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Through the subarctic forest; a record of a canoe journey from Fort Wrangel to the Pelly Lakes and down… Pike, Warburton, 1861-1915 1896

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1896 T43 PREFACE
In the summer of 1887 an expedition was undertaken and successfully carried out by the Geological
Survey Department of Canada, with a view to
gathering some accurate knowledge of the little-
known tracts of country adjacent to the northern
waterways of the Dominion.
The expedition was conducted speedily and
quietly, attracting little attention at the time, as the
inhabitants of the well-settled portions of Canada
hardly realised what an enormous amount of work
was accomplished, and what long distances were
covered in a comparatively short space of time
by methods of travel which seem primeval to the
creature of modern civilisation.
The result of all this work has been the correct
mapping  of several   of  the  main  routes  through mmm
the vast territory over which the Hudson's Bay
Company have always held sway, so that in many
cases the traveller or hunter whose tastes drive
him to the northern solitudes knows exactly what
lies before him, knows when to look out for the
rapids, and knows the distance between points of
importance, instead of having to depend on the
vague information afforded by Indians, who take
little account of time or distance.
The first part of the journey which I have
attempted to describe in the following pages, with
the exception of the country lying to the northeast of a line drawn from the north end of Frances
Lake to the site of the Old Pelly Banks trading
post, which I believe to be absolutely new ground,
lies chiefly along the route followed by the Exploratory Survey party under the leadership of Dr.
G. M. Dawson, and in his Report will be found
an interesting- and accurate account of the country
travelled through.
The only geographical discovery of any importance that I made was rather of a negative character,
namely, that the  river draining the  Pelly  Lakes, *\
and marked as the Pelly on the maps prepared
from Indian reports, is not really entitled to be
considered the main stream of the Pelly, but is
only a small tributary of a large river heading
towards the north-east, and probably having its
source on the western slope of the main range of
the Rocky Mountains. I have made some attempt
to map this hitherto unexplored tract of country,
but the sketch must be regarded as only roughly
approximate till a competent surveyor goes over
the ground to correct the numerous errors.
To the sportsman and man of the woods, this
book is offered as a rough description of what
happened on a long journey through a good game
country, without any attempt to make a big bag
or killing animals that were not wanted to keep
up the food supply. I have purposely dwelt more
at length on the Pelly and Liard district, though
lying nearer at hand, which is but really less known
than the often-described country of the Yukon and
the Behring Sea.
Rough geological and botanical collections were
made in the course of the journey, and a descrip- x THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
tion of them will be found in an appendix to this
volume. They are not nearly so perfect as I
could have wished, but allowance must be made
for the fact that I was my own steersman and
hunter, and my attention was often drawn from
more scientific pursuits by the perils of navigation
or the emptiness of the larder.
W.  Pr n
Start for Fort Wrangel
Coast line of British Columbia—Fort Wrangel and its history—Miners
of '49—Laws of Alaska—The canoe and her requirements—Stikine
River, difficulties of navigation—Iskoot tributary   .
On the Stikine River
The Stikine glacier—Overtaken by coast Indians—Canoe drill at Little
Canon—Difference in climate on opposite sides of coast range—
Salmon catching—Habits of bears—Klootchman Canon—The
Chinook jargon—Telegraph Creek—Freight charges
The District of Cassiar
Cassiar trail—Laketon—A Hudson Bay trading post—Dease Lake—
Drawbacks to mining — Sylvester's Landing — Casca Indians —
Abandon plan of wintering on Fiances Lake
I m
The Liard Post
Mount Ke-la-gurn—Hyland River—Indian superstitions—Big game in
particular localities—First fall of snow        . . . .66
Moose Hunting
The  country south  of Liard   River—Civilised Indians — Increase  of
number of moose—Habits of the moose      . . . .84
Hauling Stores to Frances Lake
Ice set fast in the rivers—Cassiar sleigh dogs—Disease among the
Liard Indians — Ideal day for a hunt — Difficulties of hauling
supplies—Dangers of a really cold day—A process of freezing out .        97
A Mining Expedition
Return to Sylvester's Landing for summer supplies—Rabbits and grouse
—Murder by Casca Indians—Expedition to Hyland River—Quartz
ledges—Chesi Hill, the home of the big-horn—Jealousy between
Cassiar Indians and Red River half-breeds . . . .110
Start for the Pelly River
La Montagne's arrival on 18th April.    The Liard chiefs theory of the
Unknown—Journey up Frances River—Frances Lake—The legend
of the flying cariboo—Pelly Indians—Yus-ez-uh River—More stories
of cannibals across the divide          .....
Ptarmigan Creek
The thaw—Geese and beaver—Macpherson Lake—The divide—Pelly
Lake—Wild-fowl—A good place for winter quarters—Running
the canoe down Ptarmigan Creek    .....
Expedition towards Source of Pelly River
Disease among the rabbits—Swallows' nests—Drying fish—Upper Pelly
Lake—Gull Lake—Ptarmigans nesting and signs of summer—
Accident to rifle—A bad miss—Dogs go astray ; their instinct
Down the Pelly River
Salmon a long distance from the sea—Claims of Pelly River to be con
sidered main branch of Yukon — Scarcity of provisions—A cow
moose—Slate Rapid—Hoole River—A grizzly bear and the result
of a broken rifle       .......
/-»TT  A   DT-TTTD      VTT
Down the Pelly and Yukon Rivers
Portage at Hoole Canon—Varieties of mountain sheep—Ross River—
Macmillan and Stewart Rivers — Difficulties of prospecting —
Granite Cation—Fort Selkirk—The Lewes River—First run of
Salmon—Government officials and gamblers . . .197 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
Forty-Mile Creek to Fort Yukon
Forty-Mile Creek—Miners' law—Boundary fine between Alaska and
British Columbia—Arrival of the Arctic—Coal Creek—Ovis Dallii
—The Yukon Flats—Route from Athabasca to Behring Sea
The Kuskokvim River
Tanana River—Bones of the mastodon—Murder of Archbishop Seghers
—Ikogmut—Kuskokvim River—A game country   .
On Salt Water
Coast navigation—The Innuits, their food, habits, and dress—Moses
and Aaron—Good News Bay—A scene of desolation—Kayaks—
Cape Newenham     .......
Voyage to Ounalaska
A gale of wind—Karlukuk Bay—Inland navigation again—Wood River
— The schooner, her skipper and crew of many nations—Ounalaska—Homeward bound in the 'Frisco steamer   .
-A   List  of Geological   Specimens  collected  by  Mr.   Warburton
Pike near the head-waters of the Pelly River
—A List of Plants collected by Mr. Warburton Pike in Alaska and
the North-West Territory of Canada ....
A Monarch of the Forest
Fort Wrangel
On the Stikine River
The Glenora Rapid •
Dinner Camp en route
An Ideal Stream for Canoeing
A Winter Camp
Cow Moose Feeding
Burnt Timber in Winter .
Break-up of Ice on the Frances River
Pelly Lake   .
Swallow Bluff
Pelly River at the Junction with Hoole River
He had given me enough chances
The Head of Hoole Canon
Shooting a Rapid   .....
Wild-fowl on the Yukon Flats .
Map of the Pelly Lakes and Surrounding Districts
Map of Alaska showing the Author's Route
page  138
. At end  CHAPTER   I
Coast line of British Columbia—Fort Wrangel and its history—Miners of '49
—Laws of Alaska—The canoe and her requirements—Stikine River,
difficulties of navigation—Iskoot tributary.
On a bright Sunday morning early in July 1892,
we steamed out of the harbour of Victoria, Vancouver's Island, and before nightfall had left
Vancouver — the thriving mainland town at the
terminus of the Canadian Pacific Railway — far
behind us. It is curious that this confusing name
of Vancouver should have continued in use after
it had once served its purpose in roughly locating
the geographical position of the new city, and
attracting the attention of land speculators; more
especially as there is yet another Vancouver a
couple of hundred miles farther south, on the banks
of the Columbia River. It is too late now, I
suppose, to alter the name ; but it seems a pity that
the memory of the old sea captain should be associated with the bricks and mortar of a new railway
town, instead of with the rugged mountains and
dense pine forests which rise in lonely grandeur
from the waters of the Pacific.
. After a four days' voyage through the rain-^
smeared islands that guard the gloomy coast-lines of
British Columbia, with several calls at small settlements of little interest to any one but their inhabitants, we reached Fort Wrangel, a port of entry for
the U.S. Territory of Alaska, situated on the west
side of a thickly wooded island bearing the same
name, about six miles from the mouth of the Stikine
Fort Wrangel's existence dates back as far as
the year 1834, when it was established under the
name of Fort Dionysius as a military station during
the Russian occupancy of Alaska, to watch the
proceedings of the Hudson's Bay Company, then
trading on the Coast. Gold was discovered on the
Stikine River in 1862 ; but Fort Wrangel's palmy
days began with the rush of miners to the Cassiar
District, on the Arctic Slope, which followed in
1874. But these good times are gone by, and the
little town now presents a most desolate appearance, START FOR FORT WRANGEL
lacking all natural beauty to atone for the absence
of prosperity, while the almost perpetual rainfall
makes it an undesirable place of abode. The small
white population is, however, made up of the right
kind of people ; and they treated us with all the
hospitality that is so sure to be found among men
who have spent much of their time in western
mining camps.
Fort Wrangel seems to have become a resting-
place for the type of pioneer who is now all too
scarce on the Pacific coast—the man who has passed
his life on the frontier, moving from California to
Cariboo, Omeneca, Couer d'Alene, and Cassiar, as
each new field was discovered. Possessed of a
happy, careless nature, he has borne good and bad
fortune with the same equanimity ; he will tell you
many a story of good claims sold for large sums
of money, which always disappeared in one good
spree in the nearest town, shared with his fellows
as readily as ever was the last kettleful of beans
in the mountains. Doubtless his conduct on these
occasions was none too orderly, and his sins were
committed with great rapidity while the spree
lasted; but even so his record might show a much
better average than that of many of the respectable THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
hypocrites who are so easily shocked at the miner's
excesses in times of prosperity. There is not a
better-hearted fellow or a truer friend in time of
need than a good specimen of the old class of
genuine hard-working miners. But, alas! the days
of '49 are gone, and our worthy friend has reached
the time of life when the hardships of his youth
begin to tell upon him, and his overworked knees
will no longer do their duty. Too often he is
encumbered with an Indian woman and a tribe
of half-breed children—a state of affairs which has
dragged many a good man down to a lower social
level than he was intended to fill; and every year
makes it harder for him to leave the semi-civilisation of the coast and plunge into the- wilderness
in search of the one more stake that is all he has
to depend upon for the comfort of his declining
years. But the younger part of the mining population has been drawn away to the new town of
Juneau, a little farther up the coast, and close to
the celebrated treadmill mine on Douglas Island
—the only really paying mine in Alaska, whose
reputation has been freely used to bolster up several
rotten enterprises started on claims in close proximity to the Bonanza.    So Wrangel is now almost   m
entirely supported by the Indian trade, which is
still of some importance. A sawmill has been built
to supply the local market; but the export of lumber,
which might under favourable legislation develop
into a larger industry, is forbidden.
The laws in force throughout Alaska, are of the
most unsatisfactory kind, and apparently no means
are taken to improve them. So far no land titles of
any sort have been granted, and a man who builds
himself a house does so without the least guarantee
that the land on which he builds it will ever belong
to him by purchase, pre-emption, or squatter's claim.
The territory is supposed to be in some measure
governed by the statutes of the State of Oregon, but
for every existing law there seems to be another one
equally powerful to nullify its effects. For instance,
the whole territory is declared to be a prohibition
country, and the importation of liquor illegal; if a
smuggler is> caught red-handed unloading a cargo
of whisky he is fined or imprisoned and his cargo
confiscated. At the same time there is no lawT to
prevent the sale of liquor within the territory; and
when once the cargo is safely run, drinks are sold
openly over the bar just as they would be in San
The Edmond's Act again sets forth that no
white man may live with an Indian woman unless
he is married to her, and yet most of the clergy
of Alaska refuse to legalise such alliances by the
reading of the marriage service.
These two subjects occupy the greater portion
of the time devoted to the carrying out of the laws
by officials drawing good salaries from the United
States government, as long as their own party is
in power, but no definite conclusion has ever yet
been reached.
Our party consisted, of Reed, an English friend,
who was going to Cassiar for the big game
shooting; Gladman, a Canadian, who had already
made two trips to the north in the service of
government surveyors, and myself. We had
brought with us from Victoria about 1500 lbs. of
provisions and ammunition, besides a canoe built of
light spruce—in the absence of basswood—on the
Peterboro' model, as the most suitable craft for the
long journey ahead. Her dimensions were—18 feet
length, 3 feet 6 inches beam, and 20 inches depth,
with a total weight of 130 lbs. She was subjected
to some criticism in Wrangel; and being an innovation on the long-established methods of travel, START FOR FORT WRANGEL
was at first universally condemned. The fact that
she was painted a light blue colour started a suggestion that she was made of zinc, and this opinion
took such a firm hold that I found it saved trouble
to agree with it and admit that she was made of
zinc; but as Reed and Gladman continued to
deny the statement, we were looked upon with
some mistrust till the dispute was satisfactorily
She proved a lucky boat from the beginning,
and maintained her reputation throughout the
voyage. As soon as she was finished she was
moved from the building shed to more airy quarters
to let the paint dry quickly, and the same night
the shed, the moulds from which she was built, and
a dozen boats and canoes were destroyed by fire.
After a journey of 4000 miles of rapid and at times
dangerous water; after being carried over long
rough portages on men's shoulders, and hauled
on dog-sleighs through 200 miles of forest; she
reached the salt water again at the end of fifteen
months to battle with the storms and tides of the
Behring Sea. But she came through it all safe
and sound; only once hammer and nails were called
into play to patch up a hole made at a simple little mmmm
rapid on the Dease River, which we ran on the
wrong side, through taking the advice of a local
man who had just come up stream, and should have
been able to give us more correct information about
the state of the water.
In comparison with the other types of canoes in
common use among the different tribes of natives
through whose territory we travelled, and who by
long experience have learnt to construct the class
of canoe most suited to their home waters, our little
ship was inferior in some respect to each of them ;
but, as a combination of good points, which enabled
her to make the whole journey, and come safely
through the varied conditions of travel which tested
her capabilities to the utmost, I doubt if it would
be possible to build a more suitable craft.
The narrow dug-out of the Pacific coast rivers
is easy to pole up a rapid current, but her weight
forbids any attempt to make a long portage; the
birch bark of the Yukon and the northern lakes is
light and easily repaired wherever birch trees grow,
but she would be shaken to pieces by the rattling
of a dog-sleigh through the forest, and would be
too frail a vessel to land through the surf of the
Behring Sea.    The long skin bidarka of the Esqui- START FOR FORT WRANGEL
maux, with her water-tight decks, is the perfection
of a sea-going canoe; but she has no room for the
stowage of bulky cargo, is uncomfortable to sit in,
and hard to navigate round the sharp corners of
small streams; while the walrus-skin which covers
the light frame is easily torn by collision with a
sharp stick which would only scratch a wooden
The difficulties which we were sure to meet
with in the course of transport compelled us to
limit our supplies to such things as are strictly
indispensable on a long voyage, embracing the
varied features of travel by canoe during the season
of open water and dog-sleighs when winter set fast
the rivers and lakes, through a country not at all
well supplied with provisions except such as can
be procured by the rifle and fish-nets. The small
trading posts on the west side of the mountains are
never well stocked with articles that are heavy
and expensive to move; the trader makes a much
larger profit by importing 100 lbs. weight of
blankets or bright-coloured shawls than he could
from the same weight of flour or bacon, and the
expense of transport is the same in each case.
Experience  has  taught  him   that,  however  many
boat-loads of provisions are shipped into the
interior, they are all consumed without much profit
to the importer, who prefers to take the chance
of hard times during the winter and the certainty
of a larger return for his furs in the spring.
We took with us flour and bacon enough to
last for three or four months, tea and tobacco in
large quantities, a good supply of ammunition for
rifles and shot-guns, nets, hooks, and lines, dog
harness, a large canvas lodge similar to the teepee
of the Crees and Blackfeet, a Kodak camera,
blankets, and a kitchen-box containing kettles,
frying-pans, and all such simple necessaries for
camp cookery.
There is a small steamer which makes irregular
trips on the Stikine during the summer months,
taking supplies for the Hudson's Bay Company and
the few miners who are still working in Cassiar,
as far as the head of navigation at Telegraph
Creek ; but she had left before our arrival, and would
not be sailing again for six weeks. The water in
the river was said to be still very high, although
the summer floods caused by the melting snow had
already begun to subside; and, as it would without
doubt prove a difficult task to force our way up stream START FOR FORT WRANGEL
for 150 miles, we made an attempt to secure an Indian
guide to show us the best routes and the shortest
cuts, which a stranger may easily miss on such a
big river. But the Wrangel Indians have the
peculiarities of the race fully developed, and,
thinking we could not do without them, were so
exorbitant in their demands, and imposed so many
conditions, that we soon decided to rely upon our
own resources.
A solemn function was the launching of the
canoe, and loading her with rather more cargo
than she was properly qualified to carry ; in fact,
we had to leave two or three hundred pounds'
weight to come on by a canoe that was expected
to start in a few days. Plenty of advice was offered
too, and gloomy prophecies of disasters that were
likely to happen to such a small craft of a different
and therefore presumably inferior model to the
recognised type in use on the Stikine, and manned
by strangers, who are universally supposed to be
incompetent to navigate waters with which they
are unfamiliar. A very widely-spread characteristic
this of the men who go down to the sea in ships
on a small scale. Blue water sailors take a more
liberal view,  and freely acknowledge a man who THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
takes his vessel in safety across the ocean as their
equal in matters nautical, even though he does hail
from another port; but the long-shoreman or fisherman of any small harbour will seldom admit that
there may be men, less lucky in the matter of their
birthplace, who can handle a boat as well as a
native of their own particular mud-hole.
I hope nobody counted the number of drinks
of illicit whisky we finished on that sunny afternoon
in Wrangel. Several times we were just starting
when some hospitable miner would insist on our
coming back for just one more farewell drink, and
we trooped back along the little street to the grogshop for another gulp. Luckily it was quite calm,
and the heavy load at the bottom of the canoe kept
us fairly steady till the labour of paddling against
a strong tide gradually toned down our hilarity.
For the first mile we hugged the rocky shore of
Wrangel Island till we reached its northern end,
and then stood away for the mainland to take
advantage of any slack water there might be to
work our way against the freshet that was pouring
out of the river. There were several high bluffs
to be rounded where we could use neither line nor
poles;   the current ran with the force of a rapid, START FOR FORT WRANGEL
and two or three attempts were often necessary
before we could struggle round with the paddles.
It was ten o'clock, but still good daylight, when we
passed Rothsay Point, and camped fairly within the
mouth of the river. From this camp we had our last
view of the salt water for many a long day ; a grand
scene, with the after-glow of a northern sunset
resting on snowfield and glacier, and the black
points of the countless pine trees outlined sharply
against the western sky. Mainland and islands
were confused by the elaborate windings of the
coast-line; deep gloomy inlets ran far inland under
the shadow of the high mountains, and the network
of channels leading in every direction through the
archipelago lay like streaks of oil undisturbed
by the slightest ripple, and reflecting faithfully
the wonders of the sky above. A great silence
reigned over everything, broken only by the splash
of a salmon or the cry of a loon or gull, and even
on this bright summer evening one could feel the
ever-present sense of gloom which the vast and
inaccessible in nature always produce. Can these
frowning peaks and dense pine forests which almost
defy exploration, lying in a land of almost perpetual
rain and snow, ever become of use for maintaining
a civilised portion of the human race ? The same
question, with the exception of a rather better
climate, was applicable fifty years ago to the coasts
of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, yet
these countries now support a small but fairly
prosperous population, and there seems to be a
good chance for Southern Alaska to occupy the
same position as her resources are developed.
The establishment of salmon canneries has already
met with success; the export of timber must shortly
be legalised; and surely some few valuable quartz
ledges exist among those vast mountain ranges
which guard their secrets so well, and afford so sure
a sanctuary to the mountain goat, the bear, the
marmot, and the ptarmigan.
The scarcity of dry firewood, owing to the heavy
rainfall, is one of the greatest drawbacks to travelling on the lower Stikine. The valley back from
the river is covered with an almost impenetrable
growth of pine timber, rank underbrush, and
steaming moss, while the " Devil's Club "—a long
cane-like stalk covered with thorns, bearing a crown
of leaves furnished in the same manner — lies in
ambush till the weight of a man's foot causes it to
start up and strike the intruder in the face.    This START FOR FORT WRANGEL
forest, favoured by the warmth and moisture of the
ocean, runs far up the mountain sides, till it meets
the snow that for ever covers the peaks of the coast
range on either side of the river. The scenery
much resembles that of the Fraser where it passes
through the same range, except that on the Stikine
River the mountains are higher and more rugged,
and glaciers, sometimes coming right down into
the river valley, are of frequent occurrence. The
source of the Stikine has never been exactly defined,
but its tributaries are known to head with those of
the Peace and Liard, on the unexplored Pacific
Arctic watershed lying between the 56th and 58th
I parallels of north latitude.
The difficulty of ascending this river in flood
time will be at once understood when I say that
we were unable to make headway with the paddles
against the current, in mid-stream, at any point in
the journey of 150 miles ; so that we had always
to creep along the bank that seemed most likely
to offer slack water. The straight side of any
reach is usually the best, as the current naturally
sweeps into the curves with the greatest force.
There was no beach along which a line might be
used, as the river was up to the level of the forest
c m
growth, and in many places the banks had caved in ;
or a huge pine had dropped into the stream, and
a detour into the strength of the current, or a
crossing to the far shore, which entailed a loss
of a couple of hundred yards, was necessary. Great
caution had to be used in rounding these obstructions, to make sure that we could hold our own with
the current before edging back for the shelter of
the bank—to be swept under a fallen tree meant
a certain capsize, probably with disastrous results.
No bottom could be reached with the poles, but
we had often a chance to pull over a stretch of
bad water by laying hold of overhanging bushes.
When no other plan was practicable, a man would
go ahead through the woods with a coil of line,
and making one end fast to a log, throw it out
clear of the bank. When the log came bobbing
down to the canoe it was seized * the other end
of the line was made fast to a tree, and the canoe
hauled up hand over hand. This manoeuvre generally occupied a good deal of time, as the line
often fouled a bush or sunken crag, and was
sometimes very difficult to clear. In other places
the river was split up by islands into several
channels,  and,  having no pilot,  we were  obliged START FOR FORT WRANGEL
to use our own judgment in making a choice of
routes. Sometimes we paddled up a long winding
backwater—the slough of the American, the clinai
of the French - Canadian—only to find its head
blocked by immense piles of drift timber, over
which we had to make a difficult portage, or run
back and try another channel. At the head of
each island there was usually a submerged gravel
bar and a swift current with a slight overfall;
and here it was necessary to get out and wade
with the canoe up stream, to clear the bar before
crossing to slacker water.
The general direction of the river is to the
eastward for the first 20 miles, but from the
"big bend" of the miners it turns directly to the
north for 65 miles, afterwards bending to the
north-east, and continuing on this course beyond
Telegraph Creek. Of the many tributaries that
enter the lower river, the most important is the
Iskoot, coming in from the eastward about 30
miles from the mouth of the Stikine, and bending
back nearly parallel to this stream. A party of
four miners ascended the Iskoot in the spring
and summer of 1891, leaving Wrangel with hand-
sleighs,  and building a boat on the breaking up 20 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
of the ice. Although gold was found in many
places, it was always in small quantities, and no
paying bars were discovered. The river is full
of obstructions to navigation, and consequently
difficult to travel on; but these miners succeeded
in forcing their way to the north-east for a considerable distance, and eventually crossed overland
to Telegraph Creek, in the autumn. They reported
game to be abundant; black and grizzly bear were
numerous along the river, especially during the
salmon run, and goats were sighted nearly every
day. In fact, the mountain goat is very common
throughout the whole length of the coast range,
from the Fraser northwards. One of the most
stupid of American animals, it owes its safety to
the inaccessibility of its haunts, for it is no small
undertaking to leave the river or salt water and
climb 5000 feet of steep mountain side, clothed
for three-quarters of the distance with a dense
pine growth starting out of the accumulated forest
debris of centuries, and only giving place at last
to granite walls and drifts of everlasting snow.
The results of one of these expeditions is usually
pleasing enough—you can kill the goats without
any further  trouble ;   you   can  watch   the   strange
little marmots which have their homes in the rocks,
and throw stones at the ptarmigan which will
hardly move out of your way. If the day happens
to be clear, you will have a view of mountain
peaks and forests, unnamed and untraversed, that
it is useless to attempt to depict; and, when the
sun goes down, you may build your fire in a
sheltered gulch, eat roasted goat-flesh, and spend
a night among the grandest works of nature. But
it seems unpractical. The hardest labour of all
is to carry a load of meat down to the camp; and
the wily Indian asks himself why he should go
to so much trouble when he can load his canoe
with salmon in a couple of hours, or perhaps kill
a fat bear close to the river, and pass the rest of
the day lying on his back in the enjoyment of
his pipe and such easy thoughts as present themselves to his untroubled mind. . So the goats are
not much molested, and many of them live out
their pleasant existence without ever crossing the
path of the hated human being. CHAPTER  II
The Stikine glacier—Overtaken by coast Indians—Canoe drill at Little Canon
—Difference in climate on opposite sides of coast range—Salmon catching
—Habits of bears—Klootchman Canon—The Chinook jargon—Telegraph
Creek—Freight charges.
For the first few days after leaving Wrangel we
had wonderfully fine weather, and in spite of all
difficulties made fair progress by poling, paddling,
wading, and pulling ourselves up by the bushes,
till we reached the great glacier—by far the most
striking of all—the Stikine glacier. It issues from
a low pass in the mountains on the west side
and comes right down into the valley, broadening
out as it reaches the low ground, and presenting
a base three miles in length towards the river, at
no great distance from the bank. It would well
repay any one to spend a week or two in thoroughly
exploring the sources of this vast ice-field, especially
as it is so easily reached by water, and no hard   ON THE STIKINE RIVER
climbing is necessary. Great caution should be
used though, as the only attempt that seems to
have been made to explore this glacier was attended
with most lamentable results. Before the sale of
Alaska to the Americans, a Russian man-of-war
once sent a boat's crew up the Stikine to examine
the river as far as possible, and to report on its
practicability for commerce. On arriving at the
great glacier the officers in charge of the expedition
set out to explore the ice-field and were never
again heard of. A long search was made for
them, but their bodies were not found, and
no doubt they met their death by falling into a
According to some of the miners who remember
the Stikine twenty years ago, the glacier is receding from the river ; and the Indians have a legend
to the effect that it once extended right across
the Stikine, and the water found its way through
a tunnel under the ice. The only fact that might
give a slight aspect of truth to the story is the
existence of a little ice-field high up the mountain
side across the river, just opposite the great glacier.
And now the clouds came rolling up from the
ocean, the mountains were hidden, a gray curtain m
hung over the valley, and day after day the rain
poured down in an almost continual stream. The
river, too, was more difficult, being broken up by
islands and gravel bars into numerous winding
channels, all more or less blocked by snags and
drift piles. We kept on travelling a few hours
at a time, and every night found us a little farther
ahead. It was useless to wait, as this sort of
weather is known to last a month at a time on
the lower Stikine, and there seemed no reason
why the clouds should not remain penned between
the high mountains and the downpour continue
for ever.
It was not an easy matter to find good camping
places, for dry wood was scarce and not always
convenient to a landing where the cargo could be
unloaded and the canoe hauled up. This has to
be done every night during high water, on account
of the uprooted trees and masses of drift logs that
are continually floating down stream to the great
peril of any boat left moored to the bank for a
night. The canvas lodge stretched over four or
five leaning poles under the spreading limbs of a
big spruce tree gave us shelter enough, but our
camp fires  were  seldom  satisfactory,  and  clothes ON THE STIKINE RIVER
and blankets when once wet, had to remain wet
till the sun should shine again. The mosquitoes
were another source of annoyance, but they were
not nearly as bad as we had been led to expect
by the terrible accounts we had heard of them at
Fort Wrangel.
During this time we were overtaken by a large
salt-water canoe manned by a crew of coast Indians,
who were on their way to the dry country lying to
the eastward of the mountains, with the intention
of salmon fishing and berry picking. The Wrangel
Indians are well provided with all the necessaries
of life in their own country—salmon and a large
variety of sea fish are to be caught in abundance,
wildfowl are fairly plentiful, and the islands are
wonderfully well stocked with the Alaskan variety
of the little Virginian deer, and black bear ; but the
rain is so persistent that the curing of fish or meat
by drying over the smoke of a camp fire is almost
an impossibility. So the coast Indians make yearly
expeditions to the upper waters of the Stikine, where
the climate is much better, and the salmon are more
easily caught than in the salt water. On these
occasions they generally bring up a small stock
of trading goods to barter with the interior tribes THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
for moose-skin and other commodities not procurable on the coast.
These Indians who now caught us up had left
Wrangel two days after us, and had been lucky
enough to get a strong fair wind which enabled
them to run the first 40 miles under canvas without
trouble. They had with them a white man, one
of the pioneers of the Cassiar diggings, who, after
seventeen years absence was now going back to
examine a quartz ledge which he had discovered
in early days. These tricks of memory, which
exaggerate a trace of mineral in a mountain of rock
into a valuable deposit of the precious metals, are
a great source of consolation to the miner; and a
man must be wretched indeed who has not some
dim vision of a rich quartz ledge discovered years
ago to cheer him up under the many disappointments to which the life of a placer miner is subject.
The ledge is usually situated in an inaccessible
country as far as possible from the discoverer's
present position; it was hit upon by chance, at a
time when the approach of winter and general
misery made it impossible to thoroughly examine
the richness of the find. But if an expedition is
fitted out to search for it again, the miner usually ON THE STIKINE RIVER
proves an incompetent pilot, or the ledge turns
out as worthless as the thousands of other ledges
vhich have held so much promise for the sanguine
| discoverer.
We travelled in company with the other canoe,
both crews taking things easily till we reached
the Little Canon, 75 miles from the mouth of the
The Little Canon, so called to distinguish it
from the Great Canon above Telegraph Creek, is
the only real obstruction on the navigable part
of the stream. During certain stages of water it
is impassable for anything but a powerful steamer,
and she must be carefully handled in the whirlpools
to avoid collision with the cliffs on either side.
When we arrived there, the water had fallen several
feet from its highest summer level; but the first
glance showed us that it was doubtful whether we
could get through in safety, even with the double
crews—for it was obvious that white men and
Indians were now on level terms, and must help
each other, or wait for a week or two at the foot
of the canon for the water to fall. We might,
indeed, have portaged our little canoe by chopping
out a trail a mile in length over a rough hill covered 30 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
with burnt timber, but it would have been no light
work. Professor Dawson describes this canon as
being "three-fifths of a mile in length, and in
places not more than 50 yards wide, bordered by
massive granite cliffs 200 to 300 feet in height."
Through this narrow gorge the whole volume of
the Stikine waters rushes in wild swirls, while
ragged points abutting from the bluffs create strong
eddies to add to the confusion of water. The
worst whirlpools are at the lower entrance, one on
each side, at the meeting of the main current with
the eddies that rush round the bays below the first
points of the canon. We camped on the east bank,
on the spot where many a Cassiar miner has waited
for the water to go down, and passed four days in
vain attempts to overcome the obstacle ahead. Our
first trial was a most senseless affair, but.the steersman of the big canoe had great faith in it. So we
discharged half the cargo from his vessel, boomed
out a huge sprit-sail on each side, and holding
our paddles in readiness, boldly attempted to sail
through everything in front of a strong fair wind.
The long canoe simply flew up the eddy; but on
striking the current, we were helpless. Nine men
working with oars and paddles made no  impres- in
sion, and the next minute the bow swung off, the
sails gybed, and the whirlpool taking charge, carried
us back to the. quiet water below. This programme was gone through several times, and always
with the same result, till at last our steersman lost
his enthusiasm and gave up the attempt for the
The following morning we went to work in a
more methodical manner, and, putting ashore at the
first point, passed a long line to the top of the cliff.
Three men were left in the canoe and the rest of us
scrambled up, and, clearing the line from overhanging rocks and trees to its full length, hauled
the canoe bodily over the steep overfall at the
point. About a quarter of a mile was gained in
this manner, but then we were obliged to cross and
try to reach an eddy on the far side. We shoved
off from the rocks with as much headway as possible, but before we were half-way across, it was
clear that we should miss the eddy. A timely
order in English to "back water" saved us from
being carried on to a jagged point, and in a couple
of minutes we were opposite the camp that we had
left three hours before. Every morning and afternoon, the Indian Captain Tomyot turned us out for THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
this canoe drill; but although we nearly got through
several times, a piece of wild steering, or the breaking of a line or pole, always spoilt the result of
many hours' work.
Among the native crew was a fellow who presented a typical combination of all the bad points
in the Indian character, fully developed by a slight
leaven of education and a remarkable aptitude for
picking up the vices of the white man. Some years
ago, in a drunken scuffle on an outlying island on
the coast, he had bitten off a woman's ear, and after
losing his nose in the same manner by way of retaliation, had been taken in charge by the U.S.
authorities. He was sentenced to three years in
a San Francisco gaol, but appears to have enjoyed
rather an easy life of it while working out his time.
Some benevolent person took him in hand, taught
him to read and write, and made him a model red-
man generally. On his return to Alaska, he was
welcomed back by his people as a distinguished
traveller and a man who had seen something of the
world, and has since been looked upon* with great
respect He is cunning enough to make the most
of this and turn it to his own advantage; but, at
the same time, he is doing a great deal of harm ON THE STIKINE RIVER
among the Wrangel Indians—his little knowledge
suggesting plans for ill deeds that would not be
likely to occur to his more simple-minded companions.
This man, when he was in the right humour, was
as good a bowsman as could be found anywhere;
but he had little inclination for a long struggle with
the strong water of the canon, and usually stayed
in camp with the women while we were making
our various attempts.
On the fifth morning there were great preparations, and the Indians painted their faces to ensure
success. The noseless man meant business too,
and his countenance was more repulsive than ever
in the glory of a coat of scarlet. The others all
preferred stripes of red and black, while the women
went in for solid black, although they had no intention of risking their babies in tiny baskets in the
whirlpools of the canon. Old Tomyot, the steersman, told us we were sure to get through now, and
drew our attention to the fact that the water had
fallen several inches, which would no doubt help
the powers of the paint.
By this time we were pretty well perfect in our
drill.    We knew all the rocks and stumps on the 34 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
summit of the cliffs that were likely to foul the line;
we knew the submerged ledges where the poles
would reach bottom, and the cracks in the granite
where the men in the bow could get a grip with
their iron boathooks. Experience had taught us
where we could cross the current, where the eddies
could be worked, and where we could climb up and
down the bluffs in safety. Everything went well;
not a mistake was made, and, late in the afternoon,
we hauled clear of the canon, passed into comparatively quiet water above, and landed our cargo.
This had occupied over six hours; and now, drifting down with the stream, and only paddling
enough to keep clear of rocks, we reached the camp
in eight minutes. The next day we brought up the
rest of the cargo, and the small canoe at the same
time, the women making an overland portage.
The Little Canon is the gate into an entirely
different country from that which we had passed
through on the lower river. The coast range lay
behind us, and the distorted peaks and glacier-
covered gulches had given way to gently rounded
summits of much less elevation, with very little
snow upon them, and lying further back from the
river.    On the east side of the mountains there is
every indication of a great change in the climate.
Dry benches well covered with grass and berry
bushes show up, small birch trees are numerous,
and much of the country has been burnt—affording
a strong contrast to the dank forest below, where
no fire could ever hold its own.   '
This difference in climate on the opposite sides
of the coast range is only a continuation of what
may be observed under the same conditions in
British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon, which
all show sharply defined belts of wet and dry
climates; but here perhaps it is more strongly
marked owing to the extraordinary depth of rain
and snowfall which prevails from Wrangel to the
Little Canon, where the snow lies ten feet deep
through the winter, while 50 miles further up stream
there is rarely more than two feet on the level.
At Wrangel, potatoes frequently rot in the ground
when irrigation is necessary to ensure a crop at
Telegraph Creek.
