound. Yeah. DON CALLAWAY: Wow. DOUG MCRAE: That's one thing I'd like to see the Park Service do is restrict -- it won't help me, but maybe others. And they talked about it in Denali last year for residents to go in there and collect -- collect antler. Because they just rot on the ground. As far as the animals eating them, they get a little calcium on them, but they are still going to be there. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Well, anything else about the use of the park area or, you know, before it was a park, or Exit Glacier area that we haven't talked about? DOUG MCRAE: You know, I -- like I said, I could probably talk to you here for a week about it almost nonstop. Drive -- I'd drive you nuts. I can say I had a lot of fun up there. I just -- there were just lots -- lots of experiences up there. Just all kinds of wild things happened. I got a picture of a goat I killed in the park in one of them books over there. We didn't get off the mountain that night. We were up -- up the headwaters of Placer Creek, and it was in November. A little -- little chilly out, and we didn't have no gear with us, but it was -- we were in a bad spot. And there was some hemlock, we spent the night there under a tree. And actually, we got a little fire going and we weren't too bad. You know the days are short then there. I don't know how much daylight we had, but that was a wise thing to do. We had two goats and the meat, and we wrapped up and I threw the hide over us, and we were halfway comfortable. And not -- KAREN BREWSTER: What happened? How come you got stuck up there? DOUG MCRAE: Well, we were too far from where we left. We went way -- way back in there. Yeah, we were on foot, we were staying in that cabin that's in the park there, that Placer Creek cabin. And we knew what was in front of us, we -- we'd come up there.
It's easier to go up bad places than it is to come down. I mean, you come down, you've got to be really careful, especially when you've got some meat on your backs. Weight. So it was the wise thing to do. About an hour before it got dark we hustled up some dead wood, but we -- we were way up near it. Got enough dead wood where we kept a small fire going all night. But at barely daylight the next morning we were gone. Yeah. Well, I've -- I've had really good experiences in the park. It's just -- on both sides, the Forest Service side and the federal side. Yeah. There's -- there's just -- there's a lot of wildlife up here for one thing. Goats. Brown bear. Black. It's a major denning area for brown bear. Right almost above where the -- where their buildings are at up there, on both sides. Especially toward a little creek called Paradise Creek. That's one of the first things we do in the spring up there when they open the gate is to take our spot and scoping rod and just go up -- just to go up there and see them when they first come out of the den. They will lay sometimes four or five days in front of their den up that -- the snow must be 20 feet deep. Yeah. It's a neat area to see them, yeah. DON CALLAWAY: How about communication with the park, you know, since the park -- DOUG MCRAE: I don't know -- you mean as far as me?
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DOUG MCRAE: I -- I don't know if I ever had any -- I don't think I've ever -- ever talked to them. Not that I wouldn't, but I just -- I never -- I never -- never did. One of the -- one of the park -- the head of the park lived right next door here, she bought one of my carvings. Castillo, or -- RACHEL MASON: Oh, Ann.
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. Yeah.
DON CALLAWAY: Ann Castillo.
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DOUG MCRAE: She bought a carving for -- for herself, I guess.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DOUG MCRAE: But no, I never -- I just never had a chance. I never -- I -- one time I -- when we first found that cabin at Placer Creek before the park, we tried to file on it. We wanted to -- went to the Forest Service and said I want to claim this cabin. And they said, no, you can't do it because it's in a proposed -- I think they said dam, hydro dam site or something. And so we lost interest in that. It was -- KAREN BREWSTER: There was a proposal at one point. DOUG MCRAE: Was there? I never did -- I never did --
KAREN BREWSTER: I read about it.
DOUG MCRAE: Oh, okay. KAREN BREWSTER: There was a proposal for hydro. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, they said it was in a proposed dam site. So -- KAREN BREWSTER: Was it -- no, it wasn't Placer Creek, it was -- was it Paradise Creek? I think it was Paradise Creek. It was either Placer or Paradise, I can't remember. DOUG MCRAE: That's -- that's the story they told us, and that was back, I guess, maybe in the late '60s or early '70s. Cabin was really in good shape there then. KAREN BREWSTER: I did read about there was a proposal for a hydro project, and so the U.S. Geological Survey designated an area.
DOUG MCRAE: Huh. KAREN BREWSTER: And then it never happened.
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. Yeah. It fizzled out.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. DOUG MCRAE: There was two or three of them. I think they are working on one as we speak at --
KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, really?
DOUG MCRAE: -- at Grant Lake. Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: I don't remember the date, but I read about it. DOUG MCRAE: Well, I'm glad you said that because I thought they were just trying to get rid -- get rid of us. Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: So in all the flying you did guiding, plane crashes? DOUG MCRAE: I've been upside down once. Not -- not -- not me flying. We landed in the Chitina River. And you can't tell, you do kind of a touch and go, and we did the touch but we didn't do the go part. It was some soft, almost like quicksand right on the edge of the river, and just real slowly went over. We didn't go clear over, we went straight up and down, which is kind of a bad deal. It was hard to get out of the plane. No, there was no damage to the plane, but no, I haven't -- I've had a lot -- a lot of friends not only crashed but killed. Buster, and I can name you a dozen that I flew with that are -- it's a dangerous occupation, you know. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DOUG MCRAE: A lot -- there's several people in Seward that herring fishing spotter pilots.
DON CALLAWAY: Oh, yeah, yeah. DOUG MCRAE: There was four or five of them from the Seward area who got killed -- head on collision.
I -- when I first got out of high school, there was a -- a barber here in town his name was Dick Moll, and he bought a little airplane and he crashed head on at Togiak with another guy from Seward. Anderson. Yeah. Herring -- herring pilot, that was -- I was -- I was up there fishing once. You've got -- maybe if you have 300 boats, you've got at least 200 airplanes above you. And they are -- I mean, and their -- the herring are worth a lot of money, especially this year. So you're all -- you're looking down -- they're looking down but -- RACHEL MASON: I'm not surprised they crash. DOUG MCRAE: Oh, yeah, it's a bad deal. Yeah. They -- they tried to get organized where they are all fly the same direction, but you know, some of them fish -- they had a million dollar setup there one time. But you're looking down at the fish and you're not paying attention to what's coming at you, and boy, it's -- There's quite a few people, I'd say four or five here from Seward alone. DON CALLAWAY: Can they carry a spotter for planes in the -- in the spotter plane? The planes -- DOUG MCRAE: A long time ago, they didn't have a spotter, but now they have a guy in the back seat, but he gets sidetracked, too, you know, if there's a big (indiscernible), because they're talking to the boat down there, their boat all the time, and trying to -- they -- they set the net from the airplane. And they are telling them, but boy, if you're not paying attention to what's in front of you, because it happens fast. RACHEL MASON: The pilot might be spotting, too, in addition to the spotter. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. There's been quite a few. Yeah. Both of them. And it's happened in Prince William Sound a few times, too, where they had head on collisions. Yeah. How much time did we put in today? RACHEL MASON: I don't know. So it -- you don't have any other to add? DOUG MCRAE: No, I don't. Like I said, I could talk to you until next week there, if I could help you at all.
There -- there's things up there. I mean, there's a lot of old sites where people have been in the lower end, too, but they didn't look real permanent before I was ever up there that you could see. I look for, like if there's been trees cut down with axes and stuff, and then I start circling and looking. I was looking for artifacts and stuff. There's signs of that there, but I only found them couple, them two cabins I told you about in the upper part, that were still -- actually, there's -- I'll show you where there's another one. Right there where the T craft strip is. RACHEL MASON: Which?
DON CALLAWAY: Right here. DOUG MCRAE: The T craft strip, this cabin here, that's the T craft strip, and the Forest Service cabin is right in here. RACHEL MASON: Oh, just go ahead and mark it. DOUG MCRAE: The Forest Service cabin is right about there. There's a little hill -- oh, no, it says Forest Service cabin.
RACHEL MASON: Yeah. DOUG MCRAE: Where the hell is it at?
RACHEL MASON: Maybe that's a different one. DOUG MCRAE: Where's it at? Right here, I guess. It's got an A there. Anyway, right here there's a hill, before you get to Boulder, there's a little hill right in here. And right on the top of that hill right above the T craft strip, right in here in this ridge, there's the remains of a cabin. Like the corners.
DON CALLAWAY: Uh hum. DOUG MCRAE: So people have been right there, right -- that's a Forest Service cabin, right in here there's a cabin. There's quite a few planks left of it, too. The only other -- I don't know where the park -- where's the park boundary at here? Is that it that right there?
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DOUG MCRAE: Okay. This cabin here is in the park boundary. A neat old cabin. I -- I -- but it's 20 or 25 years ago that I saw it. But I would bet money it's still standing today. And I've never heard anybody that knew about it. And that -- that gets around. This one's -- this one's in the park. DON CALLAWAY: So we're looking at 1200 feet, something like that? DON CALLAWAY: No, no. This is 500.
DOUG MCRAE: I'm -- I'm saying -- is that -- was that -- is that the scale? DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. It's 500 right there. It's a climb. DOUG MCRAE: I -- I thought it was farther than that. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah, here's a thousand right here. DOUG MCRAE: What -- what are these squares here? Are they on here? This is a big -- big meadow, and it's kind of in the middle of the meadow. And there's a stand of spruce trees. I mean, these are big, big, mature, never been cut spruce trees, and it's right underneath one of them. DON CALLAWAY: Oh, okay. DOUG MCRAE: And -- and it's well within the park, too. I doubt if they know about it. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. Well, they do now. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. It -- it should be saved because they did a good job there, but I don't know how much money they spent. They spent a lot. They used a helicopter on that one. It was in a floodplain when I was there, the -- the water was trying to go around it. They would have had to build a dike or something in there to protect it. I always wanted to go back there because I told you that friend of mine got killed in that plane wreck, Buster. He killed a huge brown bear there, out at that cabin one day, just a giant brown bear, and he wrote his name on the log in there on the bunk and dated it, October, whatever year it was. I always wanted to go back and get that piece, when I found out the cabin was getting -- was going down, just to have. DON CALLAWAY: Sure. Sure. Memorabilia. DOUG MCRAE: We spent -- we spent 25 years together and all kinds of fiascos. A snowstorm and get out of the plane and goes clear to the wings and snow, and then you snowshoe for about 3 hours. Yeah. So... DON CALLAWAY: Well, thank you.
Doug McRae was interviewed on April 10, 2010 by Don Callaway, Rachel Mason, and Karen Brewster at his home in Seward, Alaska. Doug was born in Seward in 1944. He loves the outdoors, started hunting at an early age, and spent his career as a professional big game hunting guide. He serves on Seward's Fish and Game Advisory Board, and in recent years has been creating intricate antler cut-out carvings. In this interview, he talks about growing up in Seward, the 1964 Earthquake, his guiding business, hunting and trapping in the Seward area, changes in wildlife populations, mining, the Fish and Game Advisory Board, and carving. He talks about trapping, hunting, flying, and snowmachining in the Exit Glacier area, remote airstrips, old cabins, the stranded bulldozer up Resurrection River, the road to Exit Glacier, and the negative effects national parks have on hunting. Part two of this interview.
Click to section:
Becoming a hunting guide
Trapping and marking areas used on the map
Marking location of Taylorcraft (T-craft) airstrip on the map
Hunting and guiding activities
Spending the night on the roof of the house during the 1964 Earthquake
The aftermath of the 1964 Earthquake
Exit Glacier Road
Conflict between hunting and national park areas
Changes in animal population numbers
A brown bear hunting experience in Resurrection River valley
Marking the location of historic cabins on the map
Caterpillar tractor at upper Russian Lake
Thoughts about establishment of Alaska parks and the effect on hunting
Use of the Exit Glacier area before there was a road
Changes in Exit Glacier
Use of snowmachines
DON CALLAWAY: Hi. It's Saturday, April 10th, we're in Seward doing an oral history with Doug McRae. And I'm Don Callaway with the Park Service, Rachel Mason with the Park Service, and behind the camera is Karen Brewster from UAF. And the project we're doing is traditional use areas of Exit Glacier. We good?
KAREN BREWSTER: You're good.
DON CALLAWAY: Okay. You're good.
DOUG MCRAE: Okay. Hi. I'm Doug McRae, Sr. I was born in Seward, Alaska, in 1944, have never left, other than in the military. Grew up here, and as far as back as I can remember, I liked the out of doors, so I was always out getting wet and dirty, according to mom anyway. And then over the years Seward really changed a lot. It went from a working town, a longshore town, to today it's more of a tourist town, mainly because of the '64 earthquake. It just pretty well wiped out all the businesses along the waterfront, and so it's changed. And as I got older, I got into hunting. Shortly after I got out of high school I started guiding hunters starting on the Kenai here, in the -- in the park area quite a bit. And then I eventually, over the years, I traveled, I think, pretty much every square inch of Alaska hunting. And I did a lot of other things, but mainly hunting. That's about all, I guess, I've done. RACHEL MASON: What brought your parents to Seward? DOUG MCRAE: My parents come from Montana in the early '40s. They originally moved to Kodiak, and they burned out Christmas Day over there, and they ended up in Seward, then, in '44. And my father bought a -- bought a lumberyard here and a concrete block plant. He built quite a few buildings around town here, the Trail Lake Lodge in Moose Pass as you come into town, and the library here in Seward. And while I was in high school, I -- I stacked a lot of lumber. Lumber and concrete and stuff like that. DON CALLAWAY: When did you start to hunt? Did your dad mentor you? Did he take you out? DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, he did. He wasn't really a hunter. He had grew up in Montana, but he knew I was interested and he took me, when I was 12 years old, on my first moose hunt up we flew into a place there in the Kenai called Trout Lake. And I remember the old plane was called a Waco, a twin wing plane out of Cooper's Landing, and caught a couple moose. And we went on a couple other trips but he was -- he was busy with the lumberyard, but that was a -- that was the start of big game hunting for me. DON CALLAWAY: And did you dress the moose and pack it back to town? DOUG MCRAE: Oh, yeah. Well, actually, yeah, we dressed him, but we didn't pack him. There was another friend that had some horses and he packed them down to Juneau -- down to Juneau Lake. DON CALLAWAY: Oh, that's cool.
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah.
DON CALLAWAY: Okay.
DOUG MCRAE: I can't -- it's hard for me to --
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. Yeah. DOUG MCRAE: I'd rather have questions asked of me. RACHEL MASON: Oh, okay. Well, what about -- you said you were born in 1944. And they had just got here in '44? DOUG MCRAE: Yes, they just barely got here. I think we were the -- somehow we ended up in Seattle when I was just a few months old, one of the first ones to come up Alaska Highway, after it was built. RACHEL MASON: Oh, wow. DOUG MCRAE: And I, of course, don't have a memory of that but you had to have so much survival gear with you. It was -- according to mom and dad, it was a real wild experience getting up here. RACHEL MASON: It must have been, with an infant, too.
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. DON CALLAWAY: How about brothers and sisters, do you have any? DOUG MCRAE: I have a brother and sister, yeah. DON CALLAWAY: And are they both here or -- DOUG MCRAE: No. My brother -- brother is in Michigan. And I -- and he don't keep in touch with us. DON CALLAWAY: Really? DOUG MCRAE: My sister lives in Anchorage. Has for quite awhile. She's a -- was a teacher. She's retired now. DON CALLAWAY: And so did you start guiding pretty much right after high school, or -- DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, right after. And actually, in 1962, that same, very same fall.
