Dan Seavey was interviewed on April 11, 2010 by Don Callaway, Rachel Mason, and Karen Brewster at his home in Seward, Alaska. In this interview, Dan talks about changes in Seward, the 1964 Earthquake, commercial fishing, his dog mushing career, and training and racing sled dogs. He talks about living on a homestead on Old Exit Glacier Road (Seavey's Corner), using horses, hunting and trapping in the Exit Glacier area, the road to the glacier, and local use of the area.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Exit Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park
Date of Interview: Apr 11, 2010
Narrator(s): Dan Seavey
Interviewer(s): Don Callaway, Rachel Mason
Videographer: Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Carol McCue
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Coming to Seward, Alaska
Working as a teacher
The homestead he settled on in Seward
Road access to the homestead
Effects of the earthquake on the schools
Hunting and fishing
Marking moose hunting locations on the map
Hunting bear in Box Canyon
Using horses on hunting trips
Early years of dog mushing
Traveling around the Exit Glacier area by dogteam
Training is dogs for the first Iditarod Sled Dog Race
Dogteams and accessing Exit Glacier
Getting interested in dog mushing
Running a sled dog tour operation
Operating bus tour business and service to Anchorage
Construction and effects of Exit Glacier Road
Changes in uses of the Exit Glacier area
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DON CALLAWAY: -- April 11th, we're in Seward. We're -- Rachel is with me and Karen Brewster's behind the camera. And today we're talking with Dan Seavey.
And Dan, as I mentioned earlier, we'd kind of like for you to elaborate on your -- your life, just tell us what events, you know, you think we -- you want to discuss, and we'll probably interrupt and ask questions during the process.
And then at the end, we're going to start concentrating a little more on your experience with uses of the area around Exit Glacier in your lifetime.
DAN SEAVEY: Well, I could tell you just wait and read the book I'm working on. DON CALLAWAY: Oh, well --
DAN SEAVEY: But since I've already got that little plug in there, I suppose we can move on. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. When -- when do you plan to publish your autobiography?
DAN SEAVEY: Well, it will be a couple years, yet. But I'm beyond the worst part of it, I've got started. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah.
DAN SEAVEY: But -- well, we are -- I figured out this morning, we're 46 year resident of this spot right here.
So that, of course, predates the earthquake. Actually, it doesn't predate the earthquake.
We moved out here right after the earthquake, so that -- that's not true.
Both my wife Shirley and I come from, that would be North Central Minnesota. And we were up in farming and mining areas of Minnesota.
Went through the educational mill back there, got a teacher's degree.
Had three -- three of, the only three kids we had, we had while we were still basically in college. And moved up here impoverished in 1963.
I was 25 years old at the time. Got here in August of '63, into Seward.
Of course, we drove up over the Alaska Highway in a station wagon, and pulling a trailer -- three kids and a wife, who did the laundry on the way up on beating rocks, you know, beating it on the rocks.
14 days from Minnesota to here. The best trip we've ever made. I probably made 30 of them since then, but that was by far the most exciting, and so forth.
Our last camp on the road was at Bird Creek up by Anchorage. And it was a beautiful, beautiful, clear August day when we came down, not a cloud in the sky.
And it wouldn't have mattered what kind of a dump we were moving to; by the time we got down here, I mean, we was completely sold on the Kenai Peninsula. I mean, it is awesome.
And this is after coming up through the Rockies, you know, all the way and I just thought, you know -- you go along Kenai Lake, water coming off the -- off of the banks and so forth.
So anyway, we arrived in Seward. And Seward, at the time, I wouldn't necessarily call it a dump, but it's -- it was close to it.
And I don't say that disrespectfully. We fell in love with the little place right -- right from the beginning. But you know, dirt, the main street was dirt, the dandelions growing all over the place.
There was the remnants of a landfill type dump at the north end of the lagoon. But it had charm. It had charm.
And, of course, we came up here as a teacher in high school, and got involved right away, of course, with -- with teaching duties, got settled in.
And things went along well. We got -- let's see, what else did I do. I'm a social studies teacher.
And I brought the wrestling program to Seward High School. At the time, there were three -- three schools in Alaska that had wrestling: Lathrop in Fairbanks, there's only East and West in -- in Anchorage.
Take it back, and Kenai. There were four. And then we became the fifth -- fifth school for wrestling. I taught that or coached that for 13 years, social studies and so forth.
Well, then, of course, that was in -- that was in August. And -- and then we get into winter and into the following spring, and now we're at March 27th of 1964, and the earthquake. So went through that.
I remember we closed school down early because -- well, people were leaving and, you know, things was all -- it was very chaotic times. So we closed school down.
But then, there was such a mass exodus out of here that -- I'm not sure, I guess it was the mayor at the time decided to reopen the schools, keep people here, which we did.
We opened the schools; and didn't do a whole lot of work but we kept the schools open.
RACHEL MASON: How big was the high school then?
DAN SEAVEY: It was not a whole lot smaller than it is now. 165, 70. I don't know, I think there's something like a little over 200 now or -- I'm not sure of that figure.
But anyway, I don't know how successful that was, but we did open the schools. And then, of course, from then on it was rebuilding and -- and what have you.
We came out here -- the earthquake was the 27th of March, we signed the papers on this place on the 1st of April of '64, and we moved out here in May of '64.
A lot of people were leaving. I think we had almost a hundred percent turnover in teaching staff and what have you. And get out of this place.
I think if you'd had a hundred thousand dollars, you probably could have bought most of -- most of the place for cash.
I mean, there was some good deals, let's put it that way, this place being one of them. So we came out here, then, 1st of May, and that's, what, 70 -- I mean, 46 years ago, so...
RACHEL MASON: Where were you living when the earthquake struck?
DAN SEAVEY: Oh, in town. We rented up on the -- pretty much on high ground there. Oh, let's see. Red Carpet Realty is in there, across from the -- the Resurrect Art, right -- right up there, by the Senior Center.
