Deserted in Alaska. 200 Miles on Foot, with Joe Letarte. In this episode Joe recounts the story of being left for dead in the middle of Alaska’s Brooks Range as winter began to set in. Joe was left with a string of horses and mules 200 miles from the nearest road and only one way out. Snow, ice fog, howling wind, and zubzero temps, and hunger, were all part of the journey. This is one you wont forget.

Disclaimer: this text was produced through an automated transcription service and likely contains errors. Please listen to the original audio for exact content.

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I might not make it out this, you know, because I don’t think anybody’s gonna come looking for us.

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That’s one of those stories that feels like it was 150 years ago.

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When you lose your will to survive, you’re dead. You’re dead on your feet.

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Anything to do with Western big Games?

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Welcome to the Epic Outdoors Podcast, powered by Under Armour.

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Hey everybody, Jason Carter. Adam Bronson coming at you from Southern Utah with the Epic Outdoors Podcast. Got a great guest on with us today. Joe Ard from Alaska Wilderness Enterprises up there in Fairbanks. How you doing, Joe?

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Yeah, good. It’s a good day in Fairbanks. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

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No, you bet. Well, appreciate you joining us. And from what I’m hearing, it’s a long, colder winter long one, so you’re still hunkered in not getting spring fever too much yet, huh?

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Yeah, no, we’re, we’re practicing self-isolation here 24 7, so that’s the way our life usually runs, so it’s no change here. So we’re just kind of living the good life by ourselves out in the middle of nowhere. So it’s good.

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That social distancing, I guess is what what you’re saying is you’re used to it, you guys social distance every day

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To Absolutely right.

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Just nice to have the rest of the world catch up to Alaska, right?

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That’s right. Now we know how

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You trail. That’s right.

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Well, yeah, tell us real quick, just give us a quick update on how the winner has treated Alaska, the game animals and, and whatnot. Just maybe just give us a quick update and then we’ll jump into some of your history. The,

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The situation in Alaska right now with the Hulk Covid thing is after listening to quite a few teleconferences from different organizations, a lot of different people have, you know, different ideas about how to proceed with the year. Everywhere from they’re gonna try to be operational in the 1st of May to they’re gonna quit for the rest of the year. There’s just a lot of different ideas out there about what is going to happen. And of course, nobody can tell the future. So I can only speak for what Alaska Wilders Enterprise is gonna do. And what we’re doing is, is we allowed the people in April to switch to another year, and we allowed the people in the first part of May to switch to another year. The people in the last week of May, I told them that we’re gonna reassess starting April 4th every 10 days and to see how it goes.

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And then we’re planning on being totally operational June 1st for our spring bear season. And so spring for us on the Yukon River is actually June. So we’re gonna try to do that. And so that’s how we’re proceeding. The covid thing up here is, we do have it here in Fairbanks, statewide, we have about 110 cases as of yesterday. So it’s not super drastic, but I mean, if you get it, we, we don’t have the facilities to treat it, you know, we don’t have a lot of advanced ICUs and we don’t have ventilators and we don’t have that. So I think it’s in everybody’s interest up here not to get it, because we just don’t have the access to care. So that’s, that’s the, the kind of the wrap up on that.

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That’s crazy. Well, we were reading where some of these spring hunters and whatnot, if they wanted to go, that they would have to isolate themselves in a motel room for 14 days, be checked on multiple times a day to make sure they didn’t leave and whatnot. And then,

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Yeah, so right now we’re free to go. Now the state does have, yeah, so right now the state does have some mandates out and they run to April 21st. And one of those mandates is that if you come to the state of Alaska between now and April, and between now and April 21st, you have to self isolate yourself for two weeks, for 14 solid days. So obviously you couldn’t do a hunt doing that. They’re gonna potentially lift that restriction April 1st if that restriction stays in. And that’s kind of one of the things we’re looking at. So if they leave that on the books through May, then we won’t be able to operate until that’s lifted. So that has to lift. Yeah. And personally I would like to see this thing spike, then have the spike start to come down and get to a point where they’re starting to relax things to kind of, not totally normal operation, but where people are still getting out and they’ve kind of relaxed some of the self-isolation rules. And then I think we’ll be able to operate. So we’re just kind of waiting and seeing like everybody else, but we in no way have, you know, the mass shortages and the mass concern that like they’re having on the east coast right now. So it’s not like that at all.

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Well, it’s, yeah, like you said, it’s a wait and see game. A lot of spring bear hunts, whether it be southeast Alaska, black bear hunts, or you know, grizzly and brown bear hunts throughout the state. A lot of people right now pretty anxious. Just like you said with the 14 day quarantine, it’s not really practical to come up there two weeks before, sit around in a motel, self isolate for 14 days and then go hunt for another 14. So hopefully, yeah, it’s just like you said, not practical. Hopefully some of this stuff over the next 20, 30 days, whatever, like you said, maybe spikes or starts, you know, tapering back off to some extent to where some of those things can at least allow, you know, the limited, and it still really is a fairly limited number of people when you look at it and the whole totality of it. It’s not like the tourism industry for Alaska, that’s gonna take probably a big hit until this wipes out. But the bear hunters just in general, it, I mean, for the outfitters it’s a big deal, but collectively we’re not talking about tens of thousands of people flooding to Alaska. You know, we’re hopefully able to see some of those suns get pulled off. A lot of people kind of anxiously waiting right now.

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Right. Well, one of the big things that’s gonna hurt the state as a whole is the cruise line canceling the cruises to Alaska. So a lot of them have been canceled. And so, I mean all of Southeast Alaska, the port cities that rely on the tourism industry, and then of course Anchorage is gonna take a huge hit. And for us in our summer fishing operations, we, most of our clients are cruise passengers, so it, it’s, it’s gonna be bad, you know, for the rest of this year, just losing those boats. And if the hunting thing’s thrown on top of it then, and I have not been operating since January 20th. We usually do wintertime ice fishing and snow machine trips, but the majority, 98% of our clients for that are Asian. And once it broke out in China and we started having people coming over here, I just kind of saw the writing on the wall and I didn’t wanna expose my employees to any of that. So we shut down January 20th for that. And so we have not operated all winter, so it’s already started out to be kind of a really tough year. So we’ll see what happens.

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Crazy times. So ice fishing, what do you guys ice fishing for? How does that go down? So

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What are you guys fish for? Rainbow trout and Dolly Garden, and it’s all stock fish. So there’s some lakes around Fairbanks that we go down and do with the Chinese, the Koreans, the Japanese, they all just love it. There’s, I don’t know what it is really in their culture, but they all come to Alaska for two things, dog mushing and ice fishing. Right. And they just go crazy over it. And so they really get a kick out of it. We cook the fish out on the ice and have, you know, growing up in the Midwest, I, we always had like the fish fries and stuff, so we do that kind of a thing out there and they just, they really, really like it. And it’s been hugely popular. I started that probably 20 years ago and I was the only one doing it. And now I think there’s probably 20 or 25 people doing it, so it’s really, really taken off. But as our Chinese tourism has escalated in Fairbanks, well, we get thousands of people here from Asia every winter. So it’s, there’s just, geez, it’s been really a great deal to be in. Yeah, that’s

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Crazy. Well, tell us about kind of your, your youth and growing up and then kind of how it ended up where you, where you got into the guiding business.

