This is a continuation of the interview of Urban Rahoi on March 8, 2014 by Karen Brewster and Barbara Cellarius at the National Park Service office in Fairbanks, Alaska. In this second part of a two part interview, Urban talks about changes that occurred when Wrangell-St. Elias Natonal Park and Preserve was established, his lodge at Ptarmigan Lake, and his thoughts on retirement.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Wrangell-St.Elias National Park
Date of Interview: Mar 8, 2014
Narrator(s): Urban Rahoi
Interviewer(s): Karen Brewster, Barbara Cellarius
Videographer: Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Joan O'Leary
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Changes in hunting due to airplanes
Changes for the business when Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve was established
The Ptarmigan Lake Lodge
Flying in and out of Ptarmigan Lake Lodge
Impacts of flooding
People who worked at Ptarmigan Lake Lodge
Thoughts on retirement
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KAREN BREWSTER: Ask again.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So, I was wondering about when were the guide areas or the guide districts put in place?
URBAN RAHOI: I’m trying to think. It must have been about 1980 somewhere close to the end of the 70’s or somewhere in there.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So was that one of the changes that occurred with the creation of the park?
URBAN RAHOI: No. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Or was that something that the state of Alaska --
URBAN RAHOI: Before the parks. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Okay.
URBAN RAHOI: Then the parks assumed the same boundaries. It was after that.
KAREN BREWSTER: So can you explain what you mean by guide districts so for people who don’t know?
URBAN RAHOI: Well, what they did you took a certain boundary line around a certain area of the place, you know, and that was your area then with those limits.
And the thing is -- the trouble with that is it is just like everything else in life. Some people don’t respect limits or lines or what the heck the rules are. They are going to go by what it was before and to hell with everything, you know.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, I wonder how that works if you have a certain area, what if then there are no animals in that area but --
URBAN RAHOI: Tough. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, that’s just tough.
URBAN RAHOI: Tough. KAREN BREWSTER: So some guides -- URBAN RAHOI: Well --
KAREN BREWSTER: Would make a lot with one area and somebody can be doing poorly?
URBAN RAHOI: It is just like you brought that up is good because there was one thing -- one guide that had that happen and I happened to go to the board -- the Guide Board meeting and he wants to change -- give this area up and he wants this area over here.
And I stood up. I said no, you can’t do that because the thing is set up. Now there is a list of names over here of guides that are looking for an area they get that area you don’t get it.
You had your chance. You got three of them and now you accept what you got.
KAREN BREWSTER: So how did you get assigned an area in the first place? Did you ask for an area?
URBAN RAHOI: Yeah. Yeah, I hunted that whole area there. As a matter of fact, I hunted all the way out to the highway -- the lakes out to the highway for moose.
I hunted over there in Horsfeld and down Braye Lakes everywhere, but to me if you are going to make it work, everybody's gotta give a little bit to make this thing work out. And I -- I took the Beaver Creek, Horsfeld all the way up to -- to damn near to Beaver Lake and across the Solo Creek Flats and back down.
And the Guide Board accepted it and then Overly and McNutt stepped in and said oh, no, we want to hunt here a little bit because we hunted all these years and so I didn’t know what I had to do, so I said okay, well, we’ll -- but we are going to set a limit on the number you are going to kill.
You are not going to go in there and just wantonly destroy the whole country, you know. And then we agreed to it, but they didn’t -- never lived up to the agreement in the full sense of the word.
So I made my mistake. I should have just left it like it was. I had that whole area keep out.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So it sounds like relations with the other guides in the area was maybe a little competition over the resources? How would you describe your relationship with the other guides?
URBAN RAHOI: I feel it was a disrespect for -- for each other. To me if I shook your hand and it's a deal that’s a deal and there is no way I am going to cross it and to me if the line is here and the animal is standing right there by the line, you don’t kill it.
That’s it. That’s tough, but how you going to have rule of the law if you don’t respect these things and that’s the way I have always looked at life and things and maybe that’s why I have succeeded better than these other guys too because the way I look at the life and respect all these different things and you adjust to those problems and that.
KAREN BREWSTER: What about before there were guide districts? Was the relationship between the guides different?
URBAN RAHOI: Well, there was a whole different amount of people. See the -- McNutt wasn’t there when I -- before the Guide Board and the old guy there they never came over to my area cause they just hunted with the horses -- few horses over there.
And the guy -- this -- I’m trying to think of the name of the guy at Shoshanna -- Larry Folger had the guiding deal up -- was guiding over there and whats so call it -- it was a unique thing that happened to him after I got in there and I put the cabin over there. He came over one winter and was going to trap over there and he got caught killing sheep for feeding his dog team.
So they hammered him a little bit, you know, but then there was a couple years later he was in Tok and he got drunk and he was going to go to Anchorage and they tried to talk him out of it and he drove down the highway and hit this woman and her kids head on and killed them all.
But that’s the tragedy of life, you know, and the thing I have been very fortunate because when I was 18 years old I worked with these old guys on the highway department and I got started drinking a little bit because we are in these little towns -- jerk town -- ain’t nobody there and nothing to do or anything.