DON CALLAWAY: Uh hum. DOUG MCRAE: We had some German hunters here on the Kenai and one into, oh, the Cooper's Landing area on -- with horses, the same guy that packed my moose out when I was 12 years old, we took some German hunters in there after moose. DON CALLAWAY: So did you partner up with another guy to learn the ropes or did you just kind of -- DOUG MCRAE: Well, over the years I was involved with several of them, quite a few of them. DON CALLAWAY: Okay. So you apprenticed other guides, or -- DOUG MCRAE: I had a -- I eventually got a license, what's called a Class A license. I never got a registered license, but it allowed me to hunt pretty much any unit in Alaska, where most guides were restricted to one or two units. I eventually ended up hunting out of Kaktovik and the Hulahula River in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, so I covered from north to south. RACHEL MASON: Yeah. What about the client -- I'm curious about these German hunters and other clients. Do they -- did most of them know what they were doing, or did you have to -- DOUG MCRAE: It was -- I remember the first hunter I ever took out in my life was -- his name was Ottokar Skall [10/19/10: Doug corrected this and said Ottokar was not his first hunter, but was a German man who had moved to the area and booked German hunters and prepared their trophies for shipment home. His first hunter in the early 1960s was a German man whose name was Ludwig Truksted (phonetic).]
RACHEL MASON: Oh. DOUG MCRAE: And he brought his wife and his -- I think it was his tax person with him, and -- but you know, he was -- he was wealthy and he -- he shot the first moose, which he shouldn't have done because his wife shot one twice the size of his, and it was hard to stop him. And he was -- he was a little -- a little not real happy about her getting a bigger moose, but he insisted on shooting the first one, so, yeah. RACHEL MASON: How about the tax person? Did -- DOUG MCRAE: He got a moose, too, but I think he was third in line. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, the first time, did you -- your first guiding, were you working for somebody else? You were working for a guide? DOUG MCRAE: Yes, I was working for a guide here who lives in Moose Pass, he's in New Zealand now, John Kinda, he had horses, which was nice with moose because they were a long ways in. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. How about when did you learn to fly? How did you learn to fly? DOUG MCRAE: I didn't fly. All my friends had planes, but I was -- I never had one. DON CALLAWAY: Oh, you never had a plane. DOUG MCRAE: I did a lot of flying here in the Kenai, I mean almost daily, with a Super Cub, in winter and the summer. DON CALLAWAY: But somebody else would be the pilot? DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. I had two or three friends that had planes, and I grew up with them, and I was always in the back seat, which -- DON CALLAWAY: Did your dad fly?
DOUG MCRAE: No.
DON CALLAWAY: No. DOUG MCRAE: No. I took flying lessons, I mean, I could get one up and down, but yeah, it was just falltime hunting and we -- and we trapped a lot in the wintertime, in your -- in the park area. DON CALLAWAY: Can you talk about trapping, what you went after, you know, how you laid your lines? DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. We trapped, you know, everything, from mink to wolves, and everything in between. In -- in the park up here, the Kenai Fjords, it was mainly wolverine, beaver, mink, and otter. I have lots of pictures. And I don't normally take pictures, but I have lots of them of being in parks. DON CALLAWAY: Could you show us on the map here where most of your trapping area was? RACHEL MASON: You can mark right on the map. DOUG MCRAE: Where -- where are we at here now? DON CALLAWAY: Here's Exit Glacier right here. DOUG MCRAE: Okay. Which connects to it. We'd go all the way to Russian Lake. You're only interested in the park part of it, or -- DON CALLAWAY: No, anyplace.
RACHEL MASON: No.
DON CALLAWAY: We're interested in all of it. RACHEL MASON: Now, where's Russian Lake? Here's Lost Lake. DOUG MCRAE: No, I don't know which map it connects with here.
KAREN BREWSTER: This is Upper Russian.
RACHEL MASON: Upper Russian Lake. KAREN BREWSTER: This goes -- this goes here.
DOUG MCRAE: This -- yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: I also have this map that has it all kind of in one. DOUG MCRAE: It's kind of -- well it's really kind of hard. With an airplane, we actually covered the entire Kenai Peninsula.
RACHEL MASON: Oh. DOUG MCRAE: But we spent a lot of time in the park. There used to be a strip called a T-craft strip. In fact, Duane I think said he gave you the wrong location. DON CALLAWAY: Oh. For the Taylorcraft strip? DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. So it -- it got it's name because somebody tipped their plane over there and that plane is still there, the frame, but the strip is gone, it washed out. KAREN BREWSTER: You can mark that on this map. DOUG MCRAE: I think he was too low. I think he was down closer to the park. KAREN BREWSTER: That's where he marked it, that little blue -- oh, you can't see it, but that -- that line right there. DOUG MCRAE: Yes. Okay.
KAREN BREWSTER: So if you can get it -- DOUG MCRAE: And where is the park, the bridge that goes into the park? KAREN BREWSTER: You're looking at it upside -- here. Maybe right side up might be helpful to you. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. There used to be a strip actually across the bridge going into the park, which is -- RACHEL MASON: Is this it?
DOUG MCRAE: No. RACHEL MASON: I don't know why that is there. DON CALLAWAY: No, the bridge is about right here, I think. DOUG MCRAE: You think? Well, it's going to take me a second to look at this here. Yeah, here's the bridge here. There used to be a strip right here. Is this where Duane marked it? DON CALLAWAY: No.
RACHEL MASON: No. This -- this mark right here is Duane's mark. DOUG MCRAE: Okay. That -- that was a strip. Yeah, they used to hunt moose right there. But the T-craft strip is right where Boulder Creek and Placer Creek come together up here. RACHEL MASON: Do you want to mark it? Okay. DOUG MCRAE: Here's Placer Creek. Okay. Here's Placer Creek right here, and the Park Service has a cabin right here that washed away. Okay. A nice cabin, it used to be. And then Boulder Creek comes in right here. The T-craft strip is right here. It's about a quarter mile below there, and Resurrection -- this is the cabin that's stranded. It's on the same side of the stream as the cabin. This bridge is washed out, it was a wooden bridge. DON CALLAWAY: I'm just going to annotate that here. RACHEL MASON: Who put in that bridge? DOUG MCRAE: The Forest Service. They -- and they abandoned the project. It bothers me -- it bothers me that they spent all that money and then they abandoned it. RACHEL MASON: And then it just got washed out. DOUG MCRAE: They abandoned it because of wind falls, beetle killed trees.
They lost a bridge right here, a major bridge, at Martin Creek, a metal bridge, a height oar bridge, and then they lost this bridge here, it was a wooden bridge. RACHEL MASON: How long ago did that get washed out? DOUG MCRAE: Oh, it's been quite awhile. And I walked once from Seward, my son and I, up to Russian Lake and back, maybe 10 or 12 years ago the bridge was still there. The trail was bad because of beetle kill. The reason this is called Placer Creek is there's a waterfall right -- right in here, and they -- somebody went to a lot of work back there, I think in the '30s, they drilled a hole in the bedrock right alongside the waterfall and tried to divert the water. There's some -- a lot of pipe and stuff laying around that's kind of interesting. And you can see where they dug test holes and stuff there, but I don't think it ever -- [talking to dog] Kvichak. He's checking that. DON CALLAWAY: Oh, that's all right. DOUG MCRAE: Actually, I don't think they got a whole lot because it -- I mentioned mining on the Kenai, and there is a lot of gold here, but I'm not -- not real sure about that there. RACHEL MASON: Do you know of any other mining operations that --
DOUG MCRAE: In the park?
RACHEL MASON: -- took place around -- yeah. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. I -- because most of my hunting I did out the bay, toward Nuka Bay, Aialik Bay. Goat hunting, and goat and black bear, we would fly out there. But, yeah, there's a hard rock mine in Nuka Bay. That would -- apparently had quite a bit of gold in it, but they couldn't get -- I'm not a hard rock miner, but they had hard time recovering the gold without using chemicals and stuff. DON CALLAHAN: Right. Right. DOUG MCRAE: It would just want to flow down, and they just -- several different people tried mining there. The gold was there but they just didn't have the technology to -- to get it out of the quartz. DON CALLAWAY: So getting back to your trapping areas, where -- where would you be trapping? DOUG MCRAE: Well, actually, the entire Kenai. We -- we didn't miss any areas. DON CALLAWAY: Oh. So you'd -- you'd fly in and service the traps by air? DOUG MCRAE: Yes. Yeah. A couple times a week. Weather -- weather permitting.
DON CALLAWAY: Sure. DOUG MCRAE: The weather could really get bad here sometimes.
DON CALLAWAY: Sure. That's a lot of work. DOUG MCRAE: It was -- I would call it recreational trapping. If we paid for our fuel, we were -- doing good. DON CALLAWAY: Okay. Yeah. Yeah, I was going to ask about that, too. You know, the fur prices, as you well know, you know, plummeted. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. Yeah. They -- well, they hadn't -- some of -- some of them really went up sky high, like lynx went up to $700. Wolves and wolverine -- I quit trapping maybe 10 years ago. Wolf and wolverine could bring you -- easily bring you 5 or $600 average. DON CALLAWAY: 10 years ago? DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. Yeah. But I caught them 30 years ago, I caught 17 wolverine one winter and got $35 apiece for them. DON CALLAWAY: That's a lot of wolverine, but that's over the whole Peninsula. I mean -- DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. The wolverine I caught -- I caught in Northern Alaska. I caught them -- I spent one winter at Chelatna Lake, that's up well near Mount McKinley.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: I didn't know you had wolverine down there. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. They -- they are my favorite animal. They are an interesting animal. They are. Even though I trap them, I sure -- I sure try to protect them. I've really protested strongly to the helicopter skiing. They ski -- they have snow dens and they ski right across them. It happened in Turnagain Pass. They totally left Turnagain Pass after all the skiers and snow machiners running over them. They are -- they are an interesting animal, though. KAREN BREWSTER: Are they up on the ice field? DOUG MCRAE: Oh, yeah. Especially on the edges. They don't -- I've -- I've flown a few times where they've been up several miles off, you know, maybe they were heading to Homer, I don't know. They -- they travel. They can move 20, 25 miles in a day. DON CALLAWAY: And huge territories, actually. DOUG MCRAE: Oh, yeah. Especially the males. They do a lot of moving. RACHEL MASON: What years were you trapping? You said you quit 10 years ago. DOUG MCRAE: Well, I actually, in '92, they were just -- Seward got real small. Just there was too many people, snow machines showed up. I trapped just out of town here the last few years in Snow River, the North and South Fork of Snow River. But near the end, I was the last person to check my traps. There were just too many snow machines in there. KAREN BREWSTER: When did you start trapping? DOUG MCRAE: That's a good question. Maybe in the -- in mid '50s.
RACHEL MASON: Oh.
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. DON CALLAWAY: So, and -- and what would you guide in terms of hunting? You mentioned, you know, sure, caribou and moose and -- DOUG MCRAE: You know, virtually every animal. The last guy I -- we would start out in a -- right on the Canadian border, when I started real seriously guiding making a living at it. We hunt sheep up there mainly. And I -- we would go separate directions. I had a license that allowed me to go -- I didn't have to be with a registered guide. Anyway, I would almost always come down here and hunt a couple goats. We'd be heading toward the Alaska Peninsula, but we'd stop -- I would stop here with a couple hunters and take them goat hunting. Not -- not always in the park. Sometimes we'd go the other way toward Day Harbor, you know, the different bays, Kings Bay, different bays, but quite -- quite a bit in the park. The best hunting that's most accessible was toward Nuka and Aialik and down in that area.
DON CALLAWAY: Uh hum. DOUG MCRAE: Up -- in Kenai, up here, this park was a little harder to get at. There was no road. There's no -- the only place -- there was only a couple places you could land on wheels, so it was a little -- it wasn't as easy to get out of as some of the other places. There's quite a few lakes out here that you can land in, Aialik and Delight and Desire, and different places. DON CALLAWAY: Could you give us kind of a sense of your -- your seasonal guiding experience? I mean, where you'd start at, you know, and what you do throughout the year. DOUG MCRAE: Back when I first started, it was a long season. You would start early in the spring -- you know, the seasons fluctuated, but you'd start early in the spring with brown bear. Normally on the Alaska Peninsula. I hunted in several places there, and some on Kodiak. I hunted on Kodiak quite a bit. That -- that would be a spring season that lasted probably two months. And then in the fall you would start sheep hunting. And then some of the hunters were what they called multi species, they wanted all five animals, and so -- so you did a lot of moving to them. We hunted the Bering Glacier out of Yakutat, a couple places there. Just we did a lot of moving. The last guy -- the last guy that I guided with quite a bit had a couple -- couple nice airplanes, he had -- well, he actually had three. He had two Super Cubs and a Beaver on floats, so -- for hauling a lot of -- a lot of weight. DON CALLAWAY: And where would the clientele come from? All over the world? DOUG MCRAE: All over the world, yeah. I've had Congressmen out hunting. I've had the head of the Fish and Game from Alaska on a hunting trip. A couple different people in movies. That was -- that was -- that more -- actually more fun than the hunting is meeting these people.
DON CALLAWAY: Uh hum. DOUG MCRAE: I had -- oh, there's a book over there, the head of the Fish and Game from Iran hunting, Rashid Jamsheed. Yeah, they come from all over the world. And some -- some of them are working people. I kind of respected them in a way because the hunts were expensive. DON CALLAWAY: Right. Right. DOUG MCRAE: Today, they are expensive. Back then, there was -- I guess they were expensive back then, too, but the dollars are a lot different. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. No, no, I -- I do some work in Russia sometimes, and there were guides over there. Just -- I mean, just given what people make in Russia, they -- it's a ton of money. Ten, fifteen thou. DOUG MCRAE: Oh, yeah, yeah. There's a couple of guys from Seward here that went to Russia, too, and done guiding over there, but yeah, it was kind of a strange experience from flying them helicopters. DON CALLAWAY: Oh, yeah, the ME 8s. Yeah. I've done a lot of that. DOUG MCRAE: They were scared more than anything. I mean there was no warm up, they said they just jumped in and start them and they go. And they're shaking and rattling, yeah. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. Watching the rivets all the time.
