This is a continuation of an interview with Doug McRae by Don Callaway, Rachel Mason, and Karen Brewster on April 10, 2010 at his home in Seward, Alaska. In this part of the interivew, Doug continues to talk about his career as a hunting guide, his own hunting activities, the road to Exit Glacier, thoughts about establishment of Kenai Fjords National Park, snowmachining, and his work as an artist making carvings out of antler.
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
After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.
Using snowmachines in the Exit Glacier area
Exit Glacier Road
Increases in number of people using the area
Serving on the Fish and Game Advisory Board
Story about being chased by a bear
Changes in the brown bear and moose populations
Use of the Exit Glacier area before there was a road
Using horses for hunting trips
Changes in Seward
Making antler carvings
Local reaction to Kenai Fjords National Park
Marking cabin locations on the map
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After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.
DON CALLAWAY: You were talking about the study you did, I guess, on wolverines.
RACHEL MASON: For the Forest Service.
DOUG MCRAE: I participated in one because I like think I said earlier, they are my favorite animal, bar none. They are just interesting.
DON CALLAWAY: I'm a Michigan graduate, so --
DOUG MCRAE: Oh, ok, the wolverine state. Anyway, they -- there was a woman biologist who asked my son, she lived next door to him, that they were studying wolverine.
And I was -- right away I was a little reluctant because I've had lots of stories about the Forest Service, good and bad, but mainly about mining, they are -- they are death on mining.
Anyway, they wanted to do a study of the wolverine, and it was '91 or '92, somewhere about the time I quit. And I was worried about this hut to hut.
They were wanting to build trails through here, and what -- what impact it would have on the wolverine, the denning areas.
Because when I was talking about Turnagain Pass, while I was there you could drive down the road after the snow had been on a couple of days and you'd always see where two or three wolverine crossed the road, could have been the same one.
And I -- and I caught a few of them up there in about a 5 or 10 year period until too many people showed up. But shortly after they showed up, you drive to Anchorage, you rarely saw -- I haven't saw a track there for 20 years.
I don't think they are there. And that leads up to this Forest Service deal. Reluctantly, I gave them eight wolverine, to study the carcasses. I don't know what they were learning from it, but they were cutting them up, I guess.
Anyway, when the report come out and I got it somewhere. Christ, it's 2 inches thick. They said wolverine were abundant on the Kenai. They're not. They never were. They are not really abundant anywhere.
They are one of the few animals that, if you catch a dozen of them, you're doing good. And they're just not. They said they're abundant; not only were they abundant, but they were abundant in Turnagain Pass.
And that they're -- they're -- that part I didn't like because that -- that was -- that's totally wrong. I say that the wolverine in the Kenai are only on the edges, like the coastal areas, the harder to get places like between here and Seldovia.
And there's -- there's a few, one or two out and, oh in Summit Lake area, where you'll see a track once, once in a great while. But basically, they are -- they are gone in Turnagain Pass. But I think mainly -- mainly because of the activity up there.
And they're an animal that nobody's really ever studied them. They don't know whole lot. They know a lot about wolves and other animals, but I've known people that live their entire life here and have never seen one in the wild.
They just -- you have to get above timberline. While I was sheep and goat hunting, I'd see them not weekly, but you see a lot of them above the timberline.
Flying, when you're flying in the wintertime it can be 50 below and blowing, you see them above the timberline. A lot. What they are doing up there, what they find is beyond me.
DON CALLAWAY: They cache stuff, too.
DOUG MCRAE: They do. They like to hide stuff. Yeah. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: So, I'm curious. You mentioned the military recreation area.
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. They are right over -- right over here, yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. They've been there for a long time. Can you talk about that and maybe --
DOUG MCRAE: I don't know --
KAREN BREWSTER: Do they go out and use the area?
DOUG MCRAE: Well, they -- they use your park area a lot, yes. Yeah. I don't know a whole lot about them. I mean, I have nothing -- I'm military myself. They come down here, they have boats, they take -- they go out in the bay, and then in the wintertime they have snow machines that they use. And one of the most popular areas for them to use is the Exit Glacier up -- up the road and into the park.
I haven't been up there at all when they -- when they were around, but you can drive out there and see their trailers. There's still gates up there, it's still gated off. So are they allowed to drive in the park? I think they go in the park.
DON CALLAWAY: I don't know.
DOUG MCRAE: I'm not -- to be honest, I'm not sure. I never went in the park. I stayed on the Forest Service trail with the snow machine, but that's a nightmare there. I don't know if they go in the -- I think they go in the park. I'm not sure.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, they go on -- you're saying they go on the road.
DOUG MCRAE: They go out that road. It's 9 miles up that road. And you're going through, you start out on state land, then you have got a Forest Service gate, then you go Forest Service up to the bridge, and then you're in the park. I really don't know if they're allowed to go in the park.
DON CALLAWAY: I don't know either.
DOUG MCRAE: It's controversial in McKinley Park, I know.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. No, I -- I honestly don't know either.
DOUG MCRAE: Overall it's not a -- it's a very poor area to try snow machining. It's --
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, you mentioned that before.