You can’t even -- there was no TV or nothing to watch. So I got to going in the bar and then finally I got dipping a little bit, you know. I must have drank for a little bit like that for about three months and this one night I -- where the hell am I going here, you know?
And you know what I did the next day? I went down and got my fishing rod and that and in front of this boarding house there was a backwater dam and the river went up here, went down and got in the boat and went fishing every night.
Went up the river and went fishing and thank God that saved me from getting real bad on drinking.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: You went fishing instead of going to the bar?
URBAN RAHOI: Yeah and than I -- never -- I never smoked because I couldn’t see no sense in it. And to think -- people say why you can’t quit.
I can’t buy that because you can quit. You can do things that you just got to make your mind up to it and have the strength to do it.
KAREN BREWSTER: So when you first started going to Ptarmigan Lake, were there other guides in the area or you were the only one?
URBAN RAHOI: No, there was -- the only guides was in Shoshanna and they -- they would hunt on the back side up there sometimes, but most of their hunting was done right there around Shoshanna cause there was plenty of game. You go up the Shoshanna -- you ever been up in there?
KAREN BREWSTER: No. URBAN RAHOI: Well, you have. KAREN BREWSTER: Barb has. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Yes.
URBAN RAHOI: Well, you could sit over on the upper end of the runway -- BARBARA CELLARIUS: Sure.
URBAN RAHOI: And you could look over across the river over there.There would be sheep -- every one of those meadows had sheep in there, you know and up in Copper Creek and all that. It was all full of sheep in there. So you didn’t have to go very far to find.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, also has it changed with guides using airplanes? Has that made a difference?
URBAN RAHOI: That’s -- that’s as far as I am concerned, that makes a difference and she can hear what I’m going to say about this because whats you call it when the park was formed up here, they said there would be no more airstrips built period.
And Green built an airstrip up in there and they justified it because he cleared it by hand. Now that’s got me madder than hell because they said no airstrips.
And matter of fact, when Jay was there he asked me about Overly’s airstrips, see and I said well, I don’t think we can -- we can do that to them now because he has been there a long time. Now if he is starting, I would say yeah, stop it.
Right now, but as far as I am concerned, none of them airstrips ever should have been built. Let them do like people did before walk.
They used to land on Ptarmigan Creek and people would walk way back there and some of the guys landed them on the bars down there in the White River and they walked up there and that’s why I’m kind of teed off about the airstrips.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So did a lot of the guides later on fly their clients in?
URBAN RAHOI: But they never landed up in the back country.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Okay, so they --
URBAN RAHOI: One guy landed on top the mountain up there at the head -- by Divide Creek. And he landed in there and got them in there, but he couldn’t get them out so he took the airplane and he walked all the way down to Horsfeld. To get them out of there.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So he would go into -- URBAN RAHOI: Yeah. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Sort of key access points. URBAN RAHOI: Right. BARBARA CELLARIUS: And then walk or use horses?
URBAN RAHOI: Probably walk, yeah. I felt that was a mistake when they start letting them build airstrips in.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And we’ve been talking sort of around the establishment of Wrangell-St. Elias. URBAN RAHOI: Yeah.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And can you talk a little bit about how that might have affected our guiding business or your lodge?
URBAN RAHOI: Well, actually my lodge business -- see I tried summer business, but I say again it was the expense of getting there is what killed it pretty much. Some guy -- I got some people to come in to Fairbanks and I flew them in, but maybe only a few trips a year.
So I didn’t push it too hard because of that. Like I say, them German people came over and that was their -- their whole bag was the cost.
Like I say, you could fly from Germany over there to Anchorage and back cheaper than you could fly from Tok to there and that was kind of a killer. But the only -- I always felt if I could ever line up enough people that would have a load going in and a load going out.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So he could peak that.
URBAN RAHOI: Than the cost would go way, way down, but I could never get enough booked to do that, see and I don’t know how you do it to get -- because there are so many places to go. And the funny part about it, when the park service first got in there, the parks, everybody wanted to go to the Arctic.
They didn’t care about nothing. Everybody wanted to go north of the Arctic Circle for some reason, you know. And, of course, Wien used to fly them up there and then when they flew over the circle where the circle is they had a little bump.
They played that bump up. I don’t know if people fell for it or not.
But it is kind of unique how you can do things, but I think that -- then finally they started coming in to the Wrangell’s over there. Years later. It took a long time to get them going into there, so that was kind of part of the problem too to start with, see.
And now it seems like it is getting -- it has been a lot better in the years that they’re coming into Wrangell’s to see that part too. Of course, it has been played up a lot too.
Before you know, but McKinley, of course, that’s always been the big deal so.
KAREN BREWSTER: So when the Wrangell Park and Preserve was established, did that cause changes for your business or your activities?
URBAN RAHOI: Well, basically not that much of a change because we still guided. We did all the things, you know, but the thing -- the only thing that changed was some of the regulations about what you do there -- can do, you know, which to me in reality when we had the hearings the book from Yellowstone was not supposed to be used for Alaska.
