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The trail of the goldseekers; a record of the travel in prose and verse Garland, Hamlin, 1860-1940 1906

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Array     "'toki/     ***' -
The Trail of the Goldseekers  The Trail of the
A Record of Travel in Prose and Verse
Author of
Rose of Dutcher's Coolly
Main Travelled Roads
Prairie Folks
Boy Life on the Prairie, etc.
New York
The Macmillan Company
London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd.
1906 Copyright,  1899,
Set up and electrotyped.   Published May, 1899*   Reprinted
January, 1906.
a 28
Norwood Press
J. S. Cushing & Co. — Berwick & Smith Co,
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A. TABLE OF CONTENTS
Coming of the Ships                     •        •
On the Stage Road   .         .        .         .
In Camp at Quesnelle
The Blue Rat	
The Beginning of the Long Trail .         •
The Blackwater Divide
We swim the Nechaco                 •
First Crossing of the Bulkley
Down the Bulkley Valley   .
Hazleton.     Midway on the Trail          .
Crossing the Big Divide      •
The Silent Forests     ....
The Great Stikeen Divide   .         .         •
In the Cold Green Mountains      .         •
The Passing of the Beans    .
The Wolves and the Vultures Assemble
At Last the Stikeen    .        •        •        •
>    175 vi                              Contents
XIX.    The Goldseekers* Camp at Glenora
|              jj        I85
XX.    Great News at Wrangell    .
•        195
XXI.    The Rush to Atlin Lake
XXII.    Atlin Lake and the Gold Fields
.        217
XXIII.    The End of the Trail
0        231
XXIV.    Homeward Bound
XXV.    Ladrone travels in State
.        251
XXVI.    The Goldseekers reach the Golden River        •     259
Anticipation           ......
Where the Desert flames with Furnace Heat
TJie Cow-boy
From Plain to Peak          «
.           I9
Momentous Hour  .
A Wish
The Gift of Water.
* Mounting
The Eagle Trail
Moon on the Plain
The Whooping Crane
•      5i
The Loon
•      5i
Yet still we rode    .         ,
i      61 ^1
The Gaunt Gray Wolf   .
Abandoned on the Trail .
Do you fear the Wind ?   .
Siwash Graves
Line up, Brave Boys
A Child of the Sun
In the Grass           .        •        «
The Faithful Broncos      •        .
The Whistling Marmot   .
.    130
The Clouds .
The Great Stikeen Divide
The Ute Lover
Devil's Club
In the Cold Green Mountains
The Long Trail
The Greeting of the Roses
The Vulture
Campfires     .         .
•    173
The Footstep in the Desert
.    182
So this is the End of the Trail t
o him
The Toil of the Trail
The Goldseekers    .
The Coast Range of Alaska
.    215
The Freeman of the Hills
229 m
viii                              Contents
The Voice of the Maple Tree •         •         .
.     230
A Girl on the Trail         ....
•     239
O the Fierce Delight       ....
.     249
The Lure of the Desert             •        •        •
.     258
This out of All will remain       •        •        •
•         .    262
Here the Trail ends         •         •         •         •
I will wash my brain in the splendid breeze,
I will lay my cheek to the northern sun,
I will drink the breath of the mossy trees,
And the clouds shall meet me one by one.
I will fling the scholar's pen aside,
And grasp once more the bronco's rein,
And I will ride and ride and ride,
Till the rain is snow, and the seed is grain.
The way is long and cold and lone —
But I go.
It leads where pines forever moan
Their weight of snow,
Yet I go.
There are voices in the wind that call,
There are hands that beckon to the plain;
I must journey where the trees grow tall,
And the lonely heron clamors in the rain. *p
Where the desert flames with furnace heat,
I have trod.
Where the horned toad's tiny feet
In a land
Of burning sand
Leave a mark,
I have ridden in the noon and in the dark.
Now I go to see the snows,
Where the mossy mountains rise
Wild and bleak — and the rose
And pink of morning fill the skies
With a color that is singing,
And the lights
Of polar nights
Utter cries
As they sweep from star to star,
Swinging, ringing,
Where the sunless middays are. THE
A little over a year ago a small steamer swung to
at a Seattle wharf, and emptied a flood of eager passengers upon the dock. It was an obscure craft, making
infrequent trips round the Aleutian Islands (which form
the farthest western point of the United States) to the
mouth of a practically unknown river called the Yukon,
which empties into the ocean near the post of St.
Michaels, on the northwestern coast of Alaska.