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Yeah, so I grew up in the Midwest. I grew up in Illinois and we spent a lot of our time in Wisconsin. I had family in Wisconsin and my dad was a, a minister with a church there in Illinois and we had a, a church camp up in northern Wisconsin. I spent a lot of time up there. My grandfather fostered a lot of the outdoor interest in me. He was a surveyor for the federal government back in the early 19 hundreds. And so he had surveyed a lot of northern Wisconsin and a lot of Arizona when it was, you know, still a territory actually. So my folks had me late in life and so my, my grandparents and my folks were a lot older than, you know, most kids grew up with and, you know, get, we lived kind of in a suburban environment where I grew up, but the outskirts of that right on the border of our city was just nothing but farmlands.

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And so I ran trap lines and hunted pheasant and did all that and, and had a really great interest in the outdoors. When I, when I went to college, I went down to actually Jonesboro, Arkansas. I went to Arkansas State University for a wildlife management degree. And it was down there that really kind of, the whole Alaska thing kind of came to fruition. I was a military science major, so I was R O T C down there and I was, you know, when I got out I’d owe the Army X amount of years active duty. And I was sitting on my bed one day in my dorm and looking at a magazine and I’d always wanted to go to Alaska. I I was dreaming about going to Alaska and I thought, well, you know, I mean if I, if I graduate and I get in the army, and I kind of wanted to make that a career at that time, I thought, man, I might never go.

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And so I thought, well, I should just go up there. And kind of in the year before this all happened, I had met a girl in my hometown and she was kind of an adventurous type of person too, and she wanted to go somewhere and she, she said, well, maybe we could move to Colorado or go out there and see that. And anyways, long story short, we got in the car and we drove out to Colorado and looked around and, you know, really liked it there. But I think the throw down out there was we went to a place in Big Thompson Canyon, and that was right after the big Thompson Canyon flooded in the late 1970s. And it was pretty wiped out, but there was one restaurant still standing there, and it was called the Devil’s called Stage Stop. And it was probably to this day, some of the best Mexican food I’ve ever had. But we were in there and there was some local guys in there and you know, when you came from the east out to Colorado in those days, you kind of stuck out so people kind of harassed you. It wasn’t like it was nowadays.

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Yeah, now you blend right

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In and, you know. Yeah. And so anyways, they told us we weren’t tough enough to go to Alaska and we weren’t tough enough to do this. And so that was pretty much it for her. She was like, okay, now we’re going, you know, and so that was kind of the start of it, and it took us another year and a half to actually put the plan into motion, but, but we did put it into motion and ended up in Alaska. So. So

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Tell us about your, that was kind of, tell us about your first trip up there to Alaska. How’d you get there?

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Well, we saw, like I said, we were both living in the Midwest and her folks had retired out to California and she said, well, if you go up there and you don’t come back, I don’t wanna be stuck in the Midwest. So I, I helped move her out to the, the West coast and I, I thought, well, that’ll be closer to Alaska anyway. And I was gonna go up and kinda recon Alaska and see what was going on and see what we can get going up there. And so I left, left California, left the Los Angeles area actually on a Greyhound bus and ended up going up to Seattle. And my plan was to get on with the fishing fleet that was coming up to fish for, you know, salmon fisheries. And a lot of the guys were, obviously a lot of commercial fishermen here are live in Washington and our Seattle residents, and they come up every year, fish and then go back.

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And Oregon has a lot of commercial fishermen in it too that come to Alaska. But I got there like a week late and the boats were all gone. And so I was just like, wow, wow. Now what do I do? You know? So I thought, well, I started asking around and somebody said, well, there’s a ferry, state ferry that goes up there. And so I went down and I still remember the pier number. It was Pier 48, the Alaska on the Seattle Harbor, and there was the Alaska ship called Columbia there. And it would, it was, it made four or five trips a summer from Seattle to Alaska. And you know, back then it was $93 one way, which, you know, know for the late 1970s, that’s kind of a lot of money. That’s a lot of money. So, yeah. Yeah. When I left, when I left California, I mean, we had no money. We were like, stone broke, I think my wife had 50 bucks, I had 50 bucks. So I started the trip with a hundred bucks. Geez. So the time got you hers, you

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Took hers and left with, left her with nothing.

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Left her with nothing, you know, but she said, I know you’re gonna come back and I know you’re gonna, you know, we’re gonna live our dream and everything’s gonna work out. So here you go. My gosh, she was invested in the future, trust me, it paid off. Wow. Wow. So I ended up, so there I am, I’m Pier 48 with a hundred bucks and $93 ticket. And I thought, well, there’s really no other choice. I can’t go back. You know, I just, you know, failure wasn’t an option to me in those days. I mean, and plus, you know, when you’re, when you’re basically 20 years old, I mean, you don’t think too straight anyway, so you know, why not, you know? And so I bought the ticket and then with the extra money I had, I went down, there’s a market there on the wharf. Seven, $7.

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The extra $7 you mean?

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Yeah, the extra $7. Okay. Just making sure. And I bought as many as I thought, what, what can I buy that would be, that I could live on that would be kind of, would keep, and, you know, kind of last long time and be a little bit nutritional. And I thought, well, I saw some sardines there and I thought, well, I’ll just buy a bunch of sardines and crackers. So I, I invested my seven bucks on sardines and crackers, and I got on the boat with a backpack, sardines and crackers, no money, and that was it. And that was my, my trip to land back then. I don’t know, you know, the, it wasn’t like nowadays with all the nice gear, trust me, my backpack was made out of canvas and the frame was aluminum and geez, it was a big clunky thing, you know, and I slept on the deck of the boat.

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They had lawn chairs out there that you slept on, and that was it, you know? And so off to the last guy went, and I remember arriving in Haynes was the, was the demarcation point. And I had met some people on the, on the boat that were starting a river rafting outfit. And they were from, they were from, from Idaho and they had had a river rafting company in Idaho. And so they were gonna try to come up and run the Tetin Cheney River. And it’s just kind of ironic that, that, that all that I met ’em and that, that they were running the Tetin Cheney because it was years later that I actually got my guide area at the base of the Tecini River, which is the Lsac River in Akta where I now operate my brown bear hunts, you know. And so they were actually my first job, they gave me a job because they felt sorry for me running clients from Hanes up into Canada up to the Tini, and then dropping ’em off and then coming back to Hanes.

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So then I made enough money with ’em and I made it up to Anchorage and there was nothing going on in Anchorage really. And so I went, went down to the Homer spit. The Homer spit nowadays is a huge tourist destination, and it’s, it’s pretty, you know, it’s pretty tame as far as what goes on there. But back in those days, I mean, it was actually a working, there was fish processing plant there and commercial fishermen, and it was kind of rough down there, you know, and of course that was the, the home, I think it’s the salty, salty dog saloon or something like that. And back in those days, that place was wild. I mean, rip roaring wild. And so I was living on the beach and going down to the cannery every day. And you got in line at the cannery every morning about four or five in the morning, and they just took as many people as they needed to work on the slime line or gut fish, whatever they wanted you to do.

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And if you got work, you got work. And most of the time you didn’t. But there was dozens and dozens of people that lined up every day and, you know, and of course it was raining and you know, the tents were like, my backpack, the tents were soaking through, they were just kind of junky stuff we had back then. And it was tough living. So I ended up kind of starving out down there a little bit. And the, there was like two halibut charters there back then, which is, people would laugh now because now there’s just dozens, you know, and they would throw the heads away to the halibut and they’d throw ’em in the trash in a big 55 gallon barrel at the harbor there. So I’d go down there in the evening and get the heads out of there and cut the cheeks out of the heads and, you know, that’s one of the best parts of the hall ofbut. And so I was living on halibut meat and living on the beach like that, and just kind of getting by with nothing. And then I heard about a, a job up in, out of Fairbanks wrangling horses up in the Brooks Range. And so I hitchhiked up there and that’s what brought me to Fairbanks. Wow.