We were supposed to make separate rules and like I said, right now I’m working on a deal with Murkowski. They are going to get with the committees and try to come back and it is like I explained to your people that we are going to get you the authority to make these decisions not a book from down there, see, because this is a whole different deal up here. It is a different situation and we have to be different in how we handle it so we can get it done.
KAREN BREWSTER: So what are examples of some of the regulations you talk about?
URBAN RAHOI: They can’t let you take a yard of gravel out of the river bar period. Now that is kind of ridiculous cause, you know, it is unique you know those buildings over in the White River.
It makes me mad because they come up the White River and then they went around the buildings here to keep it in the hard park and I think that was a mistake because then whats you call cause Vaden was using that as his headquarters and everything and taking care of it. Well then Vaden was going to bring in a cat, I think. You ever heard the story about that?
BARBARA CELLARIUS: This is North Fork Island?
URBAN RAHOI: North Fork Island, yeah, and build a dike. Well, Chuck Budge was gona give him a permit to build a dike, but Vaden was one of them kind of renegade guys.
He don’t listen to nothing, you know. So he went -- come up and brought the cat in, but then they got in trouble with the cat and got stuck out there and everything else, so he didn’t get the permit. Now is it kind of unique because I told Vaden if people want to help us let’s help them and I explained why, but he still wouldn’t listen, you know.
So as a consequence when Chuck left, the next superintendent that gets in than the Corps gets involved and he don’t have that permit. So you see where I look at things different than most of these guys do.
I would have went and got the permit. If he was going to give me a permit, I would have made a special trip all the way down there and back just to get that damn permit because that’s the thing that covers everything.
But also I think the park service was extreme in what they did to me on that gravel deal because the gravel was mine yet they accused me of stealing it.
KAREN BREWSTER: Because you went over the line with your machine?
URBAN RAHOI: That’s why I go over the bank to turn. Now what’s the name of the new superintendent there?
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Obernesser or Rick Obernesser
URBAN RAHOI: Yeah, now he says no problem. There’s no problem crossing that cause it is not going to damage anything, but see the difference in the attitudes. It is the attitude again. The whole thing is all on the attitude and that’s what upsets me so much.
Instead of looking at something -- let’s work together and let’s get this done. We ain’t going to hurt -- we’d not going to desecrate. And a classic example is when I was at that meeting there I asked the forester about desecrating the forest because we cut the dead trees for firewood, you know.
And he sat there and thought a long time and then he says geez, Urban, he says no he says I can’t accuse you of anything like that, but he says in a natural forest there is always dead trees. I said why I can’t win.
KAREN BREWSTER: So he was accusing you of destroying the forest because you -- URBAN RAHOI: No.
KAREN BREWSTER: Were taking away the dead trees?
URBAN RAHOI: No, no, he just says in a natural forest there is always dead trees. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.
URBAN RAHOI: But he said he wasn’t accusing me of destroying the forest and that because I -- I’ve been doing it for firewood all these years, see. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.
URBAN RAHOI: And that was part of the deal in the hearings that we were allowed to sustain cutting the wood there and I look at it from a standpoint of many ways because I look at it because I’m burning -- if I fly it in I’m burning a natural resource nonrenewable to get it in there and I’m burning a nonrenewable where I have a renewable fuel here.
And I have been burning it there for what -- almost 60 years and yet you wouldn’t really notice it.
KAREN BREWSTER: And you’re saying you are cutting down standing dead or --
URBAN RAHOI: Mostly dead. KAREN BREWSTER: Small -- URBAN RAHOI: Stuff that is falling down and that. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, yeah.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And when you talk about hearings, are you talking about something locally or something in Washington, DC?
URBAN RAHOI: This is -- there are going to the committee and see if they can get this all so that (inaudible) will have the authority to be able to cooperate and do things.
KAREN BREWSTER: No, but the hearings you are talking about were those the ANILCA hearings back in the 70’s?
URBAN RAHOI: No, this is going to be a new hearing -- this new one.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: But you were talking about firewood being able to use firewood being discussed at a hearing.
URBAN RAHOI: Right. BARBARA CELLARIUS: And what hearing was that?
URBAN RAHOI: That was when the congressmen and senators were --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Okay. That was the ANILCA hearings -- URBAN RAHOI: Before the park was even made, you know.
KAREN BREWSTER: When they were talking about setting up the park?
URBAN RAHOI: Park, yeah, setting up the park, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Key two years.
URBAN RAHOI: We brought that all up about these things. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.
URBAN RAHOI: And they said that would be maintained. We will not change that, but then again the park comes back at me here under the one superintendent and they agreed to let me go all the way down to Beaver Creek and sort out what’s bad there and I was upset as -- pretty mad upset cause it was one guy said well, he said, you know, you do that he says you are going to tear down the creek banks.
I said boy I says, you know, you are a hopeless case. And he said what do you mean? I said how am I going to tear the banks up if I have got a foot of glacier ice over the top of it? Now you see there’s where I got a problem with some of them people.
They come up with stupid really answers to things because the creeks glacier -- you’re driving down and most of the wood we’re cutting is what is glacier kill and it is going to be destroyed.