The passengers on this boat were not distinguished
citizens, nor fair to look upon. They were roughly
dressed, and some of them were pale and worn as if
with long sickness or exhausting toil. Yet this ship
and these passengers startled the whole English-speaking
world. Swift as electricity could fly, the magical word
GOLD went forth like a brazen eagle across the continent to turn the faces of millions of earth's toilers
toward a region which, up to that time, had been
unknown or of ill report. For this ship contained a
3 4 The Trail of the Goldseekers
million dollars in gold: these seedy passengers carried
great bags of nuggets and bottles of shining dust which
they had burned, at risk of their lives, out of the perpetually frozen ground, so far in the north that the
winter had no sun and the summer midnight had no
The world was instantly filled with the stories of these
men and of their tons of bullion. There was a moment
of arrested attention — then the listeners smiled and
nodded knowingly to each other, and went about their
daily affairs.
But other ships similarly laden crept laggardly through
the gates of Puget Sound, bringing other miners with
bags and bottles, and then the world believed. Thereafter the journals of all Christendom had to do with the
" Klondike " and u The Golden River." Men could
not hear enough or read enough of the mysterious
In less than ten days after the landing of the second
ship, all trains westward-bound across America were
heavily laden with fiery-hearted adventurers, who set
their faces to the new Eldorado with exultant confidence,
resolute to do and dare.
Miners from Colorado and cow-boys from Montana
met and mingled with civil engineers and tailors from
New York City, and adventurous merchants from
Chicago set shoulder to shoemakers from Lynn. All
kinds and conditions of prospectors swarmed upon the
boats at Seattle, Vancouver, and other coast cities.
Some entered upon new routes to the gold fields, which Coming of the Ships 5
were now known to be far in the Yukon Valley, while
others took the already well-known route by way of St.
Michaels, and thence up the sinuous and sinister stream
whose waters began on the eastern slope of the glacial
peaks just inland from Juneau, and swept to the north
and west for more than two thousand miles. It was
understood that this way was long and hard and cold,
yet thousands eagerly embarked on keels of all designs and
of all conditions of unseaworthiness. By far the greater
number assaulted the mountain passes of Skagway.
As the autumn came on, the certainty of the gold
deposits deepened; but the tales of savage cliffs, of snow-
walled trails, of swift and icy rivers, grew more numerous, more definite, and more appalling. Weak-hearted
Jasons dropped out and returned to warn their friends
of the dread powers to be encountered in the northern
As the uncertainties of the river route and the sufferings and toils of the Chilcoot and the White Pass became
known, the adventurers cast about to find other ways of
reaching the gold fields, which had come now to be
called " The Klondike," because of the extreme richness
of a small river of that name which entered the Yukon,
well on toward the Arctic Circle.
From this attempt to avoid the perils of other routes,
much talk arose of the Dalton Trail, the Taku Trail, the
Stikeen Route, the Telegraph Route, and the Edmonton
Overland Trail. Every town within two thousand miles
of the Klondike River advertised itself as " the point of
departure for the gold fields," and set forth the special p
6 The Trail of the Goldseekers
advantages of its entrance way, crying out meanwhile
against the cruel mendacity of those who dared to suggest other and " more dangerous and costly " ways.
The winter was spent in urging these claims, and
thousands of men planned to try some one or the other
of these " side-doors." The movement overland seemed
about to surpass the wonderful transcontinental march
of miners in '49 and '50, and those who loved the
trail for its own sake and were eager to explore an
unknown country hesitated only between the two
trails which were entirely overland. One of these led
from Edmonton to the head-waters of the Pelly, the
other started from the Canadian Pacific Railway at
Ashcroft and made its tortuous way northward between
the great glacial coast range on the left and the lateral
spurs of the Continental Divide on the east.
The promoters of each of these routes spoke of the
beautiful valleys to be crossed, of the lovely streams
filled with fish, of the game and fruit. Each was called
u the poor man's route," because with a few ponies and
a gun the prospector could traverse the entire distance
during the summer, " arriving on the banks of the
Yukon, not merely browned and hearty, but a veteran
of the trail."
It was pointed out also that the Ashcroft Route led
directly across several great gold districts and that the
adventurer could combine business and pleasure on the
trip by examining the Ominica country, the Kisgagash
Mountains, the Peace ^iver, and the upper waters of
the Stikeen.    These places were all spoken of as if they "^1
Coming of the Ships 7
were close beside the trail and easy of access, and the
prediction was freely made that a flood of men would
sweep up this valley such as had never been known in
the history of gold seeking.
As the winter wore on this prediction seemed about
to be realized. In every town in the West, in every
factory in the East, men were organizing parties of exploration. Grub stakers by the hundred were outfitted,
a vast army was ready to march in the early spring,
when a new interest suddenly appeared — a new army
sprang into being.
Against the greed for gold arose the lust of battle.
WAR came to change the current of popular interest.
The newspapers called home their reporters in the North
and sent them into the South, the Dakota cow-boys just
ready to join the ranks of the goldseekers entered the
army of the United States, finding in its Southern campaigns an outlet to their undying passion for adventure;
while the factory hands who had organized themselves
into a goldseeking company turned themselves into a
squad of military volunteers. For the time the gold of
the North was forgotten in the war of the South.