. Of the berries—the raspberry, the soap berry,
and the saskatoon, service, or bear-berry, as it is
called in different parts of the west—^are most
plentiful. The soap berry is a small red fruit with
rather an unpleasant bitter taste, but it is a great 36 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
favourite among the Indians. They gather a large
kettleful of these berries and pound them up with
their hands till a thick froth, much resembling soap
bubbles, gathers on the top of the kettle. This
froth, with a judicious mixture of salmon oil—or,
better still, seal oil—they consider one of the things
worth living for.
All the little streams were full of salmon, for the
run was now at its height, and vast quantities of fish
were crowding up as far as the water would carry
them. Our Indian friends were reaping a rich
harvest. A long stick with an iron hook lashed on
the end is the only outfit required. The fisherman
takes up a position on a rock below a little rapid
where the salmon are likely to lie to gather strength
for a rush, and gently feels the water down-stream
with the butt of his pole. Presently he touches a
fish; the pole is quickly reversed, and a sharp
stroke across the current lands the victim on the
bank. As soon as the fish are caught they are
handed over to the women, who, as is usual with
Indians, get none of the sport and have all the dirty
work to do. The salmon are cleaned, split open
for the purpose of removing the backbone, and laid
on large scaffolds built in a sunny spot; smoulder-
ing fires of bark are lit underneath, and constant
attention is necessary to turn the fish at the right
time, so that sun and smoke may do an equal share
of the drying. The winter's supply is put up during
the two or three weeks of the big run. The incredible numbers of salmon that swarm in the rivers
of the Pacific have been written about so exhaustively that it is unnecessary to say much upon the
subject. The Stikine as yet shows no diminution
in the quantity of its fish, as there are no canneries
to thin them out as has so obviously been the
case on the Columbia, and in a less marked degree
on the Fraser, the Skeena, and the Naas. Ugly
brutes these salmon are, so far away from salt
water, with their red bellies, slimy green backs,
and threadbare fins ; but nevertheless they form the
staple article of food for the native population.
Along the salmon streams and in the berry patches
the tracks of bear were plentiful, but at this time
of year, when they are feeding entirely on fish,
their flesh is hardly edible, and of course the fur is
in poor condition, so we never hunted for them and
did not happen to see any along the river; but in
the late autumn or early spring the whole valley of
the Stikine, from the sea upwards, would no doubt 38 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
be a good hunting ground for both black bear and
the so-called grizzly.
The extreme variation in the skins of the grizzlies that are killed on the Stikine gives ample
scope for argument on the long discussed and so
far undecided question as to how many different
kinds of bear exist in North America. Black,
brown, grizzly, cinnamon, silver-tipped, and bald-
face—are they all varieties of one species, or, as
some say, of two ? or do they represent six distinct
animals ? I have known great authorities on the
subject of bears completely at a loss to name some
small skins of evidently full-grown bears, almost
as white as the skin of a polar, and known to the
Indians as the white rock bear, which are occasionally brought in from the high peaks of the coast
range bordering the valleys of the Skeena and
Dirty feeders are bears of all kinds in the
salmon time ; and when their first hunger is satiated
they are very particular in picking out the most
repulsive form of dirtiness. In the little rapids
they can always snatch out a live fish without
trouble, but they greatly prefer the dead ones
stranded by the fallen water.    I have often watched ON THE STIKINE RIVER
them on summer evenings, just after sundown,
nosing over the carcasses rotting on a gravel bar
till they find one sufficiently putrid to suit them,
and then spending several minutes in licking the
stones for the last flavour of the delicate morsel.
Canoe-travelling above the Little Canon was
much more enjoyable than in the lower reaches.
In addition to fine weather, we were often favoured
with a strong fair wind, when a small piece of
canvas or a blanket set as a squaresail pulled us
over strong water that we could not have stemmed
with poles or paddles. It was rather dangerous
sailing though, as the squalls were sometimes fierce
and variable under the high land ; and we had to
keep a close watch on the halyards in order to
lower the sail at once in case of being caught aback.
The temptation is, of course, to carry on too long
when you find you are making good headway
against a strong current without doing any work ;
and a canoe has a tendency to bury her nose and
fill up very suddenly under a pressure of canvas.
One more canon had to be passed, but here
there was no difficulty; indeed, it is known, in
derision, as the Klootchman Canon—" Klootch-
man" being the name for woman in the Chinook 40 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
jargon universally employed between whites and
Indians on the Pacific coast. Here it has always
been the custom for the men to lay down their
paddles and let the women take complete charge
of the navigation, and very competent they are to
do so, except in high water, when the current
sweeps strongly round the upper points, and sometimes the task proves too much for their strength.
There are stories of canoes lying at this canon for
days because the women were short of power and
the men would not put hand to pole or paddle.
The Chinook jargon, invented long ago by a
French fur trader on the Columbia for his own
convenience in bartering with local Indians, has
spread all along the northern Pacific coast and far
into the interior wherever the miners have penetrated. From its original use between whites and
Indians, it has developed into a common language
between the various tribes whose native tongues
are totally distinct within very short distances. It
is freely used too by the Chinese, and, in fact, by
people of all nationalities who cannot speak English.
Chinook is easily picked up, as it is composed of
very few words, and most of them French or
English.     The  absence  of all   grammatical  rules ON THE STIKINE RIVER
tends to make one's meaning a little doubtful at
times, but it is a distinct advance on the old sign
language, which causes so many complications in
dealing with natives.
The current above the Klootchman Canon was
swift, but there were few islands or outlying bars;
and by frequent crossings we could generally make
use of slack water under one bank. On the ist of
August we reached Glenora, or, as it is more
generally called, *■ Steamboat Landing," a long row
of deserted log cabins, prettily situated under a
high cliff on the west side of the river. In the
old mining days it was a place of some importance ;
and the cabins will no doubt be all occupied again
during the next "strike" in Cassiar, which is so
anxiously expected by the ever-sanguine miners.
At present the only permanent resident is the
customs-house officer, who keeps a jealous eye on
everything coming up the river, notwithstanding
the fact that he is a hundred miles inside the British
line. He was very good to us though, and, as we
heard that the pack train from Telegraph Creek
to Dease Lake had already left, we stayed at Glenora for a couple of days' rest.
There is probably no harder manual labour than 42 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
that of driving a heavily-loaded canoe up a rapid
river, especially for the steersman, who, besides the
constant paddling, has an extra strain on his wrists
in keeping the bow from sheering while winding in
and out of the little bays to take advantage of the
slack water close to the bank.
Above Glenora the river becomes narrow, and
the pace of the current increases to a strength of
eight knots in mid-stream. There are several small
rapids, too, which require some care to pass in
safety. The worst of these, a mile or so above
Glenora, is a treacherous piece of water, and has
claimed several victims, white and Indian. On a
second journey up the Stikine, I was nearly a
witness of one of these accidents. We had just
hauled through the rapid with a sea-going canoe, and
were boiling a kettle on a gravel bar round the
next bend, when another canoe came down stream
manned by three white men and an Indian steersman. They put ashore and spent half an hour
with us, as we were bringing up all the late news
from the outside world and had some letters for
them. Five minutes after they left us their canoe
capsized in the rapid and two of the occupants were
drowned, yet the place looks easy enough to run,   ON THE STIKINE RIVER
and their canoe was a big powerful craft piloted by
an Indian well known as a competent steersman.
Four miles below Telegraph Creek is Buck's
Bar, the place where gold was first discovered in
any quantity on the Stikine, and lately celebrated
as the scene of one of those misguided mining
enterprises that have done a great deal to prevent
the development of British Columbian gold-fields.
So many companies have been formed and so much
capital expended for the extraction of gold from far-
off places where no large amount of gold ever
existed, that the long-suffering public have at last
become chary of purchasing shares. Several of the
placer camps, notably Cariboo, were extremely rich
as long as they lasted ; but so far it is hard to name
any single quartz ledge or deposit of auriferous
gravel suitable for the hydraulic method of washing
that has ever paid a single dollar to the shareholders. Yet just across the international boundary line, to the southward of British Columbia, in
a country of the same geological formation, and
presenting the same obstacles to exploration and
the transport of machinery, quartz ledges have long
been worked to advantage; and it seems hardly
probable that the 49th parallel of latitude should 46
form the line of demarcation between the natural
resources of the earth as well as between its
Telegraph Creek received its name in anticipation that was never realised; for here the electric
wire intended to connect the Old World and the
New, by way of Behring Straits, was to cross the
Stikine. For the two years, '66, '67, parties of
energetic explorers followed up unknown mountain
passes, and cut supply trails through the thickly-
wooded interior of British Columbia and Alaska,
in search of the most feasible route for a telegraph
line, only to be met on their return with the news
that the Atlantic cable—which had been pronounced
an impossibility—was in full working order, and
that the overland scheme was in consequence
abandoned. The creek itself is very small; although
it has been found to yield gold, as is the case with
most of the tributaries of the Stikine, the results
have always been unsatisfactory.
A few miles higher up the main stream is the
foot of the Grand Canon of the Stikine, the beginning of a long stretch of unnavigable water. The
Indians make use of the river again above the
canon, but I  could get no definite information  as HI
to   how   far   they   have    ascended    towards    its
The little town of Telegraph stands at the junction of the creek with the river, deep down in a
narrow valley, shut in by high mountains over
which the sun never rises in the short days of
winter; but it has rather more life than Glenora,
being the starting-point for the pack train that
carries all necessaries for the scattered population
of Cassiar to the head of Dease Lake. It is also
rather an important centre for the fur trade, as
there are two or three rival stores, and a keen
competition has arisen. The Indian has soon
learnt to appreciate the advantages of competition,
and prices have gone up to such an extent that one
would suppose fur was hardly worth buying at
such figures. Besides the inhabitants of the large
villages of Tahl - Tan, situated 12 miles higher
up the river, and the hunters from the large tract
of country lying towards the Taku River and
Teslin Lake to the westward of the Stikine, a
band of Indians known as the " Bear Lakes," bring
their furs overland for several hundred miles from
the head-waters of the Peace River, to take advantage of the high prices offered by the opposing 48 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
traders. There is certainly no other trading post
in the whole of Canada that takes in as many silver
foxes as are annually traded at Telegraph Creek,
and good skins too, many of them fetching a price
in a Regent Street furrier's shop that might form
a vast subject for the wretched, cold-fingered Indian
to ponder on as he sets his line of steel traps where
the snow has drifted hard on the bleak slopes of
the open mountains over which the foxes roam
throughout the long northern winter. Next in
order of numbers are the bear skins, but these are
for the most part killed along the Stikine, as the
hides are too heavy to carry long distances. Wolf,
lynx, beaver, marten, and wolverines, in smaller
quantities, swell the yearly fur trade at Telegraph
to a very respectable total.
We had expected some trouble in getting our
canoe carried over the seventy mile portage to the
lake, and were prepared to do it ourselves if necessary, but a couple of Indians undertook the work
readily enough, and fulfilled their agreement in a
most satisfactory manner.
After a week's delay the mule train came in,
and the following morning we started with our
cargo distributed on the backs of five animals.    A ON THE STIKINE RIVER
charge of seven cents a pound is now made on all
freight carried over the portage, a great falling off,
from the packer's point of view, since the first pack
train went into Cassiar with a load of 15,000 lbs.
at fifty cents a pound, and cleared a fortune for the
owners before competition cut the business down.
There is still enough work to keep a train busy
during the summer months, as this route is the
only inlet into an immense territory inhabited by
Indians who have acquired many of the white man's
habits, and clamour for things they would never
have known the names of if Cassiar had remained
purely a fur-trading district, but which have become
necessaries for the natives since the influx of the
miners. CHAPTER   III
Cassiar trail—Laketon—A Hudson Bay trading post—Dease Lake—Drawbacks to mining—Sylvester's Landing—Casca Indians—Abandon plan of
wintering on Frances Lake.
The Cassiar trail was once a well-travelled route,
with stopping-places every few miles where meals
and fiery whisky — specially prepared for use in
mining camps—could be bought at high figures.
But these signs of prosperity have fallen into decay,
and the rough log cabins are unoccupied. The
trails and bridges are, however, kept in good order
by the British Columbian Government. The portage to the Arctic slope is a remarkably easy one,
without any noticeable height of land; while the
only difficult parts of the trail are the steep hills at
the crossings of two large tributaries of the Stikine,
known as the First and Second North Fork, which
run through deep canons that seem a conspicuous THE DISTRICT OF CASSIAR
feature of all these streams. Near the First North
Fork, 12 miles from Telegraph Creek, the trail
runs through Tahl-Tan, but it was entirely deserted when we passed, as the inhabitants were
making the most of the salmon run to put up their
winter supply of dried fish. For a great part of the
distance to the lake the trail lies along dry open
benches, afterwards changing to spruce and poplar-
covered flats, with many swampy spots. The
general appearance of the mountains that are occasionally seen is very pleasing to the sportsman's
eye. The summits are rounded, and on the sides
are large stretches of open grassland, interspersed
with patches of light timber. Many of these
mountains are well known to the Indians as a sure
find for cariboo and mountain sheep; while the
moose, which of late years have pushed their way
to the westward, are rapidly increasing in number
in the more level country, and have even been
killed within a few miles of Telegraph Creek.
The pack train was composed of thirty-five
heavily loaded mules, which were, of course, driven
at a slow pace, so that 15 miles were considered
a good day's travel. Early starts were made to
avoid the heat  of the sun  and give  the animals time to feed and rest in the afternoon. The loads
should be off and the day's work over not later than
eleven o'clock, if mules or horses are to be kept in
good condition and packed regularly for any length
of time.
On the morning of 16th August we crossed the
slight elevation marking the watershed between
the streams running into the Pacific and Arctic
Oceans ; and shortly afterwards reached the head
of Dease Lake — a narrow sheet of water running some 24 miles directly northwards, wTith
thickly-wooded shores gently sloping upwards to
the summits of low hills, and here and there a
towering snow - capped peak standing well back
from the water.
A dilapidated little steamer still plies on the lake ;
and putting the canoe on deck, we took passage
by her to Laketon, the most important town in
Cassiar, situated at the mouth of Dease Creek,
18 miles down on the west side of the lake, where
we were royally entertained for the night by Mr.
Porter, the Gold Commissioner for the district.
Laketon is a good specimen of the deserted
mining town so frequently seen to the westward
of the   Rocky Mountains.    Dease Creek was one   THE DISTRICT OF CASSIAR
of the richest strikes; and in 1874-75 several
hundred miners, with their parasites the storekeepers and bar-tenders, made the camp lively.
Gold dust was flying about with the recklessness
distinctive of the life; but now the young shoots
of the forest are pushing up in the streets, and
rows of empty houses stare out across the lake,
apparently brooding over old scenes of good times
and debauchery—better, perhaps, undescribed—
that were enacted within their walls.
In 1834 Mr. J. M'Leod, a chief trader in
the Hudson's Bay Company's service, acting under
the instructions of the Governor, left Fort Simpson
on the Mackenzie and ascended the Liard to
explore its upper waters—hoping, if possible, to
cross the watershed and find some stream running to the Pacific,—with the view of controlling
the western fur trade, which was then in dispute
between the Russians and the Company. In
this undertaking he was successful; and, turning
up Dease River at its junction with the Liard,
eventually reached the Stikine, passing through
Dease Lake, which he named after the Arctic
explorer. It was not, however, until four years
later   that   Mr.   Robert   Campbell   established   a 56 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
trading post on the lake, where he passed a
winter of unusual hardship from starvation. He
mentions in his report that at one time his party
were obliged to eat their parchment windows
and the lacing of their snowshoes, besides being
in danger from the coast Indians, who seem
to have had a bad reputation at that time. The
post was abandoned in May 1839, as the trouble
about the trading rights at the mouth of the
Stikine had been amicably settled by the leasing
of the long narrow coast strip of Alaska to the
Company. The whole trade was thus controlled
without the difficulty and expense of maintaining
a post on Dease Lake. For more than thirty
years the Cassiar District was left as M'Leod
found it, for Campbell, one of the most enthusiastic
and successful explorers that ever entered the
Hudson's Bay Company's service, was turning his
attention to a more northern country, and making fresh discoveries in the direction of Frances
Lake and the upper waters of what is now known
as the Yukon River.
In 1872 Messrs. M'Culloch and Thibert, after
a three years' prospecting expedition, reached
Dease   Lake   by   the   same   route   that   M'Leod THE DISTRICT OF CASSIAR
and Campbell had travelled over, after having
discovered gold near' the site of old Fort Halkett
on the Liard. Their intention was to winter on
the lake, trusting to their rifles and what fish
they might catch for their supplies; but they
were told by the Indians that gold had been
discovered on the Stikine, and that white men
were already working there. So they crossed
over the divide and found the mining camp at
Buck's Bar. In the spring they started back
for Fort Halkett, but finding a much better prospect on Thibert's Creek—a small stream coming
in from the west near the foot of Dease Lake,—
they worked there with success. Other miners
soon followed them from the Stikine, and glowing
accounts of the new fields that reached the outside
world caused a rush from the nearly worked out
diggings of Cariboo and Omineca. Thibert is
still mining and prospecting in the country (we
afterwards met him on Dease River), but M'Culloch
was frozen to death near the mouth of the Stikine
at the beginning of the Cassiar excitement.
For a couple of years the camp paid well;
but then the output of gold decreased, and has
continued  steadily  to  do   so,   till   at   the  present 58 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
day there are not more than twenty white miners
in the whole district, and I doubt if many of these
are working paying claims—hanging on year after
year in the hope of better times coming on the
discovery of a new strike. A few Chinamen
make up the mining population, being of a persevering nature, satisfied with small returns for
their labour, and extremely reticent as to the
amount of gold they have taken out.
A good deal of prospecting was done in early
days; and most of the creeks tributary to the
Dease and Liard have been worked; but only
three of-them seem to have been very remunerative— Dease and Thibert's Creek already mentioned, and MacDame's Creek entering the Dease
River from the west side, about 60 miles below
the outlet of the lake.
The great drawbacks to the country are the
shortness of the season during which mining is
possible, and the high price of provisions caused
by the long and expensive transport by steamer
and pack train from Fort Wrangel. Even now
that the excitement is over and prices have been
cut down as much as possible to suit the hard
times, a  100 lb.  sack of flour costs 14 dollars at THE DISTRICT OF CASSIAR
Dease Lake and ,£20 on the Liard; bacon 35
to 50 cents a pound; and everything else in proportion. Even the meat and fish supply brought
in by the Indians fetches the absurdly high figures
which were willingly paid in early days, and the
hunters can make a living so easily that they
simply refuse to hunt meat if any attempt is made
to cut down prices. But if a white man is any
use at all in the woods, he ought to be able to
keep himself in meat, as there are plenty of cariboo
on the bare mountains on the east side of the
lake, and the moose are increasing in numbers
every year on the lower ground. There- are but
few miners who can afford to prospect under
the present conditions, as, even if paying diggings
are discovered, the first year's work is lost, and
a capital of several hundred dollars is necessary
to buy provisions for a winter's inactivity, to say
nothing of the only too probable chance of disappointment and hard work thrown away — for
hard work there is sure to be on foot or afloat
in any attempt to penetrate far into this little-
known corner of British Columbia and the North-
West Territories.
We left the lake in company with  an   Indian 60 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
who was bound down stream in his canoe; and
travelled in a generally northerly direction down
the rapid tortuous course of the Dease River,
which is a small stream at the outlet of the lake,
but rapidly increases in size by the inflow of
water from other creeks. A few miles down
stream are some sharp curves, and a little care
is required to keep a boat from fouling the drift
piles which lie in the full sweep of the current;
but otherwise there is no danger to be met with.
Four small lakes lie in the course of the river,
the longest perhaps two miles in length—very
pretty sheets of water with densely-wooded shores
and high bald mountains in the background.
These lakes are, however, a serious impediment
to the navigation of the Dease, as they freeze up
much earlier in the autumn than the river, and
are often impassable by the middle of October,
except to a light boat that can be easily hauled
over the ice.
Thirty miles below Dease Lake is the Cottonwood Rapid, but it is easily run, as the few rocks in
mid-stream are seen at a glance, and the waves at
the foot of the rapids are small on the east side.
On   19th  August,   early   in   the   morning,   we THE DISTRICT OF CASSIAR
reached Sylvester's Landing at the mouth of
MacDame's Creek, the headquarters of the Hudson's
Bay Company's district of Cassiar. A casual glance
at once shows the contrast in the appearance of this
western trading post as compared with any of the
Company's establishments in the same latitude on
the eastern side of the Rockies. The slovenly log
buildings, the row of Indian shanties in close proximity to the master's house, and the absence of any
attempt at regularity in the positions of the various
storehouses, compare unfavourably with the neatly
kept forts on the northern lakes, where the Hudson's
Bay Company has held undisputed sway for a
century. It is evident that the strict regime instituted in the time of Prince Rupert has been rudely
ended by the appearance of the miner; and the
Indian has lost his respect for the white man. He
refuses any longer to trade on the "Pro pelle cutem"
system of the Hudson's Bay Company, and at the
same time has picked up many other habits of
civilisation far less to his own advantage.
The remnants of the once numerous tribe of
Casca Indians present a good example of the rapid
deterioration of natives, caused by free intercourse
with the whites—especially, perhaps, with a class of m
whites which is always to be found in the mining
camps. It is only a quickly told chapter in the story
that was begun 400 years ago on the Atlantic seaboard—the story of the red man giving way to the
white, and sinking through the various stages of
disease and degradation into total extinction. What
other fate can be in store for a native race when the
hunters leave the woods to work for wages and
drink the forbidden fire-water, while the women live
in luxury on the proceeds of their immorality ? No
pious missionary has ever penetrated into Cassiar to
point out these matters to the Indians, although the
district is easily reached, and there is certainly a most
hopeful band of sinners, white and Indian, waiting
to be converted. Perhaps it is too late to begin, as,
at the present rate of mortality, the Cascas will be
extinct in ten years' time, and the banks of the
Dease and Liard depopulated, unless minerals of
sufficient value are discovered to induce the miners
to permanently occupy the place of the natives they
have so quickly exterminated. Apart from the
minerals, the country is absolutely worthless; the
soil is usually poor and thickly covered with trees,
burnt in many places, and of no commercial value
on account of their distance from market:   these THE DISTRICT OF CASSIAR
alternate with swamps and rocky lakes. Even
where the land would repay cultivation, the long
winters and late summer frosts are serious obstacles
to agriculture.
The immediate neighbourhood of Sylvester's
Landing is especially favoured in this respect,
having a milder climate and producing better crops
of hardy vegetables than any other part of the district ; in fact, when the diggings on MacDame's
Creek were prosperous, a large amount of garden
produce was grown for the use of the camp, and
potatoes are still raised in some quantity by the
Chinese, who are mining 12 miles up the creek
at China Bar. A couple of miles further on is a
collection of log cabins locally known as "town,"
where a store is kept up for supplying the wants of
the few miners who are still working on the creek.
Provisions are boated down from Dease Lake to
Sylvester's Landing, and packed from there with
horses along a good trail following the valley of
MacDame's Creek. Fourteen miles again above
the town is Quartz Creek, a tributary of MacDame's,
where gold is being taken out in some quantity by
two of the most enterprising miners in the country,
who have spent many years in working the same THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
claim, and have spared neither labour nor money
in developing their property.
Before leaving Victoria, we had written to Mr.
Scott Simpson, the officer in charge at Sylvester's
Landing, asking him to have a boat and crew ready
for us on our arrival, to take a winter's supply of
provisions and other necessaries to Frances Lake,
but he had been unable to get a crew for the trip,
although he had done his best to persuade any of
the good boatmen who were within reach of the
trading post to make the expedition. It has become
so hard to procure good men for boating that the
Company have brought a crew of half-breeds from
Winnipeg to boat the trading goods from Dease
Lake, rather than rely upon the local Indians, who,
besides being untrustworthy, have the strongest
aversion to hard work, and expect wages for what
little they do at the rates that were in vogue when
the diggings were paying and labour was scarce.
Our original intention was to reach Frances Lake
as soon as possible, to put up a cabin for winter
quarters, and pass the time till spring in hunting
moose and exploring the surrounding country. On
the last snow we expected to haul the canoe with
dog-sleighs across the height of land, and to reach
the Pelly, or some of its tributaries, before the break
up of the ice. But now our plans were all knocked
on the head, as it was evident that our little canoe .
would not carry enough provisions to enable us
to winter in case game should prove scarce, and
reach the Pelly in the spring, to say nothing of
the ammunition and other weighty necessaries.
We spent a week at the Landing in the hope
that some more enterprising Indians might turn up;
and then started down stream with no very definite
aim in view. Before we left, Simpson promised to
send us down a couple of Indians with their sleigh
dogs to the Lower Post, at the junction of the
Dease with the Liard, at the first opportunity, so
that we might haul supplies towards Frances Lake
during the winter if we should make up our minds
to do so. CHAPTER  IV
Mount Ke-la-gurn—Hyland River—Indian superstitions—Big game in
particular localities—First fall of snow.
The river below MacDame's Creek is very crooked,
and during its northerly course of 100 miles or so
to its junction with the Liard, has less current than
in its upper reaches. As we dropped down stream
the mountains receded from the river, and grass
benches, lightly clothed with black pine, made their
appearance, rising in distinctly marked terraces
sometimes to a height of several hundred feet above
the river level. In other places the banks were
covered with groves of well-grown spruce and
cottonwood; and willow was everywhere abundant.
Near the mouth of the river are two rapids, each
with a clear open channel, but a heavy sea which
cannot be avoided ; and if the canoe is at all heavily
loaded, it is advisable to portage part of the cargo
especially in the second rapid. A short way above
the first rapid we met a boat-load of prospectors
who were coming out after an unsuccessful summer's
cruise. Among them was Henry Thibert, who
gave us an interesting account of his three years'
expedition with M'Culloch from Minnesota to
Dease Lake, in the course of which they made the
first discovery of gold on the Arctic Slope. After
we had done yarning, we inquired about the rapid
below, and were told it was good, and that we should
have no difficulty in running it on the right side.
So without landing to pick out a course, I ran my
canoe into the right hand channel, and found that we
had entered a shallow rapid with a strong current,
absolutely choked with boulders, and no room for
the canoe to pass. We bumped two or three times
at the upper end, but luckily the crash did not come
till we had nearly reached the foot of the bad water.
Then a sharp stone tore a hole in the thin planking,
the water rose over the bottom boards immediately,
and only a hasty landing and discharge of cargo
prevented a serious catastrophe. After we had
effected repairs, I took a look at the rapid, and found
a straight, deep channel on the left side, through
which we could have run with perfect ease, if we
had not taken the precaution to ask the way beforehand. We took the next rapid cautiously enough,
and early on the morning of ist September reached
the Lower Post, a most unpretentious establishment
situated on the far side of the Liard, half a mile
above the mouth of the Dease. A small store, a
log hut for the man in charge, and a few rough
buildings belonging to the Indians, make up the
last outpost of civilisation in this direction. In
charge of the post was a man named Smith, a native
of the half-breed settlement of Selkirk in Manitoba,
and a capital specimen of his class. His term of
contract with the Hudson's Bay Company had
nearly run out, and he offered to engage with me
for the next summer's expedition to the Yukon if I
had to delay my start till the spring. He afterwards
proved a most useful bowsman, besides being quiet
and thoroughly reliable on emergency. At present
he had to look after the trading post till a man was
sent to relieve him.
Standing on the bank of a river whose source is
unknown, and with a stretch of country lying to the
northward several hundred miles in length and
breadth, on which the white man has never set his
foot, the Liard Post may be regarded as one of the THE LIARD POST 69
best starting points for exploration of the North-
West that are still open to the enthusiastic traveller.
" La Riviere aux Liards " (Cottonwood River) of
the early voyageurs, anglicised into the Liard, and
further corrupted by the miners into the Deloire,
although probably known even by name to comparatively few people, is one of the most important
features in the western water system of Canada.
Rising, like the Peace, far to the westward of the
Rocky Mountains, it cuts through the main range,
and, after a wild course of some 800 miles, falls
into the Mackenzie at Fort Simpson, mingling its
waters with those of the Peace, the Athabasca,
and innumerable smaller streams that drain the
huge Mackenzie basin.
The Liard can scarcely be called a navigable
river, although it has long stretches of quiet water.
There are several bad canons in the upper part of
the stream, while the lower river is still worse, and
has always enjoyed the reputation of being the most
dangerous piece of water in the whole of the
Hudson's Bay territory. It was by this route from
the Mackenzie that the posts at Fort Halkett, Dease
Lake, Frances Lake, and Pelly Banks were supplied
fifty years ago;   but there were so many disasters 70 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
from boat accidents and starvation, besides the great
cost of keeping up the posts, that the route was
abandoned; so that of late years there has been but
little intercourse between the two sides of the
Mr. M'Connell, during the exploratory survey
of the extreme North-West made in 1887, ran down
stream from the Lower Post to Fort Simpson. He
gives a most interesting account of the river and
general appearance of the country in his report to
the Geological Survey Department.
The Liard Post was our last chance of obtaining
Indians, but here we were again disappointed, and
decided to postpone our expedition to Frances
Lake till the following spring. As there was
still a month or six weeks of good canoeing before
the cold weather set in, we left the post after a
stay of a few hours, with the intention of making a short voyage up Hyland River, a tributary entering the Liard from the north, about
12 miles down stream; and, dropping down with a
strong current, we camped for the night just outside the mouth of the smaller river.
The scenery along the Liard is a repetition of
that on the Dease, on a larger sale—the same gravel THE LIARD POST
bars and islands, backed by the same pine-covered
benches on the banks of the river.
Hyland River was named after Robert Hyland,
the first miner who ascended it, in spite of the fact
that it had been named the Macpherson many years
before by the Hudson's Bay Company's explorers.
It appears on some maps as " Highland" River;
but if the commonly-used name is to be maintained,
it should certainly be allowed its orthography.
Hyland and his party prospected this river some
years ago, but the results were not satisfactory.
Gold was found on many of the bars, but never in
sufficient quantities to pay for working in a country
where provisions are so high-priced that four or
five dollars to the man is not considered a "grub
For the first few miles the river is swift and
broken up into small channels, making the ascent
very difficult, but afterwards the current slackens,
and there is no obstacle to navigation till the first
rapids are reached, at a distance of some 30
miles from the mouth. The direction of the river
valley is N.W. to N.N.W., but the stream itself
is extremely tortuous. At the rapids the river
makes a sharp bend  to  the  eastward, and  there THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
are a couple of reaches each a mile in length of
really bad water; several ledges of bed rock
stretch across the stream, causing steep overfalls ;
and at one corner the whole force of the current
gets on to a high bluff which shoots it off in heavy
confused swirls, dangerous to enter even with a
big boat. We took the canoe up on the north
shore, where there is an inside channel among the
rocks which can be worked by a boat of light
draught; but even there the current is powerful.
At one bluff the line had to be passed down on
a float and hauled in from a little bay out of sight
from the canoe — always rather a dangerous proceeding, as the roar of the water prevents an
order from being heard, and a capsize often
happens by keeping too much strain on the line
in case of a broad sheer at the edge of an eddy.
During the height of the summer floods this must
be a hard place to get through. As it was, with
the water low in the early part of September, we
had to make several portages before reaching the
quiet stretch at the head of the rapids.
And now the river became an ideal stream for
canoeing—a slack current, with always good tracking on one side, fine weather, and pleasant camping   THE LIARD POST
places, with plenty of dry firewood. The deciduous
trees had changed their colour; and the mountains,
which began to show up to the northward, were
covered with the blue haze which always accompanies the falling of the leaf in these latitudes.
Indications of game were not wanting either—
moose and bear tracks along the sand bars;
beaver chopping among the willows and cotton-
wood. Geese, ducks, and cranes were in some
numbers, too, and the forest was well supplied with
spruce grouse and rabbits.
At a distance of 90 miles, by our reckoning,
from the mouth, following the bends of the river,
the banks contract till they form a canon several
miles in length, with many rapids full of boulders,
presenting a formidable impediment to navigation.
At the foot of the canon, a large creek—the only
one of any importance that we noticed—joins the
Hyland from the eastward, entering between steep
cliffs of the same peculiar slate streaked with veins
of white and brown quartz that composes the walls
of the canon on the main stream. This tributary is
known to the Indians as the Tabathotooa or Blue-
water. It rises in a clump of high mountains
towards  the  north-east,  and  throughout  most  of 76
its course is a quiet stream winding from side to
side of a valley two miles in width. Long afterwards I had occasion to travel along this stream
on a winter's journey to the main range of the
northern Rockies. In the canon we put ashore to
reconnoitre, with the result that we discovered a
high, bare-topped mountain standing at some distance back from the river on the west side, and
decided on making an attempt to reach the summit
to get a general idea of the country, and to trace the
course of the stream as far as we could follow it
with the eye from an elevation of several thousand
feet. Taking provisions to last us a week, and
caching the rest on a scaffold, we pushed on two
or three miles with the canoe, portaging, wading,
and hauling with lines over the numerous rapids,
till we reached the bend of the stream which
approached most nearly to the foot of the mountain.
Here we landed, and shouldering our blankets and
provisions, started through the forest for the bald
peak, of which we could occasionally catch a
glimpse. The walking was good enough, as there
was not much underbush, but the distance was
greater than it seemed to be from the river, and
it was  nearly sundown on the second day when, «■
after some laborious climbing, we reached the
summit, and were rewarded with a view that well
repaid us for our trouble—a view of wondrous
beauty, intensified, perhaps, by the tinge of mystery
which always enshrouds the unknown land. Before
us, to the north and east, was a vast stretch of
country absolutely unexplored; range after range
of gently undulating mountain ridges culminating
in the distant snow-capped peaks of what we supposed to be the western spurs of the Rocky
Mountains. North-west ran the valley of the
Hyland River, inclining a little more to the westward just before it disappeared behind a projecting
mountain spur. A few miners have ascended the
river some distance beyond the point at which we
left the canon, and report it easily navigable above
the canon to its source in a large lake. But the
Indians deny the existence of a.lake at the head of
the river, and say it rises very near to the Frances,
as also do the Black River and the Beaver—the
two lower tributaries of the Liard, so that the four
streams, although wide apart at their mouths, head
close together on one plateau, like the ribs of an
umbrella. But the Indians do not like the country.
Something evil lives there; and once, a long time 78
ago, before the whites came to the Liard, a party of
hunters met with a terrible fate at the head-waters
of Hyland River. According to the story, they
were working their canoe through a canon when
a sudden darkness overtook them, and the evil
thing rose out of the water, turned over the canoe,
and dragged the unlucky hunters down into the
depths of a whirlpool. Since then, the Indians are
chary of going far up any of these streams, and turn
back, by their own account, as soon as they see
bones of huge animals lying on the river bars.
From the top of our mountain, which the Indians
call Ke-la-gurn, "the mountain of many sticks," we
were now overlooking the approach to this land of
evil repute ; but the month of September was drawing to its close, and prudence, coupled with the uncertainty as to our winter plans, bade us overcome
the desire to push on up the river till a more
favourable occasion. Our view to the west and
south-west was blocked by high ridges similar to
the one on which we stood, but to the southward
the Cassiar Range still showed up above the long
stretches of undulating forest - covered plateau.
Several lakes were in sight, but none of them were
of any considerable size, the largest being a sheet
of water lying close to the foot of the mountain on
the north side, perhaps three miles in length, and
drained by a short stream into the Hyland.
There was no large game to be found on the
mountain ; although in appearance it was a perfect
place for cariboo or sheep—long grassy stretches,
with straggling clumps of timber, with sometimes
a patch of broken rocks or a small precipice; but
we saw no sign or track to indicate that animals
frequented the mountain at any season of the year.
It is a remarkable fact that in these out-of-the-way
countries, where one would expect to find game in
every favourable spot, the wild animals are extremely local in their distribution. Cariboo certainly travel great distances, but they have their
summer and winter ranges, and leave certain
districts untraversed, although apparently offering
equal inducement in the way of food with the
country through which they take their course in
their migrations. In the present instance, we
learnt afterwards from the Indians that the cariboo
are like mosquitoes—the universal Indian synonym
for a large number—to the eastward of Hyland
River, but do not cross to the west side, while on
the Frances the west side is the favoured locality, 80 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
yet neither of these streams present any obstacle to
the cariboo's progress. The mountain sheep are
much less inclined to travel if undisturbed, merely
changing their elevation according to the season.
It is for these reasons that a stranger without
local knowledge stands such an uncertain chance
of finding game; and may easily waste a month
or two in climbing mountains totally unfrequented
by animals, when an Indian, familiar with the
country from childhood, will make a straight line
for the well-known haunts of the game he fishes
to hunt.
But birds were plentiful enough on our mountain
—spruce grouse, the " fool hen " of the miners, on
the lower slopes, blue grouse—the best and largest
of all the Canadian grouse family—about the edge
of the timber line, and great flocks of ptarmigan in
mottled autumn plumage on the sunny side of the
open ridges ; so that we had no difficulty in keeping
the kettle full.
