For some of our shoots, we hire local wilderness hard bodies to help us out with our gear and our camp. These WPA’s (Wilderness Production Assistants) are a hugely valued part of our crew, not only for their hard work, sweat, and dedication, but for their addition to our hunts in terms of enjoyment and personality. The people we meet and work with on these shoots become just as big of a part of the experience and the memories as the hunts, the landscape, and the struggles.
I called Marty on one of our transfer flights on our way to Anchorage. He answered the phone, and after I explained who I was and what I was looking for, he energetically signed on to help us out. Energetic doesn’t go far enough — the dude was the epitome of sunshine.
Marty looks like one of those guys on a ski hill who has spent the last 30 years of their life getting blasted by sun and cold wind. He is an older guy who can unquestionably kick any younger guy’s ass. He once beat a famous cyclist in a triathlon—the guy has unbelievable stamina. He is a true backcountry animal. While we packed for our bear hunt in an Anchorage Hotel, I made a pile of gear he would need to carry up the mountain on top of his own kit. The pile grew and then disappeared into his pack, then it grew again, and disappeared; the dude carried a massive load up that mountain.
On our way across the Matanuska, Marty unfortunately took a little glacier water dip. In my hurry to port everything over the river before dark, I forgot the correct way to cross using ferry angles, and we did several balls-out canoe runs with the current, rocketing across the river and grinding into the rocks on the other side. On one of these trips, Marty was the payload, and we caught a high center of gravity and spilled for a moment. He got wet socks. He hates wet socks.
He hikes in old, green thermal fleece pants, and he likes to warm his butt by the fire—a lot. The first night we got up to our bear camp, he built us a big fire and stuck his rear end into it for hours at a time, waving it around it and getting it real warm. He was really enjoyable to have around, mostly because he was pleased as a pickle with just about everything that happened. He loved the freeze-dried food and about crapped his britches when I pulled out a stock of snickers bars. He also taught me a great trick of making and eating instant oatmeal directly out of the little wax paper packets, which is now the MeatEater crew’s preferred method.
On top of his physical abilities and camp-smarts, Marty has the best game eye of anyone I’ve been, besides Steve. We would be cruising along the highway and stop to get gas and as soon as I’d crack my door open to get out, Marty’s face would be there smiling and staring up at the slopes with his binoculars, saying, “Ya see them Mountain Goats up there Dan?” or, “Ya see them fat bears up there Steve? Man, them are some fat bears up there, just EATIN’ those fat blueberries, huh, Steve?” The dude was amazing.
After we finished shooting our goat episode, Marty was headed up to the Knik Glacier on a Goat hunt of his own, and I’m sure he had a hell of a time. –Dan Doty