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: So, did you always work in partnership with somebody? You didn't own your own business? DOUG MCRAE: No, I hunted by myself quite a bit because my license allowed me, but most -- mostly I hunted with friends of mine that had a lic -- guide licenses. KAREN BREWSTER: Did you have a business name? DOUG MCRAE: No. No. I think one of the books down there, I think you'll see it's Alaska Trophy Safaris. I hunted with Dennis Harms a lot. But yeah. Probably a dozen different guys. Just -- they did what I like to do. And you know, a lot of people are against hunting. I don't know why. Nobody's ever explained it very well to me. DON CALLAWAY: Yes. Well, if the vegetarians, I could -- I could see a position. DOUG MCRAE: You know, you took the words out of my mouth, but you know, our teeth weren't designed to -- they are designed to eat meat. That's been pointed -- pointed out to me a lot of times. My son is 46 years old, and for the first 10 or 12 years out of high school, he's never had a piece of meat in his deep freeze. He just would just road hunt. Now he's guiding, but, yeah. DON CALLAWAY: So would you outfit or would they bring most of their stuff with them? DOUG MCRAE: You know, it would totally depend on what we were doing. Like on the Alaska Peninsula, there's a little village called Ugashik, you've probably heard of it. We rented houses there. The house is not quite like this, they were fishing houses, but yeah, you know, and hunted out of there, flew out of there. Actually, when we first started going down there, you could fly and hunt the same day, and then they changed the law that you can't fly, which I like because there were just too many airplanes and it protected a lot of animals. So when they started that we would put what they call spike camps out, maybe a couple of tents. But sheep hunting was a different thing now. You had to be in extremely good shape, which I'm not anymore. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DOUG MCRAE: You carried only what you needed with you. And the -- and the client had to carry something, too.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DOUG MCRAE: And there's this one book over here, the guy from Iran, he'd never had a pack on in his life, but I said, you're not going hunting and you've got to carry your -- your share yourself. But that was -- you know, you took dried food and Mountain House, and be gone maybe for a week or 10 days. And then you come back with a load. So you've got to plan on that, too. If you're lucky, you come back with a load. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah, they are hard work. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. And I've had friends get hurt on hunting trips. RACHEL MASON: You mentioned that people wanted to get all five animals, there's like the big five. What are those? DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. It's moose and caribou, bear, and goat and sheep. But then, you know, there's other -- there's different color phases of bear, black bear, but it's -- it's the five that I mentioned there. DON CALLAWAY: And would people find you mainly through word of mouth or through connections? DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. You know, after you've done it for a few years and you're halfway successful, then you had a lot of return client -- clients. KAREN BREWSTER: So people would come back to you year after year? DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. Yeah, year after year. I can think of some I've taken out six or seven times. KAREN BREWSTER: Did you advertise originally? DOUG MCRAE: No, I never advertised. Whoever I was working with -- a registered guide. That's the part of it I liked, he did all the paperwork. And a lot of the registered guides weren't -- they didn't get to participate too much in the hunting part. I did. I did. KAREN BREWSTER: They did the business side. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, they would meet them at the airport and fly them out there. Almost all of them were pilots, they didn't -- they actually didn't have time to do much guiding. DON CALLAWAY: Oh. How did you build up -- because the clientele likes people that allows them to be successful, and that requires a lot of on the ground experience on your part. DOUG MCRAE: You know, it totally depends on the weather. The weather can make or break a hunt, and then they dislike you if you have bad weather. I mean, I'm -- you know, I'm exaggerating a little bit, but if you have, you know, a good hunt and they are happy, then hunting is only a small part of it. I mean, if they enjoy it, the weather, and you can enjoy it even in bad weather, if you're -- if you're dressed for it and you know what to do to get away from it. DON CALLAWAY: So -- and you just picked up the body of knowledge of, you know, where the animals would be at what time and so forth? DOUG MCRAE: Exactly, yeah.
DON CALLAWAY: Through experience. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. I did. Like I said, I started at a very young age, probably too young, according to mom. But I just -- I liked it and I eventually made a pretty good living at it, until the parks come along. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. Well -- well, let's talk about -- this started right after you got out of high school; that is, your guiding. DOUG MCRAE: In '62, yeah. DON CALLAWAY: '62. How about your family, you know, when you got married, and things like that? How did -- how did that develop? DOUG MCRAE: I got married a couple years out of high school, actually just -- just almost at the earthquake time, a few months before the earthquake, because I spent 13 hours floating on the roof of my house, and my son was 27 days old. RACHEL MASON: Whoa. DOUG MCRAE: And we had a bad, bad experience. My family, entire family was on there, my mom and dad, my brother and sister, my wife -- my first wife. I've been married twice. Yeah, we had a -- it was a huge wave. I mean, it was a 40 foot wave, and we're on a 35 foot tall house and it rolled right over the top of us. And then took us loose. So that -- that was a -- that was a -- DON CALLAWAY: Tell us about what happened. You were on the roof of your house for -- DOUG MCRAE: 13 hours floating -- floating. We eventually got trapped in some trees, jammed in some trees. And they've made a dozen videos on it, ABC and everybody. But we were lucky to come out of it alive. A lot of people didn't that night. But it was -- you know, it happened so fast to us -- I wasn't scared for a couple weeks, or maybe even thinking on it today, if everything happened perfect, if we'd been 5 seconds later getting out there, we never would have got on the roof, we would have got caught in the car. We were driving across the head of the bay. But that -- that was wild. DON CALLAWAY: And did you hear it or you felt the quake --
DOUG MCRAE: Oh.
DON CALLAWAY: -- and then you knew the tsunami was coming? DOUG MCRAE: It shook so hard you couldn't stand up. It was a 9.2. And yeah, you couldn't stand. I was a block from my house, I tried to run, you couldn't run. The ground was heaving just like it was water, but the ground was frozen. RACHEL MASON: Where was your house? DOUG MCRAE: Well, I lived in Seward, in probably the safest place, but my first wife's parents lived out what we call the head of the bay. And we were worried about them. And we took -- her dad was a volunteer fireman, and instantly Seward was all afire. I mean, the entire Seventh Avenue there -- Standard Oil had some fuel tanks that had close to a million gallons of fuel or more in them; and they -- they not only ruptured but they ignited instantly. And then the first tidal wave swept that fuel about a quarter mile down into Texaco, and that hadn't ignited but they had ruptured. And it ignited that so it looked like all of Seward was gone. And dad was a volunteer fireman, so he run the -- run the family out there real quick, thinking we'll come back and fight the fire, but nobody could fight that fire. But that was our intentions. And we got -- we got out there and dropped them off and just started to leave and we heard somebody hollering at us, and they were an elderly couple. If they hadn't hollered at us, we wouldn't be here today. They were in the boom of a crane. Bob and Blanche Clark. And they said, there's a tidal wave coming. And you could hear this eerie noise, loud, loud noise, kept getting louder and louder. And we barely -- we just barely got back and got out of the house. Right around back, there was a 500 gallon fuel barrel with steps going up, and we got on top of the oil barrel and jumped from there onto the flattop garage that wasn't connected to the house. And the noise was -- it's hard to describe, almost like a jet was trying to land on top of you, a big one. And the noise was -- you knew something bad was going to happen. But we -- but we couldn't see the water from there, there was a stand of spruce trees. And it was louder, and dad said, well, this -- I don't think we're high enough. The house -- the house had a pitched roof, we were on a flattop roof, so we were able to jump onto the oil barrel again, helping women get up there with -- with my son, just 27 days old. And luckily it wasn't a tin roof. If it had been a tin roof, we couldn't have gotten up there. But it had asphalt shakes and we were able to crawl right up there. And we -- dad didn't even get set down and we -- that's when he first saw the tidal wave, it was cutting through mature spruce trees, big, big spruce trees. DON CALLAWAY: Knocking them over. DOUG MCRAE: No. Luckily they were froze in or we wouldn't have made it if it was knocking them over. But there was a house directly across the street from us, maybe 200 feet away, and it hit it and it was gone. There was nothing -- not even a piece of it hardly left. And before we could get set down, it hit us and we got real wet. I don't know -- I don't know what we all were -- straddling the roof like riding a horse and holding on to everybody. We got wet and it tore it loose, and then we took a wild ride. We were bouncing off trees, and trying to keep from getting swept off the roof by limbs and power lines. DON CALLAWAY: Oh, yeah. DOUG MCRAE: We went back maybe 5 or 600 feet and eventually got wedged between a bunch of trees. We got wedged in fairly high, and then the water went out from under, there was 8 or 10 waves that night. And the floor was about, oh, gosh, 6 or 8 feet off the ground and it was kind of pinched in. It broke both ends of the house off while we were hitting the -- broke the dining room off and the bedrooms off, and we were kept scooting and scooting, and every time we hit a tree, it got smaller and finally we got stuck. But it was a wild, wild night. RACHEL MASON: Boy, your son got a crazy start in life. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, he -- you know, he -- he didn't know what happened. I mean, he was wrapped up all night. And eventually we -- it snowed so hard on us, we were wet and cold, and dressed about like you are right now. We had a light jacket, if anything, on. And I found an axe, I was young and in good shape, and went down and I found a double bit axe and I cut a hole in the roof. And so we could get out of the weather and got into the attic. And that fiberglass, I don't know if you remember the fiberglass insulation, you stapled it up. And I pulled a bunch of it off and we wrapped up in it. Oh, God. At the time it was a -- I thought it was a good idea, but boy, the next day. DON CALLAWAY: You were itchy. DOUG MCRAE: Oh, scratching. We were all bright red. And yeah, that was -- it was -- that was an experience. DON CALLAWAY: So it was yourself, your wife, your son, your mom, and your dad?
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. DON CALLAWAY: All on the roof. DOUG MCRAE: All on the roof. Yeah. And actually, the couple -- later on in the night we heard somebody hollering. It was this Bob and Blanche Clark. They were in their mid-seventies, probably then. They tried to walk out, and Bob happened to look back at his wife Blanche, and she was crawling, kind of swimming because the 2 or 3 feet of snow had turned to slush. And they were trying to get to the highway about a mile away, and he finally -- he just -- God, he felt bad. She was on her hands and knees trying to crawl through that -- cold and -- and so we heard them hollering. And they come over to us, and like I said, I was young, I jumped down, and I got a fire going fairly easy, started breaking pieces of the house, a 1 by 6 or whatever it was and get a fire going. And Bob helped me. And I got his wife up in the attic, and we no more than get a fire going and here come another tidal wave and put it out. That one, I think nine times. I think Bob -- Bob had wrote an article in a magazine about it, Nine Waves Until Our Fire's Out. And right at midnight, or about 11:30, the biggest wave come in, but it come in just -- not like a tidal wave, the first one was just crowning. This one come in real fast like a river, but it kept coming up and up. And the only daylight we had then, it was dark, was the fire in Seward, we got a little bit of light from that. And all of a sudden here's this -- the house was stuck before; it used to lift up, now it's not moving. And water come up on edge of the roof and it kept coming and coming and coming and coming, right up to our feet. Well, we couldn't get -- keep our feet out of the water. And I tried to talk my wife into -- there's spruce limbs there, big spruce tree with big limbs. And I said, I'll set you up on some limbs with the baby. She wouldn't do it. About that time the water stopped and started -- started going back down, but that was a phew -- we got all that -- you know, you got your mom and dad there and they were fairly old then. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DOUG MCRAE: There wasn't a whole lot we could have done there as far as -- nobody -- maybe two or three of us could have got up the tree, but not the rest of them. And not that older couple, too, Bob and Blanche. But anyway, thank God the water went out. DON CALLAWAY: And then people came and -- or did you walk out? DOUG MCRAE: No, they -- they didn't come because the next morning, this Bob and I, we had to walk about a half a mile, and we could see down the main airstrip. It's a mile long, and I could see dozens of cars down there, all pointed out of town. And I started to wave my arms and I waved my arms and nobody come. And Seward's still burning; I mean, it looks like chaos. And nobody come. So finally I walked down there and there's probably 200 cars all parked heading out of town with nobody in any of the cars. And I walked down -- about the time I found a car and I took it, it had keys in it, a guy that I remember named Bill Punch just come along, and what happened, the three bridges you drove over, over here coming into town, they raised -- popped up about 6 feet and stayed there. And nobody could get out of town. They were there, that way for a long, long time. So... DON CALLAWAY: So how did you eventually get enough shelter and food and so forth for your family? DOUG MCRAE: You know, it was -- for a month or two I don't think I slept in the same place twice. Even though my house wasn't damaged. I was renting. I think it was liveable, but I never got to go back to my parents' house. Eventually, we found a house there, but we -- it was -- it was bad because there was no septics and no water. DON CALLAWAY: Oh, yeah. DOUG MCRAE: And there was probably an inch of soot, black soot on the snow. So it was a messy deal, you know. DON CALLAWAY: From the fire burning. DOUG MCRAE: From the fire, from the oil burning there. Yeah. They actually had a train in there, too, that was just loaded with fuel, and it was -- everything was burning on Seventh Avenue. It was... RACHEL MASON: Were there supplies, like food, enough to -- DOUG MCRAE: No, there wasn't. It was eventually --
RACHEL MASON: Or diapers? DOUG MCRAE: No. It was chaos for quite awhile there. They declared marshal law, there was National Guard here. All the windows were broke out of the stores, and eventually, they started -- you know, Seward, the only way they could get here was via boat or -- but there's no docks, they would -- they flew most of the stuff in for quite awhile. DON CALLAWAY: So how did you personally recover from -- from this? DOUG MCRAE: You know, actually, everybody in town here, we started a cleanup, but you had to do it by hand because there was a dozen people missing, did a body search. And so they wouldn't allow equipment, and that led to a couple years of work. Every bridge between Anchorage and Seward was destroyed other than the Canyon Creek bridge, so there was a lot of construction work because of it. But Seward's never recovered from it. There was 400 registered longshoremen here then, and I think now there's a dozen or so, it turns -- like I said, it turned into a kind of a tourist town, cruise ships and DON CALLAWAY: So -- so in your early adult life, you helped rebuild the city. Did you move back into -- to the place you were renting with your family? DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, I did. We had a house what I called the older house. My folks eventually moved to Kenai, and I took that house, and then built this one here about 20 years ago, I guess. DON CALLAWAY: And you did construction for a couple years then, and then you -- DOUG MCRAE: I was -- I was actually in the laborers union and did enough of that that I was able to come and go. I kept hunting, I never stopped hunting. And then I worked, I got in the union here in Seward on the dock once they rebuilt the dock after that. And I got a retirement from that, but I still -- you could come and go as you please, so I continued hunting. DON CALLAWAY: And guiding at the same time?
DOUG MCRAE: And guiding, yeah. Yeah.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah.
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Did you do any of the construction work on Exit Glacier Road?
DOUG MCRAE: No, I didn't. No. KAREN BREWSTER: I wondered if you were involved in that. DOUG MCRAE: No, I didn't get involved in that. I don't know if that was a -- I was in the union. I don't know if that was union or not. A good friend of mine's dad did it. Herman Leirer, did most of it. He was kind of the brain behind it. And you know, they tried -- I think Duane probably told you, they tried twice, they started on this side, on the left side of the river, and that didn't work, and they ended up on the right site of the river. I'm surprised the right side -- they didn't have a lot of trouble with that. RACHEL MASON: Do you remember those discussions about when it was first proposed or how that -- how that went? DOUG MCRAE: No, I really don't. His son, Steve Leirer, is a good friend of mine. I probably would have raised heck about it because I use the park a lot. What happens to me, when they close -- lock up that much land as Carter did, the people that were using it then were -- whether they were miners or -- and there was a lot of them, you get forced out into other areas. I ended up going to a place called Poach Lake after the park shut us down. It puts tremendous pressure on the areas that are still open to hunting because you're never going to stop hunters. I mean, there's -- it's more and more popular all the time. And the -- the St. Elias where we hunted right on the Canadian border out of Chitina, that was the best sheep hunting, dall sheep hunting in the world, it still is. So we left there and we went to an area that didn't -- with a bunch of other guides and resident hunters, and it put -- to me, it put -- and I've been on the advise -- hunting and Fish and Game advisory boards for years, it put so much pressure on areas that don't -- can't really take that kind of pressure. Because there's more and more people here.