Two nights we passed under the shelter of a
clump of spruce timber near the summit; then,
having no object in making a longer stay, turned
our faces down hill and reached the canoe, in pouring rain, on the fifth day after leaving the river. THE LIARD POST
The water had risen a foot on account of the
heavy rain, and in consequence we had less trouble
than we expected in running down the rapids, as
we could float over many of the rocks which had
been showing above water on our up-stream journey.
While pottering about on the shore of the upper
canon to pick out a course for the canoe, I stumbled
across a ledge of remarkably pretty blue and white
quartz, evidently containing mineral, and broke off
a few specimens, which were the cause of my
making a winter expedition to the spot to stake off
the claim in accordance with the mining statutes.
The run down the Hyland was pleasant and
uneventful; we had plenty of provisions and no
occasion to hunt with any keenness. We met
nobody, although we saw several spruce bark
canoes hauled up on the banks in different places.
The Cascas and Liard Indians.are poor boatmen,
and do not make much use of the waterways, preferring to pack heavy loads through the woods to
working a canoe up stream ; while, if they wish to
run down a river, they can make a bark or skin
canoe in a few hours, and lose nothing by throwing
it away at the end of the run. The birch on the
Upper Liard does not grow to a sufficient size to 82. THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
supply bark suitable for the canoes so much used
on the lower part of the river.
The first fall of snow occurred on 20th September, and a couple of days afterwards we arrived at
the Lower Post. Here we met a Californian mining expert, who had come into the country on
purpose to examine a quartz ledge on Hyland ■
River. Some samples of wonderfully rich ore, said
to have come from this ledge, had reached his
office in San Francisco ; and although it was already
late in the year to start on such a long journey, he
had set out at once to see if there was any truth in
the story. He returned to the Lower Post after
spending a couple of weeks on Hyland River, just
in time to get out before the ice began to run ; and
was so mysteriously reticent as to what he had seen
that quartz ledges were the talk of the winter from
the banks of the Liard to Fort Wrangel. Gladman,
our Canadian bowsman, went out with him, being
anxious to reach civilisation before winter set in.
He had told me before leaving that he would be
unable to go the whole journey, as he had an
engagement in Ottawa for the early spring. I was
sorry to lose his services for the next summer, as
he was a good man in the bow and a very handy THE LIARD POST
boat-builder and carpenter. As no Indians had yet
turned up, Reed and I pitched our lodge about 10
miles up stream, at the head of a long canon, which
is no doubt a wild stretch of river during the
summer floods, but at low water is fairly easy to
navigate. Here we awaited results, and occupied
our time in getting out logs and putting up a cabin
which would serve us for winter quarters if necessary, besides making occasional moose hunts; but
we soon found out from the absence of tracks that
we had chosen a hopeless piece of country to hunt
in. There were plenty of grouse and rabbits to
keep us in food, and two or three weeks slipped
away pleasantly enough. Then a cold snap started
the ice running in the river, snow lay several inches
deep on the ground, and it seemed that winter had
come already, but it was a false alarm ; in a few
days the snow had gone and the river was clear of
ice for another three weeks. CHAPTER V
The country south of Liard River—Civilised Indians—Increase of number of
moose—Habits of the moose.
On i 8th October we went into the post and found
the Hudson's Bay boat had arrived from Sylvester's
Landing, with Simpson himself on board, also two
Indians with their wives and families, who professed
themselves to be willing to stay with us for the
winter and do any work we required of them in
the way of moose hunting, or hauling supplies up
the Liard towards Frances Lake.
We learned that several important changes had
taken place in the little world of Cassiar through
the action of the Hudson's Bay officials in Victoria.
The great corporation had come to the conclusion
that its business in Cassiar was not remunerative,
and had decided to sell out all interests to a freetrader  named   La   Montagne,   who  had  been   for
some years opposing the Company in the fur
trade with an establishment on the Liard, 90
miles below the Lower Post. The Manitoba half-
breeds, who had been employed in boating on the
Dease, were to be discharged after the winter, and
two of them had volunteered to go with me in the
spring to the Yukon, and take their chance of
eventually reaching the sea coast in preference to
being sent direct to Wrangel on the breaking up of
the ice.
This was most satisfactory news to me, as Reed
had made up his mind to remain in Cassiar another
summer, and I had become very doubtful whether
I should be able to get any men for the trip. Now
I could rely on the half-breeds, and be quite independent of the Indians should they all refuse their
services, as usually happens when they are called
upon to make a journey beyond the limits of their
own country.
The boat left immediately for La Montagne's
trading post, and a few days afterwards we started
for a moose hunt on the level bench country to the
west of the Dease and south of the Liard. It was
rather a bad season to set out, as there was no
snow to enable us to travel with dog-sleighs and 86 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
snow-shoes, yet at any time snow might fall heavily
and make travelling by any other method a matter
of great difficulty. As we had no snow-shoes
ready, we determined to take our chance, and sallied
forth with loads on our backs and a couple of dogs,
heavily packed, in attendance.
Very peculiar individuals were our two Indians,
Charley and Two-fingered Johnny—so named from
a malformation of one hand ; a couple of good examples of what might have been rather fine characters if they had never come into contact with the
bastard civilisation of the mining camp. I don't
believe the red man was ever the noble creature he
has often been painted. We can only suppose that
in time past he led a harmless existence, and unconsciously did his duty in the particular station of
life to which he had been called; but, dress him up
in the white man's clothes, feed him on bacon and
flour, canned peaches, and molasses, give him a
few drinks of whisky, and he becomes a despicable
brute. He does not like being taken away from
all these good things, and has a profound contempt
for the few true Indians who still make a living in
the woods by trapping the precious fur. So it was
with Charlie and Johnny.    They were good enough MOOSE HUNTING
men to track a moose, or work round the camp;
but on all the trips we went with them their hearts
were never in the life—they did everything sulkily,
quarrelled with each other, and grumbled because
winter camp.
there was no canned fruit; while their women would
on no account go to the woods to dry meat or
cure skins — they were not that sort of women,
they told us, but must dress in the finest that
could be bought in the store and sit through the
glorious winter weather by the side of a sheet-iron
We wandered casually through the forest, camping wherever night overtook us, hunting for a day
or two from each camp, and then moving on to
fresh ground. If we killed, the meat was cut up
and stowed away in strong log caches built on the
spot, to be hauled into the fort whenever it was
wanted. Moose were plentiful; we killed eleven
during the three weeks that we were out—this,
too, without any very energetic hunting. Besides
rabbits, and the attendant lynx, there were a good
many porcupines, fat and easily killed by following
a fresh track. These were objects of greater
interest to our Indians than the moose, which are
by no means a certainty, and often lead to much
hard walking without any result. The porcupines
really are most excellent eating at this time of
year; but in the spring and summer, when they
have lost their fat, their flesh is only tolerable under
the pressure of necessity.
Snow fell frequently while we were out, and by
the end of the first week in November it was deep
enough for snow - shoeing, so we were forced to
give up our hunt till we were better equipped for
winter work. To reach the fort, we cut across to
the  Liard, intending to  build a raft and run  the MOOSE HUNTING
20 miles down stream ; but when we came out on
the south bank the river was full of running ice,
and we saw at once that we should have to continue
our journey on foot. It was a long and difficult
walk, through fallen timber, while the snowfall was
already 18 inches in depth. Added to this there
was a chance of not being able to cross the
river at the Lower Post, but when we reached
this point we were glad to find that the ice had
jammed in the canon, leaving the water comparatively open below, so that we could cross in a
boat without trouble.
Twenty - five years ago there were very few
moose along the Liard, and the animal was unknown to the Indians hunting to the westward of
Dease Lake. Then there began to be frequent
rumours of a big track seen in the snow, and
momentary glimpses of a beast whose size varied
according to the fancy of the startled hunter. Then
a young brave stood face to face with a moose, and
slew it; and the Cascas discovered that a new animal
—larger and better than anything they knew before
—had invaded their country. To-day, the little-
known region drained by the Dease, the Upper
Liard, the Frances, and the Pelly, is probably the 9°
best moose country on the continent of North
America. Where did all these moose come from ?
and how far will they extend their wanderings
towards the west ? Quite recently there were none
between Dease Lake and Telegraph Creek Lake ;
now moose are killed every year close to Telegraph
Creek; and there are even reports of tracks having
been seen as far down as the Little Canon of the
Stikine. Northward, too, they extend, in increasing numbers, down the Great Yukon as far as the
junction of the Tanana, and up the latter stream to
its head.
There is a theory that the moose have been
driven away from Peace River and the Lower
Liard, and have crossed the mountains to Cassiar
to avoid the continual hunting to which they are
subjected on the east side. But, as a matter of
fact, there is very little hunting done in that part of
the country, as the Indians are not numerous, and
are rapidly dying out, besides depending more and
more every year on the provisions imported to the
Peace River trading posts. Whatever may be the
reason of this migration, it gives me the greatest
pleasure to be able to report that, at this late date,
when from almost every part of the world the cry MOOSE HUNTING
arises that the wild animals are being exterminated,
there is still a remote corner where the noblest
animal of the whole deer family is increasing and
multiplying at an almost incredible rate.
And this state of affairs is likely to continue.
The miner, having scraped out all the gold dust he
could find in the creeks and on the river bars, has
gone to seek new fields, leaving behind him the
dread diseases which must infallibly kill out the
native population. Then the moose will have
everything their own way; the cariboo and sheep
will roam unmolested on the mountain tops; and
the country will relapse into the vast game preserve
for which it is so eminently suited. As soon as the
snow goes off in the spring, the moose comes out
into the low-lying swamps and along the river
banks, in search of the young shoots of the willow
which constitute its principal food throughout the
year. In the heat of the summer it frequents the
open gravel bars, and may often be seen swimming
across the rivers, or standing up to its belly in the
cool waters of a lake. The rutting season begins
about the middle of September, when the bulls
travel continually and at a rapid pace in search of
the cows, which are then ranging in  the  elevated I*
country back from the rivers—often far up the
mountain sides, in the willow-covered swamps where
the little creeks have their sources. Here the
moose remain till the deep snow drives them down
to the lower ground, and eventually back to the
river banks, where, if undisturbed, they pass the
cold months without wandering far from some backwater or slough running up into the woods they
have selected for winter quarters.
The old bulls shed their horns in the beginning
of January, the young ones a month later. The
horns of a young bull killed on the 1st of February
dropped off in my hands when I was dragging the
carcass clear of the bushes to skin it. On 9th
May the new growth of horns in a full-grown bull
protruded about an inch from the head. The
young are dropped in the beginning of June; the
cows and calves being usually found among the
thick growth of willows along the river banks at
that season.
Where moose are plentiful, they are not difficult
to kill; and none of the Dease and Liard Indians
would be considered expert hunters on the east side
of the Rockies, where these animals are scarce and
really hard to approach ;   and if a moose is driven  WT
away through carelessness, it may be some time
before another chance is offered. But the Cassiar
Indians know that they can always find another fresh
track if they disturb the first moose, and consequently
do not always use due precaution in approaching
their game. Another reason for their inferiority as
hunters is, that they are never really dependent on
their guns for a living; and if they have a dollar
or two — or, better still, a little credit—they prefer
buying canned beef from the nearest store to hunting meat in the woods.
In March and April, when the snow is deep, the
moose are easily run down by a man on big snow-
shoes, and can often be driven in any direction the
hunter pleases. The usual method is to drive the
animal on to the river ice before killing him, to
avoid the trouble of taking the sleighs into the
timber to bring out the meat. The snow is seldom
deep enough in this country to force the moose to
yard, as is their habit in Nova Scotia and New
Brunswick; so the system of wholesale slaughter
which was formerly practised in the Eastern Provinces is impossible in Cassiar; nor do the Indians
here seem to have any knowledge of calling the
moose during the rutting season—a method much THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
in vogue among the Mic-Macs; but they occasionally attract the attention of an old bull by
scraping a bone against the bark of a tree, and
thus imitating the sound of a rival polishing his
horns. CHAPTER  VI
Ice set fast in the rivers—Cassiar sleigh dogs—Disease among the Liard
Indians—Ideal day for a hunt—Difficulties of hauling supplies—Dangers
of a really cold day—A process of freezing out.
By the middle of November the ice had set fast in
the rivers, and snow-shoes and dog-sleighs were in
fashion. Cassiar dogs are by no means true representatives of the northern race of hauling dogs, but
show unmistakable signs of having civilised blood
in their veins. Instead of the native semi-wolf of
the Esquimaux and the Indians of the Mackenzie
River, all the well-known civilised breeds may
be recognised in various stages of degradation.
Mongrel mastiffs, retrievers, setters, and pointers
are the most frequent types to be met with, showing
that the race is the offspring of any large dogs that
could be stolen from the streets of San Francisco
or Victoria just before the steamers started with THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
their loads of miners bound for the Cassiar gold-
fields. We made several short moose hunts—some
successful and some otherwise—coming into the
post for a few days and then going off into the
woods for a fortnight. We went in every direction—down the Liard, up the Liard, and up the
Dease, but everywhere we found the same abundance of moose tracks. Once we visited a large
lake 20 miles to the westward of the post, and laid
in a supply of whitefish, which we caught in nets
under the ice, in great quantities. Here we found
a band of Liard Indians hunting and fishing. Sickness was prevalent in the camp—very few of the
men were well enough to hunt moose, and they had
come to the lake to be sure of making a living. A
melancholy spectacle the camp presented ; half a
dozen pits in the snow lined with pine brush, a
little more pine brush stuck up as a wind-break,
and no other shelter from the. weather. Lying in
their blankets were the sick men, some of them
evidently never to get up again—dying among the
moose hair and fish guts that were liberally scattered
over everything; and outside the filth of the camp
the ice-bound lake sparkled in the winter sunshine
that always seems so full of health and strength. HA ULING STORES TO FRANCES LAKE
What was the matter with them all? "Oh! we're
always like this," the chief explained, "since the
white men came to the country. In the old time,
my tribe was powerful, but now many of my people
die every winter. Some children are born, but
they are no good—they die soon."
Now, in the interests of ethnology, if not of
humanity, would it not be worth somebody's while
to send a qualified doctor to patch up as best he
might the remnants of the tribes of the Casca and
Liard Indians, and prevent the spread of contagion ?
A good deal of money is spent annually by the
Dominion and the various Provincial Governments
in doing whatever is done for the Indians of Canada
—surely a little might be spared for this outlying
part of the country ; and let the man whose salary it
pays be a doctor and not an Indian agent. No
surveys are wanted ; no reservations need be staked
off; for, if the present state of affairs continues but
a few more years, extinction will put every Indian
beyond the limitation of the agent's reserve.
The winters in Cassiar are mild in comparison
to the climate in the same latitude to the eastward
of the Rockies. The warm Chinook winds from
the Pacific penetrate the Coast Ranges, modifying IM
the intensity of the cold to such an extent that
there is usually a thaw with rainfall during some
part of the winter. Snow falls frequently but not
heavily, and there is less sunshine than in the
eastern winters, but there are occasional cold snaps
when the thermometer falls extremely low, the
weather being then always bright and calm.
Frequent hunting trips made the weeks go by
quickly till the shortest day was passed. This is
always considered the turning point of the winter
in the North, although in reality most of the cold
weather comes after the new year.
There is an indescribable charm in this winter
hunting in the great northern woods—waste of time
and unnecessary hardship, as many people would
call it. I never know quite what the attraction is ;
but after a couple of days' comfort and high living
in a house, some feeling of restlessness is sure to
drive you out into the snow and its attendant discomforts if you have any trace of the original
savage left in your nature. The mere fact of being
in the woods is sufficient to appease this craving.
The actual killing of the moose is a minor point
—unless you are short of provisions, and then the
shot is taken anxiously enough. HA ULING STORES TO FRANCES LAKE 101
One of the pleasantest hunts I remember was
taken from a camp 20 miles up the Dease, where
I spent a week with Beavertail Johnny—a much
better fellow than his two-fingered namesake—
hunting moose and setting traps for lynx.
11    1 i 1\\\ 1
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k   :     Lb
If 11  mW-:W'k
New Year's Eve was an ideal day for our sport.
A gale of wind was blowing and light snow falling
—the time when the big ears of the moose are
blocked with snow, and he hears nothing but the
loudest cracking of the branches; while on a clear
cold day the least sound is audible, and the creaking m
of the babiche lacing of the snow-shoes is loud
enough to alarm the moose at a long distance. We
had plodded along on snow-shoes up and down the
rolling hills to the southward of the river, but it was
well on towards evening when we discovered fresh
tracks. Two moose had passed just ahead of us,
and it was a question whether we could catch them
up before dark. An hour was spent in following
the tracks, and at last we saw the animals slowly
crossing an open ridge a few hundred yards away.
As soon as they disappeared, we started at our best
speed, and came upon our game at close range,
nipping the willow twigs that grew thickly on the
other side of the summit. The shot was not easy
in the falling snow and rapidly increasing darkness,
but I dropped one, and there was a little blood - in
the track of the other. And then the wind fell
suddenly, the snow stopped, and the full moon
shone out brightly, lighting up the snow-laden
spruce trees and willow bushes, with the distant
peaks of the Cassiar range in the background. We
skinned and cut up the moose by moonlight, and
started back for the river with a sufficient supply
for supper, picking out the best road as we went,
for our tracks would be hard enough in the morning HA ULING STORES TO FRANCES LAKE
to enable us to haul out the rest of the meat with
the dog-sleighs. It was late when we reached the
camp, and were heartily welcomed by the dogs,
who knew in an instant that we had killed a moose,
and that there was a good time coming for a few
A big kettle of fat meat brought the day to an
end, and the New Year found us with our heads
under the blankets and our feet stretched out to the
blazing fire.
The next day we brought in the meat, and followed the blood-track for several miles; but the
moose was evidently not much hurt, as he had
never laid down, and presently the blood ceased
In the middle of January, La Montagne came up
to the Lower Post and left for Victoria, giving us a
chance of sending out letters, and promising to be
back by the beginning of April. Reed went with
him to Dease Lake, and at the end of the month I
thought it advisable to begin hauling supplies up
the Liard towards Frances Lake; so, late one
afternoon, I left the post with four dog-sleighs
loaded with all the provisions I could lay hands on,
accompanied by three of the Manitoba half-breeds 104 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
sent down from Sylvester's Landing by Simpson,
and a good little Indian named Secatz in place of
Charlie, who was, or pretended to be, too ill to
travel. The weather set in cold from the start,
and continued so for a fortnight—the only really
cold snap that we had all the winter. The travelling with heavy loads was slow, as we had to go
ahead every day to break the road through the
snow, and wait till the night's frost hardened up
our tracks before the dogs could pull the sleighs.
In the soft snow we could make no headway
at all, but sometimes we found long stretches of
glare ice which helped us greatly. A good deal of
time, too, was taken up in hunting, as, unless we
killed moose, we had to fall back on our loads of
provisions that were intended for use many months
afterwards.   -
It took us a week or more to reach the mouth of
the Frances River, which joins the Liard from the
north 45 miles above the Lower Post. It enters
by two channels, one on either side of a large
island; and might easily be missed in the winter
time, as the Liard is here much broken up by
islands and gravel bars.
Only two moose had been killed, and the weather HAULING STORES TO FRANCES LAKE 105
still increased in severity. 2nd February was the
coldest day of the whole winter, the thermometer at
Dease Lake, 200 miles to the southward, as we
afterwards heard, standing at —68° Fahr. Secatz
and I left camp before daylight that morning to
hunt, leaving orders with the half-breeds to haul
the loads up to the island, as we had broken the
road ahead overnight. At the mouth of the
Frances we separated, Secatz hunting along the
Frances while I followed the Liard for several
miles. I found two fresh moose tracks, but could
not get a shot ; and it was long after dark when I
reached the island again, fully expecting to find the
cargo all up and the camp made. But there was
no sign of anybody, except that the rifle which
Secatz had been using was stuck up in the snow
where the road left the ice and turned up the bank.
With the aid of a match I examined the road and
saw that no sleighs had passed, and Secatz's snow-
shoe tracks were leading down stream. It was
only then that I realised how fearfully cold it was.
I had eaten nothing since early morning, and had
been sweating while running after the moose, always
a bad thing to do in cold weather, as you are sure
to  get chilled as soon as you stop for a minute. r
I expected to find the camp close, so would not
wait to light a fire, but left my rifle and started
down stream at a run. I could never get warm
again, although I had still ten miles to go; and my
nose and cheeks were rather badly frozen before I
saw the glare of the camp fire through the trees. I
found the half-breeds having a good time, sitting
round the fire rolled up in blankets, drinking tea
and shouting the chorus of a highly improper song
long popular in the Red River Settlements. They
had only moved camp about a mile, as they began
to freeze, and could not get the dogs along quickly
enough to keep themselves warm; so they had put
ashore and made a fire as soon as they saw dry
wood enough to camp with. Secatz had come in
just ahead of me, with the same experience as myself—a frozen nose and no moose meat.
In this extreme cold it is never really safe for a
man to go into the woods alone, as, if he meets
with an accident severe enough to cripple him, or
gets wet by breaking through a weak spot in the
ice, he is absolutely certain to freeze to death
unless he is very quick in lighting a fire. In any
case he should always carry an axe in his belt and
plenty  of  matches,   so   that  he   may still   have  a HA ULING STORES TO FRANCES LAKE 107
chance if dry wood is close at hand. One of the
greatest dangers lies in the fact that your fingers
are likely to freeze, or at least become useless for
lighting a match, as soon as you grasp the handle of
an axe and impede the free circulation of the blood,
as a layer of ice is sure to have formed between the
moose-skin and the inside lining of your mittens.
This sort of weather is good enough for travelling straight ahead on a good road with light loads
on the sleighs, but in this case our dogs were overloaded, and the snow was so soft that we could not
keep warm while travelling slowly.
At night we were comfortable enough, as we
kept a big fire going. It was at first the coldest man's
business to put on wood, but this led to trouble,
and I finally had to establish a regular watch.
One of the common tricks of a winter camp is the
habit men have of pretending to be sleeping, warm
and snug, in the hopes of freezing some other
poor devil out of his blankets to make up the
fire. You can get up shaking with cold, and throw
on big sticks from the wood pile, chop kindling,
and make as much noise as you like, yet not a
soul will be sufficiently awake to lend you a hand.
But  as  soon  as  the  fire  burns up  brightly, and mm
the kettle begins to boil, the least rattle of a spoon
against a tin cup will rouse the whole camp as
readily as a gunshot. The cup of tea in the small
hours of these shivering mornings, with the return
of warmth and the prospect of a few more hours'
sleep, is one of the most pleasant recollections of
northern travel, bringing back to the memory the
intense brilliancy of the stars, the dim outline of
the mountains, and the deathly silence of the snow-
laden forest and ice-bound river.
At the mouth of the Frances we were completely
stranded, as the ice was flooded under the snow,
and there was no chance of keeping our feet dry
enough to avoid freezing. Camp was made on the
island, and here we stayed for four days hunting
moose; but in this respect, too, we were out of
luck, owing to the great cold. It was impossible
to get about in the woods without making enough
noise with our snow-shoes to scare away the most
confiding of animals. Even the rabbits refused to
let us get near them; and, seeing that we should be
obliged to broach our cargo if we remained longer,
a strong cache was built and everything stowed
away safely till a more favourable opportunity
turned up.    Then,  with the advantage of a hard HA ULING STORES TO FRANCES LAKE
road and light sleighs, we turned our faces down
stream, and soon covered the 45 miles to the Lower
Post, arriving there in straggling order, according
to each individual's staying powers. CHAPTER VII
Return to Sylvester's Landing for summer supplies—Rabbits and grouse—
Murder by Casca Indians—Expedition to Hyland River—Quartz ledges
—Chesi Hill, the home of the big-horn—Jealousy between Cassiar Indians
and Red River half-breeds.
My next expedition was made in company with
Beavertail Johnny and Secatz, to the Hudson's
Bay Company's headquarters at Sylvester's Landing, to get additional supplies for the summer. The
usual winter road follows the Dease for 30 miles,
and then strikes off to the eastward, passing through
an open grassy country, with numerous lakes, and
skirting the foot of a high range known as the
Horse Ranche Mountains. It is here that the
horses used for packing provisions to the outlying
mining camps in the summer pass the long winter,
scraping away the snow in search of the bunch-
grass, usually coming out in good condition in the A MINING EXPEDITION
spring, although once or twice things have gone
wrong, and many of the band were missing when
the snow went off.
On the long portage between the two big lands
of the Dease, rabbits were in great numbers. We
killed thirty-five one day with our rifles without
stopping to hunt away from the road, besides
several spruce grouse—and this too with a penalty
of a plug of tobacco for everything shot in the
body. The rabbits are as white as the snow, and
at first are hard to see till they run, but after a
little practice the round black eye is spotted at
once, and there is usually plenty of time for a shot.
The spruce grouse is a most confiding bird, and
will rarely leave its bough till its head is cut off by
a bullet. Moose are seldom found far back from
the river in this part of the country, as there is not
much willow for them to feed on. The Horse
Ranche Mountains used to be a good place for
cariboo, but they were so much hunted when meat
could be sold for a big price to the MacDame
Creek miners, that they are now only to be found
here during the spring and autumn migrations.
We set traps for lynx as we went, and picked
up  several on  the  way back.    In a good rabbit
J I:
year lynx are always plentiful, and are the simplest
of animals to trap or snare. The Casca Indians
have the greatest objection to white men trapping
on their own account in their country; gold dust
they can take as much as they like, but the fur is
the Indian's equivalent for gold, and must be left
for the Indian. They are very firm on this point
—so much so that a couple of white men who were
trapping on the Liard some years ago were killed
by the Indians because they refused to let the fur
alone. They were repeatedly warned, and their
traps knocked down or sprung every time they set
them, but they persisted in bringing their fate
upon themselves. The details of the murder are,
I believe, partially known, and several Indians are
still living who were implicated in the killing, but
very little was done by the authorities to inquire
into the matter.
At the end of the long portage we crossed the
Dease again, having cut off its big westerly bend,
and immediately dived into the woods on the other
side, and, crossing seven or eight lakes that lie in a
narrow pass between high mountains, reached the
hard-beaten track from the Landing to MacDame's
Creek mining camp.    Another 8 miles took us to mmm
the fort. The total distance by the winter road,
from the Lower Post to Sylvester's Landing, is
not more than 75 miles—a great saving on the
circuitous course of no miles pursued by the
At the fort I found Simpson, who was just then
very keen on quartz ledges and mining generally.
He had come to the conclusion that the specimens
of quartz I had brought down from Hyland River
were of great value, and, as there was little fur-
trading to be done at Sylvester's Landing just at
present, he proposed that we should go and stake
off a claim according to the mining regulations,
and take possession of a property that would
quickly make our fortunes. It was only 150
miles or so from where we were. The snow was
beginning to harden, and the days were getting
long enough to enable us to make a good day's
journey; so I at once agreed, and it was arranged
that I should go ahead to the Lower Post, with
our heavily loaded sleighs, and Simpson should
join me there in a few days, as he had some work
to finish before he could leave. Accordingly, the
next day I went to "town" as the mining camp
is called, to lay in my supplies.    The winter road n I
followed the valley of MacDame's Creek closely,
and was so hard from frequent trail that we could
run on it without snow-shoes. About 10 miles up
we came to China Bar, a collection of cabins occupied by the Chinamen who are still mining on
the creek. A little farther on is the "town,"—
mere log cabins, now deserted, but once the scene
of great activity, and for a brief period a really
paying camp. Now the sole resident is Mr. Buckley, an old timer, who keeps a store for the few
white men who are working some distance above.
Here I found I could get everything I wanted in
the way of provisions, and also, on payment of
five dollars, obtained a mining license, setting forth
that I was a free miner of the Cassiar district, and
giving me the right of ownership to any claim that
I might consider it worth while to stake off in legal
Thus provided, we set out with the sleighs, and
reached the Lower Post without event a day or
two ahead of Simpson. It was now the beginning
of March, and I saw that I must do something
towards getting my supplies up to Frances Lake
while I was away on the prospecting expedition,
or we might be overtaken by an early spring and '- ■ ■ "
delayed by the breaking up of the ice. Accordingly, one of the half-breeds was despatched up
the Liard with Beavertail Johnny and Secatz, taking all the available dogs to move the loads by
slow stages up to the lake, and wherever possible
to provide against future emergency by killing
moose. I was to start, hauling the canoe, as soon
as I returned from Hyland River, and expected
to overtake the advance party at Frances Lake.
The days were long and the sun was getting
powerful when Simpson and I left the post, accompanied by a half-breed and the Indian, Charley.
We struck out in a northerly direction, with the
intention of falling on the Hyland River some 30
miles from its mouth, instead of making the long
detour by following the course of the stream. A
series of steep broken hills, covered with burnt
timber and the new growth of pine, made hard
travelling at first, but about 5 miles out we reached
a chain of small lakes separated by short portages,
and, of course, were able to make much better
headway. Early on the second day we came to
the bank of the river a couple of bends below the
first canon. Here we found the snow deep, and
the  travelling became   slow  again.     We   usually THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
camped at midday, and each man took his turn to
walk ahead as far as possible to make the road
for the following day. With further delays to hunt
meat whenever necessity arose, eight days were
occupied in reaching the upper canon, where the
ledge wras situated; and then we could not carry
out our prospecting with any great accuracy, as
the snow covered the ground to the depth of 4
feet. The canon looked very grand in its winter
garb, but there was an ugly roar of swirling water
under our feet as we carefully picked our way
round the steep bluffs, and the ice was dangerous
in places. A difficulty arose, too, in the scarcity
of provisions, and we were down to starvation
point when Charlie killed a moose, and saved us
from beating a hasty retreat upon a supply of meat
we had left 50 miles down stream for our return
journey. Finally we succeeded in marking off our
claim, driving our stakes on what appeared to our
limited knowledge to be most likely ground, and
secured enough rock specimens to make an assay
from. I have since learnt that these specimens
proved to be fairly rich in silver and to contain
a little gold, but not enough to justify the heavy
expense of transporting mining machinery to such A MINING EXPEDITION
a distance from salt water. Several claims have
been taken up in the neighbourhood during the
past summer; but there seems little chance of these
far-off ledges ever being worked to advantage,
unless some of them should prove to be fabulously
rich as they are opened up.
Having accomplished our purpose, we lost no
time in making our way back to the post, which
we reached early on the fourth day, as little snow
had fallen and the road was in good condition.
The sun was strong in the middle of the day, and
the snow began to ball on our snow-shoes; so we
travelled early and late to take advantage of the
frost, and made long halts at noon.
At the Lower Post we found Reed, who had
been hunting cariboo between Dease Lake and
the Stikine, and had fully made up his mind to
spend the summer in.Cassiar. La Montagne was
not expected back for a fortnight; and, as he was
to bring my letters from Victoria, I decided to take
the canoe and the rest of my summer supplies to
Frances Lake and then make a hurried trip back
to the post to meet him, thus making sure that
everything should be at the lake before the ice
broke up on the Liard and Frances, although this n8
arrangement would give me an extra journey of
300 miles. The ice in the lake would continue
sound long after the river had broken up, while
there would probably be sufficient snow in the
woods to enable us to use sleighs in crossing the
height of land between Frances Lake and the head
of the Pelly.
On the 27th March I left the post with the
Indian, Charley, and one of the Manitoba half-breeds,
Alick Flett, who had been with us on the Hyland.
The canoe proved rather an awkward load for a
dog-sleigh, especially on rough ice. Where the
travelling was good she rode fairly well; but whenever the sleigh ran a little off the track, the outside
runner buried itself in the soft snow, and a capsize
was usually the result. On the third day we
reached the mouth of the Frances, and found that
all the cargo had been moved forward, and the
cache was filled with the meat of two moose which
our hunters had killed close to the bank of the
river. This enabled us to push on without the
delay necessary for hunting our own provisions \
and, as our advance party had been in luck with
the moose, we found meat in several of their camps
along the road. A MINING EXPEDITION
The Frances River is extremely crooked near
its junction with the Liard, but Secatz had made
portages wherever anything could be gained by
so doing. Unfortunately, with the Indian's prudence, he had cut the road only wide enough to
let his own sleigh pass; and the extra width of
the canoe entailed a good deal of chopping among
the pine trees. The banks, too, were almost precipitous, and great care was necessary to prevent
the canoe taking charge in some of the steep hills
at the end of the portages.
Our general direction was N.N.W., and the
appearance of the river banks, and in fact the
whole surrounding country, was so exactly like
the scenery of Hyland River that the half-breed
Alick recognised several places seen on the latter
stream, and came to the conclusion that we had
entered the Hyland by some other mouth. The
positions of the canons, too, closely correspond,
and even the False Canon on the Frances is
faintly indicated by a small rapid on the Hyland.
At the upper canon, on each stream, the rivers
make the same sharp bend to the eastward in
their descent, and offer the suggestion that the
geological  obstructions  to  their  easy courses  are 120 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
continued through the country between the two
Just above the first canon on the Frances, the
wide forest-covered plateaux begin to give way
to the mountain ranges, and here low rounded
hills with little timber show up on the east bank'.
One of these hills, known to the natives as " Chesi,"
was once a sure find for big-horn, but a few years
ago, during a season of deep snow, they were
nearly all killed by a band of Pelly River Indians,
who made themselves very unpopular with the
Liard tribes in consequence of this breach of the
hunting laws, which require each hunter to keep
within his own territory. Any sheep that survived
the raid have since avoided Chesi and sought
security in the higher ranges to the north.
We found an encampment of Indians 40 miles
up from the mouth of the river, and obtained from
them a supply of moccasins and babiche that we
were rather short of. They also gave us a general
description of the country, and the localities of the
game. Some of the hunters had just returned
from an expedition to the Simpson Mountains, lying
at some distance to the westward of the Frances.
They pointed us out some round-topped mountains A MINING EXPEDITION
where the cariboo were particularly numerous. The
best moose country, they told us, lies to the eastward of the False Canon—a constriction of the
river without rapids, a few miles above their camp.
From the False Canon it is an Indian's "not far"
to Hyland River, a large lake occupying most of
the space between the two streams. Simpson
Lake—so named by Campbell many years ago
—is drained by the upper of two creeks coming
in from the westward below the False Canon,
but does not nearly approach Frances Lake in
size. Our informants also told us that we should
be wise to leave the canoe above the upper canon,
as the head of the river is open in the spring long
before the ice has begun to move on the Liard
and Lower Frances. If we had to return to the
trading post, we might afterwards find the canoe
most necessary for reaching the lake. We acted
on this advice, as the ice seemed already a little
unsound in the upper cation, and with lighter loads
on the sleighs we caught up our advance party
within a few miles of the lake, on the eighth
day's travel from the post.
Secatz  told  us  they had  been having a good
enough  time  of it,   killing  moose  without   much 122 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
trouble, and making double trips with the cargoes.
He had been making the road ahead that day,
but had not seen the lake, although from what
the Indians had told us it could not be far away.
On the following morning we loaded everything
on the five sleighs and went to the end of the
road, within a couple of miles of the lake, as we
afterwards found out. Here we built a large cache,
and, having stowed the whole cargo as securely
as possible, started to retrace our steps to the
Lower Post. By steady walking on a good track,
we covered the distance of 145 miles in four days,
the halts being enlivened by rather formidable
quarrels between the Indians and the half-breeds.
On the last night out I had great difficulty in
keeping the peace, and possibly guns and axes
would have been called into play if we had had
much farther to go.
The importation of the Red River half-breeds has
caused a good deal of jealousy among the Cassiar
Indians, and they seldom make a journey together
without more or less rows, arising usually from very
trivial causes. The present generation of Indians
have seen plenty of rough fighting and brutality
among  the  worst  class  of miners, and  the  half- A MINING EXPEDITION
breeds have never known anything much better,
so that a quarrel which starts with the kicking
of heads and biting of noses may easily lead to
a most disastrous finish. \{
La Montagne's arrival on 18th April. The Liard chiefs theory of the Unknown—Journey up Frances River—Frances Lake—The legend of the
flying cariboo—Pelly Indians—Yus-ez-uh River—More stories of cannibals across the divide.