00:16:26:10 –> 00:16:39:28
So is that all that getting on in Seattle going up and then what you talked about your, your time in, in Anchorage, was that the better part of like a spring and all summer and fall, or how long experience does that before you got to Fair Fairbanks?

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Yeah, it took all summer and then, so I was in Fairbanks right at the beginning of the fall in time for hunting season. So that’s what the guy needed to wr to wrangled the horses for. And it was actually a, he was actually billing it as a guidance survival school, so I think to get kind of cheap free help, you know, he was billing it as a, as a school, but he really just needed camp labor. And so it was perfect for me because, you know, room and board and a place to be and, you know, all you had to do was wrangle horses, it same, fairly simple. So, so off I went, you know, I, I had no idea even where the bricks range was. I just went, I, I just went and did it, you know?

00:17:19:00 –> 00:17:41:20
So you did that for a year and then like, well, I, I think I like this winter’s coming. Did you stay there? Is your wife still in California? Where did it go from there? You obviously, the hook got set deep in you to some extent at some point, and you decided to stick around and, and how did you go to the next step of whatever you embarked on?

00:17:42:22 –> 00:18:34:23
Yeah, so I went, so the next, the next season, so I, I hung around and I did a little bit bit of, I went out on a trap line with a guy that winter and did a little bit of that. And I did go back down south to see my folks, see my girlfriend, right? Right at the holidays and a little bit past the holidays. And then I came back up and we got ready for the spring season and we went out and did that. And then by that time I thought, well, this is really gonna be, this is really gonna work, because I had, now I’d seen the Brooks Range and like back then you couldn’t go up the hall road. So what they, the tourist saw go up to PTO Bay now on what they call the Dalton Highway back in those days, the Dalton Highway, we called it just the Hall Road because it was built along the trans Alaska pipeline construction route to haul supplies for the construction.

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So they hauled stuff on it. And so there was a pipe yard in Fairbanks, and as they built the pipeline, so they built the pipeline from Valdez North and from PTO Bay South, and they had barged a bunch of material up to PTO Bay, and so they were coming south with it. And the hookup point was just south, just out, just over the Brooks range on the south side where they, you know, welded the pipe together to, to finish it because it was just such, such a rough go from Prude Bay over the Brooks range, through Atan Pass and all that. And so they didn’t allow the public on that road, because when I came here, they were still building the pipeline. I mean, they were still finishing up things and there’s a lot of workers up there. Fairbanks was huge boom town. I mean, it was just crazy, you know, just everybody was working, lots of money.

00:19:25:01 –> 00:20:15:24
People would come back, just go on Rampages with their money and, you know, trash hotel rooms and pay for ’em the next day. They didn’t care. And everybody was rolling high, you know, and the bars lined downtown Fairbanks, where the tourists now walk was all just bars. And I remember they, they were open pretty much 24 hours a day. And so it would be like five in the morning, they’d close for an hour to sleep ’em out and mop ’em up and they’d open ’em back up at six. And so everybody would stand up with their drink at five in the morning and walk out on the street, and you’d have all these people out on the street while they mucked out the bars. And then you’d walk back in and put your drink back down and start the day over again, you know? And so that was kind of everybody’s day off from the pipeline, you know, and it was, it was really a wild time in Fairbanks, so the public wasn’t allowed up to Hall Road.

00:20:15:24 –> 00:21:17:07
And so we got one of the first permits, the guy I was working for got one of the first permits for commercial operators to go up the hall road. And so we were hauling horses up the Hall road at that time to the Chandelier shelf and then going into the bricks range. And then in a year or two had passed that I worked for a guy and we were going up to Pump Station three, which is just south of PTO Bay and Holland Horses, and going in that way. And then that, that trip there, that was, we were actually hunting over by the Canadian border. So one way from pump station three, it was a little bit better than 200 miles in there with the horses, you know, and you gotta remember that horses, to our knowledge anyway, had never been in there before. There’s no trails. It’s not like the American West where you got trails everywhere. It’s just trail lists, marshy Brooks Range has a lot of boggy areas. And so it, it’s a lot different than most people envision it, a lot different, you know? And it was drastically different from anything I had ever experienced back then, you know, so.

00:21:18:16 –> 00:21:32:21
Well, that’s crazy stuff. So I guess at some point you get a new job with an outfitter, you’re working with that outfitter, maybe bridge that gap for us on, on how that went down.

00:21:33:03 –> 00:22:28:20
Okay, so I went from, so the outfitter that I worked for when I first came to Alaska, I worked for him for a year, two years, I guess. So that would’ve been the year of 79 and 80, no, 79. And I just worked for him one year, 79. And then in 80, I went to work for another outfitter who didn’t really have an area, but he was in with this Colonel Eugene Witt in his area up in the Brooks Range. And so that area was on the Juju River, and that was really a, a really cool camp to be in because Colonel Eugene Whitt was a retired army colonel, and he was World War II era guy. He had actually started guiding in the Brooks Range with a guy named Red Aney, who was the first guide in the Brooks Range back in the 1940s, early 1940s.

00:22:30:10 –> 00:23:14:23
And when world, when he got sent overseas for World War ii, he actually went over several times, but the, the last time he went, he was, he went in, he was a infantry in infantry guy in charge of an infantry regiment going in behind Patton. So he was what he called one of Patton’s blood and gut guts guys. And so he cleaned up the Germans after Patton went through with the tanks, he came through and it was really through him, you know, and talking about the old days in the Brooks Range and like how hard and how hard they worked up there to guide back then. So they had these big barrels that they would pack eight miles one way to a spike camp and set it down, and then go back and get the stuff to put in the barrel. And they made all these trips in the summer.

00:23:14:23 –> 00:23:50:23
They put so much work into things that, like nowadays, nobody would ever think of doing that, you know, but they wanted to provide the best service for their clients, you know. And so I think it was really through him that I kind of realized, and you know, up until this point, I had actually worked for a couple different guides and you know, between the spring season and the fall season. And I, I, it was kind of the good, the bad and the ugly because there’s, you know, as we all know, there’s a lot of bad guys out there, and there’s a lot of really good guys out there. What I saw from some of the other people wasn’t so great. And what I was about to see during this horse deal was definitely the worst of all humanity. But Colonel Witt was a really great guy.

00:23:50:23 –> 00:24:34:13
And so we would spend the nights sitting by the wood stove there, and he would talk about when you lose your will to survive, and these words became very important to me during that walk out of the Brooks Range. You know, when you lose your will to survive, you’re dead. You’re dead on your feet. And he would describe how they would come up on the Germans that were totally fine. They weren’t wounded, but they had just, they were so weary of war, and they were so pretty much shellshocked from the bombardment they had just taken. And then having the tanks go through that, he said they just stood there and they would bayonet at ’em and kick ’em off the bayonet and move on. You know, he said they just went through like a wave. And so that’s why he got, you know, they got the name Patton’s Blood and Guts guys, and he said, those guys just didn’t put up any resistance at all.

00:24:34:14 –> 00:25:37:12
You know, they just, they just capitulated. And he said, when you lose your will to survive, you’re dead on your feet. And that boy, those words stuck in my mind, even to this day, you know, if you give up, you’re dead. You have to see, you have to keep going forward, you have to keep fighting, you know. And so he talked a lot about his military career and then the history of the Brooks Range, and it was a history of the Brooks Range. It’s really, really not well documented. So it was very, very interesting, you know, to me. And so worked for him. And when I was in his camp, I met a guy, well, they, the guy I was actually working for was the guy that was in with him. He said, well, we gotta go out on our own, you know, we gotta do this, this, and this. And I’m like, well, okay. And being young, I was like, you know, I shouldn’t have done it because the guy was a little bit sketchy anyway. I didn’t really trust him. He was a little bit on the fringe, but you know, back then, you gotta realize I was, you know, 20 something years old from the Midwest. Nobody was evil. Everything’s good, everybody’s honest, you know, I was a lot, lot naive. Naive.