RACHEL MASON: Okay. DAN SEAVEY: Museum. RACHEL MASON: So sort of up the hill. DAN SEAVEY: Yeah, we were up pretty high ground. Yeah. Yeah.
We didn't sustain a whole lot of loss. A few dishes broke, I guess, about it, but for the next couple of weeks, of course, we'd load the kids every time there was anything of a tremor of any size, you know, up the hill we'd go with the kids in the station wagon and so on.
But it's interesting is we -- it was the earthquake, I think, that caused us both, both Shirley and myself, to decide to stay here.
I mean, people were leaving and they were frightened, and you couldn't blame them; but in -- in a way, we looked at it like, you know, is it right -- I mean, we loved the place, right?
Is it right to leave, you know, a place when it's down? You know, why not stick around and see what you can do to help out.
So basically, it was kind of unspoken, I don't think we talked about that for several years afterwards, but I think we both decided, well, the two year kind of contract we had to go home in two years, that went by the boards, and another two years, and another two years, and pretty soon, we're here.
So... I -- of course, I don't know where to start or where to end here.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, I have a question about -- DAN SEAVEY: Maybe a questioning, would be more -- KAREN BREWSTER: -- about here, when you say here, house here, about -- was it a homestead --
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah, it was a home -- KAREN BREWSTER: -- talk about how many acres you have. DAN SEAVEY: It was a home site from BLM. Yeah. BLM controlled it at the time.
And it had been taken out by a man by the name of Rutledge, who was the administrator for the Jesse Lee Home.
And I believe that was about 1952 or right in there. He was the one that started, did the foundation, and started what you saw, you know, basically the frame and something on the exterior, keep the wind out.
And then it was -- he moved on and it was -- it was purchased or was in the process of being purchased by a man by the name of Dick Moll, who is a barber in town here.
And after the quake, of course, things just went downhill and he couldn't make a -- thought he couldn't make a living here, so he moved over to Kenai.
And then he wanted to sell the place, so that's where we bought from him.
So we were the -- we were the third owners, actually, but we -- the initial, the original, I guess is the way to put it, the original patent was issued in our name because it either hadn't been applied for or something, you know.
So we had the original patent on it.
KAREN BREWSTER: And how many acres do you have?
DAN SEAVEY: Just five. And in the interim, oh, about 10 years ago, we bought a few more acres that came up around us, but the original was five acres.
The -- there was no road back here, just a Jeep trail. Went from here basically straight south to -- to Resurrection River, and then along the river.
And then you -- you said you talked to Gillespie, and you went kind of through their yard and across the little bridge and popped out behind the Pit Bar, on the south side of the Pit Bar. And that was it.
I would plow it and maintain it and all that sort of thing over the years, until in either '73, '74 when Herman and those guys started poking a road through here out to the glacier.
RACHEL MASON: Was anybody else living back here then?
DAN SEAVEY: No. We were the only ones with the -- the closest was Doc Gentles down on the, where Dr. Forman lives now, that place right down there.
RACHEL MASON: I don't know the place. DAN SEAVEY: It -- it's on the paved road now to the glacier.
It's -- let's see. If -- it's the next place, if you're coming this way, it's the next place beyond the Windsong, the Resurrect -- Resurrection Roadhouse or what ever they call it now.
So that was the closest. And then the Gillespies were the next, probably the next closest behind the Pit Bar, you know, right in there.
So yeah. So we were pretty much by ourselves. Which was nice.
DON CALLAWAY: So you'd grade the road, but could you -- did you have a Jeep or something to get in? You had four wheel drive?
DAN SEAVEY: Right. Oh yeah. And many a times, especially in the fall when the rains came, we would be going out the road and the salmon would be swimming, you know. We'd have to --
RACHEL MASON: In the same road.
DAN SEAVEY: Well, yeah, swimming in the road, you know, and you'd have to lift your feet up. That military Jeep is what we had. Lift your feet up because the water come in the -- you know, on the floorboards.
RACHEL MASON: Oh, boy. DAN SEAVEY: Lift your feet up, the salmon… we were going that way and the salmon are going upstream. Yeah.
DON CALLAWAY: Did you catch any of them?
DAN SEAVEY: No, never did. Never did catch any. But yeah, that sort of thing. Then in the winter, Doc Gentles, of course, he -- he was the medical doctor in town, and I used his equipment to plow the road.
He had a small Cat, a small crawler. And -- so I used that to plow, plowed him out and plowed me out, and that worked out fine.
Yeah. And I don't believe I missed any snow -- had any weather days or anything, I don't think I ever missed a day of school because of roads or anything while we were back here. Not that I remember anyway.
DON CALLAWAY: Is Shirley a teacher, too? Was she -- DAN SEAVEY: No. No.
DON CALLAWAY: You're the only teacher? DAN SEAVEY: Yep.
DON CALLAWAY: And how long was the high school closed after the quake and tsunami? DAN SEAVEY: Oh, a couple -- a couple weeks.
DON CALLAWAY: And then it reopened again? DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. There's that -- say, it probably was in March.
It probably was open again by mid April. And in those days, you know, it was an independent school district.
It was before the borough, the governments had been formed. And we got out of school in the spring, like, 14th -- middle of May, basically.
So we only had about a month that we kept it open. So that -- that worked out fine. Then everything was pretty much back on schedule and that by the -- you know, after the summer, so for the next term.
DON CALLAWAY: So when you came from Minnesota, you grew up in Minnesota, I assume? DAN SEAVEY: Right.
DON CALLAWAY: Did you hunt a lot there? Do a lot of outdoor recreational activities?
DAN SEAVEY: Everybody in Minnesota, at least in my crowd, hunted, you know, deer, basically. That was the big game. And, of course, everybody sports fished, you know. Yeah. Oh, yeah. We did a lot of that.