All right and then I have a problem with the whole thing that I’m arguing is trees hanging over the bank and they are falling into the creek. Why not salvage them for firewood instead of letting them fall in the creek and then they get covered with gravel and it serves no purpose at all then really.
So I don’t know if I’m realistic or not, but I think my opinion is most of these park people don’t want to do anything because there is always somebody up here that will disagree.
What are you shaking your head for? That’s right, isn’t it?
BARBARA CELLARIUS: I understand what you’re saying.
URBAN RAHOI: Yeah, but that is where are problem is, see and that's why I get upset a little bit because you’re letting -- we are letting somebody way over there that don’t know nothing about anything making the rules and doing this thing and that is why I want to get the control back to these people here in the local area.
And I hope I can achieve it and they're working on it, so. See and I -- like I told your head guy I said I have no feelings against you cause you have no control.
It is not your decision. Now maybe I’ll get them to make a decision and he won’t like to have to make a decision cause -- but the way I look at the world is let’s work together and make it all work and make it nice and beautiful and that.
Seeing if I can finish in there, I’ll get my landscaping done and it will be pretty then.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I looked at Ptarmigan Lake Lodge on your website and it looks absolutely beautiful down there.
URBAN RAHOI: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: It’s a gorgeous spot.
URBAN RAHOI: You know what. There was three women with these hunters -- the hunters that come and hunt with me about six years every time they left they’d cry. I’d say for Christ sake grow up.
But they say we don’t want to go and they stay there about two weeks or two or three weeks, you know, and whats you call it they enjoy the damn country together.
But the thing that fascinates me people when they feel that way about it. They don’t want to go home. I say, well, you got to go home.
Your times up. Now I can understand how you feel about it too in there, you know. You enjoy it so much you hate to leave cause it is enjoyable.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Well and it sounds like you have built a nice place?
URBAN RAHOI: Well, I look at the world a different way, you know, than a lot of people and to me I don’t want it to be too much commercial. I want people to come in there and enjoy it.
Sit down and relax and enjoy that whole thing together and, you know, the thing is when we going through there everybody seemed to work together. People -- now most of my people would want to go out and do their own horses.
They ain’t too good at it, but with the guide helping him and then when they get back they take the saddles off and everything. Do the whole thing.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Right.
URBAN RAHOI: And to me then you get these other guys that they don’t want to touch nothing, you bring the horse up here and that. Well, I’ve had damn few of them people.
Overly gets them and all them guys get them, but I don’t cause like I say, it is a total experience when you come to Ptarmigan. And I enjoy it. If I can’t enjoy then they don’t enjoy it either.
KAREN BREWSTER: One of the things we have been -- well, I will rephrase it. I am wondering about with guided hunting and subsistence hunting in the area, do you ever have any interactions or --
URBAN RAHOI: No, but I’m mad at the park service that we got a permit system for getting the caribou, you know and we were left off the list. We -- we don’t even rate to get on the list to get the caribou.
KAREN BREWSTER: For subsistence?
URBAN RAHOI: For subsistence, yeah. And I’ve been there all them years and I’ve been doing the predator control to get them caribou up there.
I guess we’re going to get a permit next year. We might get a permit.
KAREN BREWSTER: So people from the communities, Northway and around there, they don’t come up into your area?
URBAN RAHOI: No. There is no reason for them to come up there. They never had been up there before, although the Natives at one time lived in Shoshanna and you can up on the bank above the cabin there. You’ve seen the little hill behind there?
Well, right on that bench there that is where they always did their arrows and you can go up there and find arrow chips. I told them don’t ever find human bones though for God’s sakes.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: But your lodge is a pretty long way from the villages where people live now.
URBAN RAHOI: But the Natives did migrate around there -- hunted there that area. Their headquarters was the Shoshanna where their main living was. But they covered that ground probably to hunt sheep and different things, you know, when their old days.
KAREN BREWSTER: But not during your time there? URBAN RAHOI: No. No.
KAREN BREWSTER: So do you have any interaction with those communities at all?
URBAN RAHOI: No. They weren’t there -- they were out -- they were already out of Shoshanna see. I think they moved out of Shoshanna some time in the 1900 -- early 1900’s.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: After the gold rush. URBAN RAHOI: Northway. Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: I was wondering if you ever heard anything about how they might feel about having guided hunters in the area.
URBAN RAHOI: No, I always had a good relationship with the Natives in Northway and that. Very good relationship.
KAREN BREWSTER: Did you used to use their runway? URBAN RAHOI: Northway? KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.
URBAN RAHOI: Oh, yeah. I used to -- I flew out of there quite a bit.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Is that the closest big runway out on the road?
URBAN RAHOI: Well, I had a unique situation, you know, in that customs deal. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Right.
URBAN RAHOI: I could fly out of Northway, but I would haul a load in here to the camp then my people would be in Northway. I’d fly out to bring the people in then I would go back to Beaver Creek hauling my freight and never have to check in customs.
That’s -- that’s to me that’s the kind of trust I like. When people can trust each other and that’s what old Jeff down at the -- he retired after I left.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Jeff Blakely?