00:25:37:20 –> 00:25:45:04
Yeah, everybody wants the best for you, Joe. Everybody’s rooting for you, huh? Everybody wants the best for you. Everybody’s rooting for you and everybody’s gonna help you.

00:25:45:04 –> 00:26:33:20
Yeah, everybody’s rooting for you, you know? And so I kind of bought into his story, you know, and so he went out the next year, which was 1981 then, and he came back, he says, well, I purchased all these stock animals and this tack and I’ve got all this stuff, and you know, he is gonna go do it. You know, he wanted me to go work for him. And so I did. You know, and so that, that was the biggest mistake of my life. So up, up we go, and, you know, he is, he’s operating, you know, with another, another outfitter yet, not, not Colonel Witt, he’s operating in another guy’s area there. And we’re going along and I noticed that the mules were, and the horses were not really, they just didn’t seem right. They seemed like they weren’t really climatized to the colder climate, you know?

00:26:33:20 –> 00:26:58:17
And he was like, oh no, I got him from Canada, you know, blah, blah, blah. I had this, he always had a really good story. And the, I, I didn’t, I’d never really been around a really good con artist and con artists are good at the story. They can think on their sheet, you know, and they can think they can lie, they can lie on demand. And so that’s really what he was doing. And he had an answer for everything, and I just kind of bought into it. But as the season went along, yeah. What

00:26:58:17 –> 00:27:02:12
Time of year was that that you were going? Was it just fall, was it fall season or were

00:27:02:12 –> 00:27:56:06
You, so typically the Brooks Range thing would run like this. We would, we would get ready in June in Fairbanks. We did a, we did a spring bear season, may and June around the Fairbanks area, and then we’d get ready to go to the Brooks Range, and we would try to leave on right after July 4th to head up the hall road with the horses. And, you know, back then the road was so rough that you didn’t know if you’re gonna get up and down the hills. You didn’t know how many tires you’re gonna blow out. And so, you know, we spent a lot of time changing tires, a lot. We spent a lot of time just getting there. And I can remember one, you know, it rained and rained and rained one, one summer going up there, and the, the hills became super muddy. And I can remember having to have a state grader hook onto the, to the truck from behind and, and kind of help us get down the hill and then go around the other side and pull us up the other side.

00:27:56:07 –> 00:28:40:29
You know, that’s how rough the road was, you know? So it was, it was really, really tough. Anyways, and so we headed up the hall. So we’d head up the hall road right after July 4th, try to get into camp the last week of July, and then the sheep season would start August 10th, you know, so that was the plan. And of course, everything’s running late and we, you know, you barely get into camp by opening day, and then you have all this stuff, and you know, the pilots back then, you know, coming from Fairbanks, sometimes they showed up, sometimes they didn’t. And you know, also, I think it was just so different for me because nowadays, you know, we have satellite phones and we have, you know, alarm devices. You can text people anywhere in the world. And you know, back then to get a message out, you had to wait for the plane to come.

00:28:40:29 –> 00:29:23:11
You had to write the, the message down, give it to the pilot. Maybe he’d give it to somebody who’d get it in the mail, or maybe he’d give it to the right person. And then you had to wait a week or two for the answer to come back, you know? Geez. So, I mean, you know, no GPSs really no communication. It was really, really, really different. And I think if people had to go back and, and do what we did back then, now I, I think they just lose it because we’re so used, even in the outdoor world, we’re so used to immediate gratification that it, it just, this con this, thinking about it, the concept seems really, really bizarre to me. So we went up into the Brooks Range, and I noticed the horses were going down, and of course this guy had to make all the money he could.

00:29:23:15 –> 00:30:18:26
So usually in the Brooks Range, you try to get out of there by about September 15th. And back then, especially after that, it starts to get really cold up there. But he decided that people probably don’t remember him now, but there was a guy, he was an outdoor writer for Peterson’s Hunting magazine by the name of John ERs. And he was the whitetail guy. He wrote a lot of whitetail articles and for Peterson’s hunting back in the sixties and seventies and early eighties. And he had gotten him to come up on a muzzle loading moose hunt with his friends. And so he had a group of friends from East Texas that came up, but they wanted to hunt late. And so we were gonna stay late. And that’s really, that was really the death now right there for, for the horses and for almost me. So we’re up there hunting late, so September 15th comes and goes, and then we actually didn’t get them outta camping, you know, we were using float planes up there on lakes.

00:30:18:26 –> 00:30:58:25
And so I can remember the lake freezing over and having to go out there with a canoe and bust, you know, bust the ice out so the float plane could land. But the day the plane came, and I should have known right there that this, you know, I should have known I was getting set up here the day the plane was supposed to come and get everybody out. The outfitter told me, he says, take all the horses and that other wrangler and go, go back down to the camp we were just in, which was probably about four miles away. He says, I think I forgot to do something with the cache. You know, put the barrel lids back on or make sure they’re secure. Some, some totally come on. Not really important thing that really didn’t need to be done. And while we were down there, I heard the plane coming and going, and I’m like, Hmm,

00:30:59:00 –> 00:30:59:23
That seems weird.

00:30:59:23 –> 00:31:21:01
Well, I’m sure, yeah, that seems weird. So I get back up to where the lake is, and there’s a note on a stick sticking in the snow, and it says, oh, hey, emergency came up in town, I gotta go, just take the horses out to the hall road. I’ll see you out there. I’ll drive the truck up from Fairbanks, good luck. And how far? I was just like, are you kidding me?

00:31:21:22 –> 00:31:23:28
So here, I’m, were you alone or did you have another guy? Did you

00:31:24:11 –> 00:31:26:26
I had another wrangler with me, but the two of us, how far

00:31:26:26 –> 00:31:27:06
Is that?

00:31:27:12 –> 00:31:29:07
From the hall road to where, where you were?

00:31:30:23 –> 00:31:43:18
We were about 150 to 170 miles. But you know, by the time you go up this, up, this drainage down that drainage and over this pass and over that pass, you’re going over 200 miles, you know? So, and,

00:31:43:20 –> 00:31:46:02
And the date, what’s the time of year again?

00:31:47:11 –> 00:31:53:01
So this was, this was at about September 28th, which

00:31:53:01 –> 00:31:57:07
You, you said, so it’s pretty late up there. We were gonna be, he said you were wanting to be out by September 15.

00:31:57:13 –> 00:32:01:20
And so he jumped in with a hunter, right? He jumped in with the hunters and flew out. That’s what he did. He flew

00:32:01:20 –> 00:32:03:05
Out, he jumped in with the hunters and flew out.

00:32:04:09 –> 00:32:10:12
Wow. Well, here we go. Let’s talk about this. This is, this is part of what we wanted to get you on there before we knew. This is

00:32:10:12 –> 00:32:43:02
So, I mean, yeah, so I mean, you know, so here, yeah, here I am and I have no satellite phone. I can’t call anybody. I’m just there. So my choices are stay there and maybe somebody comes back, maybe somebody doesn’t, but the lake’s freezing over and, and by now it’s getting down to zero. I mean, it’s cold, you know, and or go, you know. So I decided we better go, you know? And so we loaded everything up the next day and, you know, no GPSs, no satellite phone, no nothing. I had a compass and I had a topo map. That was How many times

00:32:43:10 –> 00:32:48:05
Had you been there before? Zero. That the first year you’ve been there, right? It’s the first,

00:32:48:11 –> 00:33:08:20
That was the first year I’d been there. And I’d never been, I’d never made the trip from the hall road into camp that way before ever, you know? And so, and you know, once it snows, once it snows on the mountains and there’s snow all over the ground, and you look out there, and then you look at the topo map, it’s pretty tough to tell which, geez, which peak is which, you know?