La Montagne had not yet returned from the coast,
and as Smith—who was coming with me—had
still charge of the post, I felt bound to wait as
long as I possibly could. Of course every day
would weaken the ice and lessen our chance of
getting to the Pelly on the snow. We had not
long to wait, however. La Montagne turned up
within a few days of our arrival, and having answered letters and settled all business, we made
a final start for the north on 18th April. My crew
now consisted of Smith, Archie and Alick Flett,
cousins, and Secatz, who was to come with us as
interpreter till we reached the Pelly. The other
Indians had all refused to go, but Secatz was willing START FOR THE PELLY RIVER 125
to take the risk of coming back alone in case he
should not fall in with any of his friends on their
way in to the post to trade their winter's catch
of fur. Charlie and Beavertail Johnny at the
last minute offered to come with us, but I had
now no use for their services, so they were obliged
to go to the woods for a living till the summer,
when they expected to get employment in the
traders' boats. I have heard since that they both
died during the following winter. Charlie will be
very little loss, as he was acknowledged by whites
and Indians alike to be utterly worthless, but
Johnny was, next to Secatz, about the best of
the Liard Indians.
The two half-breeds were willing enough fellows,
not over-burdened with sense, and absolutely useless as hunters, but always cheery and ready to
do what they were told, which is really saying a
good deal, as men of their class usually have their
own ideas how everything should be done, and
get sulky if they are not allowed their own way.
By this time there was not much darkness, and
the night and early morning, while the frost lasted,
were the only times when travel was possible.
In the heat of the day the snow was melting rapidly 126
and the dogs could make no headway with the
sleighs. We were more heavily loaded than we
ought to have been, considering that our summer's
supplies were already at Frances Lake; but, as
usual, there were many things forgotten till the last
moment, and many things that were afterwards
thrown away on account of their weight, which
might just as well have been left at the post.
In the spring, just before the ice breaks up, is
the pleasantest time of all for travelling with dogs.
A sharp frost in the night makes a hard crust over
which the sleighs run without trouble, and a quick
step can be kept up with little exertion. When
the sun gets strong in the morning, you can put
ashore and sleep through the heat of the day, unless provisions are low, in which case everybody
must turn out and hunt moose or small game. On
this occasion we had meat scattered all along our
road, and beyond killing a few rabbits when we
found them especially plentiful, we did no hunting
till we reached the lake.
The ice was weak enough by this time. The
old road had collapsed in many places, leaving
stretches of open water in its stead; and on 20th
April we saw the first sign of the wild-fowl re- START FOR THE PELLY RIVER
turning, a single golden-eye swimming in one of
these pools. A few more days brought the mallard,
widgeon, and teal, but the geese and swans were
much later in arriving. The woods were full of
small spring birds, and hawks and owls were in
great abundance.
At the mouth of the Frances we met the Liard
Chief with his band of Indians, and from them
secured a guide, who told us he knew the country
to the north of Frances Lake perfectly, and would
show us a short route to the Pelly. He described
this route so thoroughly that I thought he must
really know something about it, till we reached the
end of Frances Lake, which we could, of course,
have found easily enough for ourselves. Here our
guide told us he had come to the end of his country
and knew no more.
The Liard Chief was full of anxiety for our
welfare, and advised us to turn back at once, or
we should surely come to an untimely end at the
hands of the savages who inhabit the head-waters
of the Pelly. Such is the Indian's nature ; anything
he does not know and has not seen is bad. No
doubt, many years ago the Pellys and the Liards
used to fight each other as frequently as did all the 128
other northern tribes, but in these days the chance
meetings between the Indians from the different
sides of the watershed are extremely friendly. But
far up among the mountains, the chief told us, there
dwelt a band of cannibals, who would slay any
intruder into their country more cheerfully than
they would kill a moose. The foundation for this
rumour seems to have been the disappearance of
a miner named Munro, who pushed out alone on a
prospecting trip towards the Pelly, and was no
more heard of. The Indians assume that he was
killed by a nomadic band of hunters, who have
since been afraid to come into any of the widely
scattered Hudson's Bay Posts, and do their trading
with the other Indians they may encounter in their
wanderings. One of their favourite resorts is the
unknown land of all horrors lying between the
sources of the Pelly and the Hyland.
The rest of our journey up the Frances was
uneventful. The ice in the upper canon was in a
dangerous condition, with a wild stream running
wherever open water was showing. Here we had
to use the utmost caution, testing every step with
an axe or pole. Spring ice lets a man through
very suddenly, without the moment's warning that BREAK-UP  OF  ICE  ON  THE  FRANCES  RIVER.  ■Hffi
you get in the early winter; and once under the
ice in a canon of a swiftly flowing river you may as
well give up all hope at once. Above the canon
we picked up the canoe, and pushed on at our best
pace, to reach the lake before the break-up of the
Early on the morning of the 24th of April we
came to the outlet of the lake, and made camp
while we hauled up the rest of the load from the
cache. Two small hand-sleighs were built here, so
that we might move our cargo more rapidly over
the smooth ice of the lake. Our supplies for the
summer now consisted of 200 lbs. of flour, 70 lbs.
of bacon, plenty of tea and tobacco, ammunition,
fish nets and blankets, and a few clothes, besides
picks and shovels, saws, nails, and a little quicksilver in case we should find any of the river bars
rich enough in gold to pay us to work with sluice
boxes. We had really a very fair supply of provisions if we could kill meat and catch fish as we
wanted them, but of course the feeding of our five
sleigh-dogs would be a great source of trouble if the
game failed us.
Frances Lake was discovered by Robert Campbell in the summer of 1840, and named by him in THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
honour of Lady Simpson, wife of the reigning
governor of the Hudson's Bay Company. He
established a post at the entrance to the east arm
of the lake, and then continued his voyage of
discovery to the banks of the Pelly, where, two
years later, the trading post known as Pelly Banks
was built.
These forts were maintained for about ten years,
but the expense and risk of supplying them by the
dangerous Liard route was found to be too great,
and they were finally abandoned, Fort Frances
being occupied till 1851. Since that time the lake
has been seldom visited, and has remained the
Ultima Thule of the Cassiar miners, few of whom
have ever ventured so far ; while the crossing to the
Pelly was untravelled by white men from Campbell's time till Dr. G. M. Dawson made his Exploratory Survey of the Upper Yukon district in
The lake should more properly be called a group
of lakes, as the two arms, which run nearly parallel
to each other for 30 miles, are connected by a
narrow channel through which a strong current
runs; and again, the upper end of the west arm,
a sheet  of water  forming a basin   5   or  6   miles
long, is only reached after passing up a narrow
stream a mile in length. The Too-Tsho range of
mountains, on the east side of the lake, are rough
and broken in the extreme, the Simpson Mountains,
to the westward, being more rounded, of less elevation, and altogether more inviting. The long promontory between the two arms is occupied by
another high range, with one very conspicuous peak
known as Simpson's Tower. The benches which
rise from the lake are more thickly wooded than
the country we had passed through in ascending
the Frances, but in many places the timber has
been burnt. Several small streams cut through
these benches, and form pretty gravelly points,
usually covered with Cottonwood and small birch,
where they enter the lake. On one of these points,
a few miles from the outlet, a man, if he camps
quite alone on any summer's night, may, according
to the Indians' story, interview the Flying Cariboo,
who is sure to perch on a particular dead spruce
leaning over the lake. If you treat it kindly, it will
occupy its time till sunrise in telling you stories of
the old days ; but if you are rash enough to shoot
at it, it will make things very unpleasant for you.
Our  Indian guide told  us a long yarn explaining 134 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
how it was that this cariboo was gifted with wings,
but Secatz, with the superior knowledge of a man
who has lived with the miners and tasted whisky,
said it was all nonsense, and would not translate it
into the Chinook jargon for our benefit.
The ice on the lake was as yet perfectly sound,
except at its outlet and at the mouths of the entering
streams, where large stretches of open water were
visible. As fresh provisions were rather scarce at
this time, we set our nets in some of these places,
but could catch no fish, although the lake is known
to contain whitefish, trout, and suckers in fair
quantities. But in every lake the fishing grounds
vary with the seasons, and a stranger may be a
long time in hitting off the right place in which to
set his net. An appeal to the guide produced the information that he had once caught a good many fish
in the summer time in another lake that lay among
the Too-Tsho Mountains to the eastward, but he
had no suggestion to offer with regard to Frances
Lake as a fishing ground in the spring. The
moose, too, were unapproachable just when we
wanted them, and the cariboo were too far back
from the lake to attempt to haul a load of meat
to the camp.    Even the rabbits and grouse  had START FOR THE PELLY RIVER
deserted us, and the wild-fowl had not yet arrived
in sufficient numbers to ensure a day's rations.
So we had to feed the dogs on bacon and flour
that would have been very useful later in the
summer, and push on in the hope of killing game
at any time.
About 25 miles up the west arm, through
which our course lay, the Finlayson River enters
from the west side, but being pressed for time,
we passed wide of its mouth, and did not put
ashore till we reached the upper end of the lake.
The Finlayson was Campbell's route to the
Pelly, and Dr. Dawson made his portage by
following the same stream ; but I hope to discover
a shorter portage by continuing up the river that
enters at the head of the west arm, thus gaining the
advantage of falling on the Pelly at a much higher
point than that reached by the old portage, and
having at the same time a totally unexplored
country to travel through. There is always a
special interest in going over ground which is
absolutely new, although in Western Canada you
know pretty well that it will be merely a repetition
of forest, river, and lake, with high mountains in the
background,  the same old scenery which may be
J admired as well from the windows of a Pullman car
as from the lonely hunting camp on the edge of
the Arctic Circle. There is always a vague hope
that you may come across a new kind of animal
inhabiting a limited area of the vast wilderness,
or see the dull glow of a monster nugget shining
up through the waters of a creek which lies beyond
the utmost limit of the miner's wanderings. That
gold exists in the unexplored country to the westward of the northern Rockies can hardly be doubted.
Some of the bars on the Porcupine and Liard
Rivers, the northern and southern boundaries of this
district, have already proved rich in gold, and the
eastern tributaries of the Yukon, all, presumably,
heading in the same range of mountains, show fair
results as far as they have been prospected. There
is plenty of ground left for the keen explorer, and a
chance of his meeting with a fair reward for his
In the. short stretch of running water which has
been mentioned before as leading to the extremity
of the west arm of Frances Lake, the ice had all
disappeared, but the banks were only lightly
covered with willow bushes, and a little chopping
enabled  us  to  get   the   sleighs   through   without ill
trouble. Here we found more wild-fowl than we
had yet seen, and killed a few widgeon, teal, and
golden-eyes. When we gained the solid ice, and
looked over the 6 miles that yet remained to be
crossed, we saw a column of smoke rising over the
spruce trees, right in our course, but apparently
some distance back from the lake shore. On
reaching the mouth of the Yus-ez-uh, which enters
the north end of the west arm, we were obliged
to camp, as the sun was high and the snow melting
quickly. Towards evening I sent the two Indians
ahead to investigate the cause of the smoke, and
try to trade some meat from the encampment
they were sure to find. They returned during the
night, having met a band of Pelly Indians, who
were trapping beaver along the Yus-ez-uh, but they
were short of meat themselves and very little inclined to part with any.
The next day I sent the men back to fetch
up part of the cargo that we had left half-way
down the lake, and went ahead with Secatz, keeping
one sleigh to haul up the loads to the Indian camp.
The Yus-ez-uh was open in many places, and
we had to make several portages entailing much
chopping before we  reached the camp.    Here we 138
found two families, who had left the main band
of the Pellys in the autumn and had passed the
winter between the Frances and Pelly Lakes,
a much finer lot of Indians than any we saw
through the Cassiar country, and evidently unspoilt
by association with the whites. They were clothed
almost entirely in skin garments of their own
manufacture, and wore altogether a healthier and
more genuine-looking outfit than the Cascas and
Liards. None of them were able to speak Chinook,
but Secatz could understand them well enough,
though he told me there was a marked difference
between their language and his own. One of
the women wore a large brass ring through her
nose—a custom that is rarely practised among
interior tribes. It turned out that she had never
seen a white man before, as these Indians seldom
go into any of the trading posts, and, when they
are forced to do so, generally send two of the
best travellers ahead with the fur, while the rest
of the band remain in the woods, at a long distance
from the post, until their return.
A moose had been killed the day before our
arrival, so we were able to get a little more meat,
though—as usual—we had to pay for it with the P. S. Weller, 42, Demnm*mL.  START FOR THE PELL Y RIVER 139
things we could least afford to do without. But,
after all, the savage has reason on his side when
he says, that what is most necessary for the white
man is very good for the Indian. A black bear
had also been seen, but after a long chase with
dogs had escaped in the soft snow. It struck
me that the first of May was an early date for
bears to be out of their winter quarters in such a
latitude, but the Indians told me they always see
them here when the ice in the Yus-ez-uh begins
to break up. The beaver-trapping was going
on successfully, and several were brought in
during the two or three days that we camped
.with the Indians. Here we heard an improved
version of the story about the cannibals across
the divide. They had been on the warpath
during the last autumn, and had killed a party
of white prospectors far down the Pelly, leaving
their bodies stacked up on a gravel bar as a
warning to all intruders. As soon as the lakes
were open, they intended to bring their canoes
across the portage and make a raid on all the
white men and Indians whom they met on the
Liard and Dease, and had even hopes of plundering
the   Hudson's   Bay   Post  at   Sylvester's   Landing. m
We had better turn back at once, as we were
sure to meet them at the Pelly Lakes, and should
have no chance against them. As for trying to
reach the source of the Pelly no sane men would
attempt such a thing, for even if we were lucky
enough to miss the cannibals, the devils in the
black canons among the mountains would quickly
put an end to our expedition. However, if we
were really determined to go, the Chief of the
Indians said he would send a guide with us to
show us the main Pelly Lake, but that he should
give him strict orders to return at once from there.
The Yus-ez-uh is a fair-sized stream, and, as
far as we could judge, easily navigable for a shallow
draught boat, with little current at this time of
year, winding backwards and forwards across a
valley a mile and a half in width, bounded by
low round hills which are backed at a considerable
distance by mountains, increasing in height and
ruggedness as the stream is followed to the northward. The valley itself is a spruce-covered swamp,
abounding in small lakes and beaver dams. CHAPTER   IX
The thaw—Geese and beaver—Macpherson Lake—The divide—Pelly Lake—
Wild-fowl—A good place for winter quarters—Running the canoe down
Ptarmigan Creek.
As soon as all the cargo was up, we pushed on
again, taking an Indian named Narchilla as guide.
Our first guide, who had joined us at the mouth
of the Frances, continued with us, as, although
he admitted frankly that he knew nothing of the
country, he was useful for hauling a hand-sleigh,
and would be a companion for Secatz in his journey
back to the Liard Post. We found the travelling
difficult enough after leaving the Indians' encampment, as the hours of frost were rapidly getting
shorter and the ice was becoming more rotten
each day. Men and sleighs were continually
breaking through, to the great detriment of our
tea and other perishable articles, but the weather THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
was warm and wood plentiful, so the men
were nothing the worse for an occasional mishap.
The snow was going off quickly, and it seemed
doubtful whether there would be enough left on the
portage to take us across the divide. We could
only make 7 or 8 miles a day at our best speed,
and after three days' struggling up the river, we
were stopped about 20 miles from the mouth by
a continuous stretch of open water. Here we put
ashore to patch up the canoe, which had opened
out in the seams during the long journey on the
sleigh, but a little caulking with oakum and pitch,
and a rough coat of paint, made her as tight as
ever in a couple of days. We then loaded her up,
and, sending the dogs overland with the empty
sleighs, paddled 3 miles up stream to a small lake
that lay in the course of the river, from which
point we were to begin the portage towards the
During this time, although the travelling had
been hard, we fared much better in the matter of
provisions, as the geese were turning up in some
numbers. Beaver, too, were remarkably plentiful,
more so than I ever remember seeing them in any
part of Canada.    You may find a country where PTARMIGAN CREEK
there is every sign of beaver, where they have
chopped down numbers of big trees, and the size of
their dams shows that there must be plenty of
workers, but they are seldom visible. But at the
head of the Yus-ez-uh, on any fine evening, we
could paddle along quietly in the canoe, and get
two or three shots at them sitting motionless on
the ice that still clung to the banks. Their fur
and meat are at their best, too, in the spring, and,
when Secatz killed a large bull moose close to the
edge of the little lake, and many fat geese were
brought into the camp, there was a time of plenty
and general contentment for men and dogs. Our
failure to kill moose for such a length of time had
seriously crippled us in the matter of provisions,
and the last two weeks had played havoc with our
flour and bacon.
At this camp the first rain of the year fell on
9th May, a heavy storm lasting all night, and
washing away most of the snow. A sharp frost
set in, however, as soon as the rain ceased, and
formed a good crust, which helped us greatly
during the next few days.
As we stopped for a day at the lake, while the
Indians  were   making  the  road  on  the first part THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
of the portage, I made a short expedition to try
if I could find Macpherson Lake, which was known
to lie at the head of the Yus-ez-uh, and after
walking 5 miles, sometimes on the bank, sometimes on the ice, and sometimes up the bed of
the stream—which here becomes shallow and easily
waded in many places—I had the satisfaction of
reaching the lake. It is said by Henry Thibert,
who visited it some years ago, to be 10 miles in
length, but I could get no view of the far end,
as the lake bends to the north-eastward about
4 miles from the outlet, and the ice was so
deeply submerged by the melting snow that I
could not wade out far enough to see round the
intervening point. The lake is characterised by
the same terrace-like formation of the forested-
plateau which distinguishes Frances Lake ; but the
high mountains approach much more closely to the
water, and, as seen from a distance, the valley at
the head of the lake seems to be little more than
a narrow gorge between rough peaks of great
elevation. There was a large patch of open
water close to the outlet, and here wild-fowl were
in great abundance—mallard, widgeon, pintail, teal,
and golden-eyes being the most plentiful varieties. PTARMIGAN CREEK
I saw several otters, too, and they must be increasing in number rapidly in this part of the
country, as very few of the Indians will touch
them, although their skins fetch a good price from
the fur-traders. A curious superstition prevails that
if you kill an otter it is capable of causing much
trouble by coming to life again in your stomach.
Only three winters ago a Frances Lake woman
lay at death's door with this malady, but she was
saved by the timely arrival of the only medicine
man left in the tribe. He seems to have diagnosed the case correctly at once, and holding a
sheep's horn spoon to the patient's mouth, he
proceeded to repeat a long incantation suitable
to the occasion. As soon as he had finished, to
the great joy of all the relations who had gathered
to see the death, three little otters dropped out
into the spoon. The old lady recovered rapidly,
and afterwards confessed to having stolen and
eaten an otter that she had found in somebody
else's beaver trap during a long period of starvation in the early summer.
A large tributary joins the Yus-ez-uh from the
westward just below the lake, and at its head a
lake,   Ustus-a-tsho,   is   marked  on   Dr.   Dawson's
L 146
map in dotted lines, from Indian report furnished
him by Thibert; but although we followed this
stream in the course of our portage to its very
source, we found no lake, and our guide, Narchilla,
knew nothing of any sheet of water bearing that
name. There are two large streams entering the
Yus-ez-uh from the same side, at some distance
lower down, one within a few miles of its mouth,
and it is quite likely that the lake in question
is situated on one of these tributaries.
Our rate of travelling when we struck into
the woods on the portage was still slow, as we
had to make double trips with the loads, which
had till lately been much lighter from the pressure
of hard times, but were now increased by the
weight of the moose meat. Our guide followed
the south bank of the stream that I have mentioned as flowing towards Macpherson Lake,
through a rolling country timbered with a thick
growth of spruce that had been burnt before it
had attained any great size. The actual valley
of the creek—which we called Narchilla Creek
for want of a better name—is extremely rough,
following closely the base of a high, broken range
of   mountains,   which   appear   to   be   a   western sttao&i
spur of the Too-Tsho range, and, according to
our pilot, contain no game of any kind. The
southern side of the pass, which here lies nearly
east and west, presents a much more pleasing
appearance. The undulating plateau is clothed
with scattered bunches of spruce and black pine,
and rises gently to the summits of grassy, bare-
topped mountains, already clear of snow in
About 18 miles from the little lake we reached
a large swamp, which forms the watershed of
the streams that find their way to the mouth of
the Mackenzie by the Frances and Liard, and
those that reach the Behring Sea at the mouth of
the Yukon. At the far end of the swamp the water
was running to the westward, and after passing
through two small lakes, and being increased by the
junction of two or three little streams, had developed
into a good-sized creek, within 6 miles of the
summit. We named it Ptarmigan Creek, from the
number of these birds that we found in the swamp
at its head. The pass here turns more to the
northward and continues in that direction for
16 miles by our reckoning, to the shore of the
Pelly Lake.    The mountains on each side become i48
less connected, with many wide passes through which
small streams drain into Ptarmigan Creek.
But although the distance was short, we failed in
our attempt to get the sleighs through to the lake,
as on the far side of the divide we found the snow
had almost entirely disappeared. Large grassy
swamps covered with willow brush took the place
of the heavy spruce growth, and in these swamps
the sun had been able to exert its full power on the
snow, and the ground was bare. The consequence
was that we had to camp on the bank of Ptarmigan
Creek, within about 5 miles of the lake in a
straight line, to await the breaking up of the ice,
when we hoped to run down with the canoe to the
lake if the creek should prove navigable.
And here our three Indians turned back, Narchilla
having approached near enough the haunts of the
bad men. Secatz, too, who had really done very
well in coming so far into a strange country, was
much impressed with his danger, and made a final
appeal to me to abandon the expedition, but, finding
it of no avail, cautioned us to be on our guard with
any Indians we might meet, and taking with him as
much ammunition and tobacco as we would give
him, started back for the camp on the Yus-ez-uh,   PTARMIGAN CREEK 151
where he hoped to be able to borrow a canoe to run
down the Frances and Liard to the Lower Post.
They all reached their destinations in safety, and
thoroughly alarmed their friends with the story of
the intended raid that was to be made on them by
the Pellys in the summer.
On 16th May, after stowing our cargo on a high
scaffold above the reach of the wolverines and of the
floods that usually follow the first movement of the
ice, we started on foot for the lake, each man and
dog carrying a light load. Snow-shoes were thrown
away here, as the ground was bare in most places,
and the snow that remained in the drifts was too
soft to be of any service. We found no signs of a
trail, although Narchilla had told us that there was
a well-marked path used by the Indians in summer,
so we forced our way through the willow scrub, and
waded swamps and small creeks, till at last we
reached the smooth gravelly beach on the south
shore of the main Pelly Lake and made camp at
the mouth of Ptarmigan Creek. Our first move, as
usual, was to try what means of subsistence the lake
was likely to afford, and we went to work at once to
build a raft from which to set a net in the open water
at the mouth of the creek.    The ice was already 152
showing signs of breaking up, and a narrow channel
had formed all round the weather shore of the lake,
while the deep water ice, though still strong enough
to travel on, was honeycombed with small holes, and
the whole mass moved with every shift of wind.
Subsequent exploration proved that the main
Pelly Lake is a crescent-shaped sheet of water
some 8 miles in length, and perhaps 2 in width,
lying in a general north-east and south-west
direction. The east end of the lake is bordered by
low conical hills alternating with swamps, the whole
country being covered with a light growth of spruce,
tamarac, and willow, nowhere of sufficient density
to be an impediment to travel. At the west end, a
high range of grassy mountains rises nearly straight
from the shore of the south side, and immediately
opposite stands a single rocky pinnacle, forming a
conspicuous landmark for any one approaching the
lake from below by way of the Pelly, which enters
at the extreme east end and finds its outlet at the
extreme west end of the lake. Of the other entering
streams Ptarmigan Creek is by far the largest, none
of the others being of any importance, although
swollen by melting snow to their utmost capacity
at the time of our visit.     The mouths of these.
incoming creeks are all marked by the same gravelly
points that are so noticeable on Frances Lake,
affording excellent landing-places for any canoe that
has to put ashore through stress of weather.
As soon as the net was in the water I set off
across the ice to explore the mouth of the Upper
Pelly, which lay about a mile away from the camp,
and was disappointed to find it a much smaller
stream than it was supposed to be from the account
of it given to Campbell by Indians at the time of the
existence of the Pelly Banks Post. It was wide
enough, and apparently deep near its mouth, but there
was no current perceptible, and its valley, which was
here a couple of miles in width, contracted rapidly
and appeared to be little better than a narrow canon
at a distance of 10 miles up stream. The swamps
and small lakes that lay near the mouth of the river
were occupied as a breeding-ground by an abundance
of wild-fowl. Geese, mallard, widgeon, teal, pintail,
scaups, golden-eyes, long-tailed and harlequin ducks,
scoters, great wathern, black and red throated divers,
gulls, and terns, were all in plenty, with a few swans
and many other varieties in less numbers. The
common snipe of America (Scopolax Wilsonii)
was    drumming    overhead,   and   sandpipers    and
J tmm
phalaropes kept up a continual screaming in the
The fishing ground at Ptarmigan Creek turned
out to be no good, but fortunately we discovered
two small dug-out canoes at an old Indian camp near
the head of the lake, and, as there was enough open
water round the edge of the ice for a canoe to pass,
we shifted camp to the mouth of the Pelly, to be
nearer the goose hunting-ground in case the fishing
proved a total failure. This seemed likely enough
to happen, as we caught almost nothing till, on the
fourth day of our stay at the lake, after shifting
the nets half a dozen times, we hit upon a paying
spot at the mouth of a large slough, a couple of
miles up the Pelly. Here we caught a dozen white-
fish and suckers before we had done setting the
net, and afterwards had no difficulty in keeping up
the fish supply, which was varied by a few jack and
occasionally a large trout. We at once built a
drying stage, on which to smoke any fish that we
could not eat, with the aid of the dogs, so as to have
a stock in hand to fall back upon if any scarcity
of provisions should arise during the journey we
intended to make to the source of the river.
The  Pelly  Lake would be a remarkably good PTARMIGAN CREEK
point at which to winter for anybody who had
reason for so doing. Besides the fish I have
mentioned, the salmon run up to the lake in great
numbers in the autumn, and, though they must be
in poor condition after their journey of over 2000
miles from the Behring Sea, they would be useful
enough for dog-feed. Then, a little to the westward, there is a good cariboo mountain, and the
moose are everywhere, so there should be little risk
of starvation if the wintering party were properly
equipped with fishing gear and ammunition.
When we thought the ice had broken up in
Ptarmigan Creek, I went back with Smith and Alick
to the place where we had cached the canoe, leaving
Archie to go on with the fish-drying and look after
the dogs while we were away. A day was spent in
pitching the canoe and dividing up the cargo, as the
wild appearance of the creek made it too risky to
hazard the whole load. On 21st May, late in the
afternoon, we started to run down to the lake, without any knowledge of the stream we were going to
navigate. We had made some ineffectual attempts
to examine its course from the banks at different
times, but the timber was so thick close to the water
that we could see very little.    We knew, however, THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
that there were some rapids to be run, as we could
hear their roar in the distance while we were
walking to and from the lake.
The creek was much swollen by the melting
snow, and a strong current swept us round the first
few stretches of easy water in safety, but below this
the reaches were so short that we could never see
any distance ahead, and we had to use every precaution to keep clear of drift piles and the overhanging ice which still lined the banks in several
places. The current always seemed to set right
on to these spots, where, besides the probability
of the canoe being capsized if she ran under the
hanging mass, there was always a chance of the
ice falling on our heads and bringing us to utter
grief. Sometimes a log had fallen across the
stream, and a delay was caused by chopping out
a channel. Only once we had to portage—over
a drift pile which completely choked the creek
for a distance of 300 yards. Below this, the rapids
began, none of them very formidable, but with
scattered boulders lying right across the stream,
which kept winding backwards and forwards from
one side of the valley to the other, and only
getting a mile ahead after running three or four PTARMIGAN CREEK
times that distance out of its course. At several
corners we used a line, and dropped the canoe down
carefully. At others, we turned her head up stream,
and, keeping good steerage way with the paddles,
dodged down stern first among the rocks and snags.
We camped before reaching the lake, as a snowstorm increased the little darkness after sunset, and
it was hard enough to keep clear of the various
obstructions even in good daylight. The next
morning brought a repetition of sudden alarms and
narrow shaves, but at eight o'clock we ran the last
rapid and shot out into the quiet water of the lake
without even a scratch on the canoe. During the
whole of the long journey we made in the summer
with this canoe, although we ran some big rapids,
and had to face some bad weather on the Lower
Yukon, and afterwards on the Behring Sea, we
never encountered a stretch of water that tested
our capabilities as canoe men so much as the first
short run of fifteen or twenty miles down the
Ptarmigan Creek. CHAPTER X
Disease among the rabbits—Swallows' nests—Drying fish—Upper Pelly Lake
—Gull Lake—Ptarmigans nesting and signs of summer—Accident to rifle
—A bad miss—Dogs go astray ; their instinct.
At the fish camp Archie had been doing pretty
well with the nets, and thinking we had enough
fish to start with, we set out on the following day
to examine the source of the Pelly, taking with us,
in addition to our own canoe, one of the little dugouts that we took the liberty of borrowing from the
old Indian camp. She was exceedingly useful as a
hunting canoe, as I could paddle or pole her up
stream quickly and quietly while the men were
bringing up the big canoe with more difficulty and
more noise, owing to her greater draught of water
when loaded. I had thus many good opportunities
for sneaking up on the geese, which at this time
formed our principal food-supply.    They were all SOURCE OF PELLY RIVER
the big Canada geese; not in the great numbers
that we afterwards saw on the tundra, near the
mouth of the Yukon, but enough always to provide
us with a living. There were more rabbits too
than we had seen for a long time, but they had
turned brown and were not in such good condition
as they had been before the snow went off. Many
of them too were covered externally and internally
with the ulcers which form the first stage of the
peculiar disease which, at regularly recurring periods,
exterminates nearly every rabbit in the country.
By this time spring had fairly set in, the buds
were breaking on the willow bushes, and a few
flowers were in bloom on the river banks. The
first goose's nest was found on 24th May, and the
eggs promptly devoured.
For about 15 miles the river wound leisurely
in and out through the swamps, but then the valley
contracted suddenly, the banks became high and
gravelly, and the current much increased in force,
with frequent little rapids. An evening's prospecting on a gravel bar produced a few colours of gold,
but there was no indication that any of the bars
would pay to work. Twenty-five miles up from
the  lake,   following  the  course  of the  river,  but THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
probably not more than half that distance in a
straight line, we reached what was evidently the
head of navigation. The stream here makes a
sharp bend to the eastward, and enters a canon
that forbids the passage of a canoe. On the
south side of the river a colony of swallow's had
taken possession of a bluff, their nests forming a
very curious sight. A description of these swallows
(Petrochelidon Pyrrhonota) is to be found in Messrs.
Sharpe and Wyatt's interesting monograph on
swallows. On the Lower Yukon, where civilisation
has advanced, these birds are very quick to accept
the hospitality offered them, and have entirely
deserted their inconvenient nesting-places on the
river bluffs for the shelter of the eaves of the
miners' cabins. I walked ahead to inspect the
river, crossing a range of low conical hills, and
thus cutting across the bend came out on the
bank above the canon. But here the volume of
water was so small, and the rapids so frequent,
that it did not seem worth while to attempt to
force our way up with the canoe any further. I
discovered, however, a small lake lying in the
course of the stream, and the idea at once suggested itself that, if we could catch fish in this lake, gf
S  *. ist
5: -...^ ^^Sc
- ^ - -' -_- ^^S^§^S i
^^^^S /
it would be a good place for present headquarters,
and afford an excellent starting-point for a journey
on foot to the head of the river. I had a shot at a
moose on the edge of the lake, but he got away
from me and we did not find his carcass until
several days afterwards, when, of course, the meat
was spoilt except for dog food.
Leaving the big canoe and everything not
absolutely necessary at the foot of the canon, Alick
and I packed the dogs with as much as they could
carry, and went overland to the lake, to wait the
arrival of Smith and Archie, who undertook to
carry the little dug-out across the canon, and bring
her up to the lake by water. This they found
harder work than they expected, and Archie, who
was always a little timid in strong water, had some
bad frights as Smith made him get into the canoe
and steer her through the rapids wherever it was
possible to use a tracking line. It seems that they
had some very narrow shaves, and two days were
occupied in making the journey, but the labour was
not wasted, as the dug-out proved invaluable for
tending the nets and hunting ducks during our stay
at the lake.
This sheet of water is probably the one marked 164
on some of the maps, from Indian report, as the
upper of the two Pelly Lakes, but it is of such
insignificant size that the Indians would have been
hardly likely to make mention of it, unless it had
the reputation of being a good fishing - ground,
which we certainly found it to be. It is a curiously
shaped little lake, consisting of two round basins,
each half a mile in length, connected by a narrow,
canal-like passage about the same length. The
river does not pass through the lake, but just
touches the north side of the western basin and
leaves it immediately. The shores are everywhere
swampy, but rise at once into low irregular hills
covered with willow scrub, which here seems to
have entirely taken the place of the spruce timber.
When the nets were set, and the pile of fish on
the drying stages was increasing rapidly, I did
a little exploration of the surrounding country.
About 5 miles to the eastward I found that
the river came through another little lake, and
afterwards turned to the south-east. Leaving the
main stream, I followed up a small tributary, coming
in through a wide pass from the north, and soon
crossed a swampy divide, on the far side of which
was   a   creek,  running   to   the   north.     Another SOURCE OF PELLY RIVER
5 miles brought me to a lake about 4 miles in
length, which I called Gull Lake, from the numbers
of black-headed gulls that had selected it for a
breeding-ground. I camped for the night at the
end of this lake, levying tribute on the gulls' nests
for supper and breakfast, and intended to follow
down a good-sized creek that was flowing through
a broad valley towards the north, but in the morning it was alternately raining and snowing so hard
that I turned back for the fish lake. I was sorry
afterwards that I did not go on a few miles farther.
At the time, I thought the creek would most probably bend to the westward and join a tributary of
the Pelly, the mouth of which we had noticed just
below the canon, although the volume of water
leaving the lake seemed rather too great to be
accounted for in this manner. Judging by the
light of our later discovery (made after we had
passed through the Pelly Lakes on our down-stream
journey) of a large river heading to the north-eastward—and really entitled to be called the main
stream of the Pelly—I have little doubt that if I
had followed down the creek draining Gull Lake
I should have reached the bank of this river at a
point perhaps 50 miles farther up stream than its THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
junction with the river running through the Pelly
Lakes. The rain poured down in torrents for a
couple of days, accompanied by thunder and lightning, interfering with our fish-drying operations,
and preventing our start for the head of the river,
but on 5th June we were able to break camp, and
started with heavy loads for men and dogs in a
south-easterly direction, reaching the bank of the
river again after a straight cut of five or six miles.
The thick willow scrub, with which the country
is covered, interfered greatly with the rate of travel,
making especially hard work for the dogs to get
their bulky side-packs between the bushes. They
required constant watching, too, as they soon discovered that the easiest method of lightening their
loads was to devour the dried fish they were carrying, and we sometimes found all the dogs playing
havoc with a pack that had slipped off in forcing
through the bushes.
The river had now become very narrow, and was
little better than a succession of rapids, quite unfit
for navigation by even a small canoe. The valley,
running south-east by south, is here about two miles
in width, bounded by detached mountains, separated
by broad passes, and increasing in height towards SOURCE OF PELLY RIVER
the head of the valley, which continues in the same
direction, although the river makes a sharp bend to
the eastward about 20 miles in a straight line
from our fish lake, and then heads back, with a
sharp rise, to the north, winding from side to side of
a swampy gorge less than a mile in width. At the
head of this cul-de-sac, three torrents of melting
snow collect their waters and form what we supposed at the time to be the source of the Pelly.
This was rather a disappointing finish to our expedition, as we had expected to find the Pelly a larger
stream heading in a more northerly direction, and
had even some hopes of crossing the divide at its
head and making an attempt to reach the Mackenzie by some stream flowing to the eastward.
But the distance we had come by the river we
had followed was so short, and in such an unsatisfactory direction, that we could not yet be very far
away from Macpherson Lake, and, if we crossed
the range of mountains ahead of us, we should only
find the water draining into Hyland River at the
best, and more probably into the Frances. We
camped at the head of the gorge in a patch of
dwarf spruce, where ptarmigan were in great numbers and afforded  us  an easy  way of making  a THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
living. Our fish supply was nearly at an end, as
we had been several days on the way, and a good
many of the fish were lost or eaten by the dogs.