It's just -- I grew -- I grew up here in Seward. One time, a guy -- in the early '50s, we had a cabin at Summit Lake there, at Mile 47, with a cabin on the small lake. And the guy dropped us off at the Y, and it was, oh, in '56 or '57. We walked 9 miles to our cabin, and no cars come by. Now today you'd get run over. It was all gravel roads. The road -- you know, the road to Anchorage had only been open a couple years. That got open in '53 to come down here. DON CALLAWAY: Well, some people assert that the Park Act is a kind of a ground where the animals multiply, and then they move out and resupply some of these areas. DOUG MCRAE: Well, no. I totally agree. I'm not against parks. I -- I think -- I want to call it McKinley Park -- Denali Park is probably the best thing going. I don't agree with the buffer zones around it. To me the park is a buffer zone. And I collect old Alaskan books. You know, they used to hunt wolves in the park; the park rangers, they -- they shot wolves. Jay Hammond shot wolves in the park. So there's a history. I mean, they are totally against it now, but here it's the exact opposite. This park here harbors brown bear, and we have a major problem with brown bear right now. Our -- our moose population is down to nothing here. DON CALLAWAY: Because of predation? DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, there's no doubt about it. It was common as you drive from, say, Moose Pass. You come through Moose Pass coming down here? It was uncommon if you didn't see 50 or 60 moose this time of year. Now it's -- if you see one or two, you're doing good. And no calves. And growing up here, I was out from the time I was 8 or 10 years old trapping. It was a rare, rare thing to even see a brown bear track. And I remember the first one I saw. Now it's -- I can probably take you out in falltime and show you a brown bear before I'd find you a moose. They are just -- we have a fish weir out here at Mile 7. Two years ago -- I don't know why they didn't come back last year, there was 12 -- 12 brown bear in that weir at once. They'd never been heard of before, not even a single one. So yeah, it's really, really been tough on our moose. DON CALLAWAY: And some brown bear specialize on knocking off moose calves. DOUG MCRAE: Oh, I know, they are expert at it. And they get -- moose over the years have learned to swim to islands, on little islands on rivers or just so they leave no scent with the brown bear. And the brown bear, and with the brown bear not only does he get the calf, but he gets the cow. Black bear normally just get the calf. They -- they are bad on -- they radio collared over the years a lot of calves around -- and what's taking them. Wolves or bear, but it's mostly bear. RACHEL MASON: Is there any bear hunting outside the park, but -- DOUG MCRAE: You know, just strange you ask that. The permits just come out yesterday.
RACHEL MASON: Oh, really? DOUG MCRAE: And I applied, I didn't get one. They are fairly hard permits to get.
RACHEL MASON: For brown bear? DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. Yeah. I've got -- well, I've got some pictures of it, a friend of mine that's been helping me out on this energy audit got a real nice brown bear out at the Y last fall, but he was one of the only ones. You know. DON CALLAWAY: So -- so after -- oh, go ahead.
KAREN BREWSTER: No, go ahead. DON CALLAWAY: So after a couple years in construction and working, labor unions, and longshoring and so forth, and guiding all the time, what -- what was your son's name? DOUG MCRAE: Doug, Jr.
DON CALLAWAY: Oh, Doug, Jr.
DOUG MCRAE: Uh hum. DON CALLAWAY: Okay. Then -- then what happened? I guess you got divorced somewhere along the line and got remarried? DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. I was married the first time for -- I think for five years or six years. Then I've been married to my wife Diane now for forever. Almost 40 years. DON CALLAWAY: Do you have any other children? DOUG MCRAE: No, just the one boy. He's working in the bay right now. If you saw the boats out there, there's an oil spill drill going on here right now. It's an annual -- annual event. He's out there right now. DON CALLAWAY: So -- so that's been your whole life here? Pretty much? DOUG MCRAE: Pretty much, yeah. We've tried to leave a few times, thinking about buying property in the Lower 48, but man it's -- we were down there for a couple weeks and we come right back home. RACHEL MASON: Is your wife from around here, too? DOUG MCRAE: She was born here in Seward. She's a Native gal and she was born right here in Seward. She grew up in the Alaska Peninsula.
RACHEL MASON: Oh, okay. KAREN BREWSTER: So, I'm wondering about the Exit Glacier Road and the Resurrection River Valley. Well, when you were a kid, did you go out there and use that area, you know, before there was even a road? DOUG MCRAE: Oh, yeah. Yeah. The first time I ever -- I flew to Russian Lake one time in late September, before there was a road, before the park, and I was hunting, I guess, yeah, brown bear. Turned out to be not a bad experience, but a learning experience. I landed at Russian Lake and took off with a friend, walking this way. And I had known from flying over it a lot that it's pretty brushy. The creeks are one of them kind of creeks, but we couldn't keep out of the brush so we ended up on the upper part in the river. We were just wading up to the top of our boots. And it was tough, tough, tough going, but we were young and dumb. And we got -- got down to, oh, a mile or two above Placer and Boulder Creek and it starts snowing hard. It was, like, late September, one of them early, wet, heavy snows, but it come up to our knees before -- before we got -- and we found that cabin that's gone now. I knew it was there. And we got into that, and the next day, it kept snowing, I think, and we were -- we were going to spend a week doing this. DON CALLAWAY: But you were up on the ice field on Harding ? DOUG MCRAE: No, no, we were down in the creek bed in the Resurrection River. KAREN BREWSTER: It's down here. This is the Resurrection River. DOUG MCRAE: Where did I mark on the map the cabin -- the cabin?
KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, it's on this map. DON CALLAWAY: Oh, yeah, I guess we better transfer that over.
KAREN BREWSTER: We have to put it on this map.
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Up here, Placer Creek. Where's Placer Creek on this map?
DOUG MCRAE: Right here.
KAREN BREWSTER: No, on this map. DOUG MCRAE: Oh, on this one. Where are we at here? Where's the park?
KAREN BREWSTER: There's Summit. Moose Creek. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, it's right on the edge of your park, Placer Creek.
KAREN BREWSTER: That's the park boundary. DOUG MCRAE: Okay. Well, Placer Creek is down --
KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, there's Placer Creek right there. DOUG MCRAE: I don't know why -- There's Boulder Creek, too. Okay. We -- we actually got right into -- right into here, and it was just snowing bad, bad. I mean, from here to there, it got to be like a foot and a half of snow. And I knew that cabin was there; in fact, it's marked right there. DON CALLAWAY: Could you just circle it for us?
DOUG MCRAE: The cabin?
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah.
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. The cabin was in pretty good shape then other than some porcupines had been in there. This is in maybe 1966 or so. It was -- it was a really -- whoever built it, and I think I know who might have built it, a relative, anyway, of a friend. It was in really, really good shape. I mean, whoever it was, he was a -- he was a craftsman. And then the Park Service restored it and apparently it's gone now. It's in a floodplain. But anyway, we -- what we were doing was -- I was asked to do, a friend of mine was the Fish and Game biologist at the time, Ted McHenry, we were actually partners in a mining claim. And I was interested in this, and -- but he asked me to count the fish. They had a big run, but they'd never really ever walked the river looking for salmon. He said just, you know, carcasses, live fish, whatever. And they -- they had -- at that time they thought most of the fish went up to what they call Bear Creek, but most of the fish are up here. So that's when we planned on spending maybe a week looking at the fish, and we were looking for a bear, too, a particular bear. We got snowed out. And right in here is that T-craft strip, we left our packs right there, and just headed to Seward as fast as we could get -- go. It was tough going. The easiest -- RACHEL MASON: -- Can you mark where you left your packs there? DOUG MCRAE: No, we didn't leave them at the cabin. We -- we probably should have. I don't see the T-craft strip. It's right -- right in here, I marked it on this map here. Yeah, it's right -- right opposite the Forest Service cabin that's stranded there. But the last time I landed there, the river was washing it away, so it's gone. The frame of the airplane might still be there. The plane, I think, was wrecked in the '50s or even maybe even in the '40s. KAREN BREWSTER: Right here, Don, that's the T-craft.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DOUG MCRAE: One thing that you might be interested in, though, I don't know -- right in here, I don't know if you're looking for old historic type cabins, this one might still be standing. This is a big meadow right here. Right -- we were landing one day here to look at something, landed in this meadow, and I happened to look under the wing, and right in here was a cabin I had never heard of before. RACHEL MASON: That's cool. DOUG MCRAE: And the reason it was still standing was built under them, you know how them big limbs under the big spruce trees, it had a tin roof on it. But you had -- it had like a 4 foot door, you had to stoop down to go into it. And this was probably in the '60s or '70s or so. DON CALLAWAY: A trapping cabin or -- DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, a cabin. And I think it was like a trapping cabin. It was small, maybe 10 by 10, but well built. And right up here as you cross -- have you ever heard about the -- okay. Here's the river here. Right in here, the Forest Service was worried about this -- this river here, or this one here. Which one. This one here. Running into -- the glacial water running into Russian Lake, which is crystal clear and clear, but Resurrection River is coming this way, so at the very headwaters of the Resurrection River, to this day there's a Cat sitting there. DON CALLAWAY: Oh, really?
DOUG MCRAE: From back in the '40s. They --
RACHEL MASON: Really? DOUG MCRAE: -- they built a dike there, but not too far from that cabin. Just by accident, we landed here and started walking, and we bumped into this Cat covered with an old ratty tarp. It's probably a new Cat. But they diverted that river from running in -- built a dike there from running into Russian Lake, but right in here somewhere's is another old cabin. This one was tumbled down, but there was some interesting things laying around there. So there's actually two more cabins up there. KAREN BREWSTER: Do you know anybody who worked on that? DON CALLAWAY: Where was the other cabin? DOUG MCRAE: Right here. Right -- right opposite, on the opposite side, there's the -- what -- this is a big, huge meadow right here.
DON CALLAWAY: Okay. DOUG MCRAE: And you can land in it. You see the contour lines is pretty flat.
DON CALLAWAY: Right. Right. DOUG MCRAE: And you land right beside the river, and just -- we just -- as we touched down there, I can see under the wings, so we went over to the cabin. There was nothing in it but it was still up and solid. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I was wondering, that project where they diverted the river with that Cat, that was Fish and Wildlife Service. DOUG MCRAE: Is that who did that? KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. That's what I've read.
DOUG MCRAE: Oh, okay. KAREN BREWSTER: I was wondering if you knew anybody in town who worked on it? DOUG MCRAE: No, I don't. I -- all my life I knew the cabin was there -- I mean, the Cat was there.
KAREN BREWSTER: The Cat. DOUG MCRAE: And I just bumped into it. I wasn't looking for it, I just bumped into it accidently. There were a few people in there looking for it and couldn't find it. It's right on the edge of some trees there and it's still sitting there today. KAREN BREWSTER: Do you know how they got it up there? DOUG MCRAE: No, I didn't, but I assumed they did it in the wintertime, when the ground was solid. I -- I would think they might have brought it from the Cooper's Landing way.
KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. RACHEL MASON: And then just couldn't get it out or -- DOUG MCRAE: Cats are -- my wife's uncle live here, too, Mack and Bob Eads, they are experts at fixing up stuff, and they said that they could probably get that Cat going in a couple hours. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. They are amazing pieces of equipment. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, he said there'd be no problem getting it running because the history of it, you know, the government thing, it's probably a brand new Cat that they walked in there, and it's been setting there since, I don't know, the early '40s. KAREN BREWSTER: Well, whatever they did, it worked, right? DOUG MCRAE: It did, yeah. So far, it's all -- they've never had a problem. But they were worried about it enough that that glacial water, they didn't want it in Russian Lake. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. Because it would affect the fish.
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Now, what about mining up there? You were talking about that you had an interest in mining. DOUG MCRAE: Well, yeah. I've always played around mining. Just -- just as a hobby. But Placer Creek, that's how it got its name. Somebody back in the late '30s or early '40s spent a lot of time. I mean, they -- they -- there's probably a 30 foot or 40 foot waterfall just above the cabin there on Placer Creek, and right along on the right side of it looking up the river, they've got, like, a 3 or 4 foot hole bored right through there. Perfect. And they were trying to divert in the springtime, I would assume, divert most of the water through there so they could get under that waterfall. But I -- I mine a little bit. That waterfall is probably the poorest place to look for gold. It's kind of like a grinding mill. You know, gold is soft. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah, it can -- and it will all go downriver. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. In fact, here. I'll show you a quick -- I've got something here for you. There's still a lot of gold on the Kenai, here. This is maybe 15 years ago. Right beside the Seward Highway here. That's myself and a friend, but that's -- that's 40 ounces of gold. DON CALLAWAY: Wow.
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah.
RACHEL MASON: Let's see.
KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. DOUG MCRAE: That's -- that's what bothers me about all these parks being closed. With the unemployment right now, anybody with a pick and shovel could go out and almost make good wages. The old timers -- the way I -- I dove in the wintertime, this time of year when the water's really low. The old timers, they located the gold a long time ago, but historically, they would always try to force the creek out of its banks. In these certain canyon places they couldn't do it. So you knew the gold was there. I knew it was there. DON CALLAWAY: How long did it take you to get the 40 ounces? DOUG MCRAE: That was about three days. We got 92 ounces out of that one -- one crack we were following. DON CALLAWAY: 92 ounces. DOUG MCRAE: In about six weeks. Yeah, it's a thousand dollars an ounce right now.
DON CALLAWAY: Right. Yeah. DOUG MCRAE: Close to 1200. It bothers me because, I mean, like I said, the unemployment is like the highest in my lifetime. There's all kinds of people could be out there doing it. And they are. KAREN BREWSTER: Are you -- you were just panning it? DOUG MCRAE: No, I was diving. I had a dredge, you can see the, you know, motor here. It's a real small creek. Not small in the summertime, but in the wintertime, it's just barely over your knees, and not -- in the summertime it's wild. So -- and also in the wintertime the water's crystal clear. Summertime it's murky. In the wintertime, the water is maybe 34 degrees. In the summertime, it's maybe 35 or 30, so it doesn't fluctuate much. It's just cold in the summertime, too, if you -- DON CALLAWAY: So how would you get it out? You'd dive and then you'd -- DOUG MCRAE: It's like a vacuum. I've got some other pictures. The water's taken in here and then it's blown out through this box that circulates water, and it's got a set of riffles maybe 6 feet long. DON CALLAWAY: Okay. So it precipitates the gold out of there?
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. Yeah. DON CALLAWAY: That's cold work, though. DOUG MCRAE: Well, no, I had a --
DON CALLAWAY: Wet suit? DOUG MCRAE: Well, a wet suit, but I have a hot water -- it pumps hot water through a manifold heater. It pumps the warmest -- you can have hot water, whatever temperature you wanted. So you could be -- I've been out there 10, 15 below under the ice. It was -- it was something exciting. And plus, you don't leave a footprint. I mean, each day we -- when we quit, you know, you turn rocks over, and you them over and turn them over, and keep working up the creek. You always work up the creek. You can't tell when you look behind you, it looks just like where you started. I wouldn't want to come behind us, the next guy that tried it, because there was nothing there.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DOUG MCRAE: But we would, you know, turn every rock over from bank to bank. But I know on the St. Elias, man, there's some rich, rich ground up there. Now it's all locked up. And copper, and I got some ore out there from up there. But that part hurts me to see that locked up with all the unemployment and big as Alaska is, but... DON CALLAWAY: Well, talk to us about the park and -- and the D-2, and what happened, and your reactions and so forth. DOUG MCRAE: Well, you mean when they shut us down?