00:33:08:29 –> 00:33:13:17
And so what about this, this kid with you? I mean, did you guys get along? Was he a good hand?

00:33:14:21 –> 00:33:55:13
Yeah, he was a good guy. And he, he was really, really worried right from the beginning. And he thought it was never gonna work. And he kind of was like, kept reiterating the fact that he had worked in a topo office and he said, none of the ones in Alaska are correct, you know, they’re also off, you know? And I was just like, well, that’s all we got, you know, so we’re just gonna have to make it work. And to me it just seemed kind of, kind of like doable because the drainages are so big and like, you know, how do you, how do you get lost doing that? You know? But, you know, I just wasn’t, I just didn’t really, even at that time, have a fathom for just how massive the bricks range was, you know? And how massive these, how, how much ground you have to cover, you know?

00:33:55:27 –> 00:34:33:13
And the other thing that was really weird was, you know, back then we, for some reason the bricks range is fairly wet. There’s a lot of wet boggy spots in it. So we actually wore hip boots all the time. You know, we, we hunted in hip boots, we hunted cheap in hip boots, you know, and so that’s not really a good thing to have on your feet. You know, nowadays we all make a big deal about, you know, what, what kind of boots do you have? Blah, blah, blah. Well, I know you don’t even need boots. ’cause I used to do it in hip boots, you know, and it wasn’t fun, but we got it done. But I mean, when you’re looking at walking out 200 miles in the snow, the last thing you don’t, you know, you want to have, don’t want to have on your feet as non insulated hip boots, you know?

00:34:33:13 –> 00:35:12:26
And then it’s zero degrees out, you know, and you know, how are you gonna dry your socks, blah, blah, blah. So anyways, off we go. And right away, you know, we get into the trip and the horses looked kind of weak. And, and he, and then I remember that he had been, he had flown a bunch of grain in and he had been graining them up, and I think he was just trying to keep ’em going, you know, just trying to keep him going so he could get out of there. And then he didn’t wanna be there. Well, I know for a fact that he didn’t want to be there when they died, because years later, you know, I kind of found that out. But, oh, so we get into the trip and of course now it starts to snow and one thing leads to another and the snow gets deep, you know?

00:35:12:26 –> 00:36:01:10
So now we have like two or three feet of snow on the ground, and then when it clears off, well guess what happens? You know, the temperature drops, you know, so it’s going down to 2030 below. So we’re in hip boots, you know, we’re sleeping in this dinky, you know, totally not even a tent tent that was just so cheap. It was unbelievable. I mean, I can remember having everything I had on getting in my sleeping bag and still being cold, you know? And of course you had to get the hip boots off every day. And so they’re wet from sweat, you know? And so you have to sit there and hold ’em open and while they freeze, because if you’ll, if you lay ’em on the ground and they go flat, there’s no way you’re getting ’em on in the morning. So in the morning you put ’em on frozen, and then you just kind of lived in ’em until your, the heat of your feet warmed ’em up and they were pliable and you could go again. You know? So come

00:36:01:10 –> 00:36:05:23
On. How many, how many horses were, how many horses again were we talking about?

00:36:05:26 –> 00:36:56:13
There was about eight mules and horses. So I think there was probably six mules and two horses. And so now they start, yeah, so now they start to go down, you know, they start to really have problems when that really cold weather hit, you know, and lots of ice fog. So there’d be a lot of ice fog during the cold weather. And then during the day, it would kind of clear off. And I was thinking, well, when they started to die, I was just like, yeah, this is really getting bad now. And we actually had to shoot some of ’em because they just got so bad. It was just, you know, we just had to put ’em down. And so within about three or four days, four days maybe we were down to one horse, you know, so now we’re walking, you know, and so we had our backpacks, our hip boots, I had a chunk of moose meat, and I had a bag of rice and I had a 22 pistol.

00:36:56:16 –> 00:37:39:24
And then my rifle, that was it, you know, and we were shooting tarm again along the way. And some nights I, I can remember just kind of getting the, you know, being able to kind of saw a piece of frozen moose meat off and then kind of thaw it out and just eat it frozen and then, you know, be able to boil a little water. We had a stove and, and have some rice with it. And that was pretty much the meal for the day, you know? And so it was pretty slim, slim picking, you know, and we would pick stuff off along the way. We, we found a pool where some grayling were trapped in it, and we speared those out of there and ate those. And, but you know, losing the, losing the animals is really demoralizing when you, when you, when you’ve used them all season and you know, you get to know ’em and I mean, they just really, really, really work hard for you.

00:37:39:26 –> 00:38:19:12
And, and to watch ’em just kind of freeze to death and then start to glaze over in their eyes and then, you know, have to shoot ’em or, or just have him fall over dead. It was, it was bad, but 30 below, you know, it was, it was, it was drastic, you know, and I can remember, I can remember thinking about three quarters of the way through it, I was like, yeah, you know, I might not make it out of this, you know, ’cause I don’t think anybody’s gonna come looking for us. No. And then I started to kind of think about that guy and I’m like, yeah, I don’t think he maybe really had an emergency in town. You know, I think he kind of knew this was gonna happen because, you know, he had kind of made comments about the horses and the mules doing poor, you know, out through the, throughout the season.

00:38:19:12 –> 00:39:14:12
And I’m like, you know, there’s, there’s something to this, you know? So in the end of the day, we, we, I remember the last day, so back in those days when, you know, the pipeline was new, poodle Bay was new, the Arctic Air was super clean, super pure. And I can remember, I remember telling the kid, I said, I think I can smell diesel exhaust, you know, because it was just so, so poignant. He is like, there’s no way. He says, we’re nowhere near, he was convinced at that point that we were totally lost, you know? And I was like, no, I think I can smell diesel smoke. And so I said, Hey, in the morning, we’ll, we’ll head up this, this red, you know, down this river and there’s a ridge down there. We’ll get up on that. And I said, according to the map, we should be able to see the hall road, you know? And so we got up in the morning and, and, but you know, he had had really kind of a mental breakdown at this point, and he was really doing bad. And I was just thinking if, if, if that hall road’s not there, he, he’s just gonna lose it. How long, because he had already been crying.

00:39:14:21 –> 00:39:18:26
How long had this been since you, you’ve started out, how many days were you talking?

00:39:19:07 –> 00:40:04:04
I think we were gone probably nine or 10 days, you know, so we were probably into day eight, which probably doesn’t seem like a long time, but like every day when you’re, when you’re in that situation, boy, every minute just seems like an hour, you know, because you’re just, you’re just having to think so hard about what do I do? And the wind’s blowing and you’re cold and you know, now you realize you might not make it and your feet are freezing. And his feet actually were freezing. He was actually getting frostbite and he was pretty much losing it. You know? He, he was starting to come apart in his mind, just with all the negativity he had going on in his head. And at that point I thought, well, I might not make it either, but boy, we just gotta keep going forward. ’cause we do, we gotta get outta here.

00:40:04:04 –> 00:40:47:18
I mean, that’s just all there is to it. You know, we can’t, we can’t spend the winter out here, you know, it’s ’cause it’s gonna get down to 40 50 below here pretty quick, you know? And, and then we’re really gonna be in trouble, you know? So we got up, so we went down that river and we got up on that ridge and it had snowed the night before, so everything was really white now. ’cause the snow was getting real deep and we looked out over the, I’ll never forget it, it just completely flat, barren landscape. And we saw nothing. There’s no road, nothing. And I’m like, God, we totally screwed up. And I thought we should have taken that other fork in that path. The last one we went over and I said, I, so now I’m thinking, I’m looking at the map and I’m thinking, God, I think we’re just on the north slope, you know, which is terrible.