URBAN RAHOI: Jeff, the guy -- BARBARA CELLARIUS: Jeff with -- he was the customs’ guy.
URBAN RAHOI: He says Urban, if they do what they are saying they are doing -- going to do to you, I’m retiring. He could retire, you know.
He says I’m quitting because this is just getting out of hand with the whole thing. He didn’t like it at all. So he retired. He sold his house in Fairbanks and moved to Wasilla cause his son lives there.
But that’s -- I like attitude like that because, you know, we’re achieving a lot and we are accomplishing a lot and we are keeping costs down making it feasible to do things in a reasonable way and that is why I'm glad I am 95 and I ain’t got that many more years.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, we are talking about all this flying in and out of Ptarmigan Lake it makes it sound so easy, but I can’t imagine that was always easy flying?
URBAN RAHOI: Well, I have flown in some horrible weather. I had a couple from Maine, a guy and his wife and his son was hunting and they came along, his mother and dad, you know.
Took them out and they didn’t like flying. I brought them out in a hell of a snowstorm. You couldn’t hardly see nothing and she has been completely relaxed flying ever since.
KAREN BREWSTER: Because it all seemed so good compared to that.
URBAN RAHOI: I don’t know, but I do have people relax when I fly which for some reason and I don’t why.
KAREN BREWSTER: You don’t have lights on your runway out there do you?
URBAN RAHOI: Yeah, I got two lights. KAREN BREWSTER: You do, oh.
URBAN RAHOI: Now if you want an experience, I’ll give you one. I -- I -- I -- well, you’ve been there so you know. I come in at 8,000 feet at night in the dark. I go over here at the end of Rock Lake, start my descent down the middle of Rock Lake.
I get out here and you can see there's a flat land out here, you know. I come off of there and I can see the lights on the lodge so I turn to the lodge.
I’m descending all the time. On the runway there is just two lights -- two four-wheelers that got lights across like that and that is my target.
Pitch black night and this guy says at the lodge he said don’t ever do that and he says you scared the hell out of me. I said what the hell you’re sitting in the front room watching that out the window, what the hell?
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Is this your caretaker? URBAN RAHOI: No, a guy from -- BARBARA CELLARIUS: Or one of the guests?
URBAN RAHOI: A guy from Outside. This guy had been there -- we --
KAREN BREWSTER: So you hit the target, you made it?
URBAN RAHOI: I put it right between them lights every time. That was my job overseas when I was flying combat over there. The general pulled me off of combat doing the missions and trained these guys and one of them was to land at night with just five lights along the runway and no landing lights and grease it in.
KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.
URBAN RAHOI: And I have been doing that all my life -- flying like that.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: How is the weather up there for flying? Does it -- I mean are -- is it usually pretty good?
URBAN RAHOI: Yeah, it is usually pretty -- it is pretty good most of the time.
Once, you know, we’ll get a wind storm maybe once or twice a year you’ll get a good wind, but outside of that you normally -- because we are on the back side and the pressure has to be in a certain place to make it and that six feet of snow how we got that was the damn wind came down from Whitehorse. It came around and went in there.
And brought it in seeing it -- but if it don’t blow there, it won’t snow in there. So it is kind of unique the way this weather pattern works. The thing is most of the time when it comes up from the gulf into Fairbanks it goes out northeast -- the low, so it doesn’t come down here at all in that area, see.
Funny about I drove in from Tok the other a couple days ago and I went back and brought a load down here. It was snowing in Fairbanks. We’re pretty good you got about two inches.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Was that Wednesday? URBAN RAHOI: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: It was Wednesday, yeah.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: I drove up on Wednesday.
URBAN RAHOI: You know -- you know where the snow end -- where’d you drive from, Anchorage?
BARBARA CELLARIUS: I -- no, I came from Copper.
URBAN RAHOI: Well -- BARBARA CELLARIUS: I drove up -- URBAN RAHOI: There was no snow until you got to Harding Lake.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Right.
URBAN RAHOI: From Harding Lake in -- sunshine all that way. The next morning I get up and it is snowing right over in here -- big sunshine and blue sky and sunshine over there. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And my boss said oh, you’re going to have a nice drive and that first half of it and then --
URBAN RAHOI: It was snowing down in -- BARBARA CELLARIUS: And then it started snowing sideways -- URBAN RAHOI: -- in the pass though wasn’t it?
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Yeah. URBAN RAHOI: Yeah, I seen that when I come by. I said it is snowing back in there.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Yeah.
URBAN RAHOI: But you know in the ’67 flood, you know that where that happened? From Harding Lake east it didn’t rain.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Okay. URBAN RAHOI: It all poured right up in here.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. URBAN RAHOI: Just came in here in a mass.
KAREN BREWSTER: It was the upper Chena, yes.
URBAN RAHOI: Yeah, and it came down the Salcha it flooded, you know, and I came -- I come flying in from the lodge and I looked at the Salcha and I said holy cripes. So I get home and I said get ready we’re going to get flooded. It is going to be a bad flood, you know, cause she is just terrible up there.