DOUG MCRAE: Oh, it's just a nightmare. I was right side down more than I was right side up. When I -- there, it's what they call three bridges when you go up to Martin Creek, and oh, it was -- you're going along a steep side hill, and there was always glaciers running off, and man, I spent more time.
It was easier to walk up there. And I'm not -- I'm not a fan of snow machines, even though I bought one so I could keep doing what I was doing, but I spent a lot of time trying to get it out of where I was stuck.
DON CALLAWAY: When did they build the military --
DOUG MCRAE: It's been here a long time. DON CALLAWAY: 20 years?
DOUG MCRAE: Oh, at least that. Before that, I think. It's been here quite a long time. I would say maybe closer to 30 years. DON CALLAWAY: 30 years?
DOUG MCRAE: I really don't know the date on it. Right where it's built there used to be a sanitarium for TB patients. They tore that down. And then they -- the military come along pretty -- not too long after that. They were always here in Seward.
Right here where this house sits, two houses over when they dug the basement, they found a live bomb.
So this -- this was called Fort Raymond in this area during the war. In fact, I went to school up here a couple blocks. The school was all painted camouflage trees. Yeah. The school was all --
RACHEL MASON: Is there anything left of the old Fort Raymond?
DOUG MCRAE: The foundations. There's a couple of them over here. This Steve Leirer, the friend of mine, his dad built the road up there, all the -- the foundations are still there.
And then right on the corner where Duane LeVan's daughter lives, on the corner where her house is. DON CALLAWAY: Sue?
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, Sue. Okay. Well, right where her house sits, that was where the -- what do they call it -- their dance hall was, the military dance hall. Yeah, right exactly. They just took the stuff out of there when they built her house there.
I remember being in there once on a square dance, of all things. Maybe I was just 13, 14 years old. There was a big fireplace sitting in there, and all that stuff was out of there, it was laying there just until a couple years ago when she built her house.
DON CALLAWAY: I'm -- I'm also trying to still pin down, you know, snow machines came into Seward early '60s, but was there a lot of recreational use during the '70s up into around the Exit Glacier area?
DOUG MCRAE: I think -- no, I don't think around Exit Glacier because it just simply -- back then, the snow machines were -- they weren't very good. DON CALLAWAY: Right.
DOUG MCRAE: These new ones, they have wide tracks, paddles, you had to be on a good surface. I don't remember. Like anything, it took years for them to take hold. And the first time I ever heard of them going in the park, into the park, and they went all the way to Placer Creek.
But they must have caught it at -- I can remember a couple of guys named Stan Kirk was one of them, older fellows that I -- eventually, I worked with him on the dock.
Three or four of them made it all the way to Placer Creek and Boulder Creek. To this day, I never made it up there. I tried. It's just -- it's not a -- not an easy place to get to on a snow machine.
KAREN BREWSTER: Did they go up on -- did they go along the river?
DOUG MCRAE: You know, I think they -- that's probably the only way they could have. If they caught the year just right when it was colder than normal, and they made it up -- they made it all the way up to that cabin. They are the only ones I know that have done that.
KAREN BREWSTER: I've been wondering what the river was like to be travelling on, on snow machine.
DOUG MCRAE: I would be a little bit nervous about it except I guess if you fell through, you're not going to drown because it's not too deep because the water in the winter is really, really low. You know, and like a lot of rivers, it glaciers up, and you've got to be careful.
Even with an airplane you've got to be careful when you land on a lake that it doesn't have a water flow under the snow because, man, you get stuck like glue there and you can't get out.
Well, I don't know. You could probably count the people on one hand that made it up as far as Boulder Creek.
DON CALLAWAY: How about in this area -- when the road come in, they built the road, is that when the recreational uses started to increase around in here?
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, yeah. Slowly. Slowly. DON CALLAWAY: Slowly. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, Slowly.
DON CALLAWAY: When did they put the road in? DOUG MCRAE: To -- you mean to the park? DON CALLAWAY: Yeah.
DOUG MCRAE: Oh, gosh. I'd have to ask Steve. I don't have a clue. Duane didn't know? DON CALLAWAY: He -- I forgot.
DOUG MCRAE: He was involved with it a little bit. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah, '60 --
KAREN BREWSTER: '65, Duane said he started working for the state.
DOUG MCRAE: Oh, the year after the earthquake. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, for the Highway Department. And it was somewhere in the late -- RACHEL MASON: '68 is what I remember. KAREN BREWSTER: -- '60s, they started it. RACHEL MASON: Yeah.
DOUG MCRAE: '68? See, I'm learning something there. I was busy doing other things and it was right after the earthquake, and I worked for a paving company, and we re-built the bridges between here and Anchorage.
KAREN BREWSTER: But I think the -- you know, road across to get to the actual base of the glacier, I think that didn't come until '80 when -- DON CALLOWAY: Right.
KAREN BREWSTER: -- the Park Service -- you know, the -- the bridge didn't go in.
DOUG MCRAE: They wasted one or two years on the wrong side of the river, and then there was a tremendous slide that they -- I don't know, they didn't walk up and look or didn't fly over it. It might have come down and takes out, goes halfway across that valley. It's a monstrous slide.