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DOUG MCRAE: Well, there's not a big story, but I didn't -- I think probably one of the unfortunate things, it happened so fast, it -- I was working with a guy, I think -- I'm not even sure who I was working for then. You book hunts in advance. If you had, you know, a fairly good reputation, you'd book sometimes four and five years in advance. Then all of a sudden we don't have any area to hunt. And then you scramble. And that's -- we were in a very good area and we ended up in just a kind of an average area. And eventually, I just gave it up. We ended up in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Lots of sheep, but they were much smaller. There was, you know, it's a harsh, harsh environment up there. And -- but I don't know how long I even last -- stayed with it after -- after we left the St. Elias. DON CALLAWAY: And that was in the '80s, early '80s? DOUG MCRAE: I don't remember when that -- that Antiquities Act was passed. KAREN BREWSTER: Well, ANILCA was '80.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: So... DOUG MCRAE: I hunted -- hunted a lot up there in the early '70s, I know. Some -- but we hunted to the last, I mean, to the last day, actually. And another, to me, an unfortunate thing is that people are still hunting in there, but it's under a false pretenses for subsistence. They are shooting these record book rams, and -- But it's about a 25 mile walk. They can't use machinery in there. You could eat -- DON CALLAWAY: I've interviewed some of them. DOUG MCRAE: Well, you could eat two sheep before you come out of there, if you were being legal; you would never go 25 miles on foot to get a sheep. Because you -- a moose, maybe, but not 25 miles. A sheep, there's only -- DON CALLAWAY: It -- it -- they've described it to me in some detail, when they go back into the -- and it's a ton of work. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. I spent half my life up there. It's a ton of work when you fly in there.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. And you can't fly in there.
DON CALLAWAY: No. DOUG MCRAE: No. It's -- they -- they go up the river with the riverboat, but they have got to park in a certain place and walk from there, and if I remember right, it's about 25 miles walking. DON CALLAWAY: Right. Yeah. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. I -- I wouldn't mind -- I guess what I'm trying to say is I would -- there shouldn't be subsistence hunting. Let them hunt moose or caribou, but not them sheep. DON CALLAWAY: Well, you know, the indigenous groups would hunt sheep on a seasonal round. They don't hunt -- I mean, if they -- they are out on the land, near enough to it where they could get them, but they don't go out specially to get them anymore because it's just too much work. DOUG MCRAE: Oh, it's brutal. I've got pictures of me with sheep. I mean, I would -- many a hunts I've been on I wish I wasn't where I was at, I was just happy to get off the mountain in one piece. So, I mean, for -- it was a tough way to make a fun living. I enjoyed doing it, but I got in binds quite a few times where I wish -- like I said, I wish I hadn't been there or wasn't doing what I was doing. But the subsistence part of it, that's -- that's one thing I never have understood, how they allow that to happen. DON CALLAWAY: Well, we can talk about that when we -- DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, it's an -- it's -- because it's not subsistence. Like I said, you'd eat that much just trying to get in and out of there. KAREN BREWSTER: I want to get us back to here.
DOUG MCRAE: Okay. KAREN BREWSTER: And before the Exit Glacier Road was put in, how that area -- did people go up to Exit Glacier and that part of the valley? Was it used? DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, I was there a lot, but there was just mainly -- mainly because of airplanes. A friend of mine, he had a little J3, a 90 horse J3, and we trapped up there a lot. KAREN BREWSTER: And you would land at the Taylorcraft strip? DOUG MCRAE: Well, in the wintertime you could land pretty much -- you know, especially this time of year, you could land almost anywhere, you know, where there was enough room, the snow conditions get right. Even on the strips, they call them strips, in the wintertime, they don't exist. They are gone. There -- there was a handful of people that went up there. There was an old timer named John Elgin on the lower end here, he -- he was in his -- he was kind of an amateur photographer. He had a -- one of them 16 millimeter Bolex cameras. He packed that. He just liked to take wildlife pictures. And he was at the lower end. Just about a mile up on the Forest Service trail, I'd found remnants of where he camped up in there. I flew over him a couple times and he would step out and wave. But -- and there was a few other guys but it wasn't -- because of the access, it was tough. Especially in the Seward weather because that wind could blow down there 40, 50 miles an hour. It could be 10 above zero, but boy, you've got a chill factor, and pretty much that was -- it blows a lot up there. So there wasn't a lot of -- tremendous amount of activity up there. There -- there was, probably before me, though. Because I found these old cabins, and they were old when I found them, when I walked down -- I walked up there twice, once from this end up and back, and then the third time I flew in there. But, there was activity, I think. Back then before the road and railroad, they went through there, probably to Kenai. There was some old, old, old, really old sign when I was there in the late '50s and early '60s of people going through there, so... KAREN BREWSTER: Do you think they were miners and trappers, or -- DOUG MCRAE: I think they are -- well -- that's the same person. You know, there was 1500 people mining here on the Kenai Peninsula, especially here around the Hope area to Summit Lake. In that area. There was 1500 miners, but them miners, when it started snowing, they were trappers then. I meant the same people. It's the same people. Because I have a lot of books here on the history of the Kenai, and they were both. I mean, a few of them left, but none of them really made any money trapping or mining, really. Kenai was not -- a few made a few dollars. They might have made wages, I guess. RACHEL MASON: Well, in the years since you started trapping and hunting around here and mining, what are some of the big changes you've noticed in either the ice field, the glacier, there -- in the terrain? DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. There are changes. Yeah. I -- you know, I believe there's global warming, but I don't think we caused it. Because I -- I find a lot of fossils like mastodon tusks and stuff. It was real warm here at one time. Petrified wood of big trees. But one of my first experiences was right here in Seward. We were flying in Paradise Valley. Landed up high on a glacier called Wolverine Glacier. To this day there's an A frame there, but they were just building it and they were studying -- studying that glacier. [coughs] Excuse me. What it was doing, whether it was receding or -- they had a lath [these are three foot pieces of wood often used to build a pony wall and they had them flagged] all over out there out there and trying to figure out what was going on with Wolverine Glacier. And then I didn't think a whole lot about it, and then a few years later, when I first got married to my second wife Diane, we stopped at Portage Glacier and took a picture of each of us standing by the ice, and posed for it. That ice is gone. RACHEL MASON: Yeah. DOUG MCRAE: I mean, there's no sign of it. And I -- I was working for the Forest Service at the time. I was -- we built a fancy -- I think it was about a $80,000 outhouse there, and there was ice right -- right up in the parking lot. Now you can't even see it. And then -- and then Bear Glacier, I hunted with a few goat hunters out there. And Bear Glacier right out here, 18 miles or 20 miles, whatever it is. It was right up in your face, too. And now it's gone way, way back. So yeah, there is a lot of changes with the ice caps and stuff going on here. DON CALLAWAY: How about when snow machines came, you know, into -- into Seward? Do you -- DOUG MCRAE: I remember the very first one I ever saw, and it was -- it would take a half ton pickup in order to -- a big truck to haul it. It was a Polaris, about 1960. It had a huge -- it must have weighed a thousand pounds. It did about 3 miles an hour. Kind of a guy there in the store, I still remember, named Jay Holmberg. He come to the store with the first show machine I'd ever -- ever seen. I've -- I've always been kind of anti snow machine. Eventually -- eventually, I bought one, but they were a lot of work to even want to run right. And that's kind of why I quit trapping, it had become so popular. I couldn't park here a couple days ago in the parking lot where I used to park a few years ago, the recreational people riding them. DON CALLAWAY: So you've noticed a great increase in recreational snow machining DOUG MCRAE: Oh, tremendous. Just unbelieveable.
DON CALLAWAY: -- at Exit Glacier? When did that start to really ramp up? DOUG MCRAE: I trapped there. I bought a snow machine. This friend of mine I keep talking about that I flew with a lot, he got killed in a plane wreck, so after he got killed, I bought a snow machine. And I trapped, oh, several years up in the park. It's a tough place to use a snow machine, for one.
But then -- then I started seeing a few snow machines. Not a lot. But then we have this military rec camp here, and they're big users of it today. And so I actually quit there, too. DON CALLAWAY: So -- so are we talking mid '60s here? DOUG MCRAE: Mid '60s is when I first seen them. No, no, this is recent. '92 was the last -- last year I trapped on the Kenai. I -- you were talking about snow machines. Where I first seen snow machines where I quit was Turnagain Pass. It was Johnson Pass, I get them mixed -- it was always -- always Johnson Pass to me. But where -- where it's divided right now where they snow machine on one side of the road and ski on the other side of the road. When I was up there in the early '60s when I first -- got my first car and was mobile, I had, I think, three traps set up there from -- from Bertha Creek down to Ingram Creek, wolverine traps. But the main thing there, you had to find a good tree because of the heavy snowfall. And I never caught a lot, but a lot is like two or three, and I would catch two or three every year.
But pretty soon the snow machiners, and it was a popular area, it still is today. I left, and right behind me the wolverine must have left. I left because of the people. And then over the years driving to Anchorage, I was always looking for tracks crossing the road. DON CALLAWAY: Oh, yeah. DOUG MCRAE: I was involved with a study with the Forest Service on wolverine,
Duane and Sanna Levan - Tape #ORAL HISTORY 2010-05-01-tp1
Duane and Sanna LeVan were interviewed on April 9, 2010 by Don Callaway, Rachel Mason, and Karen Brewster at their home in Seward, Alaska. Sanna was born in Seward in 1930, where her father ran the Seward Bakery. Duane LeVan was born in North Dakota and came to Seward in 1946, after being in the Navy, to visit his family who had previously moved to Seward so his father could work for the Alaska Railroad. Duane and Sanna were married in 1948. Duane worked as a longshoreman, and an equipment operator for the State of Alaska. The LeVans are outdoor enthusiasts who lead an active lifestyle, are avid birdwatchers, and keep daily records of weather conditions and bird sightings. In this interview, the LeVans talk about life in Seward and how it has changed, and the 1964 Earthquake. They talk about skiing, hiking, camping, boating, hunting, and snowmachining in the Exit Glacier area, construction of Herman Leirer Road to the glacier, community use of the area, and their thoughts on the establishment of Kenai Fjords National Park.
Part two of this interview.
Click to section:
Sanna's personal background and chidlhood
Duane's personal background and childhood
Duane and Sanna meeting and getting married
Duane's work on the waterfront
The 1964 Earthquake
Evacuating after the earthquake
Life after the earthquake
Sanna's work at family bakery and as housewife
Changes in Seward after the earthquake
Early experiences at Exit Glacier
Construction of Exit Glacier Road
Early use of the road and crossing Resurrection River by boat
Use of snowmachines
Hiking up Exit Glacier
Changes to Exit Glacier
Driving from Seward to Anchorage
The Levan's children
DON CALLAWAY: Let's start off. And what I'd like to do, since there are two of you here, is to ask you about your childhood and where you grew up; and if one of you one of you could tell me, then the other one follow on, and then we'll kind of gradually move through your life. DUANE LEVAN:: You better start with her because she's the oldest...of living in Seward. SANNA LEVAN: Okay. It's easy. My name is Sanna Gustava [Urie] LeVan, and I was born in Seward, Alaska. And I'm still here. And people come and people go, but I'm still here. And I love it. Let's see. I have to tell you something about my family because they all moved from Valdez and came to Seward in 1926. And my dad was with the old WAMCATS Telegraph Service with the Army. And he met my mom when he was stationed there in Valdez. So my grandmother, my grandpa, and my mom and dad and my brother and sister moved here. And in 1930. And before that, my brother, my other brother was born. And I was born in '30, that tells my age. And up until I -- I can remember -- I can't remember much, but up until I can remember, we lived on -- down on Third Avenue in a big, tall house. It seemed very big to me, but when I grew up and visited people, it was very small. Everything was big. And it isn't there anymore. But I had a real good childhood. My dad bought the Seward Bakery and my grandma and grampa took care of us at home. And we had a lot of fun in Seward. We children could run around and climb the mountain and go down to the beach, and had a lot of freedom, but there were people around watching us. If we did anything wrong, our folks heard about it, and it was very much taken care of. Then when I got into school, I went to the Seward Public School, just two or three blocks -- it's AVTEC [Alaska's Institute of Technology] on this avenue now. And we had to walk to school over the bridge where the flume used to come down where they had elec -- water electricity, came down to the bay. And so walking to school was like two step -- one step forward and two steps backwards. Either the wind was blowing or the streets were icy. And so then high school, the grade school was in the bottom of the building, the high school was in top, and I moved up to high school and I graduated from high school. And when I was 16, before I graduated, I met my husband. He came back from the war. 1946?
DUANE LEVAN: '46. SANNA LEVAN: Now your -- your childhood. DUANE LEVAN: Well, I was born in Valley City, North Dakota. Moved various places, mostly up on the Canadian Border, Northern Minnesota in my younger years. Then we eventually moved out West to Oregon, the southern part of Oregon. Then moved back to Minnesota again, and that was when the war started. And my dad had had a heart problem, but he was able to get back on the railroad, so he worked at the railroad going down into Duluth hauling iron ore at that time. And he'd always wanted to come back to Alaska -- come to Alaska; and in fact, when we were living in the woods up in Northern Minnesota, well, he applied for to come up to Matanuska. But he didn't qualify because he wasn't much of a farmer. So they wanted real farmers at that time up here. So anyway, then I went in the Navy and my folks come to Seward. And they moved here and stayed in Seward until, oh, 1950, and then they got a homestead. My dad was a World War I veteran, he had a homestead down at Moose River, what is now Sterling. And he had a homestead down there and he lived down there. Prior to that, though, he worked here on the Alaska Railroad. And then I was in the Navy in the meantime, and I spent, oh, a couple, three years in the Navy. I was down in the South Pacific and come back to Seward because my folks was living here, and that's why I migrated to Seward. And then I've been here ever since, like Sanna, we've -- except for vacations for a week or two at a time, we've never went anywhere. DON CALLAWAY: Since 1946?
DUANE LEVAN: Yes. DON CALLAWAY: So you met, Sanna was 16?
DUANE LEVAN: Uh hum. DON CALLAWAY: And you were out of the Navy, you'd mustered out of the Navy?
DUANE LEVAN: Out of the Navy. Yes, I got out of the Navy. SANNA LEVAN: A very handsome man, in a Navy uniform. DON CALLAWAY: Still handsome. DUANE LEVAN: Everybody come out, you know, was getting out, except for regular.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. My dad was in the Navy, too.
DUANE LEVAN: Mostly they wanted people out.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DUANE LEVAN: And something a little interesting the other day, our son called, and how you can look up something on Internet and things?
DON CALLAWAY: Sure. DUANE LEVAN: He got to looking at the Internet and he found -- and of all the crazy things, because these aren't important ships -- well, they were in a way, but they weren't. I was on a -- what they called a land -- LST or landing craft, they're 300 and some feet long. Anyway, he come up on the Internet with the ship I was on. Yeah. In the Philippines and down in New Guinea. Yeah. Kind of interesting. SANNA LEVAN: He's sending you pictures.
DUANE LEVAN: Yeah.