00:40:48:04 –> 00:41:24:24
You know, we were supposed to be going west down the rib down river and you know, we’ve gone north and we’re, we’re totally done now because there’s nobody out here, you know, at least if you get toward the pipeline corridor, you know, you have some of the helicopters flying up and down for the pipeline within two or three miles of the pipeline. And they had a lot of security then I was trying to get within, at least in that corridor so somebody could see us. And now there’s nothing. And now I, and he starts crying and I was just like, yeah, we are screwed. Because I was pretty much getting spent by that time too. You know, you just, you get so physically tired and the stress and the adrenaline and everything.

00:41:24:25 –> 00:41:37:06
Yeah. You had a goal, you had a, you thought this was it and then it’s not, and you’re already, you know, nine or 10 days into it and wore out. Did you still have a horse, one horse or, or nothing by then?

00:41:37:29 –> 00:42:16:17
No, we had nothing by then. So we were just walking, you know, and so, I don’t know, we’re just sitting there and I was, I thought I saw something moving and I took my binoculars that I had, and I, I looked, and it was the back of a semi-truck. And what we had done was the snow had covered the hall road and we were just looking, we were looking kind of across it, you know, where we couldn’t see it and we, it really was running the other way. And so this was one of the first trucks, they didn’t run at night, back then, they only ran in the morning. And so this was early in the morning. They’d leave Prude Bay early in the morning. So we saw that truck coming down the road, but it was way off in the distance. We were, we were off in our calculations, but not by much.

00:42:17:11 –> 00:42:52:10
And boy, I’d never forget it. I nudged him and I’m like, what the fricking truck there buddy? Let’s go. You know? Geez. Wow. And we went down, we went down and the last obstacle was the seg of a untuck river. And so if you ever go caribou hunting up on the hall road, the sag of a untuck river is a raging terrible river. There’s no way you can wait across it. And you, it was frozen over, but you could hear that water just rushing under it, you know? And I was just like, man, how are we gonna do this? And we did have a dog with us, you know, and so the dog’s running out on the ice and back and forth. And I’m like, well, the dog made it. Well, you know, we’re heavier than the dog.

00:42:52:27 –> 00:43:05:28
The dog’s 45 pounds. He wouldn’t figure the dog would make it size hay. Yeah. Wow. So he made it, and you guys, the ice did held you and you got crossed. I mean, that we,

00:43:06:02 –> 00:43:58:19
Well, I had a, we had some rope and I always carried rope around up there because it comes in handy when you’re crossing rivers, especially on ice. And we had actually broken through with one of the horses a couple times during the trip. And so, you know, having somebody go across with a rope on ’em usually is a little bit better than just plunging in. And so the kid tied the rope onto me and I, I, I slid my pack across and then I just kind of got down and I kind of distributed my weight out and I just crawled across and made it, you know? But I mean, it was, you could hear the water raging underneath it, but there was no choice, you know? And then I held onto the rope for him and he tied it on himself and came across, geez. And we got up on the hall road, and I’ll never forget climbing up that embankment and then getting up on the hall road and thinking, I can’t believe it. We actually, we actually made it, you know, we actually did this thing, actually did it. Oh,

00:43:59:22 –> 00:44:05:06
Was it a matter of minutes or hours or how long before somebody came along and what was that? What

00:44:05:17 –> 00:44:27:20
Pretty much right away they had a lot of security there, so people noticed you because, you know, the public wasn’t allowed up there. So a guy rolled up in a pickup truck and he is like, oh, he goes, who are you? I was like, well, had these horses. And he is like, oh, he goes, your boss is down in the camp having breakfast, he’s been waiting for you, you know? And I’m like, really? And

00:44:27:28 –> 00:44:30:02
I’d like to talk to him. So he’d been, yeah, let’s

00:44:30:02 –> 00:45:12:10
Do this. Yeah, he had been down there for days, you know, and he wasn’t saying anything to anybody, and he never told anybody we were overdue. And he never, never said a word to anybody. So I think he was just waiting. Well, I know he was just waiting it out, but, you know, here I am, kid from the Midwest, nobody does any get. I went down there and he was just like, oh, it’s, it’s so great to see. I can’t believe it. I was so worried about you. And he laid all the BSS on me and just kind of like smoothed the whole thing over. And he is like, God, I was, I was just getting ready to call the troopers. I was just getting ready to do this if he hadn’t shown up today, blah, blah, blah, you know, and all this stuff. And so it really wasn’t till about 10 years later that the whole story came together for me. And then I had the proof of, of what he had really done, you know? And so

00:45:12:18 –> 00:45:23:23
Tell us about that a little bit. It’s like, yeah, how did you, I mean, you, you kind of indicated it earlier in, earlier in the podcast, just that you knew the truth and anyway, so tell us how that came out.

00:45:23:23 –> 00:46:00:26
Yeah, so, so that kind of came and went, you know, and we’re glad we made it out. And, you know, he, he was like, oh yeah, you know, he, he wasn’t upset about the horses, so that should have tipped me off because if he wasn’t expecting it, he should have been like, what? What happened? You know? So thinking back on it, you know, he kind of knew that was gonna happen, but it was about 10 years later I was back in Fairbanks and, you know, working for other people. And a guy moved in down the road from me who I thought looked kind of familiar, and we got to talking over time and he is like, God, yeah, you look familiar. And I’m like, yeah, where’d I know you from? He goes, well, I was a pilot. I said, oh, did you ever fly up in the bricks range?

00:46:00:26 –> 00:46:52:25
He goes, yeah. He goes, oh, that’s where I know you from. He is like, yeah, you worked for that outfitter up there. And I’m like, yeah. He goes, you know, I always wondered what happened to you because that day that he left you there and flew out. I said, what about Joe and Eddie? And he is like, yeah, don’t worry about it. They’ll never make it. And so right then and there, I knew right then and there that he knew that he left us for Dead Dead. And what he really was afraid of was he knew those horses and those mules were gonna die be, and, and I, and then I did find out that he didn’t get ’em from Canada. He got ’em from down in the state somewhere. Like Arizona. Arizona or somewhere. Yeah. So they totally weren’t climatized and he knew they were gonna die and he didn’t want to take the rat for ’em. He was afraid he’d get animal cruelty charges pressed against him. So he literally just left us out there to die, is what he did. You know? And so that was that. And so when we came to the pump station, that’s why he was so surprised. ’cause he couldn’t believe we had made it out either, you know?

00:46:53:03 –> 00:47:01:18
Well, what about the pilot? When a, when a pilot hears that, don’t worry about them guys. They’ll never make it. What? Why? Why didn’t he come back and ditch you? This one’s odd. I don’t,

00:47:01:18 –> 00:47:03:23
This one’s on me. I gotta go back. Yeah, I,

00:47:03:23 –> 00:47:14:19
Good question. You know, I mean, it was, it was a crazy time up here back then, and you know, why didn’t he do that? You know, here’s two young kids and a guy says something like that and he never contacts anybody. It’s just, I don’t know. So, you know, so

00:47:15:07 –> 00:47:18:07
Why the value of life? Whole experience? The value of life was different. Yeah, the

00:47:18:07 –> 00:47:22:16
Whole experience was just bad, really bad. It brought out, you know, it just showed the worst in humanity, you know.

