Monthly Archives: July 2015

Munsey’s Bear Camp

 

Munsey Family 1960
Munsey Family 1960

By the1960s, the Munseys spent most of the year at Munsey’s Bear Camp, their lodge in Amook Pass, where Park guided bear hunters in Uyak and Spiridon Bays.  He soon established another hunting camp at the south end of Becharof Lake on the Alaska Peninsula, where he guided bear, moose, and caribou hunts.  Park was a registered guide and eventually became a master guide, holding master guide license number twelve.

Munsey’s Bear Camp was not just a lodge, it was a home.  Pat cooked for the hunters and then held school for the kids in a corner of the living room. Mike and Bob assisted their father during the hunts as soon as they were old enough to climb the mountains.  Toni, Patti, Jeri, and Peggy helped their mother in the kitchen, and all the kids learned how to safely run boats and shoot rifles.

Pat running the skiff
Pat running the skiff

Fish and Game employees and others often brought the Munseys sick or orphaned wild animals to nurse back to health or to raise.  I’ve seen 8mm-movie footage that shows Pat, dressed in a raincoat and hip boots, standing in the ocean gently urging a baby harbor seal to swim.  The pup had been abandoned by its mother soon after birth, so Pat assumed the maternal coaching responsibilities.  Other pets included foxes, a magpie, and even a bald eagle that had fallen out of its nest.  Their favorite pet, though, was a seagull they named Herbie.  Once Herbie mastered flying, he would often fly out to greet members of the family when they returned home in their skiff.

Park and Mike
Park and Mike

During the March 27th, 1964 earthquake, Mike remembers walking to the generator shed with his father when the first jolt hit and sent him sprawling.  They returned to the house and switched on the single-sideband radio, where they heard people yelling for help.  The marine operator told listeners that there had been an earthquake and to standby for a tsunami warning announcement.  Park and Pat gathered supplies and led the children up the hill behind the lodge, where they sat, huddled in sleeping bags, and waited for the water to subside.

Pat, Toni, and Patti
Pat, Toni, and Patti

The Munsey children have all carried remnants of their unique childhood into their present-day lives.  Cooking is Toni’s passion, and she owns The Rendezvous, a bar and restaurant near Kodiak.  On her menu, you will discover a few items that were inspired, at least in part, by recipes she learned from her mother at the lodge in Amook Pass.  Patti and her husband, Rick, are both captains and have spent many years running large yachts.  Their busy schedules have taken them to the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and the South Pacific, among other places.  Jeri and her husband, Mark, are also captains and operate a number of tour boats as well as a beautiful, 57-ft. sailboat on the island of Maui in Hawaii.  Bob is a commercial fisherman and fishes a gill-net site at Chief Cove in Uyak Bay.  He also guides bear, deer, and goat hunters alongside Mike.  Bob’s wife, Linda, is a nurse.  Peggy lives in Oregon with her two, beautiful children.  She is a nurse like her mother, but she now operates a dog kennel and an animal sanctuary.

Munsey Family Reunion, 2006
Munsey Family Reunion, 2006

Mike and I still run Munsey’s Bear Camp.  In 2016, the business will be sixty years old, and for fifty-eight of those years, Munsey’s Bear Camp has been in Amook Pass in Uyak Bay.  Mike and I have expanded the activities at the lodge to include wildlife-viewing and sport fishing.  Both Mike and Bob are master guides, and they still guide bear, deer, and mountain goat hunts in Uyak and Spiridon Bays.

Pioneers

Munsey Camp 1963

Pioneers aren’t easy to find anymore, and I sometimes think that the pioneer-spirit has been lost, but this story is about two pioneers I admire. As I mentioned last week, I am doing a series of stories for the Kodiak Baranov Museum’s “West Side Stories” project. The purpose of this project is to chronicle the history of the people on the west side of Kodiak Island. This tale is about my husband’s parents, Park and Pat Munsey. Park died in 1983, but Pat is still alive and well, and I love to listen to her stories about her early days in Uyak Bay at the home where I now live.

Pat Atkins came to Anchorage from her native West Virginia after she graduated from nursing school. She intended to return home after a short visit with her sister and brother in-law, but she fell in love with Alaska and took a job at the Palmer hospital. Moving to Alaska had been Park’s dream since he was a young boy, and he began his journey north the day he graduated from high school in Laconia, New Hampshire in 1948. After a stint in the army, Park took a job on the Eklutna Lake hydropower project. He was injured during a cave-in while digging a tunnel and was transported to the Palmer hospital, where Pat was his nurse.

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The Munseys were married in 1953 and moved to Kodiak, where Pat found employment as a nurse, and Park took a variety of jobs, including working as a packer and guide for Hal Waugh, the first master guide in the state of Alaska. Park and Pat established Munsey’s Bear Camp in 1956, and in 1958, they bought Bill Poland’s hunting camp in Amook Pass in Uyak Bay.