So they give up on that so they lost a year or two. And when they started to cross, I don't even know if they had permits when they first started, they just started doing it. It was an idea. But I -- I don't have a clue -- I don't even know if Steve would know that.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, we just wondered if you noticed a change in people using that area when there's a road versus --
DOUG MCRAE: Oh, definitely. You know, there -- I can't remember when I was up there. I spent about 4 years up there with a snow machine in the late '80s, right up to '92. I know that was the last year I trapped. I had traps there, I had traps up there, and also had them in Paradise, Lower Paradise, and different places.
And I quit because of the volume of people. That's the only reason I quit. I guess I say "volume of people," when you have a volume of people, you also have a volume of dogs. And they were -- they were getting caught where they shouldn't get caught. I know --
RACHEL MASON: Oh, in the traps.
DOUG MCRAE: In my entire life I only caught two and they were both released at Summit Lake, but a lot of the other people weren't paying attention.
I've seen dogs 7 miles from the road, loose, and their owners are maybe two or three miles behind them. And when you're -- when they're following a snow machine track, if it's a trapper's snow machine track, there's only one place it's going to go is to a trap.
DON CALLAHAN: Yeah.
DOUG MCRAE: And it's unfortunate because it's happened at Chugach Park. I got involved in that deal up there, too.
KAREN BREWSTER: So when you were trapping out this way, up the Resurrection River and stuff, were there other people trapping, or you were the only guy out there?
DOUG MCRAE: No. Pretty much, Resurrection, I can't remember. There's other people trapping up there today as we speak. No, there was nobody else up there when I trapped.
There were signs that there had been people there before me, this John Elgin (phonetic), the guy that I talked about, he trapped there.
You know, I don't remember -- now, Paradise Valley, I mean, North and South Fork were a different deal. That was if you didn't check your trap every day, somebody else had one tied to yours. And it just got too competitive for me. I was used to, you know, not having the competition.
And then the -- and then the federal people over in Kenai have such strict regulations over there about trapping. They didn't used to have. You have to get a permit to trap over there.
It got so bad that all the Unit 15 people, if you talked to somebody you didn't know, that's where they come from because their regulations are much easier over here to abide by.
DON CALLAWAY: Can you talk to us a little bit about your experience on the -- you were on the advisory board for Fish and Game?
DOUG MCRAE: Yes.
DON CALLAWAY: When you started that and some of the issues.
DOUG MCRAE: Oh, I don't remember the year I started, maybe 10 years ago. And the issues, I was on it mainly -- we have a, you know, sport -- sport -- sport fish
DON CALLAWAY: Right.
DOUG MCRAE: -- commercial fish, and game. And I do all. I do all three. I love sport fishing. And I have commercial fished in Bristol Bay for a number of years. But I was -- I was on there mainly for -- I wanted to -- my input on hunting on the Kenai, mainly in Unit 7.
And we were starting to have problems here with moose. And cars. Cars kill 150 or 200 moose a year here. DON CALLAWAY: Right.
DOUG MCRAE: The last -- and what we just -- and I finally about halfway give up because I just can't -- I was hoping to get something done where we could just try to help here, but there are only -- they only seemed to target Unit 15 over there as far as -- moose habitat's better over there apparently.
They say the feed is -- there's not enough feed here. It's never changed. The only thing that's changed, there's no moose here to eat it. But we -- we have a lot of different issues, but mainly -- mainly it's brown bear. Brown bear and black bear, as far as the hunting part of it goes.
DON CALLAWAY: So you think that -- after the selections in the park in the '80s, the brown bear population gradually increased, and then they -- they -- they move out of there and start knocking off moose?
DOUG MCRAE: Oh, yeah. Yeah, big time. Yeah. I got chased by a brown bear up there by -- that's a short story. Right where the -- right where the bridge goes into the park, I parked my car there and walked up there just a few years ago, because I collect shed antlers, which you can't do in the park. But I have to pay $12 a pound for them when I buy them. I carve as a hobby.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah.
DOUG MCRAE: And I walked maybe a half a mile up, and I got on the edge of the river, it was in the springtime there, the snow was just -- that's the ideal time to go up, before the squirrels start chewing on the horns, but you can't -- you collect across there because it's in the park.
And anyway, I'm standing there and looking, there was -- it was -- the grass was just coming up along the edge of the river, and I looked over there and there was a cow moose walking toward me, kind of looking over -- it wasn't looking at me, I was in plain sight, looking over her shoulder.
And she walked up -- upstream and walked up to her belly in the water like she was going to swim across, and I happened to look just back where she come from, here come this big brown bear. And he's not very far away but he's on the other side. I don't have a gun or I don't have my pepper spray like I was supposed to have.
And as he got closer to me, he was only maybe 75 yards away, he's looking, of course, at the cow moose. I -- I don't know what possessed me to do what I did.
I stepped out on a little sandbar and I screamed and hollered at him. Boy, instantly, here he dove in the river coming -- coming right at me. Full bore. I -- I was concerned that the cow moose was going to swim over to me and bring him with her.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah.