However, there were those not so profoundly interested in the war or whose arrangements had been
completed before the actual outbreak of cannon-shot,
and would not be turned aside, ^.n immense army still
pushed on  to the north.    This I joined on the 20th The Trail of the Goldseekers
day of April, leaving my home in Wisconsin, bound for
the overland trail and bearing a joyous heart. I believed that I was about to see and take part in a most
picturesque and impressive movement across the wilderness. I believed it to be the last great march of the
kind which could ever come in America, so rapidly were
the wild places being settled up. I wished, therefore, to
take part in this tramp of the goldseekers, to be one of
them, and record their deeds. I wished to return to the
wilderness also, to forget books and theories of art and
social problems, and come again face to face with the
great free spaces of woods and skies and streams. I
was not a goldseeker, but a nature hunter, and I was
eager to enter this, the wildest region yet remaining in
Northern America. I willingly and with joy took the
long way round, the hard way through. THE cow-boy
Of rough rude stock this saddle sprite
Is grosser grown with savage things.
Inured to storms, his fierce delight
Is lawless as the beasts he swings
His swift rope over. — Libidinous, obscene,
Careless of dust and dirt, serene,
He faces snows in calm disdain,
Or makes his bed down in the rain.  CHAPTER II
We went to sleep while the train was rushing past
the lonely settler's shacks on the Minnesota Prairies.
When we woke we found ourselves far out upon the
great plains of Canada. The morning was cold and
rainy, and there were long lines of snow in the swales
of the limitless sod, which was silent, dun, and still,
with a majesty of arrested motion like a polar ocean.
It was like Dakota as I saw it in 1881. When it was
a treeless desolate expanse, swept by owls and hawks,
cut by feet of wild cattle, unmarred and unadorned of
man. The clouds ragged, forbidding, and gloomy swept
southward as if with a duty to perform. No green
thing appeared, all was gray and sombre, and the horizon lines were hid in the cold white mist. Spring was
just coming on.
Our car, which was a tourist sleeper, was filled with
goldseekers, some of them bound for the Stikeen River,
some for Skagway. While a few like myself had set
out for Teslin Lake by way of " The Prairie Route."
There were women going to join their husbands at
Dawson City, and young girls on their way to Vancouver and Seattle, and whole families emigrating to
Washington. 12 The Trail of the Goldseekers
By the middle of the forenoon we were pretty well
acquainted, and knowing that two long days were before
us, we set ourselves to the task of passing the time.
The women cooked their meals on the range in the
forward part of the car, or attended to the toilets of the
children, quite as regularly as in their own homes;
while the men, having no duties to perform, played
cards, or talked endlessly concerning their prospects in
the Northwest, and when weary of this, joined in singing topical songs.
No one knew his neighbor's name, and, for the most
part, no one cared. All were in mountaineer dress,
with rifles, revolvers, and boxes of cartridges, and the
sight of a flock of antelopes developed in each man a
frenzy of desire to have a shot at them. It was a wild
ride, and all day we climbed over low swells, passing
little lakes covered with geese and brant, practically
the only living things. Late in the afternoon we entered upon the Selkirks, where no life was.
These mountains I had long wished to see, and they
were in no sense a disappointment. Desolate, death-
haunted, they pushed their white domes into the blue
sky in savage grandeur. The little snow-covered towns
seemed to cower at their feet like timid animals lost in
the immensity of the forest. All day we rode among
these heights, and at night we went to sleep feeling the
chill of their desolate presence.
We reached Ashcroft (which was the beginning of
the long trail) at sunrise. The town lay low on the
sand, a spatter of little frame buildings, mainly saloons Outfitting 13
and lodging houses, and resembled an ordinary cow-
town in the Western States.
Rivers of dust were flowing in the streets as we debarked from the train. The land seemed dry as ashes,
and the hills which rose near resembled those of Montana or Colorado. The little hotel swarmed with the
rudest and crudest types of men; not dangerous men,
only thoughtless and profane teamsters and cow-boys,
who drank thirstily and ate like wolves. They spat
on the floor while at the table, leaning on their elbows
gracelessly. In the bar-room they drank and chewed
tobacco, and talked in loud voices upon nothing at all.
Down on the flats along the railway a dozen camps
of Klondikers were set exposed to the dust and burning
sun. The sidewalks swarmed with outfitters. Everywhere about us the talk of teamsters and cattle men
went on, concerning regions of which I had never
heard. Men spoke of Hat Creek, the Chilcot.en country, Soda Creek, Lake La Hache, and Lilloat. Chinamen in long boots, much too large for them, came and
went sombrely, buying gold sacks and picks. They
were mining quietly on