Pat Munsey with Toni
Pat Munsey with Toni

By 1958, the Munseys had four children. Toni was four; Patti, three; Mike, one; and Jeri was only a few months old. Pat had never seen the Amook Pass camp, but she climbed into an airplane with her husband and four children and their most important possessions. Forty minutes later, when the plane touched down on Uyak Bay, the tide was too high to pull up to the beach nearest the camp, so the pilot unloaded the gear and his passengers on the other side of a rocky bluff in a small cove. Daylight began to fade as Pat and Park held Toni’s and Patti’s hands and carried the two smaller children up a steep hill. It was nearly dusk when Pat caught a glimpse of her new home from the top of the hill. She says her first thought was, “What have I done?” In true pioneer fashion, though, she shook off her doubts and worked alongside Park to turn the three-room cabin with no insulation, no electricity, and no running water, into a comfortable home.

Patti, Mike, Bob, Jeri, and Toni, 1962
Patti, Mike, Bob, Jeri, and Toni, 1962

I realize every day how lucky I am to call this beautiful bay my home, and I often think about my in-laws’ first trek over that hill. I thank Park for following his dreams to Amook Pass, but more importantly, I thank Pat that as she stood on that hilltop 57 years ago and looked down at the shack that was to be her new home, she didn’t turn and run, but instead, she stayed to work with her husband to carve out a living and raise their family in the wilderness.

West Side Stories

 

Map of Kodiak Island Archipelago
Map of Kodiak Island Archipelago

This summer, the Kodiak Historical Society and the Baranov Museum in Kodiak are working on a project they call, “West Side Stories.” It is an effort to preserve the history of the west side of Kodiak Island from Kupreanof to Karluk, and to achieve this goal, the museum is mailing out a series of kits throughout the summer to encourage fishermen, lodge owners and residents on the west side of the island to share stories, drawings, and other artwork with the museum, where it will be displayed in the spring of 2016.

I am excited about this project and plan to participate. Not only will this help preserve the history of this sparsely-populated side of Kodiak, but it should get children involved in learning more about where they spend at least a part of their lives each year. I have plenty of stories to send to the museum. My husband’s parents, Park and Pat Munsey, moved to this side of Kodiak Island in 1958. They raised six kids, ran a hunting lodge, and operated their own air-charter taxi. They have some amazing tales, and I plan to retell a few. I of course have stories of my own after living here for 31 years, and my good friend and a former cook at our lodge, Marcia Messier, is also planning to contribute some stories.

This project is just the incentive Marcia and I need to start writing our cookbook/storybook Tales from the Kitchen at Munsey’s Bear Camp (working title), which will include all the stories we’ll write for the “West Side” project plus more. We plan to write this book with my mother-in-law Pat Munsey and hopefully one other contributor.

For the next several weeks, I will post Pat’s, Marcia’s, and my own stories, and I will then send them to the museum for their “West Side” collection. I will also continue to include posts about wildlife on this site, and since our summer photography/fishing trips have started, I’ll let you know what’s happening with those as well. Please leave a comment if there is anything you’d like me to cover, and don’t hesitate to ask questions. Also, if you leave a comment with your e-mail address, my posts will be delivered directly to your mail box.

If you would like to learn more about “West Side Stories,” visit their Facebook page: Kodiak’s West Side Stories, and if you would like to donate to the project, go to: http://www.crowdrise.com/westsidestories

Review of Murder Over Kodiak

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This week I am excited to share with you a book review from a reviewer at Readers’ Favorite.
 5star-shiny-web
Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite:  Murder Over Kodiak is an Alaskan adventure by author Robin L.  Barefield with plenty of thrills and suspense. The plot centers on Jane Marcus, a biologist researching deadly toxins on Kodiak Island, who tracks down her beloved assistant Craig, only to find he’s been blown to pieces in a plane bomb incident. Jane is determined to discover who planted the bomb, but when she starts digging into the lives of the other victims who perished on that flight, she realizes the methods of murder deduction aren’t that simple. Everyone related to the victims had a motive for blowing up the plane, and eventually Jane escapes to the remote wilderness of Kodiak to clear her head. And it’s there that her most harrowing adventures begin.
I have read plenty of dialogue-driven mysteries with multiple suspects, but author Robin L. Barefield has done something totally new with the genre by throwing it straight into the wilds of Alaska. I found myself immersed in a vivid and fascinating world where the wild nature of the surroundings seemed to bleed into the nature of the people who may or may not be vicious killers, and Jane’s position as a researcher gives her a strong intellectual angle on events. There were plenty of red herrings thrown in to keep you guessing right up to the story’s conclusion, making for an involved and delightfully unpredictable read. Overall, I’d say Murder Over Kodiak is one of the best adventure and mystery novels of its kind, and I’d highly recommend it.