Hardly ever -- I mean, we were camping and stuff, canoeing in Boundary Waters, you know, all that kind of stuff. Oh, yeah, very active outdoors.
DON CALLAWAY: And how did that transfer when you came -- came to Seward? What -- how did you integrate yourself into those pursuits here?
DAN SEAVEY: Well, I left my -- my sports fishing because I got into commercial fishing. Yeah, we -- we gillnetted in the -- in Cook Inlet for -- I think it was 13 years, with the -- commercially.
DON CALLAWAY: When did that start?
DAN SEAVEY: Oh, gosh. About '69. We beach site -- we beach fished one year, that was about '68, '69.
I think we bought the -- bought our -- well, then we did a leased boat in probably '69. '71, we bought our own boat, and that continued for about 13 years until I lost all my child labor, the kids all grew up and left home.
DON CALLAWAY: I was going to ask you. Yeah.
DAN SEAVEY: So, it just wasn't fun anymore without the kids. And -- and then so we -- I just got rid of it, that part of it.
But yeah, the fishing and the hunting, you know, I guess every -- not everyone, but my crowd, anyway, you had to become the Great White Hunter, right? And so we -- our kids were raised on moose and wild game, pretty much.
But I haven't -- I haven't hunted now for maybe 20 years. I gave my rifles to my sons, and anymore, I use a camera.
It's a lot easier. Well, I mean, we don't need -- I mean, we don't need it. I don't hunt game anymore.
RACHEL MASON: When you first moved out here did you hunt right -- right away, out in this area?
DAN SEAVEY: My very first moose was shot along this logging road out there.
RACHEL MASON: Oh. Well, can you show us on the map? DAN SEAVEY: Well, what we call Manthey's cabin down there.
RACHEL MASON: Oh, I don't know what that is, maybe you can show us where -- DAN SEAVEY: Oh, I don't even know where we are.
RACHEL MASON: Let's see. Where -- where -- where's Seavey's Corner here? DON CALLAWAY: Around in here somewhere.
RACHEL MASON: So this must be Seavey's right here. DON CALLAWAY: No. No -- that's -- DAN SEAVEY: Let's see. Here we go. Nash. Okay. Then we come in here --
RACHEL MASON: This is the Seward Highway. DAN SEAVEY: -- Seward Highway, wait, and this is the road going up. Okay. Who you got here?
RACHEL MASON: That's Tom's dad -- DAN SEAVEY: Okay. RACHEL MASON: -- Tom's dad did something there. I don't know -- KAREN BREWSTER: Logging -- logging.
DON CALLAWAY: No, no, no -- that's a logging -- DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. And -- that was Ray Gillespie.
He -- according to him, this whole area had been logged off probably, oh, gosh, I'd have to think on that, but he told me, probably 50 years before I ever got here.
RACHEL MASON: No kidding? DAN SEAVEY: Yeah.
DON CALLAWAY: So that was second growth he was logging, Ray -- Ray Gillespie was logging. DAN SEAVEY: I think he is. I think he was in on some of it, on the tail end of it.
I'm trying to -- I'm having a hard time. What are we looking for, again?
DON CALLAWAY: Just where you're at. RACHEL MASON: Where you got your first moose. DAN SEAVEY: I can tell you. I can tell you, but I can't necessarily -- I don't see where we are here.
DON CALLAWAY: I think you're about right here.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, that big dot is Tom's place. RACHEL MASON: No, this is the Seward Highway. This here is the Seward Highway.
DAN SEAVEY: This is the road up -- up -- here's the glacier road here. DON CALLAWAY: Right.
DAN SEAVEY: So I think we've got to get -- KAREN BREWSTER: No, no. I think -- DON CALLAWAY: No, no, no, that's way up by the glacier.
DAN SEAVEY: This is Box Canyon here. KAREN BREWSTER: This, this, this dot here, that is what Tom wrote is where his family was, the Gillespies.
DAN SEAVEY: All right. So -- KAREN BREWSTER: And this was where his dad went logging up there.
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. And that's Box Canyon, that's this canyon right here. DON CALLAWAY: Right. Right. KAREN BREWSTER: So there's little roads in there.
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. So here's where we are. Right -- the moose was right -- okay. Right -- I'd say -- I don't want to make a dot on it, but --
DON CALLAWAY: No, go ahead. RACHEL MASON: Go ahead. Go ahead. That's -- KAREN BREWSTER: That's why you have a colored pen. RACHEL MASON: Yeah, that's why we gave it to you.
DAN SEAVEY: It's right here. Right -- right on the edge of that swamp. DON CALLAWAY: Okay. RACHEL MASON: And that's where Tom said he did some moose hunting there, too.
DAN SEAVEY: Oh, yeah. Yeah. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. And that's Clear Creek right in there.
DAN SEAVEY: Yep. Exactly. So yeah. On Clear Creek, and there's an old cabin down there, Manthey's, what we call Manthey's cabin, it belonged to Mrs. Manthey. And I had her daughters in class, too.
But if you go -- if you go back, you go out here instead of going out, you know, to the bridge, you go on the old road, and you go over a bridge, and right over that bridge to the left is where the moose are shot, and that's where that old cabin, Manthey's cabin, is in there. Yeah.
And the reason I shot it in their yard was it -- they -- they had moved into town because of the quake had unsettled the water, you know, and she was getting old, too, and -- too.
She moved into town, and that place was vacated at that time. And it never has been lived in continuously since. But that's the spot. Yeah.
RACHEL MASON: It must have been a different experience from all the deer hunting you did in Minnesota.
DAN SEAVEY: Oh, yeah. Yeah. And then I just backed in there and loaded it up. That was pretty easy. That was the easiest one I've had. RACHEL MASON: Yeah.
DAN SEAVEY: And I might also say that -- let's see. I'm trying to think up here in the valley.