DOUG MCRAE: You know, and bring him over there because she was in the water above me, and he was directly across. As she got on my side -- luckily, it was a -- the current was really swift. I -- these trees are this big around, you can't -- even when I was young, I couldn't climb up the tree. I tried -- there was no limbs there for the first 20 feet. I was trying to go up the tree there.
And I see the current was washing him down the creek. And so I -- you're not supposed to run, but I did. I got up -- I was not too far from the Forest Service trail and I got out of there.
But yeah, there's -- there's plenty of brown bear. I've had lots of experiences with them. For every one you see, you probably walk by ten of them. They -- they -- they -- growing up here, they just were not here. They're here now.
And I'm not -- I don't advocate killing all of them. They just need to be controlled a little bit. We have more maulings in the Kenai Peninsula than all of Alaska put together.
There's one guy here in town, he was mauled out here at Mile 5, Carl Backland; and then last year his sister was mauled in Cooper's Landing mushroom picking. And there's just endless story.
Well, there's one guy that was mauled in the Resurrection Pass trail 20 years ago, 20 some years ago, and almost a year to the date he was mauled again. Twice. And medevaced both times. Yeah.
So that -- but the other thing is there's such a volume of people. You know, there's always been a lot of bear in Unit 15 in the Russian Lake area, but now they're -- I don't know if they are getting forced out of there.
DON CALLAWAY: So the moose are getting hammered by the bear and by cars?
DOUG MCRAE: Well, cars, but you know, growing up here in the 1960s, almost three things happened at the same time. I can remember the very first wolf track I ever saw on the Kenai Peninsula. It was on Jerome Lake in 1962.
Okay. So you got wolves there now. They were here at one time, but they disappeared around 1900. DON CALLAWAY: Uh hum.
DOUG MCRAE: And nobody knows to this date how they reentered the -- you know, they can walk here. They one -- one is left here, one of the ones they planted here is left here. They followed it.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. Went hundreds of miles.
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, a female. She didn't like it here and she left. They couldn't hardly keep up with her. She was hooked up, she had a radio on her. But anyway, I saw the two wolf tracks on Jerome. I didn't even know what I was looking at and I'm a trapper. Just the first ones I had ever seen.
And then the brown bear started in the early '60s, I started seeing brown bear tracks. So you've got that. And then you've got volumes of people coming at the same time, moving down to the Kenai, and then they -- the wolves, my son caught 14 of them one year at Quartz Creek, Red Mountain, between there and Cooper's Landing.
And I think he saved a lot of moose because now they have got a few moose growing up there. And then the volumes of people, you know, it was -- it was fairly, fairly rare for a car to hit a moose growing up, when I was growing up here; and then eventually, I worked for the Fish and Game a couple of winters picking up winter kill -- roadkill moose.
But between the cars and the wolves and bears that weren't here, you know, they brought big wolves down here from the Forty Mile. The environmentalists wouldn't let them kill them, so they -- they hauled, I don't know, 30 or 40 of them down here one year and dropped them on the Kenai.
We didn't need them. But between that -- between that, the moose just went downhill. And then every once in awhile you have a bad winter, and you know what that does to them.
DON CALLAWAY: Sure. Right.
DOUG MCRAE: Their numbers are so low here right now that I don't know if they can recover.
DON CALLAWAY: What's the bag limit on that? How many permits they put out?
DOUG MCRAE: I -- you know, I don't -- they are not on permits. DON CALLAWAY: Really?
DOUG MCRAE: They used to have a couple trophy areas, you probably heard about above Tustumena and Skilak, they had for years and years, you had to draw permits there, but I don't know if they even have permits anymore. I should know. The permits just come out yesterday. I'd applied for a brown bear permit, but yesterday was the day.
Actually, it should be closed here in Unit 7. But I don't think that will save them. I mean, you could close the hunting and you can't stop the cars from hitting them and the bears and the wolves.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah, the bears and wolves will go down when the moose hit the --
DOUG MCRAE: That's the natural thing, they will go down. And what happened to wolves here years ago, and that's what I -- nobody loves dogs more than me, but these loose dogs running around. Well, they contacted lice here. And what year was it. Domestic lice, and they have no immunity to it.
The saddest thing I ever saw in my life was to catch a wolf in a snare or a trap or whatever, they are -- most -- killing them is the thing to do because they're in sad -- hypothermic, they are shaking, they are just -- it's like you poured heavy engine oil on their fur. They have no fur.
Just -- it's from domestic lice, these dogs -- dogs running loose. And you probably heard over the years that -- it started around Fairbanks, where the wolves learned that an easy meal is a dog tied to a house.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah.
DOUG MCRAE: Now it's starting to happen down here. There's been quite a few dogs killed while they are tied -- tied, and the wolves come in and get them.
In fact, we just had a real deal here a couple days ago at Quartz Creek where guys up were up a tree with wolves, six or seven wolves. Did you hear about that?
KAREN BREWSTER: I read about that in the paper.
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. And the wolves were chasing a moose and hanging off his throat, and a guy that I know, a game warden, a Forest Service game warden, he thought -- well, it was April Fools Day, he thought it was a joke when they called in.