SANNA LEVAN: Thought he would have them today but he didn't. DUANE LEVAN: And then, of course, I worked on the waterfront here until the earthquake hit. And then I went to work for the Highway Department, I worked as a highway maintenance man, because I was operated -- well, I operated equipment on the dock, and I got on in the State, so I was very fortunate, I got to stay in Seward. Most of the guys at that time had to leave here because there was no work force. We had a couple hundred guys working at that time on the waterfront because there was all hand work. And that would go into your railroad sometime.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. A different conversation. SANNA LEVAN: Yeah. So of a interest, we had a place here in Seward, it was Sylvia's Fountain, and it was where everybody went after school for treats and stuff. And that's where I met Duane. And the lady that worked there introduced us.
DUANE LEVAN: Yeah. SANNA LEVAN: Yeah. It took off from there. DON CALLAWAY: When -- when did you get married?
SANNA LEVAN: Jeepers. We got married --
DUANE LEVAN: 1948. SANNA LEVAN: -- in 1948. Yep. And -- and I could only get married, my dad said, if I would finish high school, and I only had a couple of -- couple of courses to take. And then everybody -- everybody knew about it but we eloped. But the teachers didn't know. DUANE LEVAN: In those days there was only two ways out of Seward.
SANNA LEVAN: You had to fly.
DUANE LEVAN: You either went by train to Anchorage or you flew. And there was a guy, Chris Christiansen, he was an old time pilot, used to have a bi wing, a two wing Waco, a radial engine. Yeah. That's going way back. DON CALLAWAY: The old Wenkel engine.
DUANE LEVAN: Huh?
DON CALLAWAY: Wenkel engine?
DUANE LEVAN: Yeah.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DUANE LEVAN: Flew to Anchorage. But that was the only way to get there except the train, of course. SANNA LEVAN: And then it was interesting also, when we got to Anchorage, we ended up late for the wedding because my sister got the wrong time. She lived in Anchorage. And then when we were at the Westward Hotel having dinner, why, there were all my teachers across the room and they were just, "Ah!" Like that. It all worked out anyway. RACHEL MASON: Where did you get married?
DUANE LEVAN: In Anchorage.
SANNA LEVAN: We did it in the magistrate's office in Anchorage.
DUANE LEVAN: The commissioner.
SANNA LEVAN: We -- oh. DUANE LEVAN: A Commissioner she was.
SANNA LEVAN: Oh, it was a commissioner?
DUANE LEVAN: Rose.
SANNA LEVAN: Rose somebody. DON CALLAWAY: Did you go anywhere on a honeymoon or just --
DUANE LEVAN: No. Stayed here. SANNA LEVAN: Moved into that little old house that was three -- it was long and narrow down on Third Avenue. It isn't even there anymore. DUANE LEVAN: The one where --
SANNA LEVAN: Yeah, we told you about that.
RACHEL MASON: That's another story.
DUANE LEVAN: Yeah. (Indiscernible.)
SANNA LEVAN: Yeah. Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Don, I want to just stop it and check it and make sure it's...
(Pause in interview.) DON CALLAWAY: Okay. So where we stopped was you just had your wedding in -- in Anchorage, and you'd come back here. And you were still working down -- down at the -- the wharf; you hadn't started working for the State until after the '64 quake, right? DUANE LEVAN: At that period of time, see, this is 1946. At that time, on the Alaska -- on the railroad, the railroad had the dock here
DON CALLAWAY: Uh hum. DUANE LEVAN: -- down at the waterfront, which they own over there now, but at that time, everything down there with the exception of the gang that went to work on the ship worked for the railroad.
DON CALLAWAY: Oh. DUANE LEVAN: So I was a railroad employee up until they contracted out to a stevedoring company all the longshore work.
DON CALLAWAY: Oh. DUANE LEVAN: Then I went to work for the company on the water -- I stayed on the dock working for Northern Stevedoring Company, come in here at that period of time. And I worked for Northern Stevedoring, and, ol' Rothschild Stevedoring come in here for a while and worked another dock that was straight down the beach here where you call -- was the Army dock, put in during World War II. And we worked back and forth all those docks. And for the -- you know, the various stevedoring companies. And then -- well, that was then Northern Stevedoring took over, as I say, like in '47. And from then on until '46, the earth -- or '64, rather, the earthquake hit and we were all -- that day, well, there was just a few of us had worked the day before, and then that day they was nobody in the waterfront with the exception of a guy from the railroad that was checking the canter cranes. They layed us all off to fix the warehouse up on -- on one of the two warehouses, for a big party, for Alaska or Seward, was going to be an All American City. DON CALLAWAY: Oh, that's right. DUANE LEVAN: Otherwise, we would have been on the waterfront that day when the earthquake hit because it still would have been work time. It hit about, what, 5:34, something like that. Otherwise, we would have been on the waterfront, but the way it was, there was nobody on the waterfront. Otherwise, yeah, it would have been a lot of people died. And then, of course, then from then on, well, immediately after the earthquake, of course, we didn't have anything left. The whole waterfront's gone. There's absolutely nothing on the waterfront. Nothing at all. SANNA LEVAN: The whole town was a shamble.
DUANE LEVAN: The sewer lines were broke, majority of them in town, water lines were broke in town. The volunteer labor and stuff here in town for the first, say, two weeks or so, before they got organized, the Army was pretty well organized, the National Guard, rather, and they flew in some generators, a water tanker or two, once it got the airstrip cleaned off where they could land, and for purifying water and things like that. And getting some food and they set places up. Basically, the -- the buildings, with the exception of the waterfront buildings, there was no damage to speak of in Seward, that -- I mean, there was -- real bad damage that I know of, no. DON CALLAWAY: And your house was okay? DUANE LEVAN: Our house was fine. We left here that night, we were sitting, just going to have dinner, and everything's falling on the floor, of course, off the shelves in the kitchen, and TV went over, everything else. But look out the window and the tankers were -- tanks were burning down on the corner. And being in the Navy, in the war.... SANNA LEVAN: Anyway, they explode. And he thought it was going to come into the town. And he said, get your coats, your hats, just don't take anything else, we're getting out of here. And we just took out the road, went on the lagoon. And I remember looking in the bay, and it was just going like this. So I think we just missed the first tidal wave that was formed by the land sliding. And we got out to Mile 3, you could not get any further. The big -- the big --
DUANE LEVAN: Well, the road --
SANNA LEVAN: They fell down. DUANE LEVAN: The road had -- It was kind of interesting in a way, after I got on the road to figure, knowing what happened, but the roads, the fill on all the high fill in the roads sunk. But the bridges didn't. The bridges stayed at the same level, the piling in the water. So that consequently, the bridges were up about 3 feet high, which was left of them, and some of them, you know, they were like this, slabs, you know. We was able to walk across the bridges.
And then the tankers, getting back to them, or the oil tanks, on the slope of the land here, all the oil run to the bay. Which we didn't know.
DON CALLAWAY: Oh.
SANNA LEVAN: It all went this way. DUANE LEVAN: Oh, every bit of the oil went that way. No houses got destroyed or didn't bother it at all. Everything was black from the wind because that night the whole bay was on fire. SANNA LEVAN: Some of the houses got it down the other way.
DUANE LEVAN: But the black soot and blew all around, you know. DON CALLAWAY: From the oil burning on the water? DUANE LEVAN: From the oil, yeah. Gasoline and oil, a lot of the oil at that time in the tankers, the government buildings, schools, railroad -- well, railroad was government -- burned what they call bunker grade crude oil for their furnaces, and it's a real heavy oil, so that's why it floated so good. And it's the ships had the same thing used to it, that bunker grade crude, and it would float on top of the surface and just lay there and burn for however thickness it was, you know. DON CALLAWAY: Right. SANNA LEVAN: And that night was really strange. DUANE LEVAN: Anyway, we didn't know until the next morning. I walked into town. We stayed at a doctor's place out -- out of town that night. And they -- we switched cars, out the road, him and his wife, and his wife is a nurse, and they are trying to get to the hospital. And they had his kids with him.
So we took their kids and ours and then went to their place, walked out to their place out the Exit Glacier Road where it is now, up in the valley there, and then they come into town with our pickup. So they -- they got to the hospital. SANNA LEVAN: And that really scared my mom. Because she was down at the Solly's Liquor Store down there, and -- and old Herman Leirer came and says, "Come on, Hilma, we're getting out of here." And got her up the street and got her to the hospital. And then when she looked around, she saw our pickup and we weren't anywhere. That really was a -- a shock. DUANE LEVAN: A lot of people were staying at the hospital in that area, you know, and the school, and higher up the hill then. SANNA LEVAN: So then out there we all -- we did have radio, and it said, Seward's burning, and the last we knew mom was down there. Kodiak's washing out to sea, and my brothers were there. And my dad was in Anchorage with the city manager getting ready for the All America City thing. And if he is someplace and didn't have his glasses, he couldn't see a thing. That was really an upset. But we were -- as a local family, we were together because Sue wasn't feeling good, and she had been practicing on that Good Friday for the -- for a program at the church, and came home because she was not feeling really well. And Duane just about took Mel, our son, and his friend out to the head of the bay to pick pussy willows, but they were having so much fun, we stayed home. So --
DUANE LEVAN: Good thing we did. SANNA LEVAN: So we were all here and ready to go.
DUANE LEVAN: Because that tidal wave went right over the flats. Went as far as the north end of the airport is where the tidal wave. DON CALLAWAY: So how many children did you have at this point?
DUANE LEVAN: Two. A boy and a girl SANNA LEVAN: Two. That's all we had. And Mel was sitting next to me out there.
DUANE LEVAN: He was the youngest. SANNA LEVAN: And he was very quiet, and he looks up and he says, "I'm upset." RACHEL MASON: How old were your kids then?
SANNA LEVAN: Well, Sue was --
DUANE LEVAN: 9.
SANNA LEVAN: -- let's see. 9 or 10. No, Mel was 4.
DUANE LEVAN: Mel was 4. SANNA LEVAN: Is that it?
DUANE LEVAN: Yeah. DON CALLAWAY: So -- so after you left the doctors, you went up by Exit Glacier because it was higher ground?
DUANE LEVAN: Well, no, the doctor --
SANNA LEVAN: He lived up there. DUANE LEVAN: It was a little higher, but the doctor had a place up there. In fact, the local doctor that we have now, I just told him here a few days ago if he realized that the house he had, that that doctor had a dog team, too. But it's just past that lodge that's out there on Exit Glacier.
SANNA LEVAN: So it was still flat. DUANE LEVAN: It's a house on the right, just oh, a hundred yards or so in on the road. Where the road is now. The road was all different those days, though. The road went way back around through the woods; it wasn't out where it is now. DON CALLAWAY: And what kind of recreational outdoor activities did you do before the quake and did it change after the quake, or did things get back to normal? DUANE LEVAN: We still backpack, hike, hunt.
SANNA LEVAN: Duck hunters at that time. DUANE LEVAN: Well, then -- we hunted moose, because we ate moose. I mean, that's
SANNA LEVAN: We were subsistence and didn't know it.
DUANE LEVAN: Fish. SANNA LEVAN: Well, this is the best part of it. We had this huge freezer.
DUANE LEVAN: In the deep -- deep. SANNA LEVAN: And it was totally full. We had our -- I guess I must have got that from my mom because she always had a pantry living in Valdez that -- with stuff in case the boat don't come, doesn't come in. And so we had shelves down there, we had a cool room with vegetables in it. And we were, when we got back to our house, we had a wood stove in the basement I could cook on. And we had everything we needed right here. We didn't have to go stay and get our meals at the community help or anything. For two weeks. And everything kept in the deep freeze, too.
DON CALLAWAY: Hmm. SANNA LEVAN: So it was nice that way. DON CALLAWAY: How long until you came back to your house? DUANE LEVAN: The next morning. I walked into town the next morning. I didn't know what it was going to be, so I left them out there and I walked into town, and then I walked back out again later in the day, found out everything was fine at the house. I had the -- one of the local firemen I knew of, in fact, our neighbor, I got a hold of him, and he come over and went in the attic with me and checked the chimney out, I didn't know about the chimney, you know, he checked my chimney to made sure that was okay. And got them back in here and went and moved in the basement. Slept up here and, you know, cooked everything down there. No problem. Had a kerosene lantern, her kerosene lamp, like the one sitting there, we've had since -- we had the light company here that used to go out of power in the wintertime because we was on hydraulic out of the canyon and run low on water, you know, or freeze up.
DON CALLAWAY: Uh hum. DUANE LEVAN: We did without electricity a lot of times. So anyway. DON CALLAWAY: So tell us about your life after the earthquake.
DUANE LEVAN: Well --
SANNA LEVAN: It changed.
DUANE LEVAN: With me --
SANNA LEVAN: A bit. DUANE LEVAN: Yeah, it was quite a change. I -- like I say, I'm very fortunate, things -- well, within a few days they got me and I went to work for the state, with them, with the state crew, area maintenance out of Seward and whatever we needed. And I stayed with them until -- oh, let's see.
SANNA LEVAN: Pipeline. DUANE LEVAN: '82. About '80, I quit the state temporarily, and longshoring was getting a lot of pipe through here for the pipeline, so I went back longshoring because they -- with the union, longshore union, we were able to -- again, we was out of work and it wasn't our fault, they let us apply extra hours to pick of years, for back years if we come back to work. So I went back to work and spent two years on the dock during the pipeline to pick up hours so I could get a retirement out of there. Then I got back on again right away on the state again, I went back and worked for them for a couple more years and then retired from the state. And had a good life after that, just skiing and whatever.
SANNA LEVAN: Fun. DUANE LEVAN: Backpacking. Utilized cabins. When we got smart, we wanted to quit being in a tent all the time. Cabins are pretty nice. SANNA LEVAN: It was really funny. When he was longshoring, he was his only -- he was his boss, himself. And if he wanted to work, he went down there and he put his -- what, his plug in to work.
DUANE LEVAN: Yeah. SANNA LEVAN: So he would work on the nasty days, and when it looked like it was going to be nice, he'd pull his plug and we'd head for my dad's cabin down on Kenai Lake. DUANE LEVAN: Cooper Landing.
DON CALLAWAY: Oh, yeah. SANNA LEVAN: Just have a -- and, of course, you don't save any money that way. It was like paycheck to paycheck. But when he went to work for the state, all of a sudden I tried to budget, and boy, I was under budget all the time, but -- but the best thing about that, I got into the habit of keeping track of everything, so throughout the years, our income tax is the easiest thing in the world to do. Because I have it all in a loose leaf notebook for the year. That was handy.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah.
SANNA LEVAN: Yeah. DON CALLAWAY: And during these periods, did you work at -- in wage labor at all?
DUANE LEVAN: Sanna?
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah, Sanna. SANNA LEVAN: Oh, just before we got married --
DUANE LEVAN: -- that's all.
SANNA LEVAN: -- I worked a lot in the bakery. I mean, that was -- DUANE LEVAN: Before we were married.