Alick had missed the only moose that had been
seen, although there were a good many tracks ; but
we did very little hunting, as a moose is almost too
big to handle when travelling on foot—either most
of the meat is wasted, or a delay is caused by
camping close to the carcass until it is finished, so
it is really better to kill small game as required for
the day's rations. The first ptarmigan's nest,
containing five fresh eggs, was found on 10th June,
close to the camp ; in fact there were nests all round
us, these birds seeming almost gregarious in their
breeding habits at this particular spot. It was a
place very suitable for their purpose, a steep side
hill exposed to the full power of the sun, covered
with a thick, low growth of willow and stunted
spruce, the latter spreading out into a dense trailing
bush within a couple of feet of the ground. The
birds were, of course, in full summer plumage, looking their very best, and it seemed a great pity to
have to kill any of them. They had no fear of us,
and as soon as we turned into our blankets they
pitched on the little bushes all round the camp and SOURCE OF PELL Y RIVER
discussed the strange invasion with evident disapproval. The long laughing chuckle of the cock
ptarmigan—a very different note to his poor little
winter gurgle—is as suggestive of the coming of
summer in the Canadian North as the cry of the
cuckoo in an English copse. It may be heard in
the first warm days of May, and speaks at once of
running water loosed from the grasp of winter, of
the green moss showing up in patches through the
melting snow, and the little buds shooting on birch
and willow. A few pairs of black-headed gulls were
breeding down in the swamp, and small birds were
much more abundant than one would suppose at
this elevation and in such a northerly latitude.
Among them were the Canadian robin and blackbird, apparently happy enough, but looking rather
out of place among the ptarmigan and the snow
that was still lying on the ground in patches.
Vegetation, of course, was much later at this altitude
than we had left it at the fish lake, where the
willows were already in leaf; here the buds were
only just formed, and no flowers were visible,
although several varieties were in full bloom along
the banks of the lower river.
And now an accident happened that would have 170 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
been trivial enough if it had taken place in civilisation, but very serious on an expedition of this kind.
I had been to the top of a small mountain to collect
some geological specimens, and get what view I
could of the surrounding country, and reached the
camp just in time to see Alick throw a large stick
of firewood down on my Winchester rifle, which
I had left with him to shoot ptarmigan for supper.
The stock was broken and some of the inside
mechanism bent so badly that, without any tools, it
was hardly possible to repair the damage. We
pulled it to pieces and patched it up as well as we
could, with the unsatisfactory result that it would go
off occasionally, but averaged three miss-fires to
every shot—a most unreliable weapon for a man to
depend upon when the rifle is his bread-winner.
Smith had a small '44 Winchester, and I still had a
Paradox with a very few ball cartridges, but the unserviceable condition of my long range rifle was
afterwards the cause of our hurried journey down
the Pelly below the lakes, where I should like to
have spent a month or two in exploring the heads
of some of the tributary streams coming in from a
range of mountains to the westward of the river.
As there seemed to be no object in continuing our SOURCE OF PELLY RIVER
journey to the westward, wre turned back downstream and reached the fish lake after ten days'
absence, found it as reliable as ever, catching-
twenty-five fish the same night. Among them was
a giant white-fish, weighing at least twelve pounds,
though the men all put it down as over twenty
pounds—a remarkable fish to come out of such a
small lake. The Indians whom we met at the
head of Frances Lake had told us of a fish they
sometimes catch in the Pelly Lake, resembling the
white-fish, but which they call the "Salmon's
Cousin," on account of its size. The ordinary
white-fish seldom exceeds five or six pounds in any
lake, but there is little doubt as to the identity of
this specimen, as I have seen white-fish in many
different parts of Canada, and my crew were all
Manitoba men who had worked at the fisheries on
Lake Winnipeg.
The overland portage and the inevitable pitching
of the canoe occupied a couple of days, and then we
started on our long down - stream journey. The
water was higher than when we came up, and most
of the rocks were covered, so that we had no
difficulty in running all the little rapids. A few
miles down, a moose jumped into the water and Rll
crossed the river just in front of the canoe. In
some unaccountable manner, the bowsman missed
it altogether, though it gave him an easy enough
chance. I tried a shot from the stern, as we were
badly in need of meat, and if we could kill a moose
now none would be wasted, but a miss-fire was the
only result, and our promised feast went crashing
through the willows. It is a good rule in a canoe
to let the bowsman do all the shooting, and it is
only in cases of emergency, or in still water, that
the sternsman should hazard a shot, unless it is at
an animal that appears behind the canoe, when
there is no time to swing the bow round. There is
usually plenty of work in looking after the safety of
the canoe in swift-running water, without taking the
risk of blowing the next man's head off if a swirl of
the current happens to bring it in line with the
animal you mean to shoot.
During the excitement caused by the moose, all
the dogs disappeared, but, thinking they would find
their way down to the old camp, we did not waste
much time in waiting for them, though we had
afterwards a good deal of trouble to hunt them up.
Everybody was rather gloomy at the loss of the
expected meat feast, but a few geese were killed SO URCE OF PELL Y RIVER 173
lower down, and the lake looked so pleasant, now
that the ice had gone and the deciduous trees were
all in leaf, that even the unlucky individual who had
missed the moose recovered his spirits before we
reached our old camping-ground at the mouth of
Ptarmigan Creek. As we still had part of our cargo
stowed away at the place where we had first
launched the canoe—5 miles up the creek—I sent
the men to bring it down, while I made an expedition to the foot of the lake in the dug-out, to find
the outlet of the river, and see if there were any
Indians in the neighbourhood. My passage along
the lake was interrupted by thunderstorms, with
violent wind-squalls, and as my little canoe was
hardly seaworthy, I had several times to run for the
shore and wait for a more favourable chance. On
reaching the outlet I passed into a swift-running
stream, and within half a mile found myself at the
head of a rapid. Here I landed to pick out a course,
and discovered another lake just ahead. The dugout ran gaily down through the broken water, and
I crossed a round lake a mile and a half in width.
After another short stretch of current with another
rapid, I came to a narrow sheet of water 3 miles
in length, and camped at its western extremity.    An THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
evening's moose hunt produced nothing, but from
the top of a small hill I had an excellent view of the
valley ahead, stretching away in a south-westerly
direction through a flat, forested country, broken
only in one spot by an isolated group of bare-topped
The shores of these small lakes are everywhere
swampy, and thick moss covers the ground between
the stunted spruce and the tamarac. In the
stretches of river between the lakes the banks are
in places high and gravelly, and most of the timber
has been burnt recently, but I could see no signs
of Indians having been here since the previous
In the course of these long expeditions, made in
company with half-breeds, it is always a relief to get
away by yourself for a night or two, especially in
the summer, when there is no trouble about the cold,
and you can lie down anywhere without digging out
the snow and cutting a supply of pine brush and firewood. The endless chatter of the half-breeds, good
fellows enough though they may be for their work,
becomes tiresome when you have once heard all
their self-glorifying stories and the performances of
the various dogs they have driven at different times 1
of their lives. It is always the same indefinite yarn
about some long day's journey they once made, the
time at which they left camp, the number of halts
they made to boil the kettle, and the time of arrival
at the next camp, after travelling an unmeasured
distance. Or else they discuss the valiant deeds of
some half-breed bruiser of Manitoba, and the
punching of heads which seems greatly in fashion
along the Red River on New Year's Day and
other festive occasions. A pleasant change from
this is the quiet camp all to yourself, with your
little canoe hauled up on the shore of a peaceful
lake, where the cries of the wild birds and animals
seem far more in keeping with the surroundings
than the guffaws of a crowd of tobacco-chewing
half-breeds, lacking both the decency of the white
man and the dignified reserve which still marks the
true bred native of the Northern forest.
I reached the main camp late on the following
evening, after making a risky crossing of the lake,
to learn that the men had found the cache untouched, and had brought down half the load, but
that no fish were to be caught at the mouth of
Ptarmigan Creek, and that the dogs had not yet
come in from the Upper Pelly, where we had aban- 176
doned them three days before. The next morning
the men made another journey to the cache, with
orders to bring down everything, and I paddled
back up-stream to hunt up the dogs. I found two
of them sitting gloomily in our old camp at the fish
slough, a couple of miles from the head of the lake.
They looked very wretched as, besides being lean
and hungry, they had been rending each other, and
the flies had irritated the sore places till the dogs
were nearly crazy. The other two were not so
easily found, and it was not till I had nearly reached
the head of navigation, and the sun was long down,
that I heard a dog howling in the woods. He came
to the sound of a rifle-shot, but was in a worse condition than the others, and refused to move any
further till I had given him a duck and a white-fish
to cheer him up. The canoe was so small that he
would be nearly certain to capsize it if he came on
board, so I drifted down slowly and made him run
through the brush along the bank, after I had
hunted a couple of hours for the fourth missing
dog and finally given him up as lost for ever.
11 is worthy of record, as an example of what the
faculty we call instinct can accomplish, that this
other dog turned  up  at  the Lower  Post  on  the SOURCE OF PELL Y RIVER
Liard, very thin, and with his nose and mouth full
of porcupine quills, late in the following October,
having not only found his way, but also hunted his
food, for a distance of 250 miles, and this, too,
without the advantage of his back track to follow,
as we had come up on the ice, which had all disappeared before the dog was lost. CHAPTER XI
Salmon a long distance from the sea—Claims of Pelly River to be considered
main branch of Yukon—Scarcity of provisions—A cow moose—Slate
Rapid—Hoole River—A grizzly bear and the result of a broken rifle.
I reached the camp at sunrise, and, after hauling
up the dug-out in a shady spot to keep her from
cracking, we loaded up the canoe and started along
the lake, with the dogs running on the beach, to
continue our voyage down the Pelly. In the third
lake we tried the nets off the point of a little island
—the only island, by the way, in any of these lakes
—but again without success. On the following
day we passed out of the lakes and found the
river running, with a good current, between low,
gravelly banks, bearing many signs of old Indian
encampments. The huge stages for drying fish,
and the traps carefully stowed away for future use,
suggested great abundance of salmon in the autumn,
while the skeletons of these fish were to be seen
everywhere scattered along the banks of the little
creeks. Every year, no doubt, the Pelly Indians
camp here to gather their harvest, which needs no
sowing, but comes of its own accord from the
distant waters of the Behring Sea. I have never
heard any satisfactory explanation as to the reasons
some of the salmon have for pushing on to the
very head of a stream, when spawning grounds
seemingly of equal attraction are to be found close
to the sea up any of the tributaries. Why, for
instance, do some of the Yukon fish turn up the
first stream flowing in from the tundra, and others
run up the main river 2300 miles to the Pelly
Lakes ? And what a river it is, to afford such a
long run without a waterfall to stop the passage of
a fish!
The country is here very level, and heavily
wooded with spruce of larger growth than we had
seen round the lakes, interspersed with a plentiful
supply of small cottonwood.
After following down the stream for about 8
miles in a general south-west direction, although
with many turns on the course of the stream, we
were suddenly surprised, on   rounding a bend, by THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
running into a big broad river heading a little to
the eastward of north, with a strong current swollen
by the melting snows — fully three times the size
of the stream that we had been following with the
mistaken idea that we were exploring the source
of the Pelly, whereas we had in reality only succeeded in reaching the head of a comparatively
small tributary. We put ashore at once and
stretched the nets across the mouth of a small
slough, where we hoped to replenish our supply of
provisions, which was now very scanty. Our flour
and bacon were practically finished, and the nets
and rifles had produced hardly anything lately, so
that there seemed to be some danger of a period
of starvation setting in—and this, too, when we had
a chance to explore a river unknown to any white
man, and unmarked in any map, heading away
towards the distant range of high snow-capped
mountains that were just visible from our camp.
This must be the river which the Indians speak of
when they tell their stories of the evil spirits that
live in the black canons among the mountains, as
the natural features of the stream running through
the lakes are rather tame, and not at all likely to
give  foundation  to  romance.      Secatz must have DOWN THE PELLY RIVER
heard of this river from the Indians at Frances
Lake, but either thought it was not worth while
mentioning to us, or else considered it better for
our own safety that we should know nothing about
The high stage of the water, which was still
rising, seemed to indicate that the river must have
its source in mountains of great altitude, and at a
considerable distance from where we first saw it, as
by this time—20th June—the stream draining the
lakes had fallen several feet, and the mountains
near its head had been nearly bare of snow a fortnight before. It is probable, therefore, that when
the main stream of the Pelly is explored, it will be
found to head directly on the western slope of the
Rocky Mountains, perhaps offering an easy route
to one of the small streams falling into the Mackenzie between Fort Simpson and Fort Norman.
This addition to the total length of the Pelly, which
has always been calculated from the supposed
position of the lakes, will help to prove that rivers
claim to be considered the main branch of the
Yukon, although the Lewes, which joins the Pelly
at Fort Selkirk, has usually been looked upon as
the more important stream of the two. THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
It soon became evident that we could make no
use of the discovery we had made—our chance was
missed when we turned up stream from the main
Pelly Lake. If we had known anything about this
stream, and had reached the spot at which we were
now camped in the middle of May, we should have
had a fortnight's low water just after the break-up
of the ice, besides a sufficient supply of provisions
to enable us to push on quickly while the bars were
uncovered and the current slack. In that time we
might have penetrated a long way into a totally
unexplored country, and have reached the source
of a really important river, instead of wasting our
time in exploring a miserable little stream that
led to nothing. But now, apart from the provision
question, it was almost impossible to travel up
stream. The water was running high among the
willows that fringe the banks, a savage current was
bringing down huge rafts of drift logs, and all the
numerous difficulties presented by a large river in
flood-time were fully developed.
The nets caught a few fish during the two days
we waited to see if the water would fall, but hardly
enough for our immediate use, and there was no
prospect of a supply of dried fish to lay by for DO WN THE PELL Y RIVER
emergencies. Moose-hunting was again a failure,
and, as frequently happens, the geese and ducks
all disappeared when there was most need of them.
The periods of good and bad times are always very
distinctly marked when the rifle and net are depended upon entirely for the supply of provisions.
No matter how good a hunter or fisherman you
may be, there are sure to be spells of scanty living
if none of the party have any local knowledge as
to the best places for game or fish, and you often
come across a strip of country entirely deserted by
birds and beasts. Fishing in a large river during
high water is seldom satisfactory, as a net can only
be set in some quiet backwater to be clear of the
strong current and drifting logs; and such places
are not always to be found.
On the third day I reluctantly gave orders to
proceed down stream, as we had several hundred
miles to go before we could reach any of the trading
posts on the Yukon, and the first part of the distance was through an unknown country, where we
might encounter bad rapids and long portages
enough to cause a delay that would be serious,
unless we had better luck in our hunting.
At first our course lay through the same flat, 184
mossy country, but gradually the banks rose in
height, and became first gravelly, and then took
the form of high bluffs composed of several different
kinds of rock or sand, alternated with stretches of
low-lying banks on both sides of the river. About
20 miles down we put ashore to wash a panful
of dirt at the mouth of a wide shallow stream
coming in on the north side, but two or three
colours of gold were the only results.
Just below this the current in the river increased
in strength, and we soon heard the roar of a rapid
ahead. On landing to inspect the danger, we found
rather a wild stretch of water, with many scattered
rocks at its head, and a very heavy sea at the lower
end of the rapid, where the river is confined to a
narrow cafion-like constriction between low slate
bluffs. There was an intricate although quite practicable channel among the rocks, but no convenient
eddy into which to drop to avoid the heavy sea,
so that if we once started we had to run the whole
Unless in the case of a perfectly straight piece
of water, when you can form a pretty good opinion
of the danger by standing up in the stern of the
canoe, it is always well to put ashore, and take a DO WN THE PELL Y RIVER
look at what lies ahead, when travelling down an
unknown stream, as you may find yourself at the
brink of a cascade, or an utterly impassable rapid,
when it is too late to make a landing. Don't listen
to the valiant fool in the bow, who shouts: " Oh,
hell! we can run that!" just as you are shooting
into the eddy ; and if he tries to enforce his opinion
by dragging the bow of the canoe out into the
current, no experienced voyageur will blame you
for clubbing him on the head with pole or paddle.
He cannot know anything more about what is
round the corner than you do, if he has never seen
the place before.
It is pleasant enough to play about in the rapids
in a light canoe when civilisation is close at hand
and the loss caused by a capsize or collision with a
rock can be easily replaced; but when the accident
happens 500 miles from the nearest trading-post the
possible result of a mistake is serious enough to
make the most reckless steersman reflect a little
before he plunges his canoe into the swirling waters.
If anything goes wrong it is a case of total shipwreck, and the men who reach the bank in safety
are really little better off than those who come to
sudden grief among the rocks.    Everything is gone. i86
There are no matches that would light a fire to
dry the soaking clothes ; no axe to build a raft with ;
nothing to eat; no rifle, ammunition, or fish-hooks
with which to kill game or fish that would provide a
means of subsistence to a properly equipped party.
The only means of progression is a misshapen
ungovernable raft of drift timber bound together
with willow twigs and turned loose down stream till
it flies to pieces on the first rock, or drifts under an
overhanging log-jam, each accident being likely to
further reduce the number of the crew.
On this occasion, however, none of these unpleasant things happened; and by dropping the
canoe down carefully with a line from point to
point, and making an easy portage of a quarter of
a mile on the north side of the river, we avoided
all the danger, and camped at the foot of the rapid.
Leaving the men to carry over the cargo, I went
for an evening's moose-hunt, and, finding a fresh
track, was lucky enough to come across a big cow
moose stripping the willow-bushes for her evening
feed on the edge of a small muddy lake. It was
an awkward spot for a stalk, but, after a long
detour, I managed to creep into a bunch of willows
towards which she was heading. ' There I lay in a DO WN THE PELL Y RIVER 187
pool of water for an hour at the mercy of the
mosquitoes, which are particularly bad along the
Upper Pelly ; and knowing that, if the moose came
within shot, there was an even chance of a miss-fire
from my broken rifle, to say nothing of the possibility of missing or lightly wounding the animal;
and that, if I did not kill, there would be little
supper in camp that night, as we had absolutely
nothing left but a few pounds of flour that we had
been using with great care. But everything went
well; the moose came straight towards me, and
finally stood broadside at fifty yards. The rifle went
off at the first pull, and a death-shot was the result.
I snapped the next cartridge three times in succession as the moose ran into the lake. But it
made no difference, as she turned over and lay
floating among a bunch of yellow water-lilies within
ten yards of the shore. She was much too heavy
for me to handle alone in the deep water, so I went
back to camp at once to get the men to give me a
hand. We hauled her out with a line, and little
pieces of meat were cooking on sticks over a fire
before the skin was fairly off the animal. The sun
was rising again before we reached the bank of the
river with our first loads of meat. I
To the sportsman who hunts for trophies of the
chase from a well-provisioned camp and at the
correct season of the year, this killing of a cow
moose in the middle of summer must no doubt seem
a despicable performance. Yet I can assure him
that, although a big pair of antlers are a more
lasting triumph, and long afterwards may serve to
dispel the doubts of his grandchildren as to the fact
of his having been a remarkably fine fellow in his
youth, there is no present satisfaction like that of
bringing a load of meat, cow or bull, summer or
winter, into a camp where provisions have been all
too scarce for a season. Your men are really
pleased that you have been successful in your hunt,
and instead of the growl that with half-breeds and
Indians usually follows the order to go and bring in
the head, everybody is glad enough to rush off and
bring in as big a load of meat as he can carry.
At the foot of the rapid, which we came to know
as Slate Rapid, to distinguish it from others that
we passed, we set up the lodge, and built stages for
drying meat, as the weather was too warm and the
flies too plentiful to keep fresh meat for any length
of time. And then, for three days, we relapsed
into the habits of the Indian, and held one of those DOWN THE PELLY RIVER
meat orgies so dear to the heart of men who hunt
their livelihood in the northern forests, and only to
be really enjoyed after a lengthy period of hard
times. During these three days it rained in torrents,
and, in fact, for the last month there had been very
little fine weather. I should imagine this heavy rainfall to be an exceptional occurrence, as the whole
appearance of the country was typical of a dry
climate. The water in the river reached its highest
level on 25th June, and after that date fell quickly
and continuously. When the rain once stopped, a
spell of bright hot weather set in, which lasted till
we neared the mouth of the Yukon, without any
rain except an occasional thunderstorm. The gravel
bars in the river were bright with flowers of many
varieties; butterflies, especially the big black and
yellow swallowtail, were in considerable numbers,
and summer had fairly begun.
Below the rapid, the river continued its course to
the south-west, with many windings and a good
current of about four miles an hour. Islands soon
began to show up in mid-stream, and the gravel
bars must be of great size during low water,
although now they were nearly wholly submerged.
Cut banks of sand and stratified gravel, or some- THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
times black clay,' were frequent, and the timber
increased in size and was more freely interspersed
with cottonwood as we dropped down stream.
Now that we had abundance of meat on board, we
often saw moose swimming the river, or standing
up to their bellies in the water to keep clear of the
flies, but we always left them unmolested, and they
seemed to take little notice of the canoe unless we
happened to pass to windward of them. It is a
great pity we did not see all this game before we
reached the main stream, as, if we had found means
of supporting ourselves, I should certainly have
waited a week or two for the water to go down, and
then pushed on as far as possible towards the head of
the river. But it was too late to turn back now, as a
day's run down stream means a long distance when
you have to fight your way back against the current.
A few miles below the rapid two large creeks
come in from the north, but on the south side
there is only one creek of any importance until the
mouth of Campbell Creek, which enters at a distance, by rough reckoning, of 35 miles below the
rapid, the main direction of the Pelly being now
more westerly west. Campbell Creek was named
by Dr.  Dawson,  who followed it  down  in   1887 aaaaass
when making the portage from Frances Lake; and
close to its mouth is the site of the Pelly Banks
Post. But we did not succeed in finding any trace
of the old buildings.
We had now come to the end of the unexplored
part of the river, and the rest of our journey on the
Pelly, a distance of over 300 miles, was made easy
by consulting Dr. Dawson's account of the river
and the excellent maps which he has published with
this report. 192
A large stream, the Hoole River, so named
by Campbell after his interpreter, joins the Pelly
2,^ miles below Campbell Creek. It is a wide
shallow river, coming in from the southward and
heading among the Pelly Mountains, which here
run parallel to the river at a distance of 10 miles,
and seem to be an open grassy range, surmounted
by square rocky summits of great elevation. At
the mouth of the Hoole River there is a rather
formidable rapid on the Pelly, with a heavy sea
during high water. There is an easy portage on
the north side, but, by lightening the canoe, we ran
through in safety, though not without shipping a
good deal of water. This rapid should be run on
the north side, with a sharp turn to the right just off
the pitch of an overhanging bluff; and, by keeping
just outside the eddy, the water will be found comparatively smooth. A good-sized boat might be
allowed to follow the current, but for a small
canoe the sea is dangerous on the left side of the
Here the appearance of the country suddenly
changes, especially on the north side of the river.
Open grassy benches covered with groves of small
poplar take the place of the denser forests, and, at
a short distance back from the river, willow-covered
swamps and little lakes are frequently met with.
In these spots, on almost any evening, by climbing
some small elevation, you can see a moose taking
his evening feed, or, by watching the long grassy
benches you may, towards sundown, see a couple of
black spots shambling along the side hills, and
know that you can probably get a shot at a bear if
there is no meat in camp.
One evening, I saw a grizzly come out of the
woods as I was smoking a pipe on a small hill
overlooking the wild stream of Hoole Canon, a
few miles below the Hoole River, and, as he was
so close, I thought I might as well try for some
bear meat. But while I was stalking him, he had
been travelling quickly towards me, and I was
suddenly surprised to find him eating berries in a
patch of wild-currant bushes within ten yards of
me. I raised the rifle quickly but could not induce
it to go off. Five times the cartridge snapped, and
the bear went on with his currants, but when I
worked the lever to throw up a fresh cartridge, he
came to the conclusion that he had given me
enough chances, and ran like a rabbit for a thick
grove of poplars.    When he was well among the MHK3
trees the rifle roared off in grand style, and, of
course, missed the bear. A fighting grizzly, such
as are always encountered by the whisky - shop
bear - hunters of the West, would have had a
splendid opportunity of displaying his powers that
evening at Hoole Canon. CHAPTER  XII
Portage at Hoole Canon—Varieties of mountain sheep—Ross River—Mac-
millan and Stewart Rivers—Difficulties of prospecting—Granite Canon—
Fort Selkirk—The Lewes River—First run of Salmon—Government
officials and gamblers.
Hoole Canon is by far the worst impediment to
navigation in the whole course of the Pelly-Yukon
from the Lakes to the Behring Sea. It is absolutely impassable for any kind of boat. I afterwards met a miner at Forty-Mile Creek, on the
Yukon, who told me that a party of prospectors had
once run through Hoole Canon in safety, but I think
he must have been testing my credulity, as I took a
good look at the water while we were making the
portage, and feel sure that any man who enters
Hoole Canon from above goes to his death. The
current sets full on to the face of the bluffs in many
places, there are several rocks in mid-stream, and
besides a heavy sea, the whirlpools, as seen from 198 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
above, look extremely dangerous. We found two
or three small rapids just above the canon, but
these can be run easily, and the landing-place for
the portage will be found immediately above a wall
of white quartz on the left bank of the river, just
where the stream bends sharply to the north-eastward. It is as well to have a man ashore along
this quartz bluff, ready to catch a line, as during
high water the current is swift, and a heavy swell
makes it rather an awkward landing for any lightly-
built boat. If this landing is once passed, nothing
can keep you from going through the canon on
your voyage to destruction.
The portage is half a mile long, and passes over a
lightly wooded hill of a hundred feet in height, with
a sharp descent at the far end. The trail is well
marked by a few of the old skids used by the
Hudson's Bay Company's boatmen in dragging
their boats across the portage, but at high water
the canoe should be carried a couple of hundred
yards lower down, as there is no convenient spot
for loading up at the end of the trail. There are
two or three ugly little rapids just below the canon,
when the river is in flood, but these can be run by
a carefully handled canoe. DOWN THE PELLY AND  YUKON RIVERS
Ten miles down stream the Pelly is joined by a
pretty little tributary named Ketza River, after one
of Campbell's Indians. It comes down with a rapid
current from the Pelly Mountains, which here
approach the main river more nearly than at any
other point in its course. These mountains are
probably inhabited by mountain sheep, as they look
to be splendidly suited to that animal's tastes, and
in an old Indian camp at the canon I found two or
three sheep's skulls, besides several scraps of skin.
The horns were exactly like those of the big-horn 200 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
of more southern latitudes, and the skin gave no
signs of the gradation of colour known to exist
between the true Ovis Montana and the Ovis Dallii
of the northern mountains. But if my rifle had
been in more serviceable condition, I should certainly have hunted the Pelly range, and tried to
gather some information with regard to these sheep,
as I cannot help thinking that too little attention
has been paid to the wridely different appearance
presented by the mountain sheep in different localities as higher latitudes are gained, and it is very
rarely that any authority on North American fauna
makes mention of the big - horn, except as he
appears in his better known haunts in Wyoming,
Montana, or British Columbia.
It would take a man a long lifetime to follow up
all the Indian stories he may hear in the North of a
high mountain many weeks' travel from the nearest
trading-post, whereon there exists a kind of a sheep
which has only been seen by the narrator; yet a
good deal of information might be obtained with
regard to the distribution of the big-horn, and the
variation in its appearance, if the men in charge of
the outlying posts of the Hudson's Bay and Alaska
Commercial Company were asked to collect a few DOWN THE PELLY AND  YUKON RIVERS       201
of the skins from the Indians—who of course never
bring unsaleable skins in without being specially
told to do so—and to forward them, when they send
out their yearly shipment of furs, to anybody who
was interested in the subject.
Ten miles below the Ketza, Ross River joins the
Pelly from the north. It is about the same size as
the Pelly, and is, as far as we could see, a fine,
navigable stream, heading towards the north-eastward, but its upper waters have never been explored.
The same remark applies to all the large tributaries
entering the Pelly-Yukon from the north-east, with
the exception of the Porcupine, which joins the
main stream at old Fort Yukon just below the
Arctic Circle, and has been used for many years by
the Hudson's Bay Company as a trading route from
the Mackenzie to the Yukon.
The sources of the Ross, the Macmillan, and the
Stewart Rivers—three really large streams, draining
an immense tract of country on the western slope
of the Rocky Mountains—remain quite unknown,
although the lower part of the Stewart was for a
few years the scene of a fairly prosperous mining
camp. Of course, the prospecting and exploration
of these streams is a matter beyond the capability HM
of the miners, and cannot be carried out without a
good deal of expense. The distances are so great,
and the up-stream work so laborious during the few
short months of summer, that it is a whole season's
work to reach even the mouth of one of these rivers.
The buying and transport of provisions for two
summers and a winter would prove a heavy strain
on the prospector's pocket, and the second season
would be again occupied in travelling, with little
time for working the bars. So that there is really
little inducement for miners to undertake a long expedition of this kind, and probably many years will
have passed before the long strip of country between
the Porcupine and the Liard attracts much attention.
The assumption is that it is worthless except for the
mineral wealth it may contain, and there are still
large tracts of land more accessible, and presumably
more fit for settlement in various parts of Canada,
that will occupy the Government surveyors for some
time to come.
The tributaries entering from the southward are,
of course, much smaller, as the strip of country
lying between the Pelly and the Lewes is of comparatively small extent. They are all of the same
character — shoal,   rapid,   and   rocky,   contrasting DOWN THE PELLY AND  YUKON RIVERS       203
strongly with the deep, steady flow of the rivers
that have their sources in the main range of the
We prospected most of the streams, but nevet
obtained any satisfactory result, although colours ot
gold may be found on nearly all the gravel bars.
The distance from the Ross to the Macmillan is
given by Dr. Dawson as 173 miles, without any
impediment to canoe navigation, although there are
many small rapids. The worst of these is close to
the mouth of the Glenlyon, which comes in from the
south, midway between the two large streams, but
it can be run without danger at any stage of water.
In several places the river broadens out and is much
broken up with islands separated by narrow, winding
channels. • Among these islands wre were always
sure of finding geese in great quantities. The
young birds were well grown by this time and often
gave us a good chase on the long gravel bars which
were showing up as the water fell, but unless we
could run them down in the open, they generally
escaped in the thick growth of willows. Moose
were still seen frequently, but as long as we could
make a living with the wild-fowl we left them alone.
Foxes   are   remarkably   numerous   all   along   the ffiff
Pelly, but, with the exception of lynx and a very
few beaver, the other fur-bearing animals seem to be
In this stretch of river we often noticed rafts tied
up to the banks, evidently used by the Indians for
crossing the Pelly, but we did not fall in with any
of the wandering bands. It is curious that they do
not use canoes on such an easily navigable stream,
but prefer to pack a load on their backs and make a
straight course for their hunting-grounds, crossing
and recrossing the main stream to cut off a detour,
and only camping on its banks when they know
that the salmon are running. Their fish-drying
stages may be seen at every suitable spot, but it
was as yet too early for the salmon to have covered
the long distance from the sea.
The country still maintains its pleasant appearance—open, grassy benches lie close to the river,
and small cottonwoods cover the rolling hills in the
background. The immediate banks of the river are
sandy, or gravelly buffs, with sometimes a long
stretch of black, frozen earth. These places should
be avoided when the ground is thawing out, as huge
pieces of the bank are constantly falling into the
water, and the overhanging trees of course come &*>i
down at the same time. We camped for the night
at the mouth of the Macmillan, which is very little
smaller than the Pelly, and looks a most inviting
stream for exploration. Miners have followed its
course for a short distance by boat, but, not finding
any paying bars, they returned without making an
attempt to examine the upper waters. They reported no impediment to navigation as far as they
A few miles below the Macmillan we entered
Granite Canon, the last stretch of strong water on
the Pelly. It is not a formidable canon, and can
be easily run by any kind of a boat or canoe. A
shallow-draught steamer might probably be taken
through with judicious warping at one or two of the
points where the water is strongest, if there should
ever be any necessity to take supplies above the
From this point to its mouth, the Pelly-Yukon is
a placid stream, affording a good inland waterway
through the interior of Alaska, and making it easy
and fairly economical to open a mining industry
throughout an immense territory which, but for the
existence of this navigable river, would be one of the
most inaccessible regions in the world. mm*
Seventy-four miles below the Macmillan, on 8th
July, we came to the confluence of the Lewes, and
a couple of miles below landed at Fort Selkirk, an
outlying trading-post situated on the west side of the
main Yukon. Here we found ourselves in comparative luxury, and as some miners had just passed
down stream from the head of the Lewes we heard
all the latest news from the outside world. But
there is always a feeling of regret on emerging from
the woods into the semi-civilisation of a mining
district, and in this case it was especially noticeable.
With the exception of the small encampments of
Indians on the Frances River and Lakes we had
seen no human being since leaving the Lower Post
on the Liard, and had been entirely self-reliant in
finding our way through a long stretch of wilderness,
but now we had reached the common highway to
a mining camp, the most interesting country lay
behind us, and the rest of our course lay down an
easily navigated river, through a well-known country
where we should miss the element of uncertainty as
to what lay ahead, and should be able to buy provisions from the trading-posts instead of hunting
them for ourselves. The men were of the same
way of thinking, and as soon as the first glamour of DOWN THE PELLY AND YUKON RIVERS        209
the high living was over they came to the conclusion
that paddling down the long stretches of the Yukon
was too easy work, and everybody would have
welcomed a rapid or even a portage as a change
from the monotony of the long uneventful days that
now ensued. Fort Selkirk stands in a convenient
position for both the Indian fur trade and the constant summer trade of in-going and out-coming
miners who have been tempted to try their luck in
the far-off diggings of the great river of Alaska.
Most of these miners leave the salt water at the
head of Lynn Canal in May, and haul their summer
supplies on sleighs across the high mountains by the
Chilkoot Pass, aiming to arrive at the Lewes in
time to build boats in readiness for the break-up of
the ice. Several lakes lie in the course of this
stream, and if the ice is still sound many of the
miners continue hauling their sleighs till they reach
the running water, as time is valuable in these
northern latitudes, where the open season is all too
short for a man who really means to work instead of
being merely a hanger-on to a prosperous camp.
After the ice has broken, the down-stream run of
600 miles to Forty-Mile Creek is easily made, as
there   are   only  two  canons   where   portages   are THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
necessary, but of course the return in the autumn is
a different matter altogether, and involves much
abour and frequent hardships. If a man is working
a paying claim, and yet does not wish to pass an
eight months' winter in inactivity, the question
naturally arises as to how long he is to continue
mining and leave himself time to get out of the
country before he is caught by the running ice in
the upper waters of the Lewes, or exposed to the
terrific storms which are said to be frequent on the
summit of the coast range during the autumn
The Lewes River was discovered by Campbell
in 1842, during his exploration of the Pelly, and was
named by him after one of the Hudson's Bay chief
factors. A fort was established at the confluence
of the Lewes and Pelly in 1848, and maintained for
several years, but it was finally pillaged by the
coast Indians from Chilkat and Chilkoot, who discovered that its existence interfered with their own
trade with the tribes of the interior. No resistance
was possible for the few inhabitants of the post, and
they were ejected without bloodshed, the Indians
taking off as many of the trading goods as they
could carry, and escaping the attack of the local DO WN THE PELL Y AND YUKON RIVERS        211
Indians, who were friendly to the whites. No exploration of the Upper Lewes seems to have been
made at this early date, but the existence of a pass
to the salt water was well known to Campbell, and
irregular communication seems to have been held
by means of travelling Indians with the Hudson's
Bay steamer trading on the Alaskan Coast. Sir
John Richardson, in the narrative of his voyage
down the Mackenzie in 1848, mentions having
received Honolulu papers of late date, which had
undoubtedly come by this route.
Nothing is now visible of the old fort except the
pile of stones that until recently formed one of the
chimneys, but its place has been taken by the less
romantic buildings of a modern trading-post, around
which a few Indian shanties are clustered. There
is also a Protestant Mission just established, an
outpost of the new Yukon Diocese founded by the
Church Missionary Society, and presided over by
Bishop Bompas, so well known for many years as
the Bishop of Mackenzie River; but it is doubtful
whether much success can attend the enterprise, as
the Indians have been for some time exposed to the
influence of the miners, which has always proved
disastrous to the native  tribes  both   morally and THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
physically. Fort Selkirk is now supplied by one of
the Alaska Commercial Company's stern-wheel
steamers, which meets their deep-sea boat at St.
Michael's Island, the nearest convenient landing to
the mouth of the river, a very different state of
affairs from the trading of Campbell's time, wrhen a
limited stock of the most necessary articles reached
the old post by way of the Great Slave Lake and
the Liard and Pelly, after a three years' journey
from England.