There was -- but now right after that girl that got killed in Chignik, here that's the first time ever in the history of Alaska. And now we get another incident --
KAREN BREWSTER: The paper said it was the moose that were -- they were up a tree and the moose wouldn't leave.
DOUG MCRAE: Well, the moose -- I -- I think the -- I think the moose sought protection from them. He saw people -- because we have had two of them born in our backyard, calves. I think they come to people. (
KAREN BREWSTER: The moose -- DOUG MCRAE: There's some safety DOUG MCRAE: There's some safety there. Yeah, them guys are --
KAREN BREWSTER: They couldn't get -- the guys were treed by the moose, they couldn't get away.
DOUG MCRAE: It -- it was the wildest story I ever heard. There was seven -- seven wolves, and the moose was bleeding all over, the guys, they were almost hypothermic trying to -- one guy tried to go up a tree. And I'd never heard of such a wild story, and it -- it actually happened just in the last week.
DON CALLAWAY: So what was the resolution? Did the pack finally move off? Or...
DOUG MCRAE: You know, I really don't know. My kid wanted to move in and catch them because that's where -- that's exactly where he catches them.
KAREN BREWSTER: The story I heard was there was the one wolf hanging on the moose, and the guys got up the tree, and then the moose wouldn't leave. There's -- there's no mention about the wolves anymore, that it was the moose. And they waited and waited and waited and finally --
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, I read it, a wild story.
KAREN BREWSTER: -- called because the moose was the problem. An angry moose.
DOUG MCRAE: They -- there's a bar and cafe down there, it's called -- what is it called -- Sunrise. They showed up there, the guys were wet and scared and hungry. They warmed up there, so there people, the local people are going to put a wild story.
KAREN BREWSTER: I have one more question for you -- DOUG MCRAE: Sure.
KAREN BREWSTER: -- on the Exit Glacier area and the Lower Resurrection River. We've been talking about snow machines and stuff, but was that ever used in the summer before there was a road? Is there -- was there a way to get up there? Did people go up there?
DOUG MCRAE: No. No. In the summer -- that's a good question. I don't know if I was ever up there in the summer. Late in the falls, but no, I -- I don't know what they would have done up there, other than -- other than mine maybe the Placer Creek, and that -- I think that was done back in the '30s.
Well, no, I lied. There was a friend of mine named Bob Olson, he -- he was -- gold bothered him more than it bothers me. He loved it. One time he took a weasel somehow up there and he tried mining under that waterfall, but it was such a fiasco. He spent more time working on the equipment. And that's -- but the summer use, I -- man, I sure don't -- I don't remember much summer use.
RACHEL MASON: I have one more question that's about the horseback hunting. Is anybody still doing that?
DOUG MCRAE: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I don't like horse. I've been on a lot of horse. I don't know if you ever heard of going in the park again on the Canad -- the Chitistone Gold Trail, probably one of Alaska's best books, Troph -- it's called Trophies Won and Lost, the book. I made the entire trip twice, wrote a little book about that, too.
It's about 150 miles one way. You can go either in from Canada, Burwash Landing, and come into the park from that way. Or the Bridge That Goes to Nowhere, Chitina. That's -- when they built that bridge, we started going in that way into the -- into the sheep hunting with horses.
But oh, man, they are -- you can write books about horses, or I could. Yeah. There's lots of action when you have horses. Sometimes you spend a couple days trying to catch them. You have to get in the airplane to try and figure out where they went.
On -- on the White River, it's a big river right on the Canadian border, we had them there, 18 -- 18 horses, and we spent as much time chasing horses as we did hunting. I didn't care for horses, but they could move a lot of stuff.
KAREN BREWSTER: So people using them -- DON CALLAWAY: And a lot of work. KAREN BREWSTER: -- in this area. DOUG MCRAE: Pardon?
KAREN BREWSTER: People use them around here?
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, there's a few. I mean, they are right -- right down here in what we call the horse corral there, you'll see a few horses there. They -- they use them -- Blaine Bardarson is his name, he uses them to hunt up around Swan Lake and General Lake, not in the park, but I don't know if anybody's hunted horses. It's kind of a -- it would be tough now to count on horses up in this -- this park here.
RACHEL MASON: Well, it would be tough for them to go in the snow.
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, they don't go in the snow much. I don't --
KAREN BREWSTER: Falltime moose hunt up the -- DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: -- river valley? DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: And along the trails.
DOUG MCRAE: They used to hunt moose a lot. There was a few pilots around back when I was growing up here that really knew how to fly, and they -- they did hunt in the park. Right -- right where the bridge is, there used to be a nice little strip right where the road lays. It went straight ahead there.
And it was fairly easy to land, but it had kind of a delta there, the moose kind of come down from up the creek as the snow pushes them down. And there was -- there was quite a bit of activity up there where people hunted over the years, yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: They -- they did that with airplanes?
DOUG MCRAE: Pretty -- I can't -- other than John Elgin (phonetic), he -- he was up there in the late '50s and early '60s, and there was another guy named Martin Goreson who was just an animal around -- he was the only person in Alaska to catch his goats, live trapped all these goats around Seward here.