I don't know if I've ever hunted, actually actively hunted up into the valley here, up to where the Exit Glacier.
I've gotten bear out of Box -- Box Canyon here. That was -- those were easy hunts, too. They go up on the side and you pop them and you just throw them in the creek, and then you bring them along, and you float them down to where I could get them with my Jeep, and --
RACHEL MASON: Were these black bears or brown bears? DAN SEAVEY: Yeah, black bear. Yeah. I never shot a brown bear.
So yeah. The hunting we did, I might mention again, when my kids were growing up, we did have horses. I think we had horses for -- what did we figure, 17 years here we had horses.
Up to 9 head at a time. And again, they were used for fun and games, but come fall, we -- we hunted.
And mostly on the Peninsula, Resurrection, you know, Pass out, you know, in the Northern Peninsula here. I've never taken horses up here.
DON CALLAWAY: Oh, you never took horses up to Exit?
DAN SEAVEY: No. I've been up behind, you know, like Lost Lake and up in that area, and down Primrose to Kenai Lake and that, but not -- I don't ever remember taking the horses up there.
And they, too, eventually -- it's kind of a reverse deal here. When my daughter got married, the understanding -- because we kept the horses for her for the longest time.
When she got married, I told the guy that married her, the horses go with her.
DON CALLAWAY: That's her dowry. DAN SEAVEY: Yeah, they're going with the daughter. So -- but yeah, so that kind of ended that era, as well.
DON CALLAWAY: They are a lot of work, especially -- DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. And in this country, in particular. I mean, I used to let them just run out here when we were by ourselves, and then have a bell on them.
And when you need them, you know, of course, it would take you a day maybe to find them, but I imagine they went up -- up the canyon there a ways.
But this one time, oh, gosh, I was -- I don't know, I was out dinking around in the yard, and my neighbor, Kenny Knutson comes up, he -- he lived right -- right across Clear Creek from Gillespie's, Tommy's home place there.
He comes up, he says, Seavey -- and I thought he was disturbed. And I said, what's the matter?
He said, your horses just rolled in my garden.
And he had just gotten his garden, spring of the year, just gotten his garden all planted, all the plants out, and those darn horses ended up down there, and of course, they all had to roll in the dirt.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. Yeah. Dust themselves off.
DAN SEAVEY: I said, did you shoot them? He said, no. I was -- I wanted to. And I said, well, maybe you should have.
So anyway, I went down and got them, and then I started corralling them after that. And of course, I had to go buy new plants.
And he was good about it, but see, he was probably better than I would have been about the whole deal. But yeah. So that free range wasn't altogether free, you know.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, I'd think you'd have to worry about bears with free range horses.
DAN SEAVEY: Oh, not -- not really. Horses are pretty -- I -- we've had horses here put shags to bear. I've -- I've watched them. KAREN BREWSTER: Really.
DAN SEAVEY: I had a big black in here, it was my horse for years, a little scroungy bear came up the trail behind the place here, and he's in a -- in a fence, kind of a corral like sheep wire, you know.
Woven wire. And the top of that is 6 -- 6 feet. And he sees that bear, and I -- I saw him do it.
He up and over and he comes down on that fence and he squishes the fence, and he gets his back end over it, and the last I saw him, he was after that bear, and they're heading back down the trail.
KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. RACHEL MASON: Wow. DAN SEAVEY: And I didn't see it, but my boys did, a bear, a good size one came in the corral over on this side.
And same thing, I mean, he just kicked the living daylights out of that bear, wished he had never showed up.
So I don't think horses -- now, brownies or something, you know, if they got them in a corner or something, that would be different, but black bear.
So anyway, that was kind of an era. The only thing that's probably been constant throughout all the years are sled dogs.
Yeah. That's -- and I have been -- spent many, many, many, many hours up -- up Resurrection with dogs.
RACHEL MASON: Where all have you gone with your dogs? I mean, can you tell us, like, how you first started doing that?
DAN SEAVEY: Well, I mean, you know, you have to take the road out of the picture. RACHEL MASON: Yeah.
DAN SEAVEY: And I did have, eventually -- see we came out here in '64, and we had dogs that first -- that first winter. I mean, of sorts.
And so I -- basically, I just worked my way up there. I would cut a trail. The road -- the road that -- the Exit Glacier Road has covered over a lot of that trail, but I did have a trail there.
And I got on the ice with the dogs. Gosh, I wouldn't know just when, but certainly by '67 I was going up there pretty regularly.
I also had traps up there.
It didn't work every year because in order to cross -- cross over to the glacier, you had to have snow bridges. You know.
Otherwise, the water is just too deep. Not only that, but the banks, you know how it gets, you get a lot of snow, and then the water's down here all right, but you know, then there's a sharp edge of snow banks, you know.
And so I always would cross wherever there was a -- you know, a snow bridge. And sometimes that never happened, so maybe that winter I wouldn't get up there.
But I do know I have pictures somewhere of me with the dog team, just up -- not way up on the glacier, but up on the ice before the Park was, I know that.
KAREN BREWSTER: Can you draw on that map the route you would take?
DAN SEAVEY: Well, I don't know if I could do that or not, really. I did want to mention a man by the name of John Elgin, like the watch. E L G I N.
RACHEL MASON: Yeah, somebody else mentioned him. E L G I N?
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. He was a longshoreman in town here. And Duane, if you talk to Duane, he -- he knew him quite well. RACHEL MASON: I think he mentioned him before. DAN SEAVEY: Oh, okay.
RACHEL MASON: Is -- is John Elgin still around? DAN SEAVEY: No. I don't even -- I doubt if he's still alive. He was fairly old at that time, and when I say that, I mean the late '60s. But he -- I know I met him many times up there.