Some attempt has been made at Fort Selkirk
to raise a crop of potatoes and other hardy vegetables, but so far the result has not been satisfactory, owing to the late frosts in the spring,
followed by the great heat and little moisture of
the summer. Lower down the river, however, in
the rainy districts, as the coast is neared, although
in a more northerly latitude, some of the Catholic
Missions show well-stocked garden patches, and
at the mission school at Korykovski a large supply
of potatoes is produced every year. From Fort
Selkirk to Forty-Mile Creek, a distance of 230
miles, we took advantage of the perpetual daylight
to travel at night, and slept while the sun was
The scenery from the river is not strikingly
grand, a succession of irregular mountains lightly
covered with spruce and poplar, alternating with
dried-up grass, bounds the view in every direction,
and one misses the high snow-capped peaks that
attract attention during a journey along the Liard
or Pelly.
On the night of 9th July we passed a large
encampment of Indians, and learned from them
that the first of the salmon had arrived. An all-
important event is this annual run of salmon to
the numerous natives who dwell along the banks
of the Yukon and its tributaries. Three weeks
before the fish reach Fort. Selkirk, the various
tribes of Esquimaux at the mouth of the river are
laying in their provisions for the winter. Thousands of traps, to say nothing of the countless numbers of scoop-nets, have to be passed by the salmon
along the course of the river before they reach the
Pelly Lakes, where the moose-hunters are lying
in wait for them late in the autumn. Far up the
Tanana, among the Alaska Alps, and in the foothills of the Rockies at the head of the Porcupine
more traps and more nets are in readiness to work
destruction on the salmon.    On the lesser streams THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
that head among the dreary swamps of the tundra
encircling the Arctic and the Behring Seas, the
same scenes are enacted year by year—men, women,
and children engaged in killing and curing the fish
that are the staple food of the vast native population
of Northern Alaska. And the supply never seems
to have failed. There are no stories of years of
starvation, which are only too common among the
meat-eaters to the eastward of the Rockies, and
as yet there are no canneries to thin out the fish
on the Yukon, as has happened on most of the
salmon rivers of the Pacific. Doubtless before
long there will be suggestions to establish canneries,
but unless the strictest regulations as to their management are enforced, there will be hard times
for some of the upper river Indians. Along the
Columbia and Fraser, neither of which streams
were so thickly peopled as the Yukon, other means
of making a livelihood were afforded to the Indians
as the farming land was settled up, but there seems
no likelihood of the same thing occurring on this
northern river, as the country is worthless from
an agricultural point of view, and if the salmon
disappear, the Indian must go with them.
At the encampment below Fort Selkirk we saw DOWN THE PELLY AND YUKON RIVERS
the finest birch bark canoes—shapely little crafts,
longer and narrower than the bark canoes on the
eastern rivers, as they seem to be built especially
for poling up stream, and for this work are more
easily handled than the broader canoes of the
Crees and Chippeweyans, though less serviceable
in rough water. The poling is always done by
a man sitting amidships, with a short pole in each
hand, and by keeping close in shore, a long distance can be made in a day, even against a rapid
current. From these little canoes the salmon are
caught by drifting down stream with the scoop-
net held in readiness to strike as soon as the
sharp eye of the fisherman detects the first slight
wave of the advancing fish, which is soon afterwards in the hands of the women, undergoing
preparations for the drying stage.
On the same night we passed the mouth of
White River, a wild stream that would be considered a large river anywhere except in this
land of great waterways. It heads away to the
westward among the high glaciers of the Mount
St. Elias range, and the reason of its name is
at once obvious. Such a rush of thick, milky
wash is discharged into the Yukon that the whole THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
volume of water in the main stream is discoloured
from the junction of the White River to the sea,
and below this point it is always preferable to
take drinking-water from any of the small incoming creeks, although the contribution from the
White River seems to possess no unhealthy properties, and is freely used by the Indians along
its course.
A few miles below White River the Stewart
enters from the opposite side. Mining operations
have been carried on with good results for some
years past on this stream, but at present little
gold dust is coming out, and most of the miners
have left the camp. An old trading-post at the
junction of the rivers was unoccupied at the time
of our visit.
After another short run we came to another
new establishment on an island opposite the mouth
of Sixty-Mile Creek, and were told that if we
wanted gold dust, we had better buy a supply
of provisions here and start at once up Sixty-
Mile Creek to the new diggings, which gave
sure promise of proving immensely rich. The
trader was incredulous when I told him that we
were  not  mining,   and  were  only  running   down DOWN THE PELLY AND YUKON RIVERS       217
the Yukon as the shortest way out of the country.
He finally came to the conclusion that we were
either Government officials or gamblers — apparently the only professions left open to the traveller
on the Yukon who is neither miner, trader, nor
While lying on the bank at Sixty-Mile Creek
during the heat of the day we felt a very distinct
shock of earthquake, and it seems that in the
summer months these shocks are of rather frequent
occurrence though never of great severity.
These names of Sixty-Mile and Forty-Mile
Creeks are at first somewhat misleading, as one
would imagine that the two places lay within 20
miles of each other, but the distances are taken
according to the miners' calculation from the intermediate point of Fort Reliance—once the headquarters of the early traders. Further complication has arisen since these stretches of water were
measured and found to be considerably at variance
with the estimated distances from which the creeks
were named. CHAPTER XIII
Forty-mile Creek—Miners' law—Boundary line between Alaska and British
Columbia—Arrival of the Arctic—Coal Creek—Ovis Dallii—The Yukon
Flats—Route from Athabasca to Behring Sea.
On nth July we reached Forty-Mile Creek, and,
shooting out of the dirty flood of the Yukon into
the clear water of the creek, pitched our lodge on
its bank in a clump of willows a mile above the
cluster of log cabins which forms the capital of
this northern mining district. The peculiar build
of our canoe and our own ragged appearance
created great interest in the little town, and we
had many questions to answer as to the mining
prospects of the country we had passed through.
The lodge was full of visitors all day, and I soon
made the acquaintance of all the leading citizens
of the creek. The total summer population of
the district was estimated in 1893 at a tittle under FORTY-MILE CREEK TO FORT YUKON 219
400 miners, of whom perhaps 150 would remain
to winter at Forty-Mile Creek, and the rest had
come in to see what chance there was of making
a stake, and intended to go back to the coast in
September. Of course, at the time of our arrival,
work was in full swing, and, as the diggings lie
at a long distance up the creek, there were very
few miners in the town. The latest excitement
was the new strike on Miller Creek, where three
or four claims were really paying well, but there
is no excuse for the grossly exaggerated reports
that have lately been circulated in regard to the
richness of the Yukon placers. During the last
two summers, 1894-95, men have been crossing
the Chilkoot Pass in hundreds, expending the little
capital they had in the costly transport of supplies
to Forty-Mile Creek. The result is sure to be
disappointment in nine cases out of ten, and the
unfortunates will have to depend on the charity
of the storekeepers for provisions enough to take
them to the coast. It seems hard to understand
who is to be benefited by these reports of great
wealth to be found in hardly accessible countries,
but it is certainly a fact that, the greater the distance  and  the  obstacles  to  be  overcome on the THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
way, the greater the rush will be for the land of
promise. Mr. MacQuestion, the trader at Forty-
Mile Creek, who, by the way, is exceedingly good
to anybody stranded in the country, does his best
to issue true reports as to the state of the mining
camps; and the men of several years' standing on
the diggings are also very careful not to overestimate the yield of gold dust, but still once
again it has happened that a few paying diggings
on Miller Creek have caused an influx of a rather
undesirable class. At present, the tone of the
camp is distinctly good, the real workers are the
old timers from the Californian and British Columbian mines—men who have seen the difference
between camps that were run subject to law and
order as administered by the late Sir Matthew
Begbie in the days of the Cariboo diggings, and
those where the whisky bottle and six-shooter
held sway. Up to the time of my visit, there
had never been a killing on Forty-Mile Creek,
although the law was not represented by gold
commissioner or police, but was left entirely to
the decision of the miners' meeting—an excellent
court as long as the better class of men are in
the majority, but a dangerous power in the hands FORTY-MILE CREEK TO FORT YUKON 221
of the vile specimens of humanity who sooner or
later get the whip hand in most of the mining
camps. Whisky had at times found its way into
the camp, and the frightful concoction known as
" Hootchinoo," distilled from molasses, has caused
some trouble. But so far the sale of intoxicating
liquor to Indians had been almost entirely prevented. The miners' meeting has pronounced
that whisky is good and shall be allowed for
the whites, but if any man sells it to the Indians
after he has been warned he shall be punished;
and the miner's idea of punishment is strictly
Draconic. It is senseless to keep a man in gaol
and pay another man to look after him. It is
far better to warn him once and hang him for
the next offence. Really, a very sound law this,
in such an isolated district, where the Indians
are in great numbers and are known to become
hostile to the whites when under the influence
of liquor, to make the man who is really responsible for any bloodshed that may occur suffer the
full penalty in anticipation of the trouble that his
degrading traffic is sooner or later sure to bring
In   the  winter   of   1887-88,   Mr.   W.   Ogilvie, THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
Dominion Land Surveyor, was sent by the Canadian
Government to establish the boundary line between
the United States possessions in Alaska and the
North-West Territories of Canada, in the neighbourhood of Forty-Mile Creek, with the view of ascertaining on which side of the line the Yukon
diggings were situated. His observations, corroborated by those of the American surveyors sent
to the north for the same purpose, gave the result
that the boundary line crosses Forty-Mile Creek at
a distance of about 8 miles from its mouth. The
little town is therefore put in an anomalous position,
being distinctly an American town, getting its
supplies from San Francisco in American bottoms,
with an American post - office selling American
stamps, and the whole town situated on Canadian
soil. The mines on Forty-Mile Creek are well
within Alaska, but the Stewart River camps are
Canadian, as is also, of course, the site of the
trading-post at Fort Selkirk. In 1893 there was
no Canadian or American customs officer on
the whole length of the Yukon, and unless trade
should assume greater proportions, there was little
need to alter this state of affairs, which seemed
admirably suited to all whom it concerned.     The FORTY-MILE CREEK TO FORT YUKON 223
Canadian moderation in this respect contrasts
favourably with the action of a United States
officer at the old Hudson's Bay Post of Fort
Yukon, at the mouth of the Porcupine, in
1869, who reported to his government as follows:
"On the 9th of August, at 12 m. I notified the
representative of the Hudson's Bay Company that
the station is in the territory of the United States;
that the introduction of trading goods, or any trade
by foreigners with the natives, is illegal and must
cease; and that the Hudson's Bay Company must
vacate the buildings as soon as practicable. I then
took possession of the buildings, and raised the flag
of the United States over the fort."
The account of the miners as to the output of
gold dust on Forty-Mile Creek was discouraging,
and all the men who had spent several years in the
district agreed in saying that there never had been
any rich camps on the Yukon. No big fortunes
had been made, but if a man was willing to work,
and was contented with a moderate reward for his
labour, fair wages could usually be made during the
short season that was available for mining. Most
of the profits are, of course, used up in buying provisions for the winter, but with the advantage of 224 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
continual water carriage from San Francisco, the
price of provisions is not so high as might be
expected, and the expenses of coming in from the
coast in the spring and returning in the fall are
nearly as great as the cost of wintering in the
interior, without taking into account the loss of
working time. But it is no country for the lazy
man or for the gamblers and tough characters that
usually attend mining camps, and such people until
lately were in no demand at Forty-Mile.
But now this primitive method of self-rule is to
be done away with. During the past summer news
has come out from Forty-Mile Creek of a shooting
scrape brought about by a dispute over a poker
hand, and resulting in the death of two miners. It
seems that the camp can no longer be trusted to
govern itself. A detachment of North-West mounted
police, though dismounted to suit the exigencies of
the country, has been sent up to the Yukon to keep
the peace. A customs-house officer went up at the
same time to levy a tax on all American goods
brought in to Canadian territory. The chief result
of this move will unfortunately be that the wretched
miner will have to pay a still greater price for his
provisions, while the revenue of the Dominion can FORTY-MILE CREEK TO FORT YUKON
hardly  be   increased   sufficiently  to   pay  for   the
expense of keeping up officials on the spot.
On the main stream of the Yukon, a little above
the mouth of the creek, stand the church and other
buildings of Bishop Bompas' Mission, and a mile
or so below are the store buildings of a new company which has lately started an opposition to the
Alaska Commercial Company's trade on the Yukon.
A little competition will be welcome enough to
the miners, but if the output of gold dust does not
rapidly increase in value the trade will be hardly
worth competing for.
During our stay at Forty-Mile, the river steamer
Arctic arrived, sixteen days out from St. Michaels,
but she brought me no letters of credit, which I had
been expecting to meet me here. MacQuestion,
however, although he knew nothing at all about
me, kindly supplied me with provisions enough to
take us down the river, and I expected to meet my
letters at some point farther down stream. By the
way, it is most necessary in this part of Alaska to be
properly provided with either money or some sort
of credentials, as the old hospitality and readiness to
accept a man's word for his respectability has been
forced out of existence by the conduct of former
travellers; and the Alaska Commercial Company
have been so often imposed upon, that orders have
been reluctantly given to the men in charge of the
small posts along the Yukon to demand immediate
payment for all supplies furnished to strangers, and
if no money is forthcoming, to give them only provisions enough to make sure they shall not starve
before they reach the next post. The direct cause
of this edict was, I believe, the conduct of a large
party of miners who had really done rather well in
the diggings. They drifted down the Yukon to St.
Michaels, where they declared they -were destitute,
and were fed for a week or two and finally given
free passage by the company's steamer to San
Francisco. On landing, they paid in $5000 worth
of gold dust to the Mint, and were loud in their
boasts as to the astuteness they had displayed in
getting ahead of the Alaska Company. This sort
of thing has made rather hard going for impecunious
people on the 1500 miles run from Forty-Mile Creek
to the sea. From the captain of the Arctic I
tried to get information about the chances of getting
away from St. Michaels in the autumn, but he could
tell me nothing definitely. The company's steamer
might call there late in September, or she might have
got through her work by the first of the month.
The United States Revenue ship Bear usually
came into St. Michaels about the beginning of
September, and would take passengers to Oun-
alaska, if there was no chance of their being able
to catch any other steamer at St. Michaels; but of
course she had no fixed dates of sailing. I learned,
however, that there was an alternative route, by
leaving the Yukon two or three hundred miles from
its mouth and crossing to the Kuskokvim River,
which lies to the southward. From the mouth of
the Kuskokvim we could coast along the sea to the
head of Bristol Bay, and if there was no direct
communication from there to Ounalaska, we might
still be able to cross the portage across the great
Alaska peninsula and reach the sea again at Katmai
or Cook's Inlet.
Before leaving Forty-Mile I secured good homes
for all the sleigh-dogs. They had been of the
greatest service of course while the snow lasted,
but they had proved a great nuisance in the canoe,
besides being a heavy strain on the provisions. Our
pace of travelling down stream was too fast for the
dogs to run along the densely wooded banks, so we
had to take them on board, where they were always 228 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
in the way, and increased the danger of running a
rapid by jumping on top of the cargo and adding to
our instability whenever orders were given in a
loud voice, mindful of the long winter days spent in
harness when a shout was too often accompanied by
a crack of the whip.
On 18th July, late in the evening, we tore ourselves away from the luxury of the mining camp,
and drifting down a few miles, pitched our lodge at
the mouth of Coal Creek, an insignificant stream
coming in from the eastward, with the intention of
hunting a high range of mountains which were said
to be frequented by mountain sheep. I had seen
some of the skins at Forty-Mile, and, as they were
very white, with the tips of the hair looking as if
they had been singed by fire, I presume these sheep
are referable to the variety Ovis Dallii. On the tops
of the mountains I found plenty of tracks where the
sheep had evidently been travelling in the spring, but
their summer feeding-grounds must lie to the northward, in an extremely rough, irregular range which
still carried patches of snow on the summits. I
should have made a further expedition into this
distant range, but Alick, who accompanied me as
provision-bearer, utterly  disappeared  in   the   thick FORTY-MILE CREEK TO FORT YUKON
brush at the foot of the first hill, and I saw no more
of him until my return to camp after two days,
during which time I made an easy living by shooting
marmots and ptarmigan, which are in great abundance on the grassy summits. From a very elevated
position I had a good view of the surrounding
country, which seems to consist of irregular rolling
hills near the river valley, with high open plateaux
in the distance. On some of these plateaux the
cariboo wander in their thousands, and, as they
frequently cross the river, form an invaluable winter
food supply to the miners. Their passages are
uncertain, however, and although sometimes they
cross Forty-Mile close to the mining camp, and are
then slaughtered in great numbers, there have been
several winters when the want of fresh meat was
severely felt, and scurvy played havoc among the
bacon eaters.
A few miles below Coal Creek I killed a moose,
and a couple of days were spent in drying the meat.
Moose or black bear supplied our wants all the way
down the Yukon, although the bears had flavoured
their flesh very strongly with the rotten salmon they
find in such quantities on the river bars. As long
as these animals stick to the berry patches, their mam
meat is really good, but when the salmon begin
to run, they all come down to the streams, and
the fishy taste is noticeable in their flesh almost
immediately. We saw no grizzly along the main
stream, although we were told many and terrible
stories of their deeds of violence.
And now the navigation became most monotonous.
There is something fascinating of course in the idea
of running a couple of thousand miles down a big
river, but the charm is lost as soon as the rapids are
passed, and the element of danger is taken out of
the day's work. We could make 80 to 100 miles
a day with ease in twelve hours' actual paddling,
with an early start and putting ashore to eat every
four hours. But there was too much sitting down in
a cramped position, and we missed the excitement
that is always to be found in canoeing on a smaller
stream; there were no sharp corners to round with
the chance of running into something below the
bend, but long smooth reaches stretching away to
the horizon fringed by a dense growth of willows,
and all so exactly alike that one loses his admiration
for this immense river in the weariness which its
monotony produces.
After leaving Coal Creek we had a long steady FORTY-MILE CREEK TO FORT YUKON 231
run of 300 miles to Fort Yukon, situated on the
peninsula between the Porcupine and the Yukon,
at the lower end of a vast maze of islands and
winding channels that must formerly have been a
lake in the course of the river.
The breadth of the Yukon at this point has
never yet been determined, but is variously estimated at from 10 to 70 miles, according to the
miners' fancy. As a matter of fact nobody has
ever travelled much along the west side of the
river here, as the best channels are on the Porcupine side, and no doubt, too, there is a great
difference in the breadth of the Yukon in high
water and low at this point. The current runs
strongly through the narrow channels, which keep
splitting up and rejoining so rapidly that it is very
hard to pick out a practicable way through the
labyrinth, as the smaller channels are choked with
snags and fallen timber, besides being sometimes
very shallow at the lower end. In the autumn,
when the water is low, the steamer has great
difficulty in passing up this part of the river, as
the sand is continually shifting, and a bar may have
been formed in what was deep water on the occasion
of the previous voyage.    Our little canoe frequently mm*
grounded in some of the smaller channels, but we
made no attempt to keep the main channel, and
took any opening in the bank that fancy dictated,
never with any worse mishap than having to wade
a few hundred yards. The islands are covered
with cottonwood and willow, or more rarely with
a scattered growth of spruce, and the whole country
near the river is so level that no mountains are in
sight for a distance of 200 miles along the course
of the river. This district is locally known as the
Yukon Flats, and is one of the best places for wildfowl on the whole of the upper river. Geese were
very plentiful, as were also mallards, widgeon, and
teal, besides large numbers of gulls, terns, and
divers. We did no fishing, as we could always get
salmon from any of the Indian camps that we passed
every day, and I noticed that the women were
catching some fine whitefish in short rawhide nets,
set in the small eddies, although they seemed to
be thought of little value while the salmon were
In the early forties, while Campbell was making
his discoveries on the Liard and Pelly, the Hudson's
Bay Company, with characteristic energy, was sending exploration parties across the Rockies of the WILD-FOWL ON THE  YUKON  FLATS.  1
Lower Mackenzie to make an examination of the
Porcupine, with the result that trading posts were
established along its course as far as its junction
with an immense river flowing to the westward.
It was, however, left for Campbell to prove that
this was the Pelly-Yukon of his own explorations,
and this he satisfactorily accomplished by running
down from Fort Selkirk to Fort Yukon, and returning to the Mackenzie by way of the Porcupine.
It at once became obvious that this new route was
preferable to the difficult navigation of the Liard,
and to-day the traveller can leave the Hudson's
Bay Company's landing on the Athabasca, and
travel continuously down stream, with the exception
of the short ascent of Peel River and the Rocky
Mountain portage to Fort St. Michaels, on the
shore of the Behring Sea—a distance of 4000 miles
—with scarcely any more trouble, and perhaps less
risk than is involved in a transcontinental railway
Since the evacuation of Fort Yukon, there has
been no trading carried on there till this last summer, when a storekeeper has put up new buildings
a short distance from the site of the old fort, to
open up a trade with the Indians of the Porcupine. 236
On the latter stream the Hudson's Bay Company
have just shut up their establishments, as the
Yukon posts could easily undersell them, and the
Indians think nothing of taking their furs 300 miles
farther to reach the best market.
And here we came to the most northerly point of
our journey, for the Yukon, after just crossing the
Arctic Circle at the mouth of the Porcupine, trends
away in a south-westerly direction, finally reaching
the sea in latitude 620 N. CHAPTER XIV
Tanana River—Bones of the mastodon—Murder of Archbishop Seghers—
Ikogmut—Kuskokvim River—A game country.
A couple of hundred miles brought us to the
Tanana, the largest of all the Yukon tributaries,
having its sources in the unknown fastnesses of
the Alaskan Alps. The Tanana is much used as
a winter route by travellers from the Lower Yukon
to Forty-Mile Creek, as it cuts off the big bend of
the main stream, and there is only a short portage
from its upper waters to the mining camp. Besides
this, the number of native villages where salmon
can be procured every night for the dogs save the
carriage of extra weight—always a most important
consideration to the dog driver.
At the American Church Mission of Niklukyet,
standing on the north side of the river below the
confluence, we met a number of the Tanana Indians, 238 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
who had come down to trade, the best looking
natives that we saw among the fish eaters, and
quite in keeping with their little birch-bark canoes,
which I think show a prettier model than any other
bark canoes that I have seen throughout Canada or
Alaska. These Indians told us of an easy way to
the coast that might be found by poling for two
days up the Tanana, and making a day's travel
with many small portages up and down little
streams and through several lakes, till a creek
tributary to the Kuskokvim is reached. The latter
stream is a clear stretch of water passing through
a good game country, and without dangerous rapids,
to the Behring Sea. I should much like to have
taken this portage, but I thought my letters might
reach me at any point on the main stream, and
without them our finances would not bear the strain
of hiring guides. It is hopeless for a stranger to
try any of these short cuts for himself, as the
traveller possessed of local knowledge will vary his
course every time he passes through the strange
maze of slowly-moving water-courses that drain
the level country adjacent to the Yukon and the
Below the Tanana we saw no moose, and after THE KUSKOKVIM RIVER
another day's run no tracks were to be seen on
any of the bars. The Tanana itself is said by the
Indians to be a good moose country throughout,
and there are rumours of great abundance of these
animals in the district lying between that river and
the head of Cook's Inlet. The isolated mountains
lying in the tundra, which now begin to show up,
are also said to be frequented by moose, but the
valley of the Lower Yukon does not seem suited
to their habits.
Along this part of the river the Indians frequently brought us mastodon teeth and huge bones,
which they were anxious to trade for tobacco. At
one place they showed us a long stretch of high
muddy bluffs, where these bones are frequently
exposed as the strong current washes down the
banks; but we found nothing of interest, although
we took a great deal of risk in peering about under
the crumbling masses of muddy shale which keeps
continually falling into the river. It is probable
that the Indians had carefully picked up anything
of value, as a good mastodon tooth will usually
fetch a plug of tobacco from the passing miner.
We put ashore early one morning at a little
trading post to have a talk with a Russian Finn THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
whom we had heard of, a man who had seen forty
years of service in Alaska, and under happier circumstances was, no doubt, able to give us reliable
information about the portage to the Kuskokvim,
and the journey along the sea coast that lay before
us. He came out to welcome us kindly enough,
but I saw he was not quite right when he began to
shake hands with us from the top of a bank 30 feet
high, and finally slid down to the canoe in a sitting
posture, with his hand still stretched out in greeting.
He had been drinking "hootchinoo" before the sun
was up, with disastrous results, and judging from
the amount of fiery stuff still left there was little
chance of his sobering up that day. He was most
hospitable, but could only talk of the glories of San
Francisco, where he had spent the last winter, and
refused to say a word about local matters that
might have been of some interest. I thought it
prudent to escape before the "hootchinoo" proved
too much for my crew, and take the chance of
finding the way for ourselves, so we pushed out
into the current and left the old fellow waving the
bottle on the bank.
At Nulato, 200 miles from Niklukyet, the climate
seems to change as the influence of the sea makes THE KUSKOKVIM RIVER
itself felt. At the time of our arrival the rain-
clouds were driving up the river in front of the
west wind, and the rest of our journey along the
Yukon was made against a head wind and heavy
sea, with nearly continual rain—a great change
from the long spell of hot, dry weather that had
lasted with hardly a break from the Slate Rapids
on the Pelly to Nulato.
On the bank of the Yukon, some 20 miles
above Nulato, stands the cross erected to commemorate the murder of Archbishop Seghers, who
was here killed by his servant in 1886, while on a
visit of inspection to the Roman Catholic Mission
stations along the river—one of the most cowardly,
purposeless crimes ever committed. A mild rebuke
had been administered by the Archbishop overnight
for negligence in some small matter, and that,
according to the Indian who was travelling with
them at the time, was the only reason to account
for the murder. Early in the morning the servant,
a white man, got up and lit the fire, shouted
" Breakfast ready," and shot his master as he raised
himself up in his blanket.
At Nulato the old mining talk was again heard.
Some new diggings had been discovered  several
hundred miles up the Keokuk, and promised to be
as rich as all other new diggings. A stern-wheel
steamer was running right up to the mines, and
several men were making preparations to spend
the winter at the new camp; but some who had
returned gave less hopeful accounts, and complained
that the gold dust was not to be found in the expected quantity.
The Keokuk joins the Yukon from the northward, a short distance above Nulato, and forming
a big northerly bend heads back towards the
neighbourhood of Fort Yukon. The Indians from
the head of the Keokuk were the perpetrators of
the celebrated massacre of the natives of Nulato,
and their name is still in bad odour among the
lower river tribes, but of late years no disturbance
has taken place.
At this point there was a noticeable mixture
of the Esquimau type of face among the salmon
fishers, and a few long, slender, walrus-skin canoes
were to be seen hauled up with the birch-barks in
most of the camps. There was a difference, too,
in the native dress, and here we first saw the parka,
a long, sack-like garment worn by men and women
alike in common use—usually made from the skins THE KUSKOKVIM RIVER
of cariboo or ground hogs, but the wealthier members of the Nulato tribes wore the skins of the
Siberian reindeer, which are obtained from the
Esquimaux, and fetch a big price among the Indians
of the interior. Although Nulato is, by the course
of the river, many hundred miles distant from the
salt water, its inhabitants are brought into close
contact with the coast tribes by means of a short
winter road that reaches the sea at Norton Sound.
With the arrival of the steamer came another
disappointment; there were no letters again, and
it became evident that we must once more rely on
our own skill as hunters and fishermen to keep the
pot boiling, and limit our purchases to the barest
necessities. Smith had a little gold dust that he
had brought from Cassiar, which afterwards proved
of the greatest service, as there was absolutely no
credit to be had. All the trading-posts were in
charge of Russian half-breeds, who could speak no
English, and lost all interest in us when they discovered that we had no money with which to pay
for what we wanted. The most serious inconvenience we felt was from the scarcity of blankets
and clothing, as the weather was nearly always
wet, and would, of course, be cold along the sea 244 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
coast as the autumn approached. There was
nothing to be done, however, except to continue
our journey in the old rags that we had brought
from the Liard. I afterwards heard that all this
trouble had been caused by the carelessness of the
postmaster at Forty-Mile Creek, as my letters of
credit from the Alaska Commercial Company's
office in San Francisco had been lying there at the
time of our arrival.
Another run of nearly 200 miles took us to
the little village of Anvik, where a Protestant
Mission has been established. It stands, like all
the other settlements, on the north or sunny side of
the Yukon, and is cut in half by the Anvik River
coming in from the tundra lying to the northward,
and available as a short route to St. Michael's.
For any traveller who has a light canoe, and wishes
to avoid the rough piece of coast work from the
mouth of the river to the ocean steamer's landing
on St. Michael's Island, lying some distance to
the north of the delta, this Anvik River ensures
a speedy and easy journey, as the long detours
of the main river are avoided, and the portages
through chains of lakes are said to be short and
not of frequent occurrence. THE KUSKOKVIM RIVER
Sixty miles below Anvik is Korejovski, the
headquarters of the Roman Catholic missionaries,
where the well-filled school buildings give evidence
that good work is being done among the rising
generation. The comparatively extensive farming
operations give a more cheerful appearance to the
place than is presented by any of the unkempt
trading - posts that we had seen above, and the
mission grounds are carefully fenced off from the
filth of the native village, which seems usually
accepted as a necessity. The children are kept
neat and clean, in strong contrast to their friends
and relations, but the tendency to fall back into
the habits of long ages is hard to eradicate
suddenly, and no doubt some time must elapse
before cleanliness becomes tolerated for its own
sake instead of merely as an irksome condition on
which the good living at the mission school may
be enjoyed.
Hay-making was going on busily in the intervals
between the rainstorms ; the cattle looked wonderfully homelike after our long sojourn among the
moose and bear. The potato crop was looking
well, and would form an important item in the
winter's   supply  for  such   a   large   establishment, THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
though the children only really thrive on the ever-
reliable salmon, and become quickly disgusted with
a continuance of the white people's diet.
After leaving Korejovski, we ran down to the
Greek Church Mission at Ikogmut, a distance of
about 70 miles, and camped just below the
village in a heavy storm of wind and rain. Here
Father Belkoff has been in charge of the mission
for many years, and is probably one of the best
living authorities on the early history of the Russian
traders on the Yukon. He gave me the only
reliable information that I had as yet received
with regard to the portage to the Kuskokvim,
and told me that the chief of the Upper Kuskokvim
Indians was at present at Ikogmut, and would be
leaving for home in a day or two. This decided
the question as to routes, and, finding the men
only too glad to leave the beaten track and get
away from the [monotonous windings of the Yukon,
even at the risk of not being able to get passage
to San Francisco till spring, I interviewed the
chief of the Kuskokvims with the satisfactory
result that he agreed to act as pilot across the
portage. Father Orloff, the assistant missionary
at Ikogmut, interested me greatly with his descrip- THE KUSKOKVIM RIVER
tion of the upper waters of the Kuskokvim, where
he had wandered in the course of a winter's
journey. From his account of the game in the
high mountains toward the head-waters of the river,
it must be one of the most attractive countries
still left untouched by the sportsman-explorer. He
mentioned the same old rumour of another kind
of mountain sheep differing totally from the bighorn and the mountain goat, which is well known
to the Kuskokvim Indians, but he could say nothing
definite about it as he had never seen it himself.
Certainly the northern parts of the St. Elias and
contiguous ranges are as likely a spot as anywhere
on the American continent to find an animal unknown to science, for there is a very large and
difficult tract of country from the head of Cook's
Inlet to the big bend of the Yukon that has never
been traversed.
On the 15th August we left Ikogmut in company with the chief and his family, who were
travelling with a long, slim bidarka or skin canoe,
and a small birch-bark. A heavy sea prevented
our crossing the Yukon till evening, when we
entered the mouth of a small creek with little
current, winding between low banks covered with L
a thick growth of willows. Here we said good-bye
to the river whose water had carried us so well
on our long down-stream run from the Pelley
Lakes, and I heard regrets expressed that we
were forcing our way through mud and wind and
rain towards civilisation, instead of seeing the
leaves turn yellow in the dry uplands by those
distant lakes where the moose and cariboo were
fattening for other hunters.
For a whole day we paddled up this winding
creek, which split up so frequently that nobody
without local knowledge could possibly keep the
right course, and at sundown camped fairly on the
edge of the tundra, carrying the canoe and part of
the cargo over the first portage to a small lake. A
gloomy, desolate strip of country is this marshy
tundra, with its countless lakes and sluggish
streams, especially as we saw it this night in
drenching rain, which only seemed to pause a few
moments to give the mosquitoes a fair chance to
annoy us. But there was still enough willow
scrub for firewood, and even a few spruce trees
were scattered about over the long stretches
of morass, rendering the landscape far less wearisome   than  in  other   parts   of   the tundra,   where THE KUSKOKVIM RIVER 249
there is absolutely nothing to break the dull gray
Two days were occupied in poling through
shallow lakes, where the rushes and water-lilies
almost prevented the passage of the canoes; in
making portages, sometimes by carrying, and sometimes by dragging over the soft mud, and in
following the windings of the creeks up and down
stream, round sharp corners, where collisions with
the bank were unavoidable. The long bidarka
was the worst offender in this respect, but the
banks were soft and no damage was done. Wildfowl were in such numbers as are to be seen only
in these northern breeding-grounds, and our companions showed great dexterity in knocking down
rising mallard or teal or swimming musk-rats at
short range with a three-pronged spear. Often
the women insisted upon being put ashore where
the yellow berries of the muskeg were thickest,
when bladders of unsavory seal oil and a few
handfuls of sugar that had been brought from the
traders' store at Ikogmut were produced, to mix
with the fruit.
As the weather now became unusually fine, we
took  things  easily, killing  geese or ducks as we THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
wanted them, and it was late on the third evening
after leaving the mission that we dragged down a
long slough with scarcely enough water to float
us, and found ourselves at the Kuskokvim. Here
our pilots left us, as their way lay up stream, and
after a trifling present of tobacco, and many signs
of mutual satisfaction—for the chief's half-dozen
words of Russian conveyed no meaning to me,
although he had used them many times over in
conversations on the portages or round the camp-
fires—we shot out into the swift current and soon
left our friends far behind.
The Kuskokvim is by no means a small river,
but, of course, does not approach the Yukon in
size. It has more current than is found in the
Lower Yukon, which runs a course of several
hundred miles in winding through the low-lying
country adjacent to the sea. The Kuskokvim
takes a more direct course, and its banks are drier
and more pleasant to camp on than the swampy
shores of the Yukon. The salmon run was nearly
over, and few fish were being taken in the traps
that were staked off at the head of nearly every
gravel bar. Native villages were frequently met
with, and the total population of the  Kuskokvim THE KUSKOKVIM RIVER 251
must mount up to a very respectable number,
although I believe many of the fishermen we met
were not residents, but had come from various
parts of the coast to catch their winter supply of
salmon. The villages are built in the typical
Innuit style, a collection of half-underground barra-
boras or earth-houses, each flanked by one or two
square wooden rooms raised on high stilts above
the risk of floods, as a place of safety for the
stores of dried fish and other treasures of the
simple-minded native. Birch-bark canoes are
entirely replaced by a great variety of models in
walrus skin, from the great family boat in which
the women, children, and household gods travel
from place to place, down to the little kayak, in
which the Innuit hunter spends most of his existence during the summer months.
An uneventful run of 100 miles brought us
to a trading-post built on the north bank of
the Kuskokvim, just where the river begins to
broaden out into the curious funnel-shaped expansion by which it finds its way to the sea. Here,
too, stands a Moravian Mission, offering yet
another choice of creeds to the savage, who surely
must be rather bewildered by so many conflicting 252 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
theories as to how his future welfare may best be
ensured. The missionary was extremely good to
us in smoothing our way with the trader—a
Russian half-breed speaking no English, and very
loath to part with any of his provisions for the
scanty supply of gold dust that represented our
whole capital. We eventually secured a little flour
and a fair stock of leaf-tobacco to trade with the
Innuits for fish or any other necessaries we might
be in want of.
Everybody advised us strongly against the rashness of proceeding to sea in our little canoe, and
doubtless the advice was well meant, but there
seemed to be no way out of the difficulty, as
nobody offered to give us a more suitable
boat or to advance us a winter's supply of
provisions if we remained where we were. The
missionary gave us the best description he could
of our route, and told us that we could avoid some
of the rough water by making use of the small
rivers and lakes, with a few portages, if we could
pick up guides on the way who would pilot us to
Nushagak. CHAPTER   XV
Coast navigation — The Innuits, their food, habits, and dress — Moses
and Aaron—Good News Bay—A scene of desolation—Kayaks—Cape
On 23rd August, in rags and poverty, we started
down the tidal water in an open canoe to navigate
300 miles of coast-line utterly unknown to us, and
exposed to the fury of one of the stormiest seas
in the world. At various distances along this
coast were native villages, and from their inhabitants we were to obtain provisions if we ran short,
and to gather information as to what lay ahead,
although we could not speak a word of their
language. At the very outset we found that we
had undertaken a task which would involve a good
deal of time and some risk. Only 50 miles down
we were obliged to lie quiet on the marshy bank
for a day and a half till the westerly gale moderated,
and the sea went down enough to allow our canoe 254
to make her way in safety. During this time we
were surprised to see a large schooner running up
the river in midstream, but the sea was too heavy
for us to go out and speak her. No vessels had
been expected at the trading-post, and I hardly
liked to turn back on the chance of getting a
passage to the southward by the stranger, so we
continued down stream as soon as the weather was
good enough for travelling. The Kuskokvim had
now increased to such a width that the northern
shore was invisible, but, as the country is a dead
level, without any tall trees on either side, the
distance across is probably not more than 7 or
8 miles.
