Bear kills runner, musician
Marcie Trent, Larry Waldron mauled on McHugh Creek trail
By S.J. Komarinitsky, ADN 7/2/95
A bear killed two hikers on the popular McHugh Creek trail Saturday, not far from a buried moose carcass. A third hiker, a 14-year-old boy, narrowly escaped by diving into a nearby ravine and climbing a tree.
Marcie Trent, 77, long an institution in the Anchorage running community, and Larry Waldron, 45, a well known saxophonist and also a long distance runner, were pronounced dead after they were found just off the trail. Trent was Waldron's mother-in-law.
Trent's grandson escaped unharmed after leaping off the trail into a brushy ravine. The boy, Art Abel, was airlifted out of the woods about an hour after the attack. He did not know exactly what had happened and did not know that his uncle and grandmother were dead.
He said the three were on a day hike on the trail to Rabbit Lake. Abel was hiking just in front of his grandmother and some distance behind his uncle, who was training for a race.
They were about a third of the way to the lake, Abel said, when he heard some bushes rustling above them. Then he saw something - he didn't: know - what running through the brush. He heard his grandmother scream and he dived into a ravine. He said he ran up the trail and found his uncle. Waldron told him to climb a tree and wait, then went back for his mother-in-law.
A hiker who was not identified, heard Abel's calls for help from the tree, Alaska State Troopers said. Abel told the hiker he thought a moose had just attacked his grandmother, troopers said. The hiker started down the trail and heard moans from the brush. He found Waldron bleeding and alive. Waldron told the hiker that his mother-in-law was attacked first and that he was mauled when he went to her aid. The hiker then started down the trail for help.
A group of six other hikers - who refused to give their names - ran into the hiker on their way up. Four of them went to help Waldron while the original hiker and two others ran down to the parking lot for help. By that time, Waldron was in deep shock and couldn't speak it.
Troopers started arriving at the McHugh Creek parking lot about 3 30 p.m. after man used a cellular phone to report the attack. A trooper helicopter and an Air National Guard HH60 helicopter were launched to search for the victims while park rangers, members of the Alaska Mountain Rescue and Alaska Search and Rescue Dogs started up the trail.
For a while, it was unclear whether one or two people had been hurt and whether it was a bear or a moose attack. Trooper Sgt. Brad Brown, who visited the scene Saturday evening, said all signs indicated it was bear attack. He said both bodies were within about 30 feet of a buried moose carcass, and both had been dragged from the trail. They had suffered head and chest injuries, he said.
While the attack was unusual in its ferocity, it was not unusual bear behavior.
Chugach State Park superintendent Al Meiners said a similar attack in which a bear mauled a man who got near a moose carcass occurred last month near the Eagle River Visitor Center. In that attack the man escaped with minor injuries after the bear ran off.
Bears will defend their territory, especially if they have cubs or food, said Meiners, who was at the scene Saturday. Bears are common in much of Chugach State Park, including the McHugh Creek area. Sterling Miller, a state Fish and Game research biologist, said he had never heard of a bear killing two people in the same attack. It was unclear whether the animal was a black or brown bear.
Marcie Trent's husband, John, said he was in shock.
"We've been married almost 29 years, and this is my second wife to go in death," Trent said late Saturday, his voice slow and rough. "I'm just all shook up."
Trent described his wife as an avid runner who had "run over 70,000 miles and finished 70 marathons.
Indeed, despite her advanced age, she could be counted on to enter - and complete - any number of local endurance contests among them the Glacier Half-Marathon, the Mayor's Marathon, and the Octoberfest Run for Beans. She had held national age-group running records.
Waldron was an avid runner as well, competing in many of the same races as Trent. He was also a mainstay of the local jazz scene, a fluid saxophonist who played in clubs and concert halls around town and also taught children.
Troopers planned to remove the bodies late Saturday. Meiners said the trail would be closed and a notice would be posted at the Glen Alps trailhead to keep people from entering the area: through a back route. The Turnagain Trail, which parallels the Seward Highway, will remain open.