Basically, it's -- it's not a trail. I mean, it's -- I couldn't draw a trail here because we would go -- you know, leave here, and go down and hit the river, and then follow -- you know, follow the brush line or whatever.
Sometimes there would be a point or something, I'd brush over it, and you know, basically, work along this right bank, the north bank, if you will, until such time as I could find a way where there would be a snow bridge or something,
and then I'd cross over and head to either the Exit Glacier or Paradise over here. I've been up, way up in there, too.
That -- I remember the first time I was up in Paradise. That was -- that got to be a little spooky because the further up in there you go, the more this is, you know.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. Yeah. It's avalanche alley. DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah. Right.
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. And I -- the first time up there, I chickened out. I got up, and I said, what in the world am I doing up in here.
So I bailed out of there, but eventually I would sneak back up there when the snow -- I thought the snow was right, and I got quite a ways up there, up to where it goes pretty straight up.
And now that, you know, they do take snow machines up there. That's one way of -- probably the best way for snow machines to get up on the Harding is -- is by the way of -- is this Paradise?
RACHEL MASON: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. DAN SEAVEY: But -- RACHEL MASON: How many dogs would you have?
DAN SEAVEY: Oh, I didn't run many dogs in those days. Probably five, seven, nine would be a pretty decent team.
And then I might say I also had traps up in there on occasion. I did trap when I was back in Minnesota.
Never had real good luck here. Caught a dog once. Caught my own dog once. RACHEL MASON: Your own dog, oh. DAN SEAVEY: Does that count?
DON CALLAWAY: Is he all right?
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. Well, he got loose, the bugger chewed loose, while I was up toward the glacier, and of course, okay, so you're going home, right?
No problem. Get home, that Sinook was his name, big yellow dog. Get home and no dog.
Well, there's only one answer to that. So back I go again, and sure enough, about the third trap up, set up, there he is.
That's quite an ordeal to get a dog out of a trap by yourself, especially, yeah, without getting all chewed up. But anyway.
I remember that about him. RACHEL MASON: Poor dog. DAN SEAVEY: I -- I don't -- I didn't catch much up in there. I think I got a fox once, and yeah. I wasn't a very avid trapper.
KAREN BREWSTER: What were you trapping for? DAN SEAVEY: Fox or wolverine. Yeah.
DON CALLAWAY: So would you get out on your line two or three times a week, or --
DAN SEAVEY: Oh, I tell you, no, whenever I trapped, I'd try to get out there every day. Yeah. I don't like that once a week stuff for traps.
But yeah. And I was running out there anyway, see. That's my -- my main trail was out here.
But you know, back -- back then, too, it was pretty quiet around here, and I would hook up here, run down -- out our driveway, hit the Seward Highway, go over to the -- to what's Nash Road, and go all the way to the end of Nash Road, and come back, maybe see one or two cars.
Do the same, take off, go north on the Seward Highway, up the Bear Lake Road, and circle around Bear Lake, come back, you know, there just wasn't much traffic around in those days.
But then when I started getting -- you know, training for the Iditarod that first race and that, and I had to, of course, forsake all of this, there's not enough trails here to bother with, I started going over, like on the Mystery Creek Road, I guess they called it, we called it the Gas Line Road.
Mile 67, Sterling Highway, north to, you know, the -- the gas -- gas line that runs from Swanson River to Anchorage. Hit that. That -- that's a hundred miles of trail you can get over there, so we got a little more -- a little more serious then.
RACHEL MASON: When did you start running the Iditarod? DAN SEAVEY: I ran the very first one in 1973. RACHEL MASON: Oh, okay. DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. That was the first one.
But we also had a gold claim, a mineral claim over at Quartz -- on Quartz Creek.
That's -- are you acquainted with that area? Out behind Sunrise Inn, on the Sterling Highway there, Kenai Lake.
We had a claim there. And never worked it much. It was pretty much for dog mushing. And we used that a lot.
RACHEL MASON: Is this on this map here? No. DAN SEAVEY: Kenai Lake. RACHEL MASON: Here's Kenai Lake.
DAN SEAVEY: Well, it would be -- yeah. See, that's another thing, I'd run from Primrose to Hope, that was another way of training.
RACHEL MASON: Oh, wow. DON CALLAWAY: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
DAN SEAVEY: But this is -- isn't that -- what's that creek -- is that Quartz Creek? DON CALLAWAY: Yeah.
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah, that's Quartz Creek. Okay. The cabin was up in here. RACHEL MASON: Oh, okay.
DAN SEAVEY: And we would drive in, you know and get up in here.
RACHEL MASON: Yeah. There's the Quartz Creek landing strip here. DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. Yeah.
DON CALLAWAY: So when you're training with your dogs, you do it two or three times, long runs two or three times a week, or how would you do it?
DAN SEAVEY: Well, you know, having to -- yeah. Having to make a living, it kind of interfered with my dog mushing.
But yeah, you're right. At night, you know, two or three times a week at night, weekends, holidays.
Then when it got close to race time, both the first and second race, I petitioned the school board and they let me off.
So I got a substitute. And then I trained pretty hard for a couple weeks prior to the race. And then ran the race.
And, that's you know, in those days, it was 22, 23 days. And then back to school. The third year they said, nah, probably not.
RACHEL MASON: Well, your kids must have loved that, following you.
DAN SEAVEY: Oh. Oh, yeah. Yeah. We got some good -- some good feedback from the kids on that. Yeah, it was -- it was a good time.
DON CALLAWAY: So when you brought your dogs up here, would you ever get up on the Harding Glacier? Would you take them up? DAN SEAVEY: No.
DON CALLAWAY: No? You just take them a little way up the -- DAN SEAVEY: Just up -- like the face of the glacier where we could get up. Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: That's not too steep? DAN SEAVEY: It wasn't at that time. Excuse me just a sec.
I believe this was taken in -- in 1980 with the dog team up there. Nothing real spectacular, but you can see the ice is -- is -- you know -- DON CALLAWAY: Jagged.