Villages were still frequent on the south bank,
and continued at longer intervals along the sea
coast till we reached Nushagak. The Innuits, as
the natives of the sea coast are called from the
mouth of the Yukon to the head of Bristol Bay,
are probably the most numerous of all the Esquimaux tribes. A simple, kindly race, hospitable to
the passing stranger, but indescribably filthy in
appearance and habit. They make an easy living
off the salmon which run in thousands up every
little  stream  of the  tundra, the  hair  seals wThich n
breed among the outlying rocks, and the walrus
which are still fairly abundant in parts of the
Behring Sea. The fur seals do not come in on
this coast at all, and are too far off at sea for the
Innuits to reap any benefit from the decision of
the Behring Sea Arbitration Congress, which forbids the use of firearms for the killing of seals, in
order to give the native a chance of employment.
So far these people have pretty well escaped the
contamination of the white men, as their settlements
lie out of the track of whalers bound for the Arctic
Sea, and the whisky sellers do not like to venture
too near to the dangerous coast.
It is a pity that the American Government is so
fully occupied in watching the movements of a few
foreign sealers that it cannot keep an eye on the
movements of its own whalers ; perhaps it is because
the fur seal is a distinct source of revenue and the
wretched Innuit is not.
Of late years the San Francisco whalers have
been pushing on farther and farther round the
shore of the Arctic Sea towards the Mackenzie
River, and the damage done among the natives
is already noticeable, but nothing is done to prevent it increasing.    It is true that a very flagrant 256
case a few years ago caused some comment in the
newspapers, but it seemed to be nobody's business
to make an official inquiry into the case.
Late one autumn a whaler on her return voyage
brought up in front of a populous village on an
island in the northern part of the Behring Sea.
A lively trade ensued with the natives, who were
anxious to make their bargains quickly and go in
pursuit of the walrus which were now passing, and
which every year provided the winter's food supply.
But in addition to the legitimate articles of trade,
a couple of kegs of strong rum were put ashore,
and the schooner sailed away for San Francisco
with all the wealth of the village in her hold.
By the time the natives had finished the rum
and got over its effects the walrus had all passed,
there was no supply of food put up for the winter,
and ice was beginning to drift in the sea. The
result was inevitable. The next whaler that called
at the island was able to take home an interesting
collection of bones and skulls of the Esquimau
type to an ethnological institution, but there was
no man, woman, or child left alive on the rum-
stricken island to tell the story of starvation and
When we approached any of the Innuit villages
the women always turned out and sat on the roofs
of their turf-houses to get a better view of the
strange boat, while the men came down to show
us the best landing, and help us run the canoe up ■
quickly beyond the reach of the surf. They always
lent us poles for setting up the lodge, and gave
us firewood when there was no drift timber near.
They have to make long expeditions up the small
rivers for poles, as they require a good many for
setting their fish traps in deep water, and none of
a suitable length grow anywhere near the coast.
The inside of their barraboras smelt too much of
rancid seal oil and general filth to be comfortable
quarters for a white man at this time of year,
although they would make a snug enough shelter
from the savage winds that sweep this dreary
coast in winter.
The natives were liberal, too, with their salmon,
and would always give us a good supply for a leaf
of most villainous tobacco. But they could never
understand our preference for fresh fish to those
in various stages of decomposition. Some of their
freshly smoked salmon are really very good, but
most of them are spoilt to a white man's taste by THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
being tied up tight in bales before they are properly
dried, and allowed to turn sour. On one occasion
I objected to some fish which an old man brought
into the lodge as not being fresh enough, and made
signs to that effect, chiefly with the aid of my nose.
The old man went away and brought some more
which were far worse. On these being rejected he
beckoned me to come with him, and leading me
to a swampy spot at the back of his barrabora
pointed out what I took to be a newly made grave.
I made signs of interrogation and deep sympathy,
whereupon he scraped away the loose earth with a
fish spear and lifted a board which covered the top
of the pit. I fully expected to see the body of a
dearly beloved relative, and experienced nearly as
great a shock when I found the pit was filled to
the brim with a seething mass of rotten salmon.
The old fellow's next signs I fully understood;
they were to the effect that if I wanted something
really good I must give him more than the usual
amount of tobacco leaves, and I began to realise
that he had misunderstood my sign language and
thought I was objecting to his fish because they
were too fresh.
The salmon pit I afterwards found was a common m
institution at every village, its contents being usually
reserved for winter use.
The dress of the Innuits is simplicity itself, the
parka being the only really necessary garment for
either sex. On this part of the coast the groundhog supplies all the clothing, and, after the salmon
run is over, every Innuit woman makes a summer's
expedition to the nearest mountain range to snare
ground-hogs for the yearly wants of her family,
while her lord and master is spearing hair seals, or
perhaps hunting walrus under the high cliffs of
Cape Newenham. A few of the women make their
parkas by stitching together loon skins, which are
pretty enough while new, but soon drop their
feathers and are not nearly as serviceable as the
ground-hog skins. A pair of shapeless sealskin
boots reaching half-way up the leg completes the
regulation outdoor costume, although members of
both sexes wear a pair of white linen trousers as
a tribute of respect to the advance of civilisation
for a week or two after a visit to the nearest trading-post. But once inside the barrabora even the
parka is discarded, and men and women squat on
the filthy mud floor as naked as their fathers
and  mothers did  long ages  before the trousered THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
missionary appeared on the shore of the Behring
At the mouth of the Kuskokvim immense mud-
banks, which are dry at half-ebb, make the navigation difficult for large vessels. A canoe or shallow
draught boat should come out a little before high
water, as there is then water enough to float her
close to the shore, and the first of the strong ebb
will take her to the southward across the banks
before she grounds with the falling tide. We did
just the wrong thing — as so often happens to
strangers—and left the mouth of the river about
three hours after high water. A seal hunter was
coming in in his kayak, and gesticulated to us wildly
to come ashore, but we took it for granted that he
only wanted us to land to give him a leaf of tobacco
—which is a common trick of the Innuit. Our
mistake soon became evident, as we found we had
to keep round a bank which ran off several miles
to sea, and with a strong ebb meeting an onshore
wind there seemed a good chance of getting into
trouble. A landing through the surf meant probably the loss of everything, and a long struggle
through soft mud to reach the firm shore.
The canoe behaved very well, and by occasional ON SALT WATER
baling we rounded the outside point in safety, and
had both wind and tide in our favour till a bend
in the channel brought us close to the mainland
just as darkness came on. Here we landed and
carried the canoe and cargo to a pile of stranded
logs which we made our home for the next four
days, while the Behring Sea was swept by such a
storm that many a bigger vessel than ours would
have been glad of a snug harbour.
In the morning we found that wTe had put ashore
close to the warehouse used for storing the trading
goods for the Kuskokvim district, which are here
lightered ashore from the Alaska Commercial Company's steamers and afterwards taken up the river
in skin-boats. As it was evident that we could
not move till the wind moderated, and rain was
pouring down continually, we were forced to set up
the lodge with poles borrowed from a native burying-ground, where each man's grave was adorned
with a row of spears and paddles, and in one case
a wonderful specimen of an ancient flint-lock gun.
Poles are planted at the head of every grave to
mark its position when the snow lies deep, as the
natives have a dislike to walking over their dead.
Here  we  struck   up  a  lasting  friendship  with  a THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
couple of Innuits, who had also taken refuge from
the bad weather, and, by means of the various
signs which suggested themselves, made a bargain
th them to act as pilots to Nushagak. It afterwards transpired that they had never been there,
but apart from this they turned out to be good
fellows enough, thoroughly trustworthy, ready to
lend a hand in any emergency, and always cheery,
except in heavy weather, when they became often
needlessly alarmed for the safety of our canoe,
which would ship water in a sea that broke harmlessly on the skin decks of their own kayaks. They
answered readily to the names of Moses and Aaron,
bestowed on them by the half-breeds, who took a
great fancy to them at once. Aaron had a shrivelled
leg, which made him quite useless ashore, but in
his kayak he was as good a man as anybody else.
Some former traveller has conferred a great benefit
on his followers by establishing the half-dollar as
the standard of trade between whites and natives
along this part of the coast, so that when an Innuit
scratches a round mark in his palm with the forefinger of the other hand, it means half a dollar,
instead of the dollar always represented in this
manner in other parts of America.    But for small
trading, tobacco is universally used, as men and
women are intensely fond of it and can never afford
to buy any quantity from the traders. They seldom
use a pipe, but soak the tobacco in seal oil, roll it up
in a ball, and find great satisfaction in chewing it.
When a gale of wind is blowing the rainclouds
on shore, the meeting-place of the tundra with the
water of Behring Sea presents a picture of muddy
desolation that could hardly be surpassed in any
part of the world. Land and water are so strangely
intermixed at the various stages of the tide that it is
difficult to choose a spot for the camp that will
remain above the sea level, or to tell which pool
will yield fresh water for the kettle. The flood-
tide runs with a strong current far up the incoming
rivers, which find their way across the tundra till
the banks are overflowed and salt - water lakes
appear where an hour ago there was nothing but
an extra depth of soft mud to show that the land
had recently been submerged. There is always an
uneasy feeling, too, that there may be a big roller
forming somewhere out at sea, a couple of feet
higher than its neighbours, which will presently
break upon the beach and wash everything before
it to the foot of the isolated range of mountains 264
standing far in on the tundra. And yet, directly
the sun comes out and the wind moderates, it will
be found that even this country has a charm of
its own, in its suggestion of limitless extent, in the
quiet colours of its grasses and flowers, in the
changing moods of the sea, and especially in the
great abundance of bird life that frequents the
breeding-grounds of the coast in the early autumn.
On a fine evening, as you sit behind some great
drift log that the Kuskokvim has borne hundreds of
miles from the interior of Alaska, waiting for the
evening flight of the geese which are to provide
your day's rations for the morrow, and listen to the
notes of the wild-fowl and plover out on the tundra,
the beauties of nature seem to become more distinctly visible than during the rush of travel, when
your attention is occupied with pole or paddle; and
the attraction of the lonely desert at such a time
will linger in your memory for many a day after the
attendant storms and hardships are forgotten.
When we left the warehouse, a spell of better
weather set in, and we were able to coast along the
level shore without any more delay till we reached
Good News Bay. Here the land rises, and gravelly
beaches take the place of the muddy shores that ON SALT WATER 265
characterise the estuary of the river. A pleasant
enough shore to cruise by, with deep water close
in, and usually plenty of driftwood to camp with,
although there is absolutely no growing timber
except the dwarf willow bushes. Whenever we
had a fair wind we lashed the kayaks alongside,
and, hoisting all available canvas, ran gaily as long
as the water was smooth. In a heavy swell, the
kayaks ploughed up such a high bow-wave that the
water broke over our combings, and our companions
had to be cast adrift, invariably falling a long way
astern. In rough weather they had, of course, far
the best of the fun, as the kayak can ship no water.
The small round hatch in which the paddler sits is
tied round with the lower part of a thin fish-skin
coat, so as to be perfectly watertight. The coat is
also tied closely round the neck and sleeves to keep
water from entering by those means, and a round
wooden hat renders everything secure. With his
row of spears and a spare paddle lying on deck
in a neat little rack ready to his hand, the Innuit
will go to sea as long as he can force his little craft
against the breeze.
At Good News Bay the mountains come down
to the sea and are continued   for  a  long way  to 266 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
the southward, till they terminate in the headland
known as Cape Newenham. This appeared to be
an ugly piece of coast for an open canoe; and I was
rather pleased to find our pilots heading for the end
of the bay, where a large village stands at the
mouth of a river, whose course we were now to
follow. For two days we pushed up this river,
poling, towing, and wading in water that was
already beginning to feel cold, through a dry rolling country with mountains of some elevation, till
it became merely a deep little ditch, in some places
too narrow for the canoe. When we could follow
it no longer we began to abuse Moses for bringing
us the wrong way, but he was quite equal to the.
occasion, and taking his kayak on his shoulders
stalked off towards a grassy ridge that lay right
ahead, making signs for us to do the same. About
a mile away we found a little lake, but we had to
cross the portage twice to bring everything over.
Aaron of course was not much use here, but in spite
of being crippled he always managed to carry over
a light load. I took pity on him the first time and
carried his kayak over for him, but never offered to
do so again. The only way to carry one of these
canoes is to put your head right inside the hatch ON SALT WATER 267
and let her rest bottom up on your shoulders; but
there is such a frightful stench of seal oil and rotten
fish inside every kayak that was ever built, that one
experience of a portage a mile in length is quite
We made altogether five portages in passing
through a chain of lakes, and finally dropped on to
another little ditch draining towards the south-west.
During this part of our journey wood was very
scarce; in fact we had once or twice some difficulty
in getting fire enough to boil a kettle. A big camp
fire at night was quite out of the question, and we
began to feel the want of blankets and better clothing, as there was always a sharp frost on clear
nights, and the early mornings were wretchedly
cold. The stream we now had to follow was
merely a repetition of the last, but with the advantage of the fair current the navigation was much
easier, and early on the third day after leaving salt
water we reached a comparatively large river entering the Behring Sea, well to the eastward of Cape
Newenham. At the junction of the streams we
met a party of Innuits, who were bound for a
cariboo hunt in a range of mountains already in
sight to the northward. 268 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
Some little difficulty here arose about provisions,
as we had grown careless of the future, and our
pilots could usually spear salmon enough for present
use. But just now they were at fault, and no wildfowl were to be found up these little rivers, so we
had to apply to the strangers, who produced a rawhide net which they stretched across a small slough,
with the pleasing result that thirty clean run sea-
trout with an average weight of three pounds were
brought ashore in five minutes, and an unexpected
dinner was provided for all hands.
At the mouth of the river—which we reached at
nightfall—there is another village, where we had no
difficulty in trading tobacco for a supply of salmon
sufficient to last us for several days. The existence
of this fresh-water route had been a splendid thing
for us, as during the three days that we had been
travelling along the rivers a strong wind was blowing on the coast, and we should probably have been
lying on the beach all the time unable to travel.
Cape Newenham, a long projecting headland with a
strong tide race is one of the roughest places on the
Behring Sea, and there is said to be a long continuous stretch of high cliffs on which no landing can
be made.    If we had not come across our faithful 1
Moses and Aaron we could only have blundered
on along the coast and trusted to luck in getting
round safely, as it would be impossible for a stranger
to follow the inland route by himself even if he
knew of its existence.
Below the village is a large estuary, and from its
lower end a narrow rocky channel leads through the
surf into the open sea. This must be a dangerous
spot for any kind of boat with a strong onshore
wind, as we found some trouble in dodging the
broken water when we crossed the bar in a dead
calm, with an ebb tide meeting the least perceptible
ground-swell. In the offing lie the high cliffs of
Hagemeister's Island, a noted place for bear according to our guides, but time was valuable and the
width of the intervening channel would have caused
unnecessary risk to our frail vessel. On this same
evening we were caught in a breeze, and being
unable to keep the sea, were forced to run ashore
through rather heavy breakers, which nearly caused
a total wreck, and though the little kayaks came
ashore without shipping a drop of water, they
seemed to be in some danger of rolling over on the
crest of a breaking wave. We did our best to land
the cargo dry, but the sea was too much for us and THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
nearly everything in the canoe was soaked. The
poor Kodak camera, which up till now had been very
lucky in keeping out of trouble, had to swim for
its life, and all the photographs of the sea coast and
its inhabitants were utterly ruined. In the morning a recurrence of the disaster was only avoided
by wading out the canoe through surf up to our
waists and climbing in one at a time when we got
outside the breakers, a bad beginning to a long, cold
day's journey. About 10 miles away in a straight
line lay the point of Togiak Bay, which we had to
round, but the wind was too strong to try the crossing, and even in skirting the land we found the sea
quite heavy enough. At the head of the bay a
large stream, the Togiak, comes in from the eastward, and at its mouth the ebb tide meeting a heavy
swell made a confused broken sea on the shoal
ground. Here we again shipped a good deal of
water and had to bale out several times; but once
across the mouth of the river there was a little
shelter close to the land, and without further trouble
we arrived at the wretched little hut which does
duty for a trading-post, built close to the extremity
of the point. A dreary, inhospitable place it seemed
as we saw it, in wind and rain.    Not a soul was to ON SALT WATER
be found, as the trader was away, and although we
could see an abundance of flour and other good
things through the window of the store, there was
no chance of getting at them except by force. By
peering through a crack in the boards of the dwelling house we could catch a glimpse of a neat little
pair of shoes, standing side by side on the floor,
with very high heels in the middle of the soles,
such as can be seen in great numbers pattering
along Kearny Street on any fine afternoon. So,
perhaps, the trader of Togiak leads a less dreary
life than the natural surroundings of his habitation
might suggest. We were not sufficiently hard up
for anything to feel justified in helping ourselves,
so we pitched our lodge and ate salmon and
ptarmigan contentedly, while we waited for the
strong south-west wind and heavy sea to moderate
enough to enable us to leave the shelter of the bay.
The camp-fire was supplied by driftwood, but there
was still a total absence of standing timber, and
the willow bushes seemed even more stunted here
than in other parts of the tundra-
Ptarmigan were very plentiful and were beginning
to band up into big packs, as is always their habit
when autumn approaches.    Geese were often seen 272 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
in large numbers, but were not easily approached
except on the muddy flats at the mouths of the
rivers. Of the sea birds, the most conspicuous on
this part of the coast were the cormorants, gulls,
guillemots, puffins, auks, divers, scoters, and eider
ducks. The only small animals we noticed were
the red and Arctic fox, the mink, the musk-rat, and
a small variety of the ground-hog or siffleur. None
of the larger animals seem to come out to the sea
coast. The only tracks we saw were those of an
occasional bear on the sand-bars of some of the
small rivers along which we travelled. CHAPTER  XVI
A gale of wind—Karlukuk Bay—Inland navigation again—Wood River—The
schooner, her skipper and crew of many nations—Ounalaska—Homeward
bound in the 'Frisco steamer.
The wind freshened up into a gale with continual
rain, and two days were lost at Togiak on account
of bad weather. On the third day,, although it was
a bright calm morning when we started, we were
sharply reminded that our canoe was not the right
sort of vessel in which to attempt a coasting voyage
on the Behring Sea. The shore here changes its
appearance, and instead of the low sandy or gravelly
beaches on which a landing can always be made
with safety to life in case of necessity, long stretches
of rocky bluffs begin to appear, precluding all hope
for the occupants of any boat not seaworthy enough
to keep an offing. As we were passing one of
these  bluffs,  a sudden   squall   from   the westward
ruffled up the long ground-swell into a dangerous
sea, and for some time it was doubtful whether we
could keep the canoe sufficiently clear of water to
round the next point in safety. To turn back and
run with the sea seemed to offer a worse chance
than pushing on, as the distance to run was much
greater, and if the squall continued it was only a
question of a few minutes till one of the short steep
waves would break on board and render the canoe
unmanageable, even if there was not weight enough
in the cargo to make her sink at once. The
kayaks stayed by us, and the Innuits gave us
much advice that was no doubt well meant but
utterly unintelligible. They were evidently greatly
alarmed for our safety, and could have done nothing
to help us in case of disaster. There was one little
bight just under the pitch of the head where it
might have been possible for an active man to
climb the cliff if he were lucky enough to escape
damage in the surf, and I had serious thoughts of
trying it, although of course it meant total destruction of canoe and cargo, but a few more minutes'
struggle, with some desperate plunges into the head
seas, took us round the point in safety, and to
everybody's relief a successful landing was made on VOYAGE TO O UNA LA SKA
a sheltered gravelly beach. We were only just in
time, as the wind freshened up to the force of a
whole gale, which blew with unabated violence for
two days and nights, accompanied by heavy rainstorms. The canoe, propped up on her side, gave
us a little shelter, but there was no driftwood to be
found, and time hung heavily during the enforced
delay. There was still a long ugly piece of coast
ahead of us, but when the weather once moderated it continued fine until we had rounded the
headland forming the west entrance to Karlukuk
Bay, when the most perilous part of our journey
was safely over. We paddled our best on this
occasion, as everybody was anxious to avoid any
recurrence of our experience after leaving Togiak.
At the head of Karlukuk Bay is another village,
where our guides held a long interview with
the inhabitants as to the best way of reaching
Nushagak. Moses and Aaron had come to the
end of their local knowledge, but still kept up their
interest in us, and would not hear of our employing
another pilot. They insisted too on acting as
interpreters between the strangers and ourselves,
and took great pride in showing their countrymen
how well they could talk to a white man.    It turned 276 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
out that another stretch of inland navigation was
available, a smooth-water route by which Cape
Constantine—a promontory projecting far out into
Bristol Bay—might be altogether avoided.
Starting from the village at low water, we carried
the flood tide up the innumerable windings of a
river entering the head of the bay. At the end of
the tidal water the land rises quickly, and of course
a strong current was met with at once. Shortly
above this point two or three small swampy lakes
lie in the course of the stream, and here the salmon
were rotting in thousands, some dead and some
making their last struggle, unable to ascend the
stream higher, and apparently unwilling to turn
their heads down stream to the salt water. Several
portages from lake to lake occupied a good deal of
time, but by noon on the second day out from
Karlukuk we had crossed the last height of land
and entered a sheet of water 8 miles in length,
lying south - west and north - east, drained by a
stream flowing towards the Bay of Nushagak.
Spruce timber now began to show up frequently
(the first we had seen since leaving the Kuskokvim),
and increased in size as we ran down stream. A
few miles down is a second lake about 4 miles in VOYAGE TO O UNA LA SKA
length, a very pretty stretch of water well wooded
on all sides, and plentifully supplied with fish. At
an Innuit camp the drying-stages were loaded with
salmon of a much better quality than usual, besides
a large stock of trout and whitefish. An old man,
with a little Russian blood in his veins, and two
good-looking daughters, keeps a small trading post
at the north end of the lake, where he is looked
upon with great respect as the representative of the
powerful Alaska Commercial Company. His whole
stock consists of a few pounds of tea and tobacco,
but he evidently makes the most of these commodities, judging by the pile of furs that was
stacked up in one corner of his underground house
where he entertained us at a salmon feast.
The furs traded by the Innuits on this part of
the coast are not of much value, being chiefly
musk-rat skins and red foxes of poor quality. The
beaver skins are very good, but these animals are
not numerous, and the hunter has a long journey to
make into the interior before he can expect to make
a successful hunt.
On leaving the lake, the river, which is locally
known as Wood River, is at first a succession of
small rocky rapids, but the navigation is perfectly 27«
easy. Fifteen miles below the lake tidal water is
reached, and from this point to the bay the course
of the stream is exasperatingly crooked, while the
flood rushes up with such force that it is more profitable to camp and wait for high water than to
waste labour by paddling against the tide.
At last we reached the open sea and secured a
local guide from a village at the mouth of the river,
as the weather was foggy, and our own pilots had
no knowledge of what lay ahead. After a little
trouble with the broken water on the bar, we made
our last camp on the gravelly beach of the bay,
and the following morning reached Nushagak in
good time. As we paddled up to the trading post,
a schooner came beating down the river which
here enters Nushagak Bay, and we at once recognised the vessel that had passed us on the Kuskokvim nearly a month ago. She was evidently
bound for sea, but luckily stranded on a sand-bar,
and we were able to communicate with her before
the tide rose sufficiently to float her off. I had no
time to examine the settlement, but it is doubtless
a place of some importance, as there are several
canneries on the river, and during the fishing
season arrivals and departures of vessels connected 1
with the salmon trade are common events. But
by this time (18th September) the canneries were
all closed and the summer's catch was well on its
way to San Francisco. It was by the merest
chance that we caught the schooner, and if we had
reached the post a few hours later, we should have
had several hundred miles farther to paddle, with
some open sea work, besides the long fresh-water
route by which the Alaskan Peninsula may be
crossed to Katmai. At Katmai we should probably have been no better off than at Nushagak,
as communication with the south would certainly
have been closed long before we could have reached
that point. Our experience in coasting along the
Behring Sea had shown us that as long as we were
travelling on the salt water, delays, if nothing
worse, would be of frequent occurrence. Of the
twenty-five days that had been spent on the passage from Kuskokvim Mission to Nushagak, when
half the journey lay through fresh water, no less
.than nine whole days had been wasted in waiting
for wind and sea to moderate. As the winter
approached, the storms would most likely increase
in duration and severity, so that there was every
possibility of our being caught by the snow before
rff 280
we reached Katmai. The schooner bound for
Ounalaska was too good a chance to miss, so I at
once interviewed the captain, with the view of
obtaining a passage by his vessel. I found him
very full of a wonderful reformation in his own
character, which had just been brought about by
the missionary at Nushagak. " I left 'Frisco in
May," he told me before I had been on board five
minutes, "a roaring, godless sinner, the same as I
always was, but that's all changed now, and I am
a new man." That his conversion was real there
can be no doubt, as he confined his roaring to the
singing of Methodist hymns all the way to Ounalaska, and only showed symptoms of godlessness
in moments of sudden excitement. The missionary
deserves full credit for this, and it is a pity he
could not have kept the worthy skipper long
enough to teach him the rudiments of charity and
goodwill towards his fellow-men. It proved no
easy matter to get a passage in the reformed man's
schooner, as he had no intention of helping strangers out of the country merely as an act of charity,
and we were most unlikely-looking objects from
whom to obtain the exorbitant number of dollars
which he demanded for our passage to Ounalaska. VOYAGE TO OUNALASKA
The company's agent at Nushagak knew nothing
about me, and as far as he was concerned we had
done remarkably well in being able to pay off our
Innuit guides at his store, leaving a very few grains
of gold dust in our treasury. A compromise with
the captain was at length struck. He held an
examination of all our personal effects, and came
to the conclusion that they were of sufficient value
to cover the price of our passage to Ounalaska.
On arrival there, if none of the Alaska Commercial
Company's officials would guarantee my respectability, the captain was to take over my possessions
and put us ashore. If, however, I should prove to
be more solvent than he expected at present, I was
to have the option of continuing the voyage to San
Francisco in the schooner, at another exorbitant
rate, in case the last steamer had already left for
the south.
We paddled alongside in a heavy rainstorm, and
hoisted the canoe and cargo on board. Moses and
Aaron came off in their kayaks to see the last of us,
and received more treasures of dirty clothes and
worn out knives, axes, and kettles than they had
ever seen before in their lives. Our long journey
was practically over, although there were still 400 If u
miles to be covered before we reached Ounalaska.
But the method of travelling was changed; a
strong wind which might have obliged us to camp
a day or two before, would now be welcome enough,
and in this rainy sea the cabin afforded many
comforts that were noticeably wanting on the
beach. The schooner was one of those mysterious
crafts that cruise in lonely waters without any
ostensible business—a flat-bottomed, centre-board
scow, utterly unfit to work off a leeshore or to make
a passage to windward in a seaway. I did not
like to inquire too closely into the purposes of
her voyage, and of course could only guess at the
skipper's reasons for spending a long summer
among the natives of the northern seaboard. The
whole visible return cargo consisted of fifteen live
reindeer and a couple of Arctic foxes. The crew
were a strange mixture of human beings. The
mate had begun life behind a counter in Glasgow,
but was now Americanised into the worst type of
blow-hard anti-Briton. He had committed some
breach of discipline, which must have been fairly
slack in such a ship, and had been put in irons for
a week or two, till the cook refused to carry him
his   meals   any  longer.      When    I    met   him    at VOYAGE TO OUNALASKA
Nushagak he was under orders from the captain to
consider himself in irons for the rest of the voyage.
This seemed to suit him exactly, as he kept no
watch at night and played cribbage with the half-
breeds all day.
There were two deck hands, one a fair-haired
Norseman of 6 ft. 4 in., who would have looked more
in place hurling spears from a viking ship than
steering a rotten flat-bottomed American schooner,
and a good little Scotchman who had served a
rough apprenticeship in an east-coast herring boat.
The cook was a fat German who talked a good
deal about beer, and was always ready to leave his
pots and pans to shout advice as to the navigation of the ship. Yet this schooner had made
a long summer's cruise, from San Francisco to
the Siberian shore of the Behring Sea, always
escaping damage from the numerous shoals on
which she grounded, and eventually reaching
San Francisco safely, late in the autumn.
The voyage to Ounalaska was made in seven
days, without any unusual incident: for two days
we drifted in a fog off Cape Constantine, and for
the same length of time beat against a head wind and
sea, without gaining any distance.    Then the wind 284
came fair out of Bristol Bay, and the schooner
wallowed along under the high volcanoes of the
Alaskan Peninsula, and the outlying chain of the
Aleutian Islands, with the sails wing and wing, the
pumps working at intervals, and the captain roaring
for " Beulahland" in the cabin, instead of looking
after his navigation. When we had run our
distance there was some difficulty in finding the
entrance to Ounalaska harbour, as the gray clouds
hung over the land, and only the foot of the long
line of cliff was visible. A day was lost in standing
off and on waiting for clearer weather to enter the
bay. We saw a good many fur-seals on this day,
and could have made a successful hunt, but our
captain had enough on his conscience already, and
would not take any extra risk of losing his ship
by confiscation for having seal-skins aboard, when
schooners engaged in the business were being
seized on sight by the ever-watchful American
At the office of the Alaska Commercial Company
I was able to pay off the skipper, as my letters of
credit had arrived a couple of months before. A
steamer was expected down from St. Michael's in
a   week's   time, and would sail  at  once  for  San VOYAGE TO OUNALASKA 285
Francisco, so we deserted the schooner, as there
was no object in continuing our rather uncomfortable voyage.
Ounalaska has for many years been a place of
some importance, as besides being the northern
headquarters of the Alaska Commercial Company,
it lies directly in the track of whalers bound for
Point Barron and the Arctic Sea. Since the
beginning of the Behring Sea dispute, Ounalaska
has become the rendezvous for British and
American ships engaged in patrol work to watch
the movements of the sealing schooners, and carry
out the terms of arbitration. Recently a new
company has started up in opposition to the
Alaska Commercial Company, with large buildings
at Dutch Harbour, within a couple of miles of
Ounalaska; and coal depots for supplying the
gun-boats have been established. A fortnightly
mail service to Sitka brings the settlement a little
nearer to civilisation during the summer months,
but in winter communication is altogether cut off.
The United States Revenue cruiser Bear
was lying in Dutch Harbour when we arrived, and
her officers were always ready for duck-shooting
and    fishing    expeditions,    so   that   time   passed THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
pleasantly enough till the middle of October, when
the steamer from the north came in. After a long
stormy passage on the North Pacific, with a call at
Kodiak, we finally landed at Nanaimo, the coal
mining town on Vancouver Island, at the end of the
month, and my crew immediately took the train for
their homes in Manitoba. They had behaved
wonderfully well during the whole trip, and proved
reliable from start to finish, ready in emergency,
and very little inclined to grumble. This is all the
more creditable as they had never travelled on salt
water before, and knew nothing of tides and storms
and breaking seas ; but they took everything as it
came without remark, and waited for an explanation of these strange things till the day's travel
was over and a fire of driftwood lit up the surf
that for ever plunges on the shingle beaches of the
Behring Sea. APPENDIX
A List of Geological Specimens collected by Mr.
Warburton Pike near the head-waters of the
Pelly River.
Professor George M. Dawson, Director of the Geological Survey of Canada,
has been good enough to arrange the collection.
i.  Four specimens from low foot- hills forming west side of
valley of Yus-ez-uh.    4th May.
Gray fine-grained cherty conglomerate, with greenish
quartz, apparently forming veins.
2. Two   specimens   from   bluff   10   miles   up   Yus-ez-uh.
6 th May.
Black slaty argillite.
3. Two specimens drift from rocky bar at outlet of Macpherson
Lake.    8th May.
Association of quartz and calcite, the former running
through the latter in narrow ribs. Evidently from
a vein.
4. Four specimen rocks from bluff forming canon on stream
flowing towards  the foot  of Macpherson  Lake  from
west, about 3 miles up.     10th May.
Gray-green schist and fine-drained gray limestone. 38 THROUGH THE SUBARCTIC FOREST
5. Four specimen rocks from same spot.     10th May.
Gray fine-grained limestone and glossy gray schist.
6. One specimen from exposure on small hill on south side
same creek, 5 miles up and half a mile  back from
creek,     nth May.
Ferruginous and calcareous sandstone.
7. Two specimens from bluff on south side same creek, 8
miles on the portage.     12 th May.
Gray coarse-grained quartzite.
8. Three specimens from mountain across same creek, on
portage   10   miles   in,   forming west   spur   Too-Tsho
range.     12th May.
Gray granite, containing both hornblende and mica,
also pieces of small white quartz veins.
■   9. Two specimens drift from south shore of main Pelly Lake,
tith May.
These  are worn  pebbles.     One  of dolomite and
quartz, interpenetrating.   The other a fine-grained
red and greenish rock, probably an argillite.
1 o.  Two specimens from exposure on side of low mountain on
south side Pelly River, 2 miles above lake.    17th May.
Fine-grained highly ferruginous sandstone, apparent!!!
associated with dark argillite.    Also a rounded
pebble of fine-grained greenish felspathic rock.
11. Three specimens  from track, east  end of Pelly Lake.
23rd May.
Fragments of rusty quartz and of quartz impregnated
with a little green ferriferous dolomite.
12. One specimen from same spot.
Fine-grained blue-gray limestone, with interbedded
gray calcareous argillite. A pebble irregularly
13. Two specimens from exposure on conical hill, half a mile
from west end of second lake.    2 5 th May. APPENDIX I
Green-gray quartzite-like rock. Fine grained, probably
somewhat felspathic.
14. One specimen from canon, 18 miles above Pelly Lake, on
south side river.    27 th May.
Pale greenish-gray quartzite, with schist of same
15. Two specimens from north side, same canon.    27th May.
Light gray cryptocrystalline quartz carrying pyrite.
Found on assay to contain neither gold nor silver.
16. One  specimen  from  bar   15   miles  above  Pelly Lake.
27 th May.
A purplish fine-grained bedded rock, of which some
layers are highly calcareous and some siliceous.
The weathering out of the calcareous layers has
given the fragment a form somewhat resembling
that of a bone.
17. Two specimens from bluff 15 miles above Pelly.   Boulders
of similar rock scattered over the hills.    2 7 th May.
Purplish, slaty argillite.
18. One specimen  from  hill, west end second Pelly Lake.
28th May.
Gray glossy schist, apparently felspathic.
19. Two specimens from hill north side of same.    28th May.
Finely bedded blackish argillite schist, also a finegrained felspathic rock.
20. Two specimens from bluff on small lake to south of same.
29th May.
Gray quartzite, ferruginous and slightly calcareous.
White quartz veins.
21. Two   specimens  from  canon  above   third  Pelly  Lake.
6th June.
Green-gray glossy schist.
22. One specimen from bluff near source of Pelly.     7th June.
Gray glossy schist.
1 290
23. Eight specimens from mountain side at source of Pelly.
8th June.
Fine quartzose conglomerate and slightly schistose
quartzites, composed of granitic debris. Small
quartz veins. Also gray calcareous schist and gray
limestone associated with schist.
24. Three specimens from heap showing through swamp near
source of Pelly.    9th June.
Iron ochre, highly calcareous, porous structure, perhaps
a gossan.
25. Two specimens from Pelly above third lake.
Dark blue-gray fine grained limestone, also a piece of
ferruginous quartzite with small quartz veins cutting
26. Four specimens from bluff, north side of main lake, one
mile from outlet.    17th June.
Fine-grained gray calc-schist.
27. 28, 29, 30, 31. Collected from numerous bluffs along canon
of Pelly, below the chain of lakes, and after junction
with large streams coming in from northward during the
day's run of 30 miles.     22 nd June.
27. Black slaty argillite.
28. White cleavable calcite, with minute fissures
holding compact limonite (var. glaskopf).
29. Black slaty argillite, slightly calcareous, small
quartz veins.