SANNA LEVAN: -- a sweat shop. All of us worked. And we learned work habits. DON CALLAWAY: That was a family bakery, right? SANNA LEVAN: You do. And -- but when I was in high school, then, and dad had sold the bakery, I worked, like, after school two or three jobs, just for a short time, probably a couple years, maybe. I'm not sure. I baked cakes for the B & B Soda Fountain, I worked there. I worked at the theater, an usher. I worked at Osbo's Electrical Supply, learned how to put little things together. That was fun. But I have been a housewife. DUANE LEVAN: She worked without pay. SANNA LEVAN: All these years. I am one of the blessed people. I am. I had it pretty nice, with Duane taking care of us. And then -- and then raising children, with -- with him as the father was so wonderful because what I said was the boss when he came home, and they were going to try to get something out of him, he'd say no. And that really, really saved a lot of aggravation. Yeah. DUANE LEVAN: I think the difference here after you was talking about the earthquake and that, I think one of the biggest things before and after, this community was just a working town. SANNA LEVAN: That's it. DUANE LEVAN: I mean, railroad, a lot of just jobs, you know, real jobs. And then after the earthquake, we just got away from ships coming in and it turned into, well, what we say, T shirt shops downtown. SANNA LEVAN: A tourist town.
DUANE LEVAN: It's a tourist town. Basically, tourists, they do, they'll -- I'll take it back, because some tourists, there are a group that really spend the money. But I think way by far the majority of them buy a T shirt --
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah.
DUANE LEVAN: -- to send home, or a postcard. Ánd so consequently, wages in a little town, this little town lacks for a real wage base. AVTEC [Alaska Vocational Technical Center] is big. Park Service hires a lot of people here. In fact, Park Service, I think, from what I've heard, wage wise, that they probably pay better than most any other job around town, right today. SANNA LEVAN: And the Forest Service, too.
DUANE LEVAN: And the job with the Forest Service, you know, government jobs --
SANNA LEVAN: Yes.
DUANE LEVAN: -- in other words, yeah.
SANNA LEVAN: Schools. DUANE LEVAN: The state has a few here, this -- the prison over there hires quite a few people. Most of them don't live here from what I understand. Most of them live in Anchorage, or prefer to, because they work a schedule that's, what, a couple weeks on, a couple weeks off or something. So they go back and forth. DON CALLAWAY: So there's not a lot of local hire over at the prison there? DUANE LEVAN: The only hire that I'm aware of over there was local, basically, was some of the maintenance guy -- people. I think that's just about mostly it. I think so. DON CALLAWAY: What year did you retire, again, in?
DUANE LEVAN: '82 from the state. DON CALLAWAY: '82. So could you talk a little bit about camping and hunting and what you did? DUANE LEVAN: Well, way back even in our hunting, we hunted a lot, when the kids were here and that, we -- like I say, we hunted, but -- and I still would, if I did -- if I did anything like that today. We weren't what you'd call game, big game hunters. We went out with the idea you're going out and you're going to get a moose as soon as you can get him, get him butchered, get him home in the deep freeze.
DON CALLAWAY: Right. SANNA LEVAN: Don't matter what size.
DUANE LEVAN: What you could get.
SANNA LEVAN: Doesn't have to be a record.
DUANE LEVAN: No. No. DON CALLAWAY: You weren't trophy hunters?
DUANE LEVAN: No, no, no, no. We wasn't interested in that. And by far the majority of the people in Seward are that way. I mean, it was just -- it was the way you lived, that's all there was to it. We shot ptarmigan, lots of ptarmigan. Canned ptarmigan and grouse. Yeah. Oh, yeah.
SANNA LEVAN: Rabbits.
DUANE LEVAN: Rabbits. DON CALLAWAY: What kind of ducks would you get?
DUANE LEVAN: Pardon me?
DON CALLAWAY: What kind of ducks would you get?
SANNA LEVAN: Oh, good ducks.
DUANE LEVAN: Ducks?
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. What species? DUANE LEVAN: Well, mainly -- well, we just shot good ducks, good eating ducks. We shot mallards.
SANNA LEVAN: Teal.
DUANE LEVAN: And teal. Pintail, widgeon. And basically, that's the ones you eat here. Most of the sea ducks, go back to food again, they live on the little mussels and things like that, and they are not as good eating. So no, we -- we looked for stuff as food. That was -- it was we were after -- we got ptarmigan in the fall when they was good and fat eating blueberries, and yeah. SANNA LEVAN: And sometimes we'd climb Mount Alice to shoot goat.
DUANE LEVAN: Got boulder -- she shot goat --
SANNA LEVAN: And I shot --
DUANE LEVAN: -- on Mount Alice.
SANNA LEVAN: -- 2 or 3. I don't remember.
DON CALLAWAY: That's hard work. SANNA LEVAN: That's work. And even moose, you're going to hunt moose, you -- you're going to work.
DUANE LEVAN: And we got -- we'd get a bear once in awhile in the falltime, is the best time to eat one. Not much good in the spring.
SANNA LEVAN: We had one -- DUANE LEVAN: But anyway, you know, like that. And then, of course, we backpacked for pleasure in later years, too, a lot. We've still got our gear downtown -- downstairs, we don't use it. SANNA LEVAN: Came to the point we just can't do it.
DUANE LEVAN: Well, just too much. 50 pound pack, and you've got 10, 12 miles to go where you want to go, well, it gets too much.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. SANNA LEVAN: And we tried flying in when we could afford it, but it was so iffy --
DUANE LEVAN: You got disgusted.
SANNA LEVAN: -- that you -- you thought you were going to go, and then you don't go, and oh, my goodness. DUANE LEVAN: Much better when you can hike in. DON CALLAWAY: And where would you hike in to or where would you like to fly in?
DUANE LEVAN: Oh, we hiked in all around this country. We used to, well, for tenting, we'd to go to Lost Lake a lot.
SANNA LEVAN: That's my favorite. DUANE LEVAN: We've spent a lot of -- lots of nights and days at Lost Lake. And we'd go to the lake, instead of right to the lake, we'd go to the far end of the lake and then go over towards
SANNA LEVAN: Another little lake, too. DUANE LEVAN: -- another lake in behind back in there is where we hiked to.
And then we was up Exit Glacier a couple times after they put the trail in there. Stayed in that cabin up there. Oh, Paradise, we've been in that cabin. Juneau Lake, Trout Lake, Swan Lake, Devil's Creek. What we called the Oracle Mine, that would be Summit Creek. We've been up through that country.
SANNA LEVAN: Oh, we love that, too.
DUANE LEVAN: Back in behind over the top of the mountains there. Yeah. Anywhere locally here we've been around quite a bit. On Mount Alice, we've been all over, over in that country.
SANNA LEVAN: Out -- like we said -- DUANE LEVAN: Caines Head where we were telling you about the hummingbirds.
SANNA LEVAN: Yeah. It was fun camping on the beach. It's different.
DUANE LEVAN: It's nice out on the beach there. DON CALLAWAY: So when did you start going to Exit Glacier, what year was that?
DUANE LEVAN: Well, the first year -- well, no, I'll take it back. Gee. SANNA LEVAN: When your dad hunted there, you went there with him once, before we went.
DUANE LEVAN: Yeah. I was up there -- SANNA LEVAN: He got a moose. You got a moose.
DUANE LEVAN: I shot the moose, yeah.
SANNA LEVAN: Yeah, okay. DUANE LEVAN: My dad was up there moose hunting, right, well, just not where the buildings are but just downstream from that a little bit, and well, it would be upstream and down, there was a little airstrip right there called a Taylorcraft strip.
DON CALLAWAY: Right. DUANE LEVAN: And guys used to go in there and hunt moose. And this friend of ours I worked with on the dock, and put dad in there one night, and dad couldn't backpack because of his heart condition and that, so we had made arrangement, he'd check on dad every night, and if he had a moose down, well, I'd go up and pack it, you know, take the next day and pack it in. SANNA LEVAN: Packed a lot of moose for his dad.
DUANE LEVAN: So anyway, the guy come down to the dock, got me, and hey, Duane, you got to get your gear and go on up there, he said. He had flown over and dad had waved at him and he thought he had an animal down. So I jumped in the plane with him, and we take off and get up there; well, no, he didn't have an animal down, but on the way in there down the stream just a little bit, I had seen a bull and a couple of cows down there, so we took off, dad and I, before it got dark and went down and I got the bull. So anyway, I spent the next day up there packing one out, you know. But that was the first time, gee, that would have been --
SANNA LEVAN: Whew. DON CALLAWAY: Before '50.
DUANE LEVAN: Gosh, before '50s.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah.
DUANE LEVAN: Probably the late '40 -- well, maybe 1950, '40s. Then Sanna and I --
SANNA LEVAN: When they started that.
DUANE LEVAN: -- hiked up there.
SANNA LEVAN: Oh, gosh. DUANE LEVAN: From this side, from the garbage dump side with snowshoes, ptarmigan hunting, and we hunted on the Paradise Creek, comes out of this side. Well, we went in right on this side and followed this edge up. And then Paradise Creek you can get across, if there's enough snow it freezes over pretty good. And we was there and we crossed over there, and went in them little hills below where the glacier was at that time, and we hunted ptarmigan up in there. Got some ptarmigan come out of there. That's the first times. SANNA LEVAN: Then another time we took a boat across Resurrection [River].
DUANE LEVAN: That was later years, that was after -- after I went to work for the state, then would have been, what, '65, '64 I went to work for the state. Summer of '65, probably. They -- Herman Leirer and some other guys -- or '64 -- well, '65 they wanted to start it. Wanted to put a road up to Exit Glacier. In that period of time they tried to come up this side. Because we had the road going to the garbage dump, and there was a rifle range at the end there, you could drive right at the corner where the rocks are shot off now. So they decided they was going to take the road up through there. And Herman Leirer and another guy -- well, I'll think of his name.
SANNA LEVAN: Blondin. DUANE LEVAN: Blondin, Lloyd Blondin, he was with -- he was in the --
SANNA LEVAN: Sometimes I remember names. DUANE LEVAN: He had some equipment. And they decided they were going to put a road up there. So they went from this side, and they got up this side -- well, you're still on -- well, Ben -- Benson Mountain, Iron Mountain, around the corner just you get around the other side of Benson, there's a big slide comes down, comes clear to the river there.
DON CALLAWAY: Uh hum. DUANE LEVAN: And they got it going across that slide and then they found out how much snow was in that thing and changed their mind right there. So that ended the road project on this side. KAREN BREWSTER: So, when you say "this side," you mean -- you mean this side of the river?
DUANE LEVAN: That would be -- that would be the south side of the river. Yeah, the south side of the river. And be the north side of Benson Mountain where the slide comes down. Right around that corner. And then after that, I don't know who decided what or anything, but our foreman on the state, I was low man on the totem pole, so we was changing the road at that particular time, going up what's the old road that goes up there, and the old road that went up there at that time went just north of Clear Creek behind the Pit Bar, and the road went up that creek, crossed up that creek maybe a mile up the creek, cut over, and then went up to where the corner where Seavey's are. That was the old road, that's the old road there. So then the -- the state at that time, the foreman and them wouldn't let the state work on this, but it was state land, part of it in there, and didn't want anything to do with it, but our local foreman, because of the local people, had me and another guy, and we went in and started where the road, the old road goes now as you get by the Spenard Builders, and the first road to your right goes and meanders through there, well, we started right there, brushing. And we cut across there and we drove the piling for that little bridge that's there, I run the crane for that. And we built that road up to where it come in with the old road that come from behind the Pit, straightening that stretch of the old road out, which was okay with the foreman on the other side of the Peninsula, the head foreman. So we straightened out that section of road there.
Then we got to Seavey's, of course, and from there up, they decided, well, we would go ahead and help them some. So we started from there on up, straight up, basically to where it is now. And cutting cottonwoods down and going through there with a Cat and knocking some down, just shoving stuff aside, making a -- just a trail.
DON CALLAWAY: Uh hum.
DUANE LEVAN: Up through there. Then they got into this -- Herman Leirer got -- DON CALLAWAY: What year did you knock the cottonwoods down?
DUANE LEVAN: This would be '65.
DON CALLAWAY: '65.
DUANE LEVAN: Probably the summer of '65 we worked through there.
DON CALLAWAY: All right. DUANE LEVAN: And then later, it took several years, but then finally Herman got -- he got to doing a little bit up through there. They -- they got a -- oh, just kind of a trail up through there, a road, but it wasn't much, you know. And then -- then they got a guy over there from the other side of the Peninsula that had some equipment, he used to be here at that time. Anyway, they -- they hired him, and got some money from somewhere, I don't know who, and got up there. First thing they got as far as the crossing the river up there. Gee, that took until I don't know when. I don't know just when it would have been, in the '70s, probably, before they got up into the -- before you crossed the river.
DON CALLAWAY: Uh hum. DUANE LEVAN: First time we ever drove up there with Sanna and I, we got up that far with our little boat, and then took our boat across the --
SANNA LEVAN: And wow, that --
DUANE LEVAN: The river there. And then we walked up the glacier from there.
SANNA LEVAN: And we touched the glacier and we got ice to bring back home. RACHEL MASON: Oh, boy.
DON CALLAWAY: And that --
DUANE LEVAN: That was the first time I had been up there. SANNA LEVAN: And then we hunted and then -- is that the time we hunted there, too?
DUANE LEVAN: No, no, we hunted there before. We walked up there. We hunted there after that, too, but that was before there was a park, of course. RACHEL MASON: Did you say you took your little boat up there? How -- how did you
DUANE LEVAN: Yeah, we had a little boat that we had in our pickup --
RACHEL MASON: Oh, okay. DUANE LEVAN: -- hauled in our pickup up to where they were going to put the bridge in. And then we went from there. They put a Cat -- they got a Cat across the road there or where they was going to put the road and they brushed it out with the Cat, you know, up as far as the glacier.
RACHEL MASON: Oh. DUANE LEVAN: But before that the first time I would say we had ever been there was this side, or the south side of the river, and we followed the south side of Resurrection. And any of the local guys that I knew at that time that hunted up there, everybody that hunted in that country would take an Army four by four or something and go up the -- the south side of Resurrection to get up there because you can cross that one -- the first part there, unless it was flooding. DON CALLAWAY: With a four by four, Army surplus, or -- DUANE LEVAN: Army surplus. But you -- you could cross that Paradise Creek most of the time, except flood time. And that's where the water comes from, by the way, out of glacier.
DON CALLAWAY: Oh, really? DUANE LEVAN: Oh, yeah, the big water comes out of that Paradise Creek. I mean, over the years I wouldn't have had anything to do with it. I've walked a Cat up there one time to haul Park Service people out of there from the bridge on down. They got stranded up there.
DON CALLAWAY: Oh, no. DUANE LEVAN: I walked the Cat up from Seavey's on, clear on up there just to give them a ride. Yeah. DON CALLAWAY: Do you remember when snow machines were introduced into Seward? DUANE LEVAN: It would have been '60s.
SANNA LEVAN: Got Ski Doo.
DUANE LEVAN: Somewhere around there. Everybody had a Ski Doo around here
SANNA LEVAN: Got Ski Doo.
DUANE LEVAN: -- at that time. Yeah. DON CALLAWAY: Did -- did they come up, use Ski Doos on the south side? Was the trail in the winter packed enough to -- to take your -- SANNA LEVAN: I don't think so.
DUANE LEVAN: No, not to -- not to any amount. There was some guys, local guys, there was a few local guys that trapped up there for a number of years.
DON CALLAWAY: Uh hum. DUANE LEVAN: In that country up in there. Up above where the glacier is now, up the creek, further up the creek.