DAN SEAVEY: It's a long ways up there from there. And that -- so that's -- gives you some idea. And you'd find a place that you could get up and over. I have pictures of earlier than that.
RACHEL MASON: When was this taken? DAN SEAVEY: I'm going to say about -- about '80.
DON CALLAWAY: How about, you know, when the -- the snow is off the sides of Paradise here, would you ever take your dogs all the way up -- up then? DAN SEAVEY: No.
DON CALLAWAY: Just a little ways up? DAN SEAVEY: Yeah, just a little ways. I never -- never liked that avalanche business.
I used to run up the south fork of the Snow River, that's if you go over mile 12 here, hill here, and off to the -- it'd be off to the right, it comes back south.
One time up there, I go all the way up to Nellie Juan -- Nellie Juan Lake, and you can actually get up there and overlook, like, Prince William Sound, that used to be a nice run for dogs.
And one time when I -- again, when I was younger and dumber, I did -- I just missed an avalanche up there by -- I bet it wasn't 3 minutes.
And I -- yeah. Because they come down, I was crossing and I know more than -- I mean, I just was sort of out of the chute, and down it comes, you know. No more chances, so... Yeah.
DON CALLAWAY: So you mentioned your children were born before you got here. And what are their names?
DAN SEAVEY: Well, Mitch is the older one, and he's, now, of course, real active. He lists his occupation as dog musher.
He's real active in the Iditarod. He was the 2004 champion and, of course, won the All Alaska Sweepstakes in 2008, in -- in Nome.
A little bit of cash involved with that, a hundred -- 100,000. So he was the oldest.
And then we have a daughter, Tracy. She's -- was horse -- was and is horse nuts, even today. In fact, so much so they -- she and her husband and her daughter, our granddaughter, moved to Oklahoma to be closer to horses.
RACHEL MASON: Really? DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. DON CALLAWAY: Just quarter horse or --
DAN SEAVEY: Just anything, it doesn't matter. She's basically a -- she's in the medical part of it, and so -- DON CALLAWAY: Oh, I see.
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. So anyway, she's down there. And then we have a younger son, Darian, he's our baby at about 50, I guess.
But he's -- he's been around here for pretty much right along, and now just -- he retired, sold his business and retired, and he's kind of a gypsy on the road right now with one of our grandsons, who is a triathlete.
And so consequently, we had to go over to Hawaii here last week to see him in a -- you know, it was obligations. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah, sure.
DAN SEAVEY: Grandparents staff, yeah. But anyway, they're kind of doing the circuit here for the next two, three years with that -- with Taylor, who is a -- he's waht -- 19 come the 17th of August, so...
DON CALLAWAY: Does he do the Iron Man or -- DAN SEAVEY: Lava Man. He's not -- he's got a ways to go for the Iron Man yet, but he's doing well.
And he's training. He's got a good coach, Conrad Stoltz, who's won the Iron Man a few times. And so yeah. And he's into it. That's the main thing.
KAREN BREWSTER: And you have another grandson who races dogs, too?
DAN SEAVEY: Oh, boy, they all. Okay. Mitch -- Mitch has -- he has four sons.
And Danny, who's -- like he says, my grampa's named after me. He has the same -- and it gets confusing. He -- he's Dan Seavey, same middle name and everything. RACHEL MASON: Oh, jeez.
DAN SEAVEY: So anyway, he's the oldest of Mitch's son. And he runs the family business, which is the Iditaride Sled Dog Tours, and they have a glacier dog operation out at Alyeska.
And then the Wild Ride Sled Dog Show in Anchorage.
So Danny manages those -- those things, plus tours in the winter. And, you know, a bunch of stuff with dogs.
And then there's Tyrell, he's the next youngest, and of course, he's running a race and this is sort of a right of passage.
None of these kids have been -- have any school housing, they are all homeschooled kids. So their graduation is run the -- run the Iditarod, you know.
And then there's Dallas who is actively running now. He's got a good sponsor, and he's nipping at Mitch's heels pretty good here.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, just this last one... RACHEL MASON: Yeah, I remember reading about him.
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. He is the third son, number three. And then there's number four, which we joke about, as kind of an oops.
He's a -- and that's Conway. He's, like -- I think he's 12 now, and he's sort of the musician in the family.
He -- he's -- he's a singer and a bunch of stuff he's working on. So...
KAREN BREWSTER: You mentioned that you -- as soon as you moved out here, you got dogs. I mean, what inspired you to get dogs and start mushing?
DAN SEAVEY: Oh, like so many people that I talk to my age, from my era, Sergeant Preston of the Northwest Mounted Police, of course. KAREN BREWSTER: Of course.
DAN SEAVEY: The radio program. Get the farm chores done, get in there so you can hear that, you know, see how Yukon King does, who he brings down for all in the name of justice, you know. DON CALLAWAY: Yeah.
DAN SEAVEY: So yeah. I mean, there was that glamorous sort of thing, you know, the -- Call of the Wild, you know, Jack London. You know, boys' stories, kids' stories.
I can remember a one room country school, best schoolhouse I've ever been in for about three years, bar none. College, you name it.
Just got through with a geography lesson on Alaska. You know, the mining and the trapping and the hunting and -- oh, and the dog mushing, and you know, the mail going -- being carried by dogs, and you know.
I suppose even that textbook was old in those days, but anyway, I can remember telling my map partner, I said, "Hey, what do you say, why don't we go to Alaska when we grow up, all right?" "Yeah, yeah, yeah." Well, you know, 20 --
DON CALLAWAY: You made it. DAN SEAVEY: Yeah, I made it. You know, three kids and the wife and about, you know, 16 years later, yeah. Made it. But yeah.
So that -- I mean, you know, to be honest with you, that's what it was. And the deal with Shirley was that two years, and then we'd go back to the Midwest and do whatever, but that didn't happen.