The Fish and Wildlife tried for years and years, and the ones there in Kodiak are a result of right here where he caught them with roped snares. But they tried -- many people tried, but Martin Goreson used to hike up there. Now, I don't remember in the summertime, but in maybe toward the falltime when hunting moose season was open and stuff.
DON CALLAWAY: He's a real nail, huh?
DOUG MCRAE: Oh, he was a tough boy. Yeah, he was tough, tough. And they -- they wrote some stories about him. The goats -- he got hurt a few times by these goats. Yeah, they are -- they are a tough animal to get close to if you've got them in a snare.
They were paying, like, $150 an animal, I think. And I've got pictures when I was a little kid standing -- he lived just a couple houses from -- kept them in his basement. Yeah. Now -- now they are -- now -- now in Kodiak they've got about 3500 goats as a result of that. There's too many of them over there, probably.
DON CALLAWAY: What's his name again?
DOUG MCRAE: Martin Goreson. DON CALLAWAY: Martin Goreson.
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, Seward's really -- there's been tremendous changes here from -- not all of them good.
DON CALLAWAY: So what does bring you back here? I mean, you've said you've gone down to the Lower 48 a couple times, and I imagine the winters are a little tougher, but what does bring you back here now?
DOUG MCRAE: Just too many people for me.
DON CALLAWAY: Oh, just too many people?
DOUG MCRAE: I'm kind of a stranger here in my own town. I don't -- there's -- yesterday I was 35, and now I'm 65. RACHEL MASON: Yeah.
DOUG MCRAE: I don't know where them years went. I couldn't go sheep hunting again if I tried. I'd love to try it again there. But I don't know. I just like it here. It's super nice when it's nice, like yesterday, and then weather gets -- it can get really, really bad here.
And that keeps, I think, the tourists away and people from building here. But Seward hasn't changed a whole lot population wise. Growing up here was around 2000, 2500, and it still is within the city limits, but there's another 2500 to 3,000 live outside of the city is -- is the only difference.
DON CALLAWAY: So -- so you spend your time carving and --
DOUG MCRAE: I do a lot of carving. It's a recreational thing, but I love --
DON CALLAWAY: -- You did a beautiful piece for Duane. We saw it.
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, I did that for him. I -- there's a bunch right here. This -- RACHEL MASON: This -- this must be your antler --
DOUG MCRAE: Some of it there. There's a store downtown called Brown & Hawkins, that asked me 20 years ago to do some carvings for them. And it's just a hobby. Now they bought a second store, just they're finishing it right now. So they sold more than I could carve last year in a year.
KAREN BREWSTER: So, how did you learn how to do it?
DOUG MCRAE: I -- years ago I found out I was colorblind when I painted a moose green, and so I started -- actually, that's what -- actually what started it. I just started carving when I was in high school, actually.
DON CALLAWAY: Do you use electric drills and sanders?
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, dental type tools. I use a Dremel mostly, but I use dental bits and different -- I probably get less than minimum wage. Even though some of them are spendy, but... DON CALLAWAY: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: What inspires you? How do you know what you're going to put as a design on it?
DOUG MCRAE: The horn kind of tells you what you can put on it. I didn't learn that -- took a long time to learn that. I guess what inspired me was years ago, 25 or 30 years ago, they were called Berger Brothers, they owned a bunch of chain stores in the Lower 48.
And I was always picking up horns, and they wanted to know what I was picking them up for. And I said, well, to carve on them. They asked me to do some carvings for them. But these -- these are big stores. I couldn't carve enough in my lifetime to stock them for a month, you know. I had to have some kind of mass production.
They bought 20 or 30 of them, but I couldn't keep up with it. They were cribbage boards, actually, back then. But these -- these carvings here I would spend probably 40 or 50 hours on them one's here, a piece.
And there's a big one over there. That I do one or two of them a year. That's -- that's probably 200 hours of working. But I enjoy doing it, it's something -- I can't -- can't climb -- can't climb them mountains much anymore, so...
DON CALLAWAY: Do you have a little shop that you use?
DOUG MCRAE: Oh, yeah, I do it out in the garage out here.
KAREN BREWSTER: Do you carve other things besides antler, like ivory or other --
DOUG MCRAE: No, I've never really got into ivory. Ivory gets -- there's so many legalities of what you can and can't do. And I've carved a little bit of mastadon ivory, but antler is -- you can find your own, for one thing. Not so -- it's getting harder.
I have a good source. A friend of mine flies every day out of Anchorage, weather permitting, and he finds -- finds some nice -- nice antler. But it's spendy. You can -- like that antler there is probably a $200 horn, at $12 a pound. Yeah.
DON CALLAWAY: Wow.
DOUG MCRAE: That's one thing I'd like to see the Park Service do is restrict -- it won't help me, but maybe others. And they talked about it in Denali last year for residents to go in there and collect -- collect antler. Because they just rot on the ground. As far as the animals eating them, they get a little calcium on them, but they are still going to be there.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, anything else about the use of the park area or, you know, before it was a park, or Exit Glacier area that we haven't talked about?