00:47:22:23 –> 00:47:49:19
But you talked about obviously this, this, how this changed your life and, and then maybe that moved you forward on an accelerated rate with your girlfriend at the time and to become your wife. How did that all happen? And then tell us about this, this guy that you were with. I mean, did you guys, I mean, that’s a pretty special bond, two guys keeping each other alive, so to speak, you know what I mean? On a trip like that, have you guys, did you guys stay in touch for a lot of years or?

00:47:49:21 –> 00:48:39:04
Yeah, so the, so my wife took the turn was when I fir, when I went over the last pass. And it was a steep one and it’s a pass from the Wind River and the Brooks range to the wi to the rib down river. And it’s pretty steep. And when you get like three feet of snow on it, it’s even steeper. I can remember walking back and forth several times just to make a trail to move forward 10 feet, you know? And when we got over that, and I mean soaking wet now and you know, trying to dry your clothes on a willow fire at night and all this kind of stuff, and you know, with all the conditions, that was when I kind of realized that was the, you know, I might not make it outta here. And I remember just getting to the other side, getting to the rib down river, going down the side, going down the pass, and then looking back up at the mountains and I saw the snow just swirling off the top of the mountains.

00:48:39:04 –> 00:49:24:13
The wind was blowing so hard up there. And I thought, you know what? Nothing’s, nothing is as important right now in my life and nothing’s important in life. You know, money and all the stuff that I thought was important was not, it’s just getting outta here, being alive, and then my girlfriend and spending the rest of my life with her and getting married. And it was right there that I thought, if I get outta here, I’m gonna go back and get married and I’m gonna be with her the rest of my life. And that was it. You know? And so that was another thing that there again, it gives you that drive, it gives you that hope that if you get out of there, you will do that. And so it gives you the hope to make it out. And I think it’s one of the things that kind of carried me through, you know, so that was a very decisive moment of my life right there on the rib down river in the Brooks Range, you know?

00:49:24:17 –> 00:50:06:00
And so when we got out, the kids’ feet were frozen and he had, had actually had two of his toes turned purple and it was bad, you know? And so he was actually had foster foster parents in Montana and one of them came up and got ’em and he was pretty pissed off about the whole thing. And so that was a big hullabaloo. And I never actually saw him again after that. You know, I never, after he left, I never heard from him. I never heard anything about him and lost contact with the outfitter, obviously, you know, I didn’t have anything to do with him. So that was just kind of the end of that. So I spent this kind of strange season with him in the Brooks Range one year and then never saw him again, you know?

00:50:06:20 –> 00:50:12:11
Crazy. Wow. So he’s gone, you’ve never, you don’t know dead or alive or either of them out there?

00:50:12:18 –> 00:50:13:19
Yeah, I have no idea. Yeah.

00:50:16:02 –> 00:50:37:01
Well, and I guess no idea. What a crazy story, Joe. I mean, that’s, and not, I mean, you gotta remember this, what was this early eighties that didn’t seem like that long, long ago. But you gotta realize where you’re at and you know, Alaska was barely a state, you know what I mean? And, and still being developed, like you said, very primitive.

00:50:37:11 –> 00:50:54:20
I can’t decide what’s more wild, like Alaska or Pooch Nevada. I mean, they’re both crazy places back then. And so anyway, so you end up home, did you know homesteading up there in Alaska a little bit and you know, is that cabin still around or tell us a little bit about that.

00:50:56:07 –> 00:51:49:17
Yeah, so the, the homesteading came a few years later. So I, I went through the Brooks Range thing and I got into it. I got my first guide license in 1982. And so we actually got married in 1984 though, so I was kind of one of those guys that put it off, put it off, put it off until, until I actually had my walk out of the Brooks Range. And that changed my life. And then I realized, you know, I, I became, I grew up a lot during that trip and I realized what my priorities were and what really was important in life. And it was her. And so came back, married her and boom, off to Alaska Go. And then back in those days, they still had the true homestead programs. And when I say true homestead program, that means that you, they picked your name and they picked a bunch of other people’s names and then they had a plot of land and they, you know, had a map.

00:51:49:29 –> 00:52:50:06
And at 12 o’clock on July 6th, boom, go first one to put four corners in, brushed the lines and mark it out, put your name on it, and then get back to town to the land office Monday morning, get it, you got it. You know, and so, I mean, there was, people were like really at each other’s throats. We had a guy pull a gun on us later in that, later in that weekend when they were homesteading, there was a big shootout up there, one family opened up on another and killed a couple people. And so that kind of stuff happened during that homestead offering. And then it happened again into the homestead offering down by Denali Park, like a year or two later where people got killed or fighting over the land. And so they went, so then at that point they went away from the, you know, race to the finish homesteading to a lottery system where they drew your name and then they had more than enough land and they let you out there and gave you a lot more time to go do it.

00:52:50:14 –> 00:53:25:23
And it wasn’t like the first one back. Got it. You know, and then you actually had to purchase the land from the state, you know, which they gave you a heck of a deal. Yeah. And it was virtually free, but still, you know, people, it just kind of cut down the competition a little bit. So, so when we did it though, it, it was pretty tense, you know, I mean, pretty tense times and there’s a lot of really, a lot of really crazy people in the world. And when you tell ’em you can have up to 40 acres for free, if you just stake it and live on it for five years, it brings out the best and it brings out the worst in people.

00:53:25:28 –> 00:53:38:23
Sounds like shed hunting down here in the Lord, 48 states these day and age. I mean, I don’t know about deaths, but about everything, but so yeah. And they actually have gone to a draw in certain places to avoid where?

00:53:39:06 –> 00:53:39:23

00:53:39:23 –> 00:53:39:29

00:53:40:11 –> 00:53:42:06
Oh yeah, that’ss, right? They’ve got

00:53:42:06 –> 00:53:44:12
A few areas where they gotta do a draw, but, so

00:53:44:19 –> 00:53:45:05
Oh geez.

00:53:45:14 –> 00:53:49:06
And only the Boy scouts up on the refuge in Jackson. I mean, it’s, geez.

00:53:49:06 –> 00:53:50:25
That’s right. Anyway, so crazy

00:53:51:02 –> 00:53:51:12

00:53:51:24 –> 00:54:06:01
Holy cow. Just not to regress too much, but what was the timeframe between your gal giving you the 50 bucks and you marrying her? How long, what were dealing with, you know, time-wise on there? Married in 84, 5

00:54:06:01 –> 00:54:06:26
Years. Yeah, five years.

00:54:07:07 –> 00:54:14:19
Five years. So 79, 84. So it was either give her or 50 bucks back or marry her. That’s what I’m, am I picking up what you’re putting down? Pretty much.

00:54:14:28 –> 00:54:18:14
And I still didn’t have the 50 bucks in 84, but we got married anyway. Okay.

00:54:18:14 –> 00:54:24:19
Alright. And so, all right, so then you’re homesteaded, you know, you’ve got a plot of ground, was it 40 acres then?

00:54:25:27 –> 00:55:11:00
Yeah, so we, we did the 40 acres and we built a cabin on it and you know, we spent our time and so you didn’t have to be there five years total, you had to be there x amount of time within a five year period. And so we went, we lived up there quite a bit and, you know, did our thing up there, but then we were also coming back to Fairbanks for supplies and coming back to Fairbanks for different things, you know, and so it was, it was really nice and it was a beautiful parcel. And the, and I just actually was cleaning up some stuff the other day and I found some pictures of her working on the cabin, peeling logs. And it was really a nice cabin. I mean, we, we built it totally from hand. We had no tools really. I mean, we didn’t have any, you know, anything to lift the logs other than come along.

00:55:11:01 –> 00:55:54:26
So I built the whole cabin with two chainsaws, four come alongs, an ax, a sledgehammer, and a crowbar. And that was it, you know? Geez. So we built the whole cabin like that, and these were pretty big logs. The cabin wasn’t mammoth or anything, it was about 16 by 20, but still, you know, when you’re by yourself kind of and you know, get in the ridge pole up there, you know, with come alongs and, you know, come along and all the logs from Fing ’em in the, in the woods to the, to the cabin site, you know, without, without using a truck or any kind of a forklift or anything. I mean, it was extremely labor intensive and it was, it was really the deal, you know, I mean, I, I never could do it today, but back then, kind of the sky was the limit on effort, you know, we had more time and effort than anything else, so we just did it, you know. Crazy.

00:55:55:02 –> 00:56:50:10
Yeah, that reminds me, our, our family, nowhere near as primitive conditions as what you’re talking about in the early eighties, but in the mid to late nineties, we built a cabin down here in southern Utah in an area we couldn’t drive to. It was an acre of ground on the, on the San Juan area in southern Utah. We fall the fell the aspen trees that made out of Aspen that was all there, and you had to fall ’em one summer, let ’em dry, peel ’em, and let ’em dry all that winter, and then the next year you could, you could start working on ’em and have the draft horses drag them up to the site. And of course, I was a teenager and so I, I wasn’t as much help, I was a young teenager as my, my grandpa and dad, but I saw that come together firsthand and just, and we had modern tools, we had a lot more, you know, you know this, even though that was 15 or 20 years after, it’s not like that was dramatic, but still we were, you could run to town 20 minutes away and get anything you wanted.

00:56:50:13 –> 00:57:20:10
It wasn’t, you know, not Alaska and you run out a certain part, it’s like, yeah, you gotta make something work. You gotta sharpen a piece of metal somewhere to make it work into another piece of tool or something. So I, I’ve been there a little bit. You, you kept after it and became an outfitter yourself. And tell us a little bit about, just briefly wrap that up and how, I guess that you learned a lot obviously, but it didn’t deter you from, I guess maybe where, like I said earlier, the hook got of Alaska got set pretty deep in you pretty early on.

00:57:22:02 –> 00:58:04:19
Yeah, so the, after that trip I realized that the, you know, the Brooks Range was not really, it’s tough horse country, you know, Alaska’s tough horse country, but the Brooks range especially, and I know a lot of people run a lot of horses up there now, but back then when I was doing it, you know, there weren’t the established routes. There weren’t the trails, there weren’t what they have a little bit Now it’s a little bit, a lot better actually, but I just, you know, I realized I wanted to start my own outfit and I realized from a hunting point of view, from a business point of view, you know, getting all that horse feed and, and attack and the horses and just the expense of the horses going up there every year. And then you use ’em for a short window of time and then you have to winter ’em somewhere.

00:58:04:20 –> 00:58:53:05
And I mean, some of these guys were spending just thousands of dollars, you know, wintering their horses in Fairbanks. And you know, back then the, the winters were harder, you know, in the early eighties we had a lot of fifties, 50 below for weeks type stuff. And so it was tough, it was tough keeping horses going. And I thought, you know, if I do this, I really wanna try to make a profit doing it. And I had also, I started working front outfitter in the Alaska Range and we were just doing the backpack thing and it, it just seemed so much easier. You know, it just seemed, you know, when you, when you backpack out, I just kind of enjoyed it more because I wasn’t chasing the horses as much and I wasn’t dealing with the horses. I mean, you know, when we were using the horses in the Bricks range, we were shooing ’em, we were, you know, saddle sores and fixing t and we’re constantly doing all that kind of stuff.

00:58:53:27 –> 01:00:03:19
And I just thought it kind of took away from the hunting. You had to have full-time wranglers on staff. That’s another expense. So I just opted to kind of do the Alaska Range thing and do the backpack thing, and I thought it made a lot more sense. And the travel time, you know, from Fairbanks to where we were hunting anyway, and the Brooks Range one way in a Super Cub was over four hours, you know, and so the area I hunt in now is one hour, you know, from Fairbanks. And so just, it just made a lot more sense to me. And quite honestly, there’s a lot more sheep in the areas that where we hunt now. I mean there, there’s a higher concentration of sheep in a smaller area, so you see a lot more sheep. The Brooks Range was so spread out, and if you actually look at a map of the Brooks Range, it’s actually four or five different little mountain clusters that make the range. And I mean, I can remember traveling 20 miles on horses to go from one band of sheep to the other, you know, I mean, it was, it, it could’ve, it was tough at times, you know, it was a beautiful country, but you know, we really had to travel to find what we were hunting for and it’s just, it’s a huge, huge area up there. So, so I decided to, to you know, get my guy’s license and, and start out in the, in the Alaska range. And so that’s how that happened.

01:00:03:29 –> 01:00:14:02
That’s crazy. Well, my first, my first sheep came from the North slope of the Brooks Range. We actually flew outta Happy Valley. The, yeah, there you go. Lynn Mackler back in the day, so Oh yeah,

01:00:14:16 –> 01:00:15:01
Mackler. That’s right.

01:00:15:11 –> 01:00:20:13
Anyway, yeah, yeah. Well and it is, it’s crazy. Big, big country. So

01:00:20:13 –> 01:00:22:11
You’ve seen Pump Station three then? You know where I’m talking about?

01:00:22:11 –> 01:00:39:07
Yeah, oh yeah, all that stuff. We drove, kind of drove the hall road, the first Hunters that particular year and so kind of helped him get all of his stuff up there to get started for the season. So anyway, kind of cool. Well congratulations on being alive, Joe. Yeah.

01:00:39:12 –> 01:00:40:00
Well what

01:00:40:01 –> 01:00:40:17
A, right,

01:00:40:24 –> 01:01:07:29
What a story. That’s one of those stories that, that feels like it was a hundred, 150 years ago and in some cases it might as well have been, like we said a minute ago, because of where you’re at, it’s not forgiving. Very easy to die in Alaska and a lot of people did it. So appreciate you sharing that with us today. It’s pretty, pretty awesome, pretty awesome that you’re, you know, here to talk about it and have a successful business decades later. Still going at it, Alaska Wilderness Enterprises.

01:01:09:08 –> 01:01:21:07
All right, Joe, well we appreciate you and I don’t know, I hope, I hope it warms up there for you come this, this month. It’s kind of like you said, what’d you say it was this morning up there, degree wise,

01:01:22:25 –> 01:01:34:26
My household, we got a lot of temperature inversion around Fairbanks, so I think the warmest spot was probably up around zero. I had 13 blowout my house because I live on a river, so I was a little colder over there, you know, so

01:01:35:08 –> 01:01:35:17

01:01:36:06 –> 01:02:03:09
Well hopefully spring breaks soon and comes your way. Daylight lengthened. But we know that doesn’t always mean something necessarily, so sounds like you’re, you’re stuck for a little bit according to the forecast, but hopefully it breaks and you guys get out and like we talked about the start of the podcast, this world gets somewhat back to normal and allow some spring bear hunting and some of the things we all love to be able to, to actually happen.

01:02:04:12 –> 01:02:31:10
Well great. Yeah, I appreciate that and I think it will, I think, I think if we all kind of practice some social distancing and stay in and kinda keep the spread down, I think it’ll be over faster than not. So just hoping for the best for everybody all over the country and you know, hopefully we, you know, don’t have, you know, the bad repercussions from it that they’ve had overseas. But I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you and it was great and I, I really enjoyed it.

01:02:31:22 –> 01:02:37:18
You bet. Thanks Joe. We appreciate you being on and good luck to you this fall. If there’s anything we can do to help you, let us know.

01:02:38:20 –> 01:02:40:10
Okay. Take care. Thanks again, Joe.