KAREN BREWSTER: How did you get your dogs? I mean, people don't associate Seward as the dog mushing capital of Alaska.
DAN SEAVEY: No, but it's too bad they don't because you want to keep in mind historically, the Iditarod Trail began, ended, or however you want to look at it, in Seward.
It was laid out in 1908, in fact, from Seward to Nome, basically.
So -- and -- but you're right in that the race has messed up a lot of history, you know. And -- but I didn't let that bother me, that there -- and you're right, there were no sled dogs left in the Seward area when I -- when I came here.
And in fact, the closest teams that I'm aware of were over on the, like, Soldotna, Kenai, and the sprint racers, you know, there were a few over there.
But none -- no utility teams or long distance. There was no long distance racing, so there was -- there wasn't much reason to have them, you know.
But anyway, we -- we, when we came out here, we used them. I mean, we hauled water, we didn't have a well, we hauled water from Clear Creek down there by Gillespies.
Of course, there was a lot of nearby wood down, you know, old fallen trees, hauling the wood with dogs.
Then, of course, using them for recreation, went family camping and all kinds of stuff in the winter with them.
So I had 10 -- a good 10 years of dog experience before -- before we ever started -- we ever organized that first Iditarod. I felt pretty confident with dogs.
You ask how did I get them? Probably like most beginning mushers, you take castoffs from ones people didn't like.
The -- the judge in town, the magistrate called me up, "Seavey, we've got a dog we've got to put down. Do you want to take a look at it?"
You know, it was a stray or something, right? So I'd go in, if it looked like a husky, I'd -- you know, he'd get his reprieve; if not, you know, good bye. And basically, that was the way it went.
And started breeding dogs. And I think Mitch and I figured out the other day, we have about 18 to 20 generations of dogs now, selected breeding from that breed that we started here.
And of course, Mitch has carried it to a whole different level than I ever did. I mean, he's got super, super race dogs, where I was just more concerned with just good forward oriented, you know, honest dogs, as we called them.
But, you know, maybe get one dog that was worth keeping out of the litter.
And then pretty soon, you're getting half, halvsies, you know. And then pretty soon you could almost predict if that female has six pups, they are going to all be good dogs, you know, good forward oriented dogs.
So and that's -- that's just the way we went. But it didn't cost us a lot of money to get in. In fact, the first dog I ever -- let's see, how did that work.
First dog -- yeah, the first dog I ever got was $25. That was a pup in -- when we still lived in town before we moved out here.
And got it, and the neighbor's dog came over, munched it, killed it. And of course, it was a tragedy for the kids.
And so anyway, hey neighbor, you owe me $25, right. Well, okay. You know, so I get $25.
And I -- then I think the next one I bought, another puppy like that from a different source, and that was like 50 bucks. Now we're getting high dollars, you know.
High bucks for those days for dogs. But now, you know, if you've got a decent leader that can be used for breeding purposes, you start at about 5,000, and you know, there are dogs that are sold for 10 grand easily.
Yeah. So times have changed. Inflation it's called.
DON CALLAWAY: Where does Mitch and Dan live now?
DAN SEAVEY: Mitch -- Danny lives right over here, in fact; adjoining property here. DON CALLAWAY: Okay.
DAN SEAVEY: The -- and Mitch lives in Sterling. Yeah. He's got a big -- I say a big place. Lots of room over there for a lot of dogs.
That's sort of the depot for all the summer -- Mitch -- the boys try to keep him away from the day to day operations. They've given him the --
RACHEL MASON: He's just the star --
DAN SEAVEY: Well, they've given him the job of trucking dogs to these various places.
They rotate them in and out, you know, so the dogs are maybe here for a week or so, and then they go home on R and R, and then another load comes in. So he's pretty much a trucker in the summer.
KAREN BREWSTER: So did you ever lead tours with your dogs?
DAN SEAVEY: Oh, yeah. Yeah. In fact, we -- we started that, what was called, that's what this was all about, Trails North Tours.
And we had -- oh, boy, that's when the cruise ships were started in Seward. And I'm talking here now about '85; '84, '85, right in there.
It was right after I retired anyway. And -- from school. And yeah.
We had, gosh, could be 350 people at a time out there. I'd do a dog demo and tell them lies about the Iditarod, and that.
RACHEL MASON: Did you take them on a ride?
DAN SEAVEY: No, no. No. We had a, like, an arena. And I'd cut figure eights and stuff with dog teams, and they could -- they get out and it was a good -- good tour.
The cruise ship companies liked it. Yeah. And then --
DON CALLAWAY: This was during the summer, though? DAN SEAVEY: Uh hum. Yes.
RACHEL MASON: After they built the road out here?
DAN SEAVEY: The road -- gosh, you know, I can't even tell you when they -- this road, the -- the dirt road, which is now just a loop, that -- I am pretty sure that was -- started in '73, '74.
But it wasn't -- it wasn't usable, really, for busses and stuff until, I don't know, probably '76.
I know when we first -- we bought 14 busses, and we did quite a business then. And a lot of times we'd get out -- at first we could only go to the overlook, you know, that overlook out there.
KAREN BREWSTER: Before the bridge.
DAN SEAVEY: Before the bridge was put in. And so that's as far as we would go. And a lot of times, I guess it would be in the fall when the rains came, I mean, we'd be through water like this with those busses, you know, in the low spots, going out there.
People got -- yeah, it was kind of -- it was quite an adventure for them in those days. And it was all dirt and, you know, rough and --
RACHEL MASON: Did they ever get stuck?
DAN SEAVEY: We never got stuck. No, they were solid. They were solid. But yeah.
So then we sold that in -- in about '91, '92, right in there, '91, I guess, and we bought the Seward -- another business, Seward Bus Line, has daily service between here and Anchorage.