DOUG MCRAE: You know, I -- like I said, I could probably talk to you here for a week about it almost nonstop. Drive -- I'd drive you nuts. I can say I had a lot of fun up there. I just -- there were just lots -- lots of experiences up there. Just all kinds of wild things happened.
I got a picture of a goat I killed in the park in one of them books over there. We didn't get off the mountain that night. We were up -- up the headwaters of Placer Creek, and it was in November. A little -- little chilly out, and we didn't have no gear with us, but it was -- we were in a bad spot.
And there was some hemlock, we spent the night there under a tree. And actually, we got a little fire going and we weren't too bad. You know the days are short then there. I don't know how much daylight we had, but that was a wise thing to do.
We had two goats and the meat, and we wrapped up and I threw the hide over us, and we were halfway comfortable. And not --
KAREN BREWSTER: What happened? How come you got stuck up there?
DOUG MCRAE: Well, we were too far from where we left. We went way -- way back in there. Yeah, we were on foot, we were staying in that cabin that's in the park there, that Placer Creek cabin. And we knew what was in front of us, we -- we'd come up there. It's easier to go up bad places than it is to come down.
I mean, you come down, you've got to be really careful, especially when you've got some meat on your backs. Weight. So it was the wise thing to do. About an hour before it got dark we hustled up some dead wood, but we -- we were way up near it.
Got enough dead wood where we kept a small fire going all night. But at barely daylight the next morning we were gone.
Yeah. Well, I've -- I've had really good experiences in the park. It's just -- on both sides, the Forest Service side and the federal side. Yeah. There's -- there's just -- there's a lot of wildlife up here for one thing. Goats. Brown bear. Black. It's a major denning area for brown bear. Right almost above where the -- where their buildings are at up there, on both sides. Especially toward a little creek called Paradise Creek.
That's one of the first things we do in the spring up there when they open the gate is to take our spot and scoping rod and just go up -- just to go up there and see them when they first come out of the den. They will lay sometimes four or five days in front of their den up that -- the snow must be 20 feet deep. Yeah. It's a neat area to see them, yeah.
DON CALLAWAY: How about communication with the park, you know, since the park --
DOUG MCRAE: I don't know -- you mean as far as me? DON CALLAWAY: Yeah.
DOUG MCRAE: I -- I don't know if I ever had any -- I don't think I've ever -- ever talked to them. Not that I wouldn't, but I just -- I never -- I never -- never did. One of the -- one of the park -- the head of the park lived right next door here, she bought one of my carvings. Castillo, or --
RACHEL MASON: Oh, Ann. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. Yeah. DON CALLAWAY: Ann Castillo. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah.
DOUG MCRAE: She bought a carving for -- for herself, I guess. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah.
DOUG MCRAE: But no, I never -- I just never had a chance. I never -- I -- one time I -- when we first found that cabin at Placer Creek before the park, we tried to file on it. We wanted to -- went to the Forest Service and said I want to claim this cabin.
And they said, no, you can't do it because it's in a proposed -- I think they said dam, hydro dam site or something. And so we lost interest in that. It was --
KAREN BREWSTER: There was a proposal at one point.
DOUG MCRAE: Was there? I never did -- I never did -- KAREN BREWSTER: I read about it. DOUG MCRAE: Oh, okay.
KAREN BREWSTER: There was a proposal for hydro.
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah, they said it was in a proposed dam site. So --
KAREN BREWSTER: Was it -- no, it wasn't Placer Creek, it was -- was it Paradise Creek? I think it was Paradise Creek. It was either Placer or Paradise, I can't remember.
DOUG MCRAE: That's -- that's the story they told us, and that was back, I guess, maybe in the late '60s or early '70s. Cabin was really in good shape there then.
KAREN BREWSTER: I did read about there was a proposal for a hydro project, and so the U.S. Geological Survey designated an area. DOUG MCRAE: Huh.
KAREN BREWSTER: And then it never happened. DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. Yeah. It fizzled out. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.
DOUG MCRAE: There was two or three of them. I think they are working on one as we speak at -- KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, really? DOUG MCRAE: -- at Grant Lake. Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: I don't remember the date, but I read about it.
DOUG MCRAE: Well, I'm glad you said that because I thought they were just trying to get rid -- get rid of us. Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: So in all the flying you did guiding, plane crashes?
DOUG MCRAE: I've been upside down once. Not -- not -- not me flying. We landed in the Chitina River. And you can't tell, you do kind of a touch and go, and we did the touch but we didn't do the go part. It was some soft, almost like quicksand right on the edge of the river, and just real slowly went over.
We didn't go clear over, we went straight up and down, which is kind of a bad deal. It was hard to get out of the plane. No, there was no damage to the plane, but no, I haven't -- I've had a lot -- a lot of friends not only crashed but killed. Buster, and I can name you a dozen that I flew with that are -- it's a dangerous occupation, you know.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah.
DOUG MCRAE: A lot -- there's several people in Seward that herring fishing spotter pilots. DON CALLAWAY: Oh, yeah, yeah.
DOUG MCRAE: There was four or five of them from the Seward area who got killed -- head on collision. I -- when I first got out of high school, there was a -- a barber here in town his name was Dick Moll, and he bought a little airplane and he crashed head on at Togiak with another guy from Seward. Anderson.