30. Hard ferruginous sandstone. Gray where un-
31. Green impure (sandy) limestone, sometimes
dolomite.    Veinlets of calcite and dolomite.
32. Seven specimens from rapids 35 miles below Pelly Lakes.
Slate in greatest proportion.    23rd June.
Gray and blackish schist, very slightly calcareous,
holding numerous  small  cubial pyrites  crystals. APPENDIX I
Also a fine conglomerate chiefly composed of gray
chert fragments.
33. Four specimens from bluff 3 miles below rapid.    26th June.
Fine-grained greenstone (Diabase?) also a fine-grained
association of quartz and dolomite, evidently from a
34. Two specimens   from  large bluff   south  side  of Pelly.
28th June.
White quartz with iron stains.
35. Two   specimens  from   dry  canon   entering   Pelly  from
northward.    28th June.
An association of white sub-translucent to opaque
quartz, with bright green chromiferous serpentine.
The specimens collected by Mr. Warburton Pike, about the
head-waters of the Pelly River, include no fossils of any description, nor are they accompanied by any notes on the strike or dip
of the beds from which they were, obtained. The locality of
each is, however, marked upon a rough sketch map of his route,
supplied by Mr. Pike.
Lithologically, they are somewhat varied, and are evidently
derived from a region of considerable disturbance in which no
one rock is continuously represented over any considerable area.
Generally speaking, they do not differ much from the series of
rocks met with and described in my report1 on the Yukon
district, as occurring on adjacent parts of the Frances River and
Lake and the Pelly River. They appear to show the continuation of a similar association of stratified formations throughout
the new country traversed by Mr. Pike in 1892.
Unfortunately, the geological examination of all this part of
the Yukon district has, so far, been insufficient to establish the
normal succession of formations in it, and the clue which might
1 Geological Survey of Canada, Annual Report. New Series, vol. iii.
1887-88. 292
otherwise be established to the age of the rock series by means
of the lithological character of the specimens is thus very slight.
It is probable, however, that the specimens represent series of rocks
ranging in age from the Cambrian (Selkirk, Castle Mountain, and
Bow River series) to the Carboniferous (Cache Creek formation),
while it is not impossible that some of the less altered argillites,
etc., are even referable to the Mesozoic.
The rocks which resemble most clearly those of the Cambrian
of British Columbia come from the vicinity of the source of the
branch of the Pelly particularly explored by Mr. Pike. No
Tertiary stratified rocks or basalts such as those found in some
other parts of the Yukon district occur among the specimens.
The only granitic mass represented appears to be that met with
in mountains on the east side of the Yus-ez-uh River, and it is
notable that the granites of the Too-Tsho Range (see report already
referred to) thus seem to be discontinuous to the northward.
The structure of all this northern part of the Cordilleran belt
appears to be singularly irregular, and it may be a long time before
it can be geologically examined in detail. The region traversed
by Mr. Pike, however, evidently attaches to the northern continuation of the Selkirk, Gold, and Cariboo mountains of British
Columbia rather than to the massive and comparatively unaltered
limestone ranges of the Rocky Mountains proper. These, from
an almost uninterrupted eastern border to the Cordillera, and in
the latitudes in which Mr. Pike's exploration lay, are represented
along the Mackenzie River some 150 miles to the eastward of
Mr. Pike's furthest point in that direction. The intervening tract
is entirely unknown both geographically and geologically.
A List of Plants collected by Mr. Warburton Pike  in
Alaska and the North-West Territory of Canada.
Classified by the kind assistance of Dr. Thiselton Dye
Anemone multifida, DC.
,, „ „    var.
„        Richard soni, Hook.
„        parviflora, Michx.
Ranunculus nivalis, Z., var. Eschscholtzii.
„ lapponicus, L. ?
Aquilegia brevistyla, Hook.
Aconitum Fischeri, Reich.
Papaver alpinum, L.
Arabis lyrata, L. ?
„      retrofracta, Graham.
Barbarea vulgaris, R. Br.
Erysimum sp.
Viola palustris, L.
Silene acaulis, L.
„    Douglasii, Hook.
Cerastium maximum, L.
,, alpinum, L.
Stellaria longipes, Goldie.
Arenaria (merckia) physodes, Fisch.
Linum perenne, Z.
Lupinus nootkatensis, var. borealis.
Astragalus alpinus, L.
„ Lambertii, Pursh. ?
Oxytropis splendens, Dougl.
Hedysarum boreale, Nutt.
Dryas octopetala, Z.
„      Drummondii, Hook.
Rubus chamsemorus, Z.
,,      arcticus, L.
Potentilla nivea, L.
„ near P. Fragariastrum.
,,        anserina, Z.
„        fruticosa, L.
Rosa acicularis, Lindl., var.
Parnassia palustris, Z.
Saxifraga tricuspidata, Retz.
Ribes hudsonianum, Rich.
Epilobium latifolium, Z.
„ angustifolium, L.
Bupleurum ranunculoides, Z.
Cornus canadensis, Z.
Viburnum Opulus, Z.
Linnsea borealis, Gron.
Galium boreale, Z.
Haplopappus ?
Aster sibiricus, Z.
Erigeron glaucus ?
,j       glabellus, Nutt.^ var.
Arnica montana, L.
Petasites palmata, Gray ? APPENDIX II
Senecio lugens, Rich.
Taraxacum officinalis, Web., var.
Campanula sp., near C. Scheuchzeri, Nill.
Androsace Chamsejasme, Host.
Dodecatheon media, Z.
Primula mistassinica, Michx.
„      farinosa, Z.
Pyrola uniflora, Z.
„    rotundifolia, Z.
Andromeda polifolia, Z.
Cassiope tetragona, Don.
Rhododendron lapponicum, Z.
Vaccinium uliginosum, Z.
„ csespitosum, Michx.
Gentiana campestris ?
„      prostrata, Hcenke.
Polemonium humile, Willd.
Phlox subulata, Z.
Myosotis alpestris, Lehm.
Mertensia sibirica, Don.
Pentstemon cristatus, Nutt.
„ confertus, Dougl., var. cceruleo-purpureus.
Pedicularis sudetica, Willd.
Utricularia intermedia, Hayne.
Pinguicula vulgaris, Z.
Polygonum viviparum, Z.
Allium Schsenoprasum, Z.
Tofieldia palustris, Huds.
Calla palustris, Z.
Zygadenus glaucus, Nutt.
Cystopteris montana, Bernh.
Printed by R. & R. Clark, Limited, Edinburgh.    October, 1896.
London:   37   BEDFORD   STREET.
New York :  70 FIFTH AVENUE.
The  authorised  English  edition, revised  and  specially  arranged by  M.
Rochefort, and translated under his personal supervision by
E. W. Smith, editor of the Daily Messenger in Paris.
In two volumes, large crown 8vo., 25s.
In this work M. Henri Rochefort tells the amazing story of his adventurous
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residence in England, and his deeply interesting journalistic ventures.
The work is appearing in five volumes in French, but M. Rochefort has
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Apart from the value of the matter, the brilliance of M. Rochefort's style is
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Daily Messenger, in daily communication with the author. I
Mr. Edward Arnold's List.
The First Expedition from Somaliland to Lake
Rudolf and  Lamu.
A Narrative of Scientific Exploration and Sporting Adventures.
Hon. Member of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia.
With nearly 30 full-page Plates and a large number of smaller Illustrations,
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Large 8vo., One Guinea.
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that would have proved fatal to a less hardy or persevering explorer. From
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by which time he had marched no less than four thousand miles.
Dr. Smith found it necessary to take with him the considerable force of
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Valuable collections were made of plants, birds, insects, geological specimens, and ethnographical curiosities, by which the great museums of America
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A Record of a Canoe Journey for 4,000 miles, from Fort Wrangel
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Master of the Hambledon and Pytchley Hounds.
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Moon, while Mr. G. Elgood contributes charming black-and-white pictures.
There is also a facsimile of a sketch by John Leech given to Dean Hole, and
never before published.
The book will be issued in two forms : (1) with the coloured plates, etc.,
at half a guinea; and (2) with frontispiece, at 3s. 6d. Mr. Edward Arnold's List.
An Account of Glass Drinking-Vessels in England from Early Times
to the end of the Eighteenth Century.   With Introductory Notices of
Continental Glasses during the same period, Original Documents, etc.
Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.
Illustrated by upwards of 50 full-page Tinted Plates in the best style of
Lithography, and several hundred outline Illustrations in the text.    Super
royal 4to., price Three Guineas net.
The plates and outline illustrations are prepared for reproduction by Mr.'
W. S. Weatherly and Mr. R. Paul respectively, from full-size or scale
drawings by the author of the actual drinking-vessels in nearly every
instance. The text will be printed in the finest style, and the lithographic
work executed by Messrs. W. Griggs and Son. The volume is now in the j
press, and will, it is hoped, be ready for delivery before the end of the year.
The First Edition will be limited to One Thousand Copies at Three Guineas
net. There will also be a Large-paper Edition of One Hundred Copies
issued at Five Guineas net.
Note.—A full prospectus, giving a complete account of the principal contents of this—
elaborate and magnificent work, which treats of a subject never before comprehensively
undertaken for England, can be had post free on application.
Selected  and arranged, with  Notes, by J. CHURTON   COLLINS.
Crown 8vo.. 7s. 6d.
In compiling this volume Mr. Churton Collins has been influenced by a
desire to form a collection of poetry containing many charming pieces hitherto
ignored in similar works. It is believed that compilers of anthologies have
confined themselves too much to a few standard authors, and that there are
a number of less-known writers who have composed one or two poems quite
as fine as anything by the great masters. The present selection will reveal a
mine of hitherto unsuspected treasures to many lovers of English Poetry.
An  Account of the  Famous  English  Cabinet-makers,
With numerous fine Illustrations of their Work.
1 vol., erown 4to. Mr. Edward Arnold's List.
By H. J. BULL,
A Member of the Expedition.
With frontispiece by W. L. Wyllie, A.R.A., and numerous fulKpage illustrations by W. G. Burn-Murdoch.
Demy 8vo., 15s.
' The book is one of adventure in another besides the commercial sense, and as a
record of Antarctic exploration one of the most attractive in print.'—Daily News.
* In reading his narrative we feel none of the ennui and worry of the voyage. The
author's fun lightens up in a most welcome way a tale which has in it much that is
intrinsically interesting.'—Scotsman.
With  Remarks on H.I.M. Mozuffer-ed-Din Shah, and the Present
Situation in Persia (1896).
By General Sir T. E. GORDON, K.C.I.E., C.B., C.S.I.,
Formerly Military Attache* and Oriental Secretary to the British Legation
at Teheran,
Author of ' The Roof of the World,' etc.
Demy 8vo., with full-page illustrations, ios. 6d.
'A book replete with first-hand knowledge, and one that must for the present be
regarded as indispensable to an adequate acquaintance with the condition and
prospects of Persia.'—Aberdeen Free Press.
A.D.   I296-1858.
By GEORGE CAWSTON, Barrister-at-Law,
Large crown 8vo., with frontispiece, ios. 6d.
' Mr. Cawston claims to have lighted on an almost unexplored field of research, and
it must be conceded that his volume furnishes a great deal of interesting information
which without its aid must for the most part have been sought for in sources not
accessible to ordinary readers.'—Daily News,
o^ IfcH
Mr. Edward Arnold's List.
Lately President of the Alpine Club, and Honorary Secretary of the Royal
Geographical Society.
With Contributions by H. W. Holder, J. G. Cockin, H. Woolley, M. De
Dechy, and Prof. Bonney, D.Sc, F.R.S.
Illustrated by 3 Panoramas, 74 Full-page Photogravures, about 140 Illustrations in the text, chiefly from Photographs by Vittorio Sella, and 4
Original Maps, including the first authentic map of the Caucasus specially
prepared from unpublished sources by Mr. Freshfield.
In two volumes, large 4to., 600 pages, Three Guineas net.
' We can only say, in a word, that a more interesting, more vivid, more conscientious,
more exhaustive, and in parts more thrilling, account of a region as yet comparatively unknown has never come before us. No record of exploration has ever been published in
this country in so splendid a material form, and, beyond contradiction, no pictures of
mountains to illustrate the exploits of climbers have approached the very numerous photographs of Signor Sella.'—Daily Chronicle.
' Mr. Freshfield's work on the Caucasus is not merely the most important mountaineering
book of the year, but probably the most important that has been published since the time
of Tyndall and Ball. Every part of Mr. Freshfield's book is solid, and will remain permanently valuable. It brings within two volumes the record of everything that has been done
and the substance of everything that has been learnt during the first twenty-eight years of
Caucasian exploration by expert climbers.'—Manchester Guardian.
' Two superb volumes. No book of travel or exploration within our remembrance has
disclosed such a wealth of illustration as the one now before us, in which are depicted
every Caucasian range and mountain of any moment with perfect clearness and sharpness.
There is not one blurred photograph or drawing in the whole collection. Nothing has
been omitted that could impart completeness to this magnificent work.'—Daily Telegraph.
' What singles these magnificent volumes out on a very brief inspection from all climbing
literature is that for once the illustrations are worthy of the text. If the publishers had
done nothing beyond giving us these magnificent reproductions from the cameras which
Signor Sella and others have carried upwards of 16,000 feet above the sea, they would still
be entitled to our praise and gratitude. Mr. Freshfield has given us truly one of the most
delightful and inspiring works upon the "everlasting hills" which any library can hold,
and it is produced and illustrated with a sumptuousness which it is a pleasure to find so
well bestowed. '—Birmingham Post.
'The two volumes are "great," not only from the prosaic standpoint of measurement
and avoirdupois, but pre-eminently so in the more meritorious sense of representing infinite
labour in the amassing of materials at first hand, and high literary and artistic skill in
blending letterpress and photography in a way calculated to extort the admiration even of
the most stoical reader.'—Liverpool Post.
' A princely example of British scholarship.'—Glasgow Herald.
' Enough, perhaps, has been said in recommendation of these volumes, which are instructive without being didactic, full of novel information without any suggestion of guide-book
literature, which contain most graphic descriptions of the scenery, without ever descending
to word-painting, and which contrive to impart freshness even to the well-worn theme of
mountain and glacier expeditions. It would be difficult to praise too highly the map.
Only a few in this country will be able to appreciate the geographical knowledge and the
infinite labour that the construction of this map must have cost. For the first time the
topography of this great mountain-chain from Elbruz to Kasbek is laid down in its entirety,
with accuracy, and the extent of the glacial system is clearly demonstrated on a scale of
about 3J miles to one inch.'—Mr. Clinton Dent, in The Daily News. Mr. Edward Arnold's List.
A Personal Narrative of Fighting and Serving the Dervishes,
By SLATIN PASHA, Colonel in the Egyptian Army, formerly Governor
and Commandant of the Troops in Darfur.
Translated and Edited by Major F. R. Wingate, R.A., D.S.O.,
Author of' Mahdiism and the Egyptian Soudan,' etc.
Fully Illustrated by R. Talbot Kelly.
Royal 8vo., One Guinea net.
' Whether Slatin's work is more important and attractive as a powerful exhortation
on a subject of the greatest political importance and of special national significance
from the noble English blood spilt in the Sudan, or as a chapter of human experience
wherein truth far surpassed fiction in hair-breadth escapes and deeds of daring beyond
what seemed possible, it would be difficult to decide ; but the whole result is one that
places this volume on a shelf of its own, not merely as the book of the day, but as the
authority for-all time on the great Mahommedan upheaval in the Sudan, which was
accompanied by an amount of human slaughter and suffering that defies calculation.'
— Times.
' It would be hard to name a fictitious narrative of more thrilling interest than this
true story of Colonel Slatin Pasha's captivity in the Sudan and escape from the terrors
which have marked the rule of the atrocious Khalifa Abdullahi.'—Standard.
1 Here is a work on matters of contemporary fact, which for romance, colour, adventure, and complexity and intensity of human feeling, outdoes many a novel by the
masters of the art of fiction.'—St. James's Gazette.
' Absolutely unique. Were we to try to extract, or even notice, all the striking
things in this book, we should fill our paper.'—Spectator.
' Told with a vividness and vigour that will carry you away.'—Truth.
' The story told in this work is one of enthralling interest. In the whole modern
literature of travel and adventure we cannot call to mind a work so absorbing as this.'
—Manchester Guardian.
' An exceedingly fascinating and engaging book, which is hot surpassed in interest
by any other of the kind that has been published for many years. It is written with
rare ability and force. The narrative throughout is vivid, graphic, and picturesque,
abounding in dramatic incident and striking character.'—Leeds Mercury.
' One of the most interesting books of the year, or, indeed, of the past decade.'—
Daily Telegraph.
' The story of the experiences of Slatin Pasha as a ruler, a soldier, and a captive in
the Sudan is one of the most striking romances of modern times. The return of this
distinguished officer, after a disappearance of eleven years and more, from what
Father Ohrwalder with bitter recollections calls a " living grave," and the perilous
incidents of his escape and flight, form in themselves an extraordinary tale. But the
interest of the book is much increased by the importance which, in the minds of
English people, attaches to the melancholy events in which he bore a part, and by the
narrative in which this witness risen from the dead reopens the story of the great
tragedy of Khartoum.'—Speaker. Mr. Edward Arnold's List.
Author of '
Illustrated by J. W.
'.rs Heroes.'
. Maud.   Crown 8vo., 5s.
Illustrated by Granville Fell.    Crown 8vo., 5s.
' Miss Maud has done for the Shakespeare of music what Charles Lamb once did
for the real Shakespeare.'—Daily Telegraph.
' Constance Maud has elected to convey into simple language the histories of
"Wagner's Heroes," and has succeeded admirably.'—Black and White.
By the late W. R. LE FANU.   Crown 8vo., 6s.
' It will delight all readers—English and Scotch no less than Irish, Nationalists no-
less than Unionists, Roman Catholics no less than Orangemen.'—Times.
Author of"'Common-Sense Cookery,' etc.
Crown 8vo., cloth, 2s. 6d.
An Alphabetical Dictionary of Fancy Costumes.
With full  accounts of the  Dresses.   About 60 Illustrations by LILLIAN
Young.    Many of them coloured.    One vol., demy 8vo.
Revised and largely re-written by W. RADFORD, House Surgeon at the
Poplar Hospital, under the supervision of Sir Dyce DUCKWORTH,
3y    C.   WEEKS
re-written by W.
M.D., F.R.C.1
Fully illustrated, crown 8vo. Mr. Edward Arnold's List.
Author of ' Lucilla,' ' A Study in Colour,' etc.
Crown 8vo., 6s.
Crown 8vo., 6s.
Author of ' Tales of Modern Greece.'
Crown 8vo., 3s. 6d.
New Work by the Author of ' Into the Highways and Hedges.'
Author of ' Into the Highways and Hedges,' ' The One who looked on,' etc.
One vol., crown 8vo., cloth, 2s. 6d.
' Two most pathetic and beautiful stories make up this little volume.    The writer is
to be congratulated on the delicate beauty of her stories.'—Liverpool Mercury.
' Both the stories in this volume are of very superior quality.    The characters are
distinctly original, and the workmanship is admirable.'—Glasgow Herald. 14 Mr. Edward Arnold's List.
(See also p. 23.)
A New Story by the Author of ' The Red Badge of Courage.'
Author of ' The Red Badge of Courage,' etc.
Cloth, 2s.
' In his latest work Stephen Crane scores heavily.    It is a swatch torn from the
great web of city life, a picture in which every touch reveals the true literary workman.
Its pathos grips the heart close ; its characters are to the life, and here and there are
caught gleams of humour that complete the symmetry of the pages.    The already
enviable reputation of the author of "The Red Badge of Courage " will be heightened
by this small volume.'—Aberdeen Free Press.
A Turkish Love Story.
-  By 'ADALET.'
One vol., crown 8vo., cloth, 6s.
' Certainly one of the most interesting and valuable works of fiction issued from the
press for a long time past.    Even if we were to regard the book as an ordinary novel,
we could commend it heartily; but its great value lies in the fact that it reveals to us
a hidden world, and does so with manifest fidelity.    But the reader must learn for
himself the lesson which this remarkable and fascinating book teaches.'—Speaker.
' One of the best stories of the season.'—Daily Chronicle.
By the Author of ' The Apotheosis of Mr. Tyrawley.'
One vol., crown 8vo., cloth, 6s.
'A story which, once read, will never be forgotten.'—Manchester Guardian.
' This is an undeniably clever book.    A picture of self-sacrifice so complete and so
enduring is a rare picture in fiction, and has rarely been more ably or more finely
drawn.    This singular and pathetic story is told all through with remarkable restraint,
and shows a strength and skill of execution which place its author high among the
novel-writers of the day.'—Westminster Gazette.
A Story of the Northmen in Lakeland.
Author of ' Thorstein of the Mere,' ' The Life and I1 'ork of John Ruskin,' etc.
Cloth, i6mo., 3s. 6d.
' As for the thrilling details of the plot, and the other sterling charms of the little
work, we must- refer our readers to its pages, especially those of them who may be
touring, or contemplating a tour, in Westmorland and Cumberland.'—Leeds Mercury. Mr. Edward Arnold's List. 15 .
(See also p. 26.)
Author of' How Dick and Molly went Round the World.'
With numerous full-page Illustrations.
Crown 4to., 5s.
A Sequel to 'The Fur Seal's Tooth.'
Finely Illustrated, 5s.
Finely Illustrated, 5s.
With  full-page  Illustrations,  2s.  6d.
By A.   M.   HOPKINS ON,
With  full-page   Illustrations,  2s.  6d.
Other  Volumes in the Children's Hour Series.
By Mrs. E. M. FIELD.
With full-page Illustrations, 2s. 6d.
With full-page Illustrations, 2s. 6d. i6
Mr. Edward Arnold's List.
Each fully Illustrated, price-2s.; gilt edges, 2s. 6d.
With nearly One Hundred fine Illustrations by the best artists.
Large imperial i6mo., cloth gilt, 3s. 6d.
' As to the suitability of the book for prize or present there can be no two opinions.
We cordially recommend it to the notice of headmasters.'—Educational Review.
With over Thirty original Illustrations by E. A. Lemann.
A beautiful volume, 4to., 3s. 6d.
' Miss Lemann has entered into the spirit of these most delightful of fairy tales, and
makes the book specially attractive by its dainty and descriptive illustrations.'—
Saturday Review. ,
' A very enchanting gift book for young people, Hans Andersen's delightful and
ever-new stories being illustrated with rare grace and charm.'—Lady's Pictorial.
And Other Tales from Hans Andersen.
With over Thirty original Illustrations by E. A. Lemann.
Uniform with the above volume, 3s. 6d.
' The success which attended the publication, last year, of the first series of Hans
Andersen's Fairy Tales, has led to an issue of a fresh series, illustrated by the same
artist.    So we have again a most exquisite book.'—Spectator.
Extracted from Carlyle's History of Frederick the Great, and Edited by
Professor of History at the Yorkshire College, Leeds.
With numerous Illustrations by Adolph Menzel.
Square 8vo., 3s. 6d.
' Carlyle's battle-pieces are models of care and of picturesque writing, and it was a
happy thought to disinter them from the bulk of the " History of Frederick."    The
illustrations are very spirited.'—J oumal of Education. Mr. Edward Arnold's List. 17
rative of a Journey in Cape Colony, the Transvaal, and the Chartered Company's
Territories.    By Alice Blanche Balfour.   With nearly forty original Illustrations
from Sketches by the Author, and a Map.    Second edition.    Demy 8vo., cloth, 16s.
'A charming record of a most interesting journey.'—Spectator.
Beynbn—WITH KELLY TO CHITRAL.    By Lieutenant W. G. L.
BEYNON, D.S.O., 3rd Goorkha Rifles, Staff Officer to Colonel Kelly with the Relief
Force.    With Maps, Plans, and Illustrations.    Second edition.    Demy 8vo., 7s. 6d.
Colvile—THE LAND OF THE NILE SPRINGS.    By Colonel Sir
Henry Colvile, K.C.M.G., C.B., recently British Commissioner in Uganda.   With
Photogravure Frontispiece, 16 full-page Illustrations and 2 Maps.    Demy 8vo., 16s.
' One of the most faithful and entertaining books of adventure that has appeared since
Burton's days.'—National Observer.
Henry Custance, three times winner of the Derby. One vol., crown 8vo.,
cloth, 2s. 6d.
Freshfield—EXPLORATION OF THE CAUCASUS.   {Seepage 10.)
Gordon—PERSIA REVISITED.    {Seepage 9.)
Hole—A  LITTLE  TOUR   IN  AMERICA.    By the Very Rev.  S.
Reynolds Hole, Dean of Rochester, Author of 'The Memories of Dean Hole,'
'A Book about Roses,' etc.    With numerous Illustrations.    Demy 8vo., 16s.
Hole—A LITTLE TOUR IN IRELAND.   {Seepage 5.)
Maxwell—THE SPORTSMAN'S LIBRARY.    {Seepage 4.)
page 3.)
Portal—THE   BRITISH   MISSION   TO   UGANDA.    By the late
Sir Gerald Portal, K.C.M.G. Edited by Rennell Rodd, C.M.G. With an
Introduction by the Right Honourable Lord Cromer, G.C.M.G. Illustrated from
photos taken during the Expedition by Colonel Rhodes.    Demy 8vo., 21s.
Portal—MY MISSION TO ABYSSINIA.     By the late Sir Gerald
H. Portal, C.B.    With Map and Illustrations.    Demy 8vo., 15s.
Slatin—FIRE AND SWORD IN THE SUDAN.    {Seepage n.)
page 2.)
Stone—IN AND BEYOND THE HIMALAYAS.    {Seepage 3.) Mr. Edward Arnold's List.
These books, selected from the Catalogue of Messrs. Rand McNally & Co., tk>
known publishers of Chicago, have been placed in Mr. EDWARD Arnold's hands under
the impression that many British Travellers and Sportsmen may find them useful before
starting on expeditions in the United States.
Aldrich—ARCTIC ALASKA AND  SIBERIA;   or, Eight Months
with the Arctic Whalemen.    By Herbert L. Aldrich.    Crown 8vo., cloth, 4s. 6d.
AMERICAN GAME FISHES.     Their Habits, Habitat, and Peculiarities ; How, When, and Where to Angle for them.    By various Writers.    Cloth,
Route.    By C. A. HlGGlNS.    Crown 8vo., cloth, 4s. 6d.
Leffingwell—THE   ART  OF   WING-SHOOTING.     A Practical
Treatise on the Use of the Shot-gun.    By W. B. Leffingwell.   With numerous
Illustrations.    Crown 8vo., cloth, 4s. 6d.
Shields—CAMPING AND  CAMP  OUTFITS.     By G. O. Shields
('Coquina').    Containing also Chapters on Camp Medicine, Cookery, and How to
Load a Packhorse.    Crown 8vo., cloth, 5s.
Shields—THE AMERICAN  BOOK  OF THE  DOG.    By various
Writers.    Edited by G. O. Shields (' Coquina').    Cloth, 15s.
Thomas—SWEDEN AND THE  SWEDES.    By William Widgery
Thomas, Jun., United States Minister to Sweden and Norway.    With i
Illustrations.    Cloth, 16s.
Benson and Tatham—MEN OF MIGHT. Studies of Great Characters. By A. C. Benson, M.A., and H. F. W. Tatham, M.A., Assistant Masters
at Eton College.   Second Edition.    Crown 8vo., cloth, 3s. 6d.
By the Very Rev. G. D. Boyle, Dean of Salisbury.    With Photogravure Portrait. J
1 vol., demy 8vo., cloth, 16s.
{Seepage 9.)
Fowler—ECHOES OF OLD COUNTY LIFE.  Recollections of Sport,
Society, Politics, and Farming in the Good Old Times. By J. K. Fowler, of Aylesbury. Second Edition, with numerous Illustrations, 8vo., ios. 6d. Also a large-paper
edition, of 200 copies only, 21s. net.
-Truth. Mr. Edward A mold's List.
Hare—MARIA EDGEWORTH:   her Life and Letters.   Edited by
Augustus J. C. Hare, Author of ' The Story of Two Noble Lives,' etc..   Two vols.,
crown 8vo., with Portraits, 16s. net.
' Mr. Hare has written more than one good book in his time, but he has never produced anything
nearly so entertaining and valuable as his latest contribution to biography and literature.'—Saturday
Hole—THE  MEMORIES OF DEAN HOLE.     By the Very Rev.
S. Reynolds Hole, Dean of Rochester. With the original Illustrations from
sketches by Leech and Thackeray. New Edition, twelfth thousand, one vol.,
crown 8vo., 6s.
' One of the most delightful collections of reminiscences that this generation has seen.'—Daily
Hole—MORE MEMORIES : Being Thoughts about England Spoken
in America.     By the Very Rev. S.  REYNOLDS HOLE, Dean of Rochester.   With
Frontispiece.    Demy 8vo., 16s.
' Full alike of contagious fun and mature wisdom.'—Daily Chronicle.
Hopkins—THE RELIGIONS OF INDIA.   {Seepage 6.)
Kay—OMARAH'S   HISTORY   OF   YAMAN.     The Arabic   Text,
edited, with a translation, by Henry Cassels Kay, Member of the Royal Asiatic
Society.    Demy 8vo., cloth, 17s. 6d. net.
Knight-Bruce-MEMORIES OF MASHONALAND     By the Right
Rev. Bishop Knight Bruce, formerly Bishop of Mashonaland.   8vo., ios. 6d.
' To review this book fully is impossible, as there is not a single page devoid of interest, and all
those who take an interest in South African affairs should not fail to read it. The concluding chapter
of the Matabele War is quite as good as the previous ones.'—Pall Mall Gazette.
H. Lecky, D.C.L., LL.D. An Address delivered at the Midland Institute, reprinted
with additions.    Crown 8vo., cloth, 2s. 6d.
Le Fanu-SEVENTY YEARS OF IRISH LIFE.     {Seepage 12.)
Macdonald—THE   MEMOIRS   OF   THE   LATE   SIR  JOHN   A.
MACDONALD, G.C.B., First Prime Minister of Canada. Edited by JOSEPH Pope,
his Private Secretary.    With Portraits.    Two vols., demy 8vo., 32s.
Milner—ENGLAND  IN EGYPT.    By Sir Alfred Milner, K.C.B.
Popular Edition, with Map, and full details of the British position and responsibilities,
7s. 6d.
Milner—ARNOLD TOYNBEE.    A Reminiscence.    By Sir Alfred
Milner, K.C.B., Author of ' England in Egypt.' Crown 8vo., buckram, 2s. 6d. ;
paper, is.
Oman—A HISTORY OF ENGLAND.   By Charles Oman, Fellow
of All Souls' College, and Lecturer in History at New College, Oxford ; Author of
' Warwick the Kingmaker,' ' A History of Greece,' etc.    Crown 8vo., cloth, 4s. 6d.
' This is the nearest approach to the ideal School History of England which has yet been writt
—Guardian. Mr. Edward Arnold's List.
Pilkington-IN AN ETON PLAYING FIELD.     The Adventures
of some old Public School Boys in East London.    By E. M. S. Pilkington.    Fcap.
8vo., handsomely bound, 2s. 6d.
Pulitzer—THE ROMANCE OF PRINCE EUGENE.   An Idyll under
Napoleon   the   First     By   Albert   Pulitzer.     With   numerous   Photogravure
Illustrations.   Two vols., demy 8vo., 21s.
Raleigh-ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.     By Walter Raleigh,
Professor of English Literature at Liverpool University College.    Second edition,
crown 8vo., cloth 2s. 6d.
page 16.)
Rochefort—ADVENTURES OF MY LIFE.   (Seepage i.)
Santley—STUDENT   AND    SINGER.       The   Reminiscences   of
Charles Santley.   New Edition, crown 8vo., cloth, 6s.
Sherard—ALPHONSE DAUDET: a Biography and Critical Study.
By R. H. Sherard, Editor of ' The Memoirs of Baron Meneval.' etc.   With Illustrations.    Demy 8vo., 15s.
' An excellent piece of journalism, the kind of personal journalism which is both entertaining
and useful.'—Saturday Review.
Tollemache-BENJAMIN   JOWETT,   Master   of   Balliol.     A
Personal Memoir.    By the Hon. Lionel Tollemache, Author of ' Safe Studies,' etc.
Third Edition, with portrait, crown 8vo., cloth, 3s. 6d.
«A very remarkable success.'—St. James's Gazette.
the Autobiography of LOUISA Twining.    One vol., 8vo., cloth, 15s.
Bell—DIANA'S LOOKING GLASS, and other Poems.   By the
Rev.   Canon  Bell, D.D., Rector of Cheltenham, and Hon. Canon of Carlisle.
Crown 8vo., cloth, 5s. net.
Bell—POEMS OLD AND NEW.    By the Rev. Canon Bell, D.D.
Bell—THE NAME ABOVE EVERY NAME, and other Sermons.
By the Rev. Canon Bell, D.D.   Cloth, 5s.
BeU—KLEINES HAUSTHEATER.    Fifteen Little Plays in German
for Children.    By Mrs. Hugh Bell.    Crown 8vo., cloth, 2s.
Most of these little plays have been adapted from the author's ' Petit Theatre,' the
remainder from  a little book of English plays by the same writer entitled  ' Nursery
Butler—SELECT ESSAYS OF SAINTE BEUVE.    Chiefly bearing
on English Literature.   Translated by A. J. Butler, Translator of 'The Memoirs of
Baron Marbot.'   One vol., 8vo., cloth, 5s. net. Mr. Edward Arnold's List.
Collingrwood—THORSTEIN OF THE MERE : a Saga of the Northmen in Lakeland. By W. G. Collingwood, Author of ' Life of John Ruskin,' etc.
With Illustrations.    Price ios. 6d.
CoHingrwood—THE BONDWOMAN.   (Seepage 14.)
Cook—THE DEFENSE  OF POESY, otherwise known as An
APOLOGY FOR POETRY.     By Sir Philip Sidney.    Edited by A. S. Cook, Professor of English Literature in Yale University.    Crown 8vo., cloth, 4s. 6d.
Cook—A DEFENCE OF POETRY.     By Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Edited, with notes and introduction, by Professor A. S. Cook.    Crown 8vo., cloth,
2s. 6d.
Davidson—A HANDBOOK  TO  DANTE.   By Giovanni A. Scar-
tazzini. Translated from the Italian, with notes and additions, by Thomas Davidson,
M.A.    Crown 8vo., cloth, 6s.
SHAKESPEARE.    (Seepage 7.)
Rev.  Canon  Fleming, Vicar of St.  Michael's, Chester Square.    Second edition.
Cloth, 3s. 6d.
TO VICTORIA.    Chosen and arranged by James M. Garnett, M.A., LL.D.    700
pages, large crown 8vo., cloth, 7s. 6d.
By the Right Hon. George Joachim Goschen.   Crown 8vo., cloth, 2s. 6d.
GREAT PUBLIC SCHOOLS.    (Seepage 16.)
Gummere—OLD   ENGLISH  BALLADS.    Selected and Edited by
Francis B. Gummere, Professor of English in Haverford College, U.S.A.   Crown
8vo., cloth, 5s. 6d.
Frederic Harrison, M.A., Author of 'The Choice of Books,'etc.    Demy 8vo.,
cloth, ios. 6d.
' Let us say at once that this is a charming book.   One la3's it down not only delighted by its literary
excellence, but with something like affection for the person who wrote it.'—Spectator.
Hartshorne—OLD ENGLISH GLASSES.   (Seepage 8.)
PLATFORM.    By the Very Rev. S. Reynolds Hole, Dean of Rochester.   One vol.,
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Sherard.—Alphonse Daudet.
Shields.—Camping and Camp Outfits
Shields.—American Book of the Dog
Shorland. — Cycling for   Health  an
Sichel—The Story of Two Salons .
Slatin.—Fire and Sword in the Sudan
Smith.—The Life of a fox
,,          Through   Unknown   African
Spinner.—A Reluctant Evangelist .
Stone.—In and Beyond the Himalayas
Tatham.—Men of Might
Thayer.—Best Elizabethan Plays   .
Thomas.—Sweden and the Swedes .
Thornton. —A Sporting Tour
Tollemache.—Benjamin Jowett   .
Twining. — Recollections   of  Life   and
White.—Pleasurable Bee-Keeping.
Wild Flowers in Art and Nature
Wild Flower Pictures
Williams. — The   Bayonet   that   came
Winchester College .
Young.—General Astronomy .     P. S.Weller, 42, Denmark HOL. 150   JLcmgituagWest of GarfemviA 1*5
Edwn-dArnold, Xondon & New 'Vbrk
F. S .Weller, 42,BmmarkiB3L.


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