And we -- I say "we," Shirley and I, we operated that. And also I had a fleet of charter busses and we operated that for about 10 years, I guess.
DON CALLAWAY: Were you the mechanic for the busses?
DAN SEAVEY: Oh, yeah, mechanic, and you name it. Driver and, you know, small business, you've got to do -- DON CALLAWAY: Yeah.
DAN SEAVEY: -- whatever it takes to make it go. Yeah, so you know, we've been fairly busy. And finally got retired though, two years ago, sold the last bus. I'm official.
RACHEL MASON: Is somebody still operating a Seward Bus Line?
DAN SEAVEY: Oh, yeah. Seward Bus Line, it was old -- it was an old business when I bought it.
I mean it goes back to -- certainly back to the '50s, 1950 maybe.
Well, whenever the road, '52, I suppose, whenever the Seward Highway was first opened up. So yeah. Then it was an old, you know, fairly successful -- it had its ups and downs, but it was good to us. Yeah. It was a good business for us.
KAREN BREWSTER: So when was the Exit Glacier Road that's out there now, the new Exit Glacier Road, the paved -- DAN SEAVEY: That's -- KAREN BREWSTER: When did that come in?
DAN SEAVEY: That's what I can't remember. I don't know. Probably -- I -- you know, isn't that strange? I should know that, but I don't. I want to say --
KAREN BREWSTER: Is that the one that Herman Leirer started or he started the one you're on -- DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: -- on Old Exit Glacier?
DAN SEAVEY: He started -- he and -- I think even this Luke Reed that I mentioned was in, there were several guys in on that, but he -- okay.
Come in the dirt road right by the highway, that part of the loop, that -- RACHEL MASON: The old Exit Glacier Road.
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. Okay. That was the old road. That's when this started. And they came out, right up here past Manthey's cabin, and up here, right past our corner here, and then on down, the stretch you came in on.
And the -- and the -- if you look down there, there's a -- a barrier of some -- it's suppose to have been a gate to keep people out of there, but that was actually a -- where the road went.
And the bridge then went across Box Canyon Creek right there, and then pretty much where the -- where the road is -- where the paved road is now.
So as far as new route, or what have you, the only new route was from the highway along the river, the rip, wrapped and paved.
And they went -- Herman and that bunch, they pushed it all the way through. Blast -- did the blasting and everything all the way to that -- that lookout there. You know. That they --
RACHEL MASON: Uh hum. Yeah. Yeah.
DAN SEAVEY: And as far as the date, I'm sorry, I can't -- I'll tell you what, do you have that problem? I can't tell you if it happened yesterday or seven years ago.
DON CALLAWAY: We were look -- Rachel had to wait out in the cold, or actually she got in the alcove because I couldn't find the car keys. They were just in another pocket. I went back to the room.
DAN SEAVEY: Not enough keys or too many pockets, right?
DON CALLAWAY: Too many pockets, right. DAN SEAVEY: But I want to say about '80, 1980.
KAREN BREWSTER: When they straightened it, basically?
DAN SEAVEY: Yeah. When they -- the park got. And then it was dirt for a while, and then they paved it. And yeah. So...
KAREN BREWSTER: Can you maybe talk about how it's changed with the differences in your road? Your --
DAN SEAVEY: Well, it was less dust. That's for sure. But, you know, I welcomed the road.
And when we had the public meetings for -- for the, what would result in the paved road, the -- by and large, the people out here and people, just the general public were in favor of keeping the same route
and upgrading the dirt road for the bigger busses and stuff. And -- and basically, keep it dirt. Keep it.
But in the process, after the hearings and so forth -- oh, and another thing, we were supposed to have a bike path.
A pedestrian way associated with the road. And of course, we didn't get our way on the route, and we didn't get the bike path, so -- we're working on that, though.
We've got a little project going that hopefully will result in a bike path out along the road. Out along there, yeah. So...
DON CALLAWAY: Up to the -- up to the base of the glacier?
DAN SEAVEY: Well, up to -- basically, as far as our group is concerned, up to the Brown -- what we call the Brown Bridge where you cross and go into the park.
Now, the Park Service does have some money. They're doing a study on -- on a non-motorized, and it includes this.
But they -- they, in turn, would do something within the park, I presume, up to the glacier.
DON CALLAWAY: Yeah, hopefully. Yeah. I'm a bike rider.
DAN SEAVEY: Oh, good. Cool. Yeah, so that's in the works, you know.
RACHEL MASON: Over the years, what are some of the changes you've noticed in what the uses that people have made of the glacier or of that whole area?
DAN SEAVEY: Well, of course, originally, I mean, we were no doubt the first tour company to go -- to use the glacier, so to speak, even though we could only go to the outlook to start with.
So there wasn't much local traffic, and the local traffic probably more in the fall and that, hunters going out.
You know, there wasn't a whole lot of interest in the glacier locally, I don't think.
You know, I could be wrong there, but it didn't seem like -- you know, we didn't -- people didn't talk -- they've been -- you know, have people been out to the glacier or what have you.
I think it's used more now by locals because there are more facilities out there. I mean, there's picnic areas and that sort of thing. Visitor's center.
Definitely more use, that -- than it used to have.
As far as the valley itself, I -- I couldn't say there except I -- there are some controversial uses out there, like bear baiting stations, for instance.
There's a lot of us, me included, that feel that that's not an activity for a recreational corridor and it should be banned.
KAREN BREWSTER: Where is that happening, that's farther --
DAN SEAVEY: On the -- on the right side going out, on the land, mountain side.
KAREN BREWSTER: Right. But like farther up the valley, where or --
DAN SEAVEY: Well, there are bear -- there used to be at least three. And if you go out -- let's see. One up above -- do you know where No Name -- do you know where No Name Bridge is?
RACHEL MASON: If you can find it on the map, that would be -- I remember seeing it at one point.