Yeah. Herring -- herring pilot, that was -- I was -- I was up there fishing once. You've got -- maybe if you have 300 boats, you've got at least 200 airplanes above you. And they are -- I mean, and their -- the herring are worth a lot of money, especially this year. So you're all -- you're looking down -- they're looking down but --
RACHEL MASON: I'm not surprised they crash.
DOUG MCRAE: Oh, yeah, it's a bad deal. Yeah. They -- they tried to get organized where they are all fly the same direction, but you know, some of them fish -- they had a million dollar setup there one time. But you're looking down at the fish and you're not paying attention to what's coming at you, and boy, it's -- There's quite a few people, I'd say four or five here from Seward alone.
DON CALLAWAY: Can they carry a spotter for planes in the -- in the spotter plane? The planes --
DOUG MCRAE: A long time ago, they didn't have a spotter, but now they have a guy in the back seat, but he gets sidetracked, too, you know, if there's a big (indiscernible), because they're talking to the boat down there, their boat all the time, and trying to -- they -- they set the net from the airplane.
And they are telling them, but boy, if you're not paying attention to what's in front of you, because it happens fast.
RACHEL MASON: The pilot might be spotting, too, in addition to the spotter.
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. There's been quite a few. Yeah. Both of them. And it's happened in Prince William Sound a few times, too, where they had head on collisions. Yeah. How much time did we put in today?
RACHEL MASON: I don't know. So it -- you don't have any other to add?
DOUG MCRAE: No, I don't. Like I said, I could talk to you until next week there, if I could help you at all. There -- there's things up there. I mean, there's a lot of old sites where people have been in the lower end, too, but they didn't look real permanent before I was ever up there that you could see.
I look for, like if there's been trees cut down with axes and stuff, and then I start circling and looking. I was looking for artifacts and stuff. There's signs of that there, but I only found them couple, them two cabins I told you about in the upper part, that were still -- actually, there's -- I'll show you where there's another one. Right there where the T craft strip is.
RACHEL MASON: Which? DON CALLAWAY: Right here.
DOUG MCRAE: The T craft strip, this cabin here, that's the T craft strip, and the Forest Service cabin is right in here.
RACHEL MASON: Oh, just go ahead and mark it.
DOUG MCRAE: The Forest Service cabin is right about there. There's a little hill -- oh, no, it says Forest Service cabin. RACHEL MASON: Yeah.
DOUG MCRAE: Where the hell is it at? RACHEL MASON: Maybe that's a different one.
DOUG MCRAE: Where's it at? Right here, I guess. It's got an A there. Anyway, right here there's a hill, before you get to Boulder, there's a little hill right in here. And right on the top of that hill right above the T craft strip, right in here in this ridge, there's the remains of a cabin. Like the corners. DON CALLAWAY: Uh hum.
DOUG MCRAE: So people have been right there, right -- that's a Forest Service cabin, right in here there's a cabin. There's quite a few planks left of it, too.
The only other -- I don't know where the park -- where's the park boundary at here? Is that it that right there? DON CALLAWAY: Yeah.
DOUG MCRAE: Okay. This cabin here is in the park boundary. A neat old cabin. I -- I -- but it's 20 or 25 years ago that I saw it. But I would bet money it's still standing today. And I've never heard anybody that knew about it. And that -- that gets around. This one's -- this one's in the park.
DON CALLAWAY: So we're looking at 1200 feet, something like that?
DON CALLAWAY: No, no. This is 500. DOUG MCRAE: I'm -- I'm saying -- is that -- was that -- is that the scale?
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. It's 500 right there. It's a climb.
DOUG MCRAE: I -- I thought it was farther than that.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah, here's a thousand right here.
DOUG MCRAE: What -- what are these squares here? Are they on here? This is a big -- big meadow, and it's kind of in the middle of the meadow. And there's a stand of spruce trees. I mean, these are big, big, mature, never been cut spruce trees, and it's right underneath one of them.
DON CALLAWAY: Oh, okay.
DOUG MCRAE: And -- and it's well within the park, too. I doubt if they know about it.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. Well, they do now.
DOUG MCRAE: Yeah. It -- it should be saved because they did a good job there, but I don't know how much money they spent. They spent a lot. They used a helicopter on that one. It was in a floodplain when I was there, the -- the water was trying to go around it.
They would have had to build a dike or something in there to protect it. I always wanted to go back there because I told you that friend of mine got killed in that plane wreck, Buster.
He killed a huge brown bear there, out at that cabin one day, just a giant brown bear, and he wrote his name on the log in there on the bunk and dated it, October, whatever year it was. I always wanted to go back and get that piece, when I found out the cabin was getting -- was going down, just to have.
DON CALLAWAY: Sure. Sure. Memorabilia.
DOUG MCRAE: We spent -- we spent 25 years together and all kinds of fiascos. A snowstorm and get out of the plane and goes clear to the wings and snow, and then you snowshoe for about 3 hours. Yeah. So...
DON CALLAWAY: Well, thank you.