And sure enough I got home and I had that 206 on floats and I went to take off and the damn turbo charger quit on takeoff and I crashed. The next morning the water came and I got that airplane upsidedown overnight.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Oh, no.
URBAN RAHOI: Yeah. Four of us in there, upside down -- if you look at the picture, you can figure nobody got out of that alive. Four people got out of that alive -- not a scratch -- not a scratch, a bruise or nothing.
KAREN BREWSTER: So was your trailer park impacted a lot by the flood?
URBAN RAHOI: No. I built that up high so it was out of the flood. I lived with a flood back in the -- when I built -- got out -- first got out there, so we took all the stripping dirt and built it up and then put the gravel on top and made that trailer court.
It was three feet out of the water and the corps engineer guy called my phone over there and he says how you doing? I says hey it is just like I told you if I get my feet wet, you’re going to be long gone and lots of water.
He says yeah I got a lot of water about four feet out here. I says well I ain’t got nothing up here. I’m up in the clear and people were driving out of there to leave.
I said where the hell you going? Well, we’re going to get out of here because it is going to flood. I says hell, go back home and forget about it. And I just show you about using common sense again.
I realized what was going to happen and I went and got eight power plants from different contractors and the NC Company and had these big power plants sitting at the end of each row so when the pow -- when Golden Valley went off, we started them up and that place operated like it was -- nothing happened.
KAREN BREWSTER: So those are like little generator type things?
URBAN RAHOI: Yeah, big generators. We had them so we could run the whole 20 trailers we could run on each generator.
KAREN BREWSTER: It was literally an island to yourself?
URBAN RAHOI: Yeah. And these federal guys and the state guys come in there and they looked at the whole thing they couldn’t believe it. I said well I figured I was going to flood and went and got all this stuff.
Now here is a good question about that. And why that black mayor down there in New Orleans he had a thousand buses. How come he didn’t get all of them people out when they said it was going to flood.
Everybody stood with their hands and blaming Bush. Blame somebody. See the things you look at a situation and you grab the bull by the horns and that is the way I have been looking all my life on things.
And I look at a lot of people down here. They knew it was coming and they just stood there and left their cars sit there and everything.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Well, it sounds like being at Ptarmigan Lake and being able to go guiding. It sounds like it has been a pretty good part of your life.
URBAN RAHOI: It has been the best part of my life. I think that’s why I’m still alive because on the weekends I would go down there -- take the wife and the kids and we’d go down there and, you know, you’ve seen that picture of it and there is that mountain down there where the Ptarmigan goes down around that pass.
When I figure I went through there, that is like going over that Valley of No Return, you know, where all the secret stuff is. Them stories you read when you were kids that was that. When I went over that mountain that was it. And one night we went down there and we got there about nine o’clock at night and it was drizzling a little bit.
And got -- we had a little bit to eat and went to bed and you have never seen a thunderstorm like that. That came up right up after that. The cabin was actually shaking and I thought holy God Almighty and when we came out in the morning the lake had raised a foot already.
It rained that hard all that night and one time there was another year -- I don’t remember when it was, but it rained so hard the lake raised four feet. It was running out of there like a river down the canyon there. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I said to Herb -- I landed and I taxied up to the bank there, you know, and normally you’re looking up a little bit.
I’m looking down and said had a little rain hey he said. And, in fact, it only rained for about 15 hours and he said it just seemed like it was solid water coming down solid on those mountains.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: It can rain hard on --
URBAN RAHOI: And actually it all fell right in then, you know. But you ever notice over the mountains you’ll see big tears in the mountains, that’s what happens. And it was kind of unique because I’ve seen these areas where there is heavy brush comes down the mountain.
Well, that’s where the rain washed it out and then all this brush came back and grew thicker than hell. You could hardly crawl through the damn thing, you know.
That taught me a lesson about that one how that happens and I’ve seen it down in the White River several places where that happened down there right where you come out of the highway up there. It happened there. The whole damn mountain slid in there.
So, you know, all you got to do is keep your eyes open and look around and it is amazing what you see and what you learn.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, you have been going down there for so long you must have seen a lot of changes.
URBAN RAHOI: You know a unique thing too that we used to have a lot of thunderstorms down the valley here and we’d come back and there would always be a tunnel through where I could fly through just like somebody made it there for me to get through.
Yeah, it has been a hell of an experience of life. You know, you couldn’t ask for a better, but the thing is also you got to have the right attitude to enjoy it. Some people can’t enjoy nothing. You look like you might be a person that might enjoy something like that.
You know, it is all so great and that’s why I get mad at people too. They have that sour attitude, you know, and I say what the hell why are you sour? My wife and I we looked at it if we had enough to eat and a dry bed to sleep in we had the world by the ass no matter what, but we had each other and that was her thing.
All we had to do -- now I had chances to go to work up on the North Slope and make a fortune, but I didn’t want to be away from her. Alaska Airlines come and asked me -- this Bob Long, he was their chief guy. He come and asked me -- I flew up north here.
While the other guys are getting 400 -- 750 bucks a month, I got 4,000 to do a special job for them. I said hey I could get killed, so I said is that what I want? It was for United Geophysical, a research deal.
They paid it. By God I went up and fly a couple days and I’d come home, but I wasn’t going to be away and then they said, well, you got to be there more. I said, well, if you can get a place for my wife and kid to stay there so that we’re together I’ll stay.
Oh, no, we can’t do that. Okay, goodbye. Here is a two week notice.
KAREN BREWSTER: And your wife’s name was Vi?
URBAN RAHOI: Vi, yeah. She was a Finlander, a full-blooded Finlander. That’s normally a strike against them right away. No, she was entirely diff -- person, you couldn’t believe the type of person she was.
When we first got married the first couple days -- the first couple months, she’d scream at me and that and then all of a sudden that one day it never happened again.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, she must have been pretty amazing to get in a small plane in 1947 and fly to Alaska?
URBAN RAHOI: Yeah, with all the clothes and four dogs too.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: It sounds like a big adventure.
KAREN BREWSTER: Pretty strong woman.
URBAN RAHOI: She was unique as a woman. We had a fantastic life together. We hit it off good together. Of course, I think the talking before was so important to understand it and realize what we were getting into and what we were facing together.
KAREN BREWSTER: And did she help you at the lodge? Did she out --
URBAN RAHOI: Oh, yeah, yeah, she’d go out and help cook and that and then I had some couples up -- down there -- they’d come up here and they’d come up and cook for the lodge for free -- the guy and his wife, just to go out there and stay there.
They’d cook and take care of everything and then they go home they’re happier than hell by God. And this one guy he come up and he is an attorney in Twin Falls. His wife cooked and whats you call he says man I’m ready to go back and lick the world now.
See, it changes life that whole five, six weeks was like a break his life and like he said he felt so good that he just go back and he could do it another year and then come back again and get rejuvenated.
But see again it gets back to attitude the whole thing is attitude in life.
KAREN BREWSTER: And now you have caretakers. Have you always had year round caretakers?
URBAN RAHOI: Yeah, I -- actually Herb Stevens was my first one that stayed. I had people that went in there every winter and trapped. And he -- he had a guiding outfit down in Montana, Augusta, Montana.
He went up west of there back in the mountains there guiding and hunting elk and that and he got teed off at the forest service because they were raising hell with him so much, he gave the thing to his son and he got this young gal that came with him that would cook for him when came up and Vivian and whats you call it my damn attorney he brought the Catholic priest down and they had retreats there.
And think they convinced her was living in sin. She went down and joined the monastery. That was a bad effect on that gal, but she was a nice woman and she had a bad marriage -- married to a Marine and a hell of a good woman. But they stayed there -- he stayed there 19 years.
KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.
URBAN RAHOI: And the first guy was a guy by the name of Thor and he was a fisherman down in the Pacific there in the bay there and he came up and stayed all winter and whats you call it and then he got this gal he married was a Finlander too and she hunted and trapped over in the -- on the Charlie River in that park deal over there and she got tore up by a damn wolverine -- got careless and so she put an SOS sign out in front of her cabin and guess what happened?
Here comes a damn Army helicopter banana with some troops on it, saw the SOS and stopped and picked her up.
KAREN BREWSTER: That’s good.
URBAN RAHOI: And then she met Thor right after that and then they came down there and stayed at Ptarmigan for a number of years and there was a bunch of other people and than back in them days there was people they worked all summer, you know, for about four or five months, five - six months maybe, but then they had nothing to do so they were trappers.
They loved to trap and that. So they’d go down and stay there -- the guy and his wife would go down and spend the winter there. I kept them in food, you know, just to keep -- watch the game and we -- then the Riley. I don’t know if you met Riley.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: We talked to Riley on the radio one day we were flying over.
URBAN RAHOI: Well, he was there about 18, 19 years too and he had a bad marriage and he hated the world and whats you can, but he enjoyed the years he was there.
KAREN BREWSTER: What was his last name?
URBAN RAHOI: Nighten -- Riley Nighten (phonetic).
KAREN BREWSTER: You’re lucky you had a couple guys there for 19 years. That’s pretty good.
URBAN RAHOI: What 38 years. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.
URBAN RAHOI: Yeah. They really enjoyed it. They took care of the horses and that, you know, and everything worked fine. And they were good guides too.
KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, they helped guide also. URBAN RAHOI: They were guides, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay.
URBAN RAHOI: Both of them were guides. They just loved the outdoors and then Riley was kind of a sad deal. I got a cook come up there with a guy -- come up and she cooked for two years and the second year I see her walk with a nightgown over to Riley’s cabin and I thought oh, shit. And I was right, by God, he left.
They both left together. But like I said, if they were happy and they seemed to be happy. They are still together so to me as far I am concerned it was no loss to me. It was good for them, but how many people look at that way, see.
That’s why if their life if they’re happy, well I’ll figure out some way to keep going. And these two showed up here and they’re leaving and then another guy is coming in there. He will be here the 15th I’m thinking.
KAREN BREWSTER: So you've got somebody new? URBAN RAHOI: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.
