Doug McRae was interviewed on April 10, 2010 by Don Callaway, Rachel Mason, and Karen Brewster at his home in Seward, Alaska. In this interview, Doug 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.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Exit Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park
Date of Interview: Apr 10, 2010
Narrator(s): Doug McRae
Interviewer(s): Don Callaway, Rachel Mason, Karen Brewster
Videographer: Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Carol McCue
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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
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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 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 -- 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. Excuse me.
What it was doing, whether it was receding or -- they had a lath 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,