DON CALLAWAY: Uh hum. DUANE LEVAN: They had a couple little old cabins sit back in there. Not the Placer Cabin but there was a mining cabin, but -- DON CALLAWAY: Would they snowshoe in or dog team?
DUANE LEVAN: Yeah, they would walk in there. Yeah.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DUANE LEVAN: Yeah, a couple of guys I worked with trapped up in there. But snowshoe in. But later years, then, they got some snow machines. The snow machines weren't nothing like they have today.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DUANE LEVAN: Absolutely. I mean, they are -- on the flat country you had trouble getting them going. In fact, we got smart one time, we thought we wanted one. We bought a --
SANNA LEVAN: Much easier to walk. DUANE LEVAN: -- bought a snow machine, and -- well, I don't remember which happened first, but one of the times we were trying to go to Lost Lake with it and our idea was we'd take our skis -- cross-country skies -- up there.
SANNA LEVAN: We brought the snow machine along. DUANE LEVAN: And, boy, this is great, we can ride the snow machine up there, you know. Well, we spent more work putting that snow machine up there than ever we would have doing walking. It's much easier to walk. SANNA LEVAN: And then we were going to go ptarmigan hunting across the lake. And we got into overflow. Oh, wow. I remember that.
DUANE LEVAN: Poor little machine. SANNA LEVAN: I think we gave up the snow machine then.
DUANE LEVAN: That did it right there.
SANNA LEVAN: Yeah. DUANE LEVAN: Snow machine weighed about 250 pounds is all. One of them old Ski Doos. That thing must have weighed at least 500 pounds with all the ice underneath it, and I'm trying to get it in the back of the pickup. Summit Lake, never worked harder in all my life. You know, but anyway, now they got them, they climb Marathon.
SANNA LEVAN: Oh, yes. No problem. DUANE LEVAN: It's amazing what they can go up in. But then the local -- what built the trail up to Lexie -- to Lost Lake, the winter trail for getting there in the winter, was the snow machine guys --
SANNA LEVAN: Yeah. DUANE LEVAN: -- they wanted to get up there so bad with snow machines. Forest Service wouldn't do it.
DON CALLAWAY: When was this? DUANE LEVAN: Well, that -- that must have -- well, it was in the '60s.
DON CALLAWAY: '60s? DUANE LEVAN: Yeah. The local guys just went and built it up through there.
SANNA LEVAN: And we liked to snow machine. Because they have a trail for us.
DUANE LEVAN: Yeah.
SANNA LEVAN: Otherwise you're going to go down to the bottom. DON CALLAWAY: They pack -- they pack the trail for you?
SANNA LEVAN: Oh, yeah, you can walk up there if you wanted to.
DUANE LEVAN: We skied enough that we didn't have to be purist skiers. We go to a nice place that's smooth to ski, hey, I like that. SANNA LEVAN: We cross country but we picked our way.
DUANE LEVAN: If there's a trail, I'll take it. DON CALLAWAY: How about up on the glacier, did you guys ever --
DUANE LEVAN: No. As far as we ever got was just up at the -- up to the glacier, to the ice field, on that side. In fact, we were up there before there was a trail there. Up this one side. In fact, I sent my son and another guy, well, those two kids, they run Marathon, they climbed all over the mountains around here, and he was in high school and -- DON CALLAWAY: Are you talking about Mel now?
DUANE LEVAN: -- about Exit Glacier.
DON CALLAWAY: You're talking about Mel?
SANNA LEVAN: Yeah.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. Okay. DUANE LEVAN: And speaking about or talking about Exit Glacier to him now, gee, I said, you know, you guys, if you go on the right hand side of the glacier -- at that time the glacier was right over against the nice, smooth rocks there. I said, don't get on the ice, you know. Stay out of that ice, and if you just get on the top edge of them nice, smooth rocks, I said, boy, you guys can sail right on up to the ice field and take a look at it, you know. So they took the boat and got across the road up there where they'd get over in there, you know, and they had an awful time with -- staying up in there, but they -- they made it. They got up to the ice field.
DON CALLAWAY: Uh hum. DUANE LEVAN: Yeah. Yeah. We made it a couple times up in the ice field. It's a nice hike.
SANNA LEVAN: I wish I could find that picture of Mel where you took a picture of him up just his head sticking out in all fog. DUANE LEVAN: We got up there and the fog rolled in, like it does on the ice.
RACHEL MASON: Where was that taken? SANNA LEVAN: It was way up on the glacier.
DUANE LEVAN: We were up --
SANNA LEVAN: But I can't find it.
DUANE LEVAN: Well, just about --
SANNA LEVAN: I looked and looked for it. DUANE LEVAN: Where they go to I think now on the same area, laying on just a ridge up there. But we just stayed back away from the glacier and just kept in the stair step areas, you know, climbing -- climbing up higher, because we climbed all the time around here anyway. SANNA LEVAN: And then it got so good, wasn't that the day or another day, we had been up there more than two times, but we -- you thought, jeepers, we could have skied this. DUANE LEVAN: Oh, well, up on top up there. In them --
SANNA LEVAN: Yeah.
DUANE LEVAN: Some of them old things, there was enough snow in the summertime, still in there, a heavy snow year, there was a lot of snow in there where the trail is now. That glacier, though, I don't know just how far, but it's went back a long ways.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah.
DUANE LEVAN: I mean, just in our time. RACHEL MASON: Well, I saw the signs that said where it used to be.
DUANE LEVAN: Yeah, that's interesting, those signs.
RACHEL MASON: Yeah.
DUANE LEVAN: They are very interesting. Yeah. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. It's a most indicative of climate change, glaciers all over the world are retreating.
SANNA LEVAN: Oh, yeah. DUANE LEVAN: Well, just like when the Forest Service put that nice building up at Portage Lake.
SANNA LEVAN: And that stuff is gone.
DON CALLAWAY: That was crazy, yeah. DUANE LEVAN: Well, it was just a year or two and the lake just -- the glacier quit. I mean, it disappeared, it went around the corner of the mountain.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah, you had to get in a boat to go see it. DUANE LEVAN: Oh, that was too bad because it was a pretty thing, there are nice, big windows, you know, look at the thing.
DON CALLAWAY: I was there when it opened.
DUANE LEVAN: Is that right? Okay.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DUANE LEVAN: I remember because it was a big deal. We drove in, of course, just to see, you know. And it was, it was really nice. DON CALLAWAY: You go back several years, I'd bring my mom up there or something, all you'd see is some deep blue ice cubes floating. I'd get my scope out and you could see the face of the glacier right back there. DUANE LEVAN: But that's how things can change, for sure. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. How about when the -- when was the road opened from here to Anchorage? When was that?
SANNA LEVAN: '50.
DUANE LEVAN: No...'52 and '53.
DON CALLAWAY: Uh hum. DUANE LEVAN: '52 you could drive, I think it was sometime during '52 we could drive to Anchorage.
DON CALLAWAY: What kind of impact did that have on the community and your life? SANNA LEVAN: It really changed things a lot, don't you think? DUANE LEVAN: Yeah, quite a bit. Yeah. Mostly, yeah, right. It wasn't too long, it changed things, yeah. Because then they started trucking some stuff out of here, too, besides the railroad hauling, you know. And of course, you could get out before that, the only way to get a vehicle if you had a vehicle here to say you wanted to take and go and take it out anywhere, there was a local guy at Hope that had a small barge, and he could haul a couple automobiles at a time. And he'd barge people over to Anchorage. So you could do that, or you could, down at the dock here, we had a loading ramp, you could load an automobile on the flatcars and ship it to Anchorage. DON CALLAWAY: But you could get to Hope before the '50s?
DUANE LEVAN: Oh, yes.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. DUANE LEVAN: No, no, Hope -- Hope Road was -- goes way back.
I don't know if there was -- there was one section, well, Sanna would remember, from mile 18 to where? The -- or what, it would be Ptarmigan Creek, along through there, that there was no road for a number of years. And they put that in in '38 or '39, something like that, I think they said. But before that -- SANNA LEVAN: Called -- was that called the Missing Link or was it the --
DUANE LEVAN: Yeah, Missing Link.
SANNA LEVAN: The Missing Link. DUANE LEVAN: And as far as we could get the other way, of course, was at that time called Hintons, it's right at the Forest Service boundary on the other side of Cooper Landing, well, at Russian River.
SANNA LEVAN: Everybody -- DUANE LEVAN: Russian River right there. That was the end of the road that way. Until '47. Yeah, '47, '48, built the road to Kenai. And that was just a Cat road, too, then. Took the Cat, went through there and just shoved stuff aside and they never -- the old road, they never cleaned up at all, they just made a trench.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. SANNA LEVAN: Some of the things that we did in Seward that I remember growing up, well, being married to Duane, I always liked to ice skate. And we never had a decent place here to skate, we'd skate on lakes and stuff like that. And he took over, and for I don't know how many years, fixed a skating rink for the kids. And cleaned off First Lake or Second Lake?
DUANE LEVAN: Well, built the rink here in town, too. SANNA LEVAN: And he built it here. And boy, it was wonderful, because two different places he had it, first by the old school, and that was so neat because he could use their boiler water and he fixed the thing where he could --
DUANE LEVAN: The high school. SANNA LEVAN: After he cleaned the snow off and then he could just put that water through that hose and drag it across, and you had your state highway equipment? DUANE LEVAN: Well they, working for the state --
SANNA LEVAN: They let him use it.
DUANE LEVAN: The foreman let me -- at nighttime I could take a loader home to work on grooming it, sweep it, you know. SANNA LEVAN: And yeah, within 20 minutes he'd say, okay, you can skate. Oh, I mean, we had more fun skating when Duane was taking care of that. And then when he retired, he got the city to let you use their equipment. DUANE LEVAN: Yeah, I went down and talked to the city, they let me use their equipment and I took care of it.
SANNA LEVAN: And he made another one down where those ball parks are now. And he kept it open. But -- DUANE LEVAN: Fire department helped me on that one, to bring me water.
DON CALLAWAY: Bring you water.
DUANE LEVAN: Uh hum. SANNA LEVAN: But when he retired, there's been nobody -- that, because you've got to work at it. We have -- the temperature here is so better, you're better off with an indoor rink like the -- or indoor/outdoor rink like Kodiak has. Because it'll rain and then you can't skate unless you want to skate in water. Which we did.
DUANE LEVAN: Temperature's too flexible here for --
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. SANNA LEVAN: But we sure got in a lot of skating. Yeah. DON CALLAWAY: And did your children and -- Susan and Mel, is that your children?
SANNA LEVAN: Sue Ann.
DON CALLAWAY: Sue Ann.
SANNA LEVAN: Sue. Uh hum. Sue Ann. They graduated and went to UAF in Fairbanks.
DON CALLAWAY: Uh hum.
DUANE LEVAN: Both of them. SANNA LEVAN: And both of them got a scholarship to go to further education. Mel graduated from Stanford, and he has a Doctorate in Chemistry. And then he had a double major in -- and that in --
DUANE LEVAN: Mathematics.
SANNA LEVAN: Mathematics at U of A.
DUANE LEVAN: U of F.
KAREN BREWSTER: UAF. SANNA LEVAN: UAF. And Sue went to Washington State, I think it was.
DUANE LEVAN: And got a masters degree.
SANNA LEVAN: And she stopped at a masters. And then she taught in Fairbanks for, I don't know, 15 years. DUANE LEVAN: Something like that, yeah. Taught high school in Fairbanks.
SANNA LEVAN: And then she moved to California, and she taught in -- at San Luis Obispo at Cuesta [College] --
DUANE LEVAN: Cal Polytech. SANNA LEVAN: Oh, California Polytech. Yeah. And then at Cuesta. And so when she retired, she always said she was going to come back to Seward, which she did. So she lives here and she's very active and she's on the Borough Assembly and she's --
DON CALLAWAY: Wow. SANNA LEVAN: -- she's quite a pianist, so she -- at her church, she plays for the church and then for choirs and stuff. And she's been back here about three years now.
DUANE LEVAN: Just going on three. SANNA LEVAN: And she just loves it. She bought a lot way back with that in mind, while she was still there, she had her house built. Came back and moved in, lock, stock, and barrel. RACHEL MASON: Well, that's nice for you, too, to --
SANNA LEVAN: Oh, yeah. So we're all in Alaska now. Mel and his family in Kodiak, and Sue and us here. So.... DON CALLAWAY: And the grandkids, where are the grandkids? SANNA LEVAN: Bixs (Bixler), that's Sue's boy, lives in Anchorage, and his girlfriend, they both work up there, have good jobs. She's an engineer and he has something to do with GPS. I don't understand it. DUANE LEVAN: It's a degree in --
SANNA LEVAN: Something.
DUANE LEVAN: I don't know, geographies and things like that. It's something that I don't understand. It's a different degree.
SANNA LEVAN: But they -- they -- they got -- DUANE LEVAN: He just got a masters degree in that, yeah.
SANNA LEVAN: -- jobs right away.
DUANE LEVAN: He got a job. SANNA LEVAN: And he went to the University of Hawaii and stopped at a masters, too, I think. Because he wanted to work. And she -- they just put in their applications and they were accepted. They -- they're in the right field to get jobs. It was the way it was. So they are living in Anchorage and we're living here and Mel and his family live in Kodiak.
DUANE LEVAN: Kodiak. Two boys over there. SANNA LEVAN: And his wife is also a teacher. DON CALLAWAY: So Mel's got a doctorate and he teaches at the -- at the college over there?
DUANE LEVAN: No, the high school.
SANNA LEVAN: The high school. He wanted to come back to Alaska. DUANE LEVAN: He wanted to come back bad enough that he was willing to give up a high tech job, him and his wife both. They were -- he was an analyst for the Navy, and then he was on the staff of a admiral's staff, and the admiral wanted to go on a sightseeing trip to Hawaii, or you know, wherever. Well, they had to go. I mean, he traveled all over around the world, but being married, it was not -- not a good life. He was gone all the time.
SANNA LEVAN: And she was with -- DUANE LEVAN: So he just quit it and got his teaching degree.
SANNA LEVAN: Was she with the Air Force?
DUANE LEVAN: Yeah, she was with the --
SANNA LEVAN: Top dog, top something. DUANE LEVAN: The Navy Top Guns, she flew with them.
DON CALLAWAY: Oh, yeah. She did?
DUANE LEVAN: Yeah. She rode that plane that they got that AWACS, or the plane with the radar thing. DON CALLAWAY: Oh, yeah, yeah. Sure. Sure.
DUANE LEVAN: That's where she was. In that plane. She was all over the world in that thing. SANNA LEVAN: And so they went to -- they had to go back to school to get their teaching certificate to teach high school. They could have taught in any university.
DON CALLAWAY: Right. Right. Yeah. SANNA LEVAN: And so they went back to school and they are teaching, whatever they call it, practice was in the inner city of San Diego.
DON CALLAWAY: Whoa.
DUANE LEVAN: So they really got an education there.
SANNA LEVAN: Yeah. So -- DON CALLAWAY: They must love to teach, though.
DUANE LEVAN: Just to teach, yeah.
SANNA LEVAN: Then they learned to teach. And then they applied for jobs thinking they would get on the -- on the Peninsula, that's where Mel wanted to come, but didn't make it. And didn't know what they were going to do.
Alice went to a --