URBAN RAHOI: Yeah, he’s 40 years old. He loves to trap and hunt and everything and he said he would shoot our coyotes for us. So don't bother him now. It's legal to shoot them coyotes.
KAREN BREWSTER: It’s in the preserve right? URBAN RAHOI: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: All right. Barbara, you have other questions?
BARBARA CELLARIUS: I think we’ve sort of run out of my questions.
URBAN RAHOI: Well, I, you know, what I --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: It seemed really interesting --
URBAN RAHOI: Am going to do next, don’t you, did I tell you?
BARBARA CELLARIUS: You have that -- some plane you’re going to go fly.
URBAN RAHOI: Yeah, over on the 70th anniversary of the invasion of France. They are working on it and then I got to get a hold of my son and get some information cause he fell on the thing himself.
He was checking on the computer on this deal and this guy wants to get the computer identification for these other ones, so work it out.
KAREN BREWSTER: So I have one last final question is -- with all these changes in the guiding business and the animals, you still continue to do guiding, why?
URBAN RAHOI: Cause I am going to attempt to get them animals in balance again because see these people -- I got to convince them that if there is no animals on the mountain, they ain’t got no park, right?
Cause that is part of what the park is is the animals.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Part of what the park has.
URBAN RAHOI: Yeah. Without -- if there is no animals there I can go look at a mountain in Montana. I don’t have to come up here and look at a rock, although there are some pretty rocks back in that country -- is some pretty country. I have flown over most of it myself, you know. And it’s amazing what you see there.
And the only thing is what you see is only what your attitude is too and how you see it, so I look at it that way too.
KAREN BREWSTER: But, yeah, you kept that business -- you have kept that business -- the lodge and your guiding business going for a very long time. BARBARA CELLARIUS: A long time.
URBAN RAHOI: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: And why do -- why do you keep it going and other people might have stopped?
URBAN RAHOI: I don’t know, I can’t understand -- I can’t answer that one. I just like doing things.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: You’re not ready to retire.
URBAN RAHOI: I’m not ready to retire yet, no. But you know, like I say, somebody gets the oil line fixed here Monday, I’m going to be hauling oil -- fuel oil and gasoline in there to keep operating and then I got to haul that back in the winter so I can dig those ditches along which we agreed on.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Right.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, you definitely seem like somebody who doesn’t just sit around and do nothing.
URBAN RAHOI: No, I don’t sit around. I don’t sit around, but I sit down and I eat a good meal. My sister says what do you eat?
So I explained to her what I eat and she said I’m not worried about you any more because I eat good food. I don’t eat -- I have oatmeal in the morning and I put cinnamon in there and a little maple syrup -- a little shot of that and then raisins and cook it up and eat it.
And you know I used the long cooking one, not that fast thing.
KAREN BREWSTER: Right, it’s nice.
URBAN RAHOI: I do the long cook and cook it and I tell you what, I think it is hard to beat it because you look at when I was a kid that was the main food. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.
URBAN RAHOI: How many cereals were there on the shelves? There was four of them. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.
URBAN RAHOI: Oatmeal, Cream of Wheat, Corn Flakes and Shredded Wheat.
KAREN BREWSTER: All of which are good for you.
URBAN RAHOI: Now you can’t hardly find them on the shelf even any more. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Right.
URBAN RAHOI: And yet that was the healthiest food.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, I think you’re lucky you found something to do in life that your flying and your guiding. You had a passion and you were able to make a living at it.
URBAN RAHOI: No, I’m not lazy. KAREN BREWSTER: No.
URBAN RAHOI: See so many people want to retire and they say, oh, you know, retire, but you know I learned a lesson back as a kid and it was in regard to the folks then.
The men were usually miners in the mines, you know, and that -- or in the logging companies and that. And then the wife stayed home and raised the kids. Well, the damn wife would live 15 years longer than the guy because he had worked in the mines and that and about 60.
The mine at 65 you retired. They give you a little bitty pension. The guys that had a garden and did things lived 10, 15 more years.
Some guys would just sit on their ass in a year -- six months to a year they die -- dead. My son’s father-in-law he did the same thing. He was a plumber.
He sat there in the damn front room watching TV in nine months he was gone. Never got up off the chair. So that is why I am going -- I don’t sit very long. Because you sit there too long and he gotcha.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah and you can say and you have been passionate about something in life and been able to -- URBAN RAHOI: Well --
KAREN BREWSTER: Make a living at it and that’s great.
URBAN RAHOI: Well, everything I’ve ever done in my life has been with a sincere thing, you know. It is like surveying back there. I could out survey anybody and outdo it because I was a woodsman.
Most of these guys that went to college were a guy that never went -- did things like I did. Now in high school I sawed a single cord of wood nearly every night and that is what we used money. We sold it to eat and that, you know.
My brother sat on his ass. He has been dead for 25 years. Now it showed all through his life. He never did have any ambition, you know.
My younger brother now he has had quite a bit of ambition, but he stayed working for the state and you are kind of limited in your activity and you can’t do it.
So I had the freedom to do everything I wanted to do and keep moving you know.
KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Well, thank you very much. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Thank you. URBAN RAHOI: Yeah. Well, they probably --