Alaska Travel Magazinenext


Nearly 30 years later, I find a need to write the epilogue of this adventure. And, it is hard to do so. But, it is therapy also.

I started my career with the young Mickey Rooney / Judy Garland attitude of, "Gee Kids, let's turn the barn into a theater to pay Pop's mortgage and save the farm."

This "why not" attitude led me to submit a photograph, at age 15, to the national publication, Natural History Magazine. I was not surprised when they sent me a check in return. The magic of "Gee Kids," worked.

I also said, "Why not," to accepting the classification as a "colonist" to qualify for the reserved position making up the otherwise difficult to get into classroom of England's premier photo school. "Gee Kids," I reasoned, having seven great-something-grandfathers who were on the colonial side of the Revolutionary War, did make me a colonist.

This serendipitous overriding a fear of failure also led to me being the only non-500 family on the staff of San Francisco Magazine, and escaping from that to go North to wintertime wilderness Alaska.

Our family's horsepack trip of 2,500 miles pioneering the Pacific Crest Trail by riding from Mexico to Canada (online in book form at was also a miracle of "just going out and doing." Of course, I waltzed into the lobby of the Time-Life Building in New York, and was whisked upstairs where an editor stated, "We were hoping you would choose us over National Geographic [bad mistake that]!"

After my seven pages of photos and text sparked a whole issue, I responded to those that inquired if the story was to be made into a movie, by replying, "No, just a slide-show on the lecture circuit for now —but wait until the next Murray family adventure. I just bought myself a 16mm movie camera!"

The pack trip lectures funded the "float" trip you just finished reading about, in an as it happened column written for Northwest newspapers.

So, continueing this soap opera we left a young Barry at the mouth of the Yukon River, with $26 in his pocket (music up, turn the page).

As I had mentioned in my last dispatch from Alaska (when it was published) I ended up cooking my way to Seattle on a flat-bottom landing ship, infantry (LSI), built for one trip to Normandy, that had been converted into a cannery processing plant. Captain Bill Bowdie, and his son, and a licensed engineer brought the vessel north each summer to can salmon bought from Eskimo fishermen. He also had a plant, and barracks, on shore to accommodate a large crew of college-age workers. The deal was that their airfare was to be paid, both ways, if they completed the season. And, if they wanted, their Alaskan adventure could be complete by helping crew the ship back to Seattle, at $25 per day.

Most workers that season had paid their own way home. Consequentially the ship was under-manned, and they had no cook.
Actually, I had a lot of fun playing the "salty sea cook" with a walk in freezer full of steaks, roasts, and fish. The captain loved fish. "Feed fish," he would demand, and the only time I complied, I was almost thrown overboard by the rest of the crew.

I learned by trial and error. I did, "feed fish," by slipping cooking mistakes out a convenient porthole / garbage disposal in "my kitchen." Slow stirring things on the grill-topped stove was simply let the motion of the sea take care of that. Frying an egg on the grill with everything going up and down, back and forth, that wasn't a foot-long, took the trick of cutting the bottom out of a tuna can (contents fed to other fish, of course) to contain everything until hard enough to resist the rocking and rolling.

I say "my kitchen," as my official dishwasher, Al disappeared into his bunk, below the first time the Bering Sea fell off of a swell, to bury a bow in blue water, and didn't resurface until we reached the calmness of the Puget Sound.

It didn't matter. I did the dishes for seven —make that six, for Al lived on canned pop. The floor of our room was littered with empties that would clatter across the deck with each roll.

It was a challenge to present the "McDonald's Generation," with something other than McFish. I was a hit with raised doughnuts that kept getting bigger and bigger with each batch. My piecrusts we perfect! Best of all for this group, was a real McMurray burger-deal. This was double layer, double cheese, triple home baked bun burger, with Quilk condensed milk (reconstructed with equal parts water, it was fairly close to the real stuff) that had been semi-frozen full strength, and whipped into milkshakes.

The gourmet feast I appreciated the most was stopping for fuel at False Pass in the Aleutian Islands, and having a diver go over for fresh king crab. I think I cooked 600-700 pounds, and ate half-of that in one week. It totally ruined me for "previously frozen" crab legs for years to come.

What with a bent prop limiting us to six knots, a couple of storms in the middle of the Gulf of Alaska —try that is a flat bottom ship! — and another that drove us to seek refuge in a pristine Prince William Sound, it was to take six weeks to reach Seattle.

The surprise, here, from a 3 AM phone call to Bernice was that, "Since I wasn't dead, I at least should close-out my column." Apparently Bernadette had published some sort of explanation as to what had happen to the Murray family, but there were a few people curious about my fate.

A few "what, what, what" phone calls later it came to light that the column I had written had been stuck in my mother's freezer in a package of what she felt was only film, that needed storing. This carton also had half of a letter to Bernice explaining what was going on, that was continued, without explanation, on in the letter she did get, mailed from False Pass.

That winter I did get half of the film cut (Klondike: Trail of '98) for the educational market. I also had a preliminary commitment from BBC for the complete journey.

Then National Geographic came out with their version of a reconstructed trip three Anchorage kids made of building a raft at Lake Bennet, and floating to the sea. They didn't make it, so their last 300 miles was done by cross-country skis. I don't know how they carried the logs past the dam at Whitehorse, but we did hear that the film and support crew numbered at least a dozen.
So much for the lone cameraman, filming as it actually happened. The BBC felt the public's respect of the National Geographic's "make believe" outweighed anything I had to offer.

Schools that requested a very expensive "evaluation copy" of my film (this was right before video cassettes came into use) that they would keep for months at a time, returning same with scratches throughout for having been run throughout the district, for free. The part that hurt the most was, to cover their unauthorized use, the evaluator would make very negative comments as to why they chose not to purchase a copy for their library. This, even though an in person presentations had garnered rave reviews.

So, the run of, "Gee Kids," had ended. For my investment of $35,000, I ended up with the master of "the most expensive home movie" ever made, locked up for non-payment of lab bills. Bernice had figured out that, quite possibly, her dream of owning a house with "yellow siding, and a white picket fence," might never come true, and she left.

After coming North for the first time in 1968, and doing the Yukon trip, and then returning to Grayling and the Inoco, hanging out at Hyder, and accumulating a total of 10 years of being a half-baked Alaskan, I finally qualified for citizenship by legally moving to Anchorage.

Colette used her Yukon experience to create an Alaskan travel tours business: Bernadette followed her debut in media to become a world class (since her clients are world class resorts, yes?) travel brochure guru. Barry Jr. accepted the challenge of reaching dropout kids through an alternative school. Doug eventually took a job in Victoria, British Columbia, but Jim stayed north in the Yukon, and other than running into him in the post office of Whitehorse, and sadly, I have no idea where he is. I have not seen Al, since 1974, or know where or what he is doing.

A couple of years ago I married a like soul "gypsy, wanderlust, lemming" otherwise known as Bobby "MaGee" (see Sourdough Honeymoon) and in our numerous treks up and down the Alcan highway while working on sites as, we had touched many of the places I first visited in 1974.

Old Skagway is still the same, except when the cruise ships are in town. Two years ago we were there when a total of seven ships dumped their passengers ashore, all at the same time. Walking the main drag where I had previous footage of a dog sleeping in the middle of a gravel street, was a nightmare of shoulder-to-shoulder traffic of New York women in high heels, showing off fur coats (in summer) they didn't dare wear elsewhere today.

All of the shelter cabins we used on our climb are reserved today for ranger use, managing the demand of hikers wishing to follow the footsteps of the past.

As mentioned in captions, most of the steamboats we visited in 1974 have been destroyed, and the ones that are left, are protected from children, playing. (That means you too, Barry!). Dawson, thank God, is still Dawson. Bobby and I love detouring there, crossing back into Alaska via the Top Of The World Highway to Chicken (one of my all time favorite drives) and, Diamond Tooth Gertie's!

The reason why I was so excited to be part of the rush, though 75 years too late, came to light through genealogical research done by Bernadette after receiving a family tree software program on Christmas, from her husband, John Macioci (yes, all her struggle finding Mr. Right did bring results.) A few clicks of the keys showed that it was in our blood to be the pioneers of trails as the Cumberland Gap, The Oregon Trail, The Applegate from Oregon to California, and the Chilkoot. It seems that black sheep great-grandfather "Midas McAdams" had climbed the Chillkoot, floated the river to Dawson, been robbed in Nome, and followed his dream to South Africa to finally make his fortune, before returning to Tennessee, only to be thrown into jail as a drunk, vagrant, who just happened to have $40,000 cash in his pocket, the next morning, for bail! So there!

Bernadette also revealed a previously unknown relationship to the founder of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breed Association (thus explaining our horse trip fascination) a couple of Presidents, an aide to General George Washington, the Daniel Boone of Tennessee, and provided me with an explanation as to my feeling about Native Americans. It seems that I am (along with Wayne Newton of all people) a direct descendant of Pocahontas.

This information excited me so much I went out and bought a URL in honor of America White (I have visited her grave in Tennessee) a great grandmother thought to be related to Perigan White, the first male child born in the Plymouth Colony. It is, and what a journey it will be following this pathway until the day I die.

Such is the adventure of life. It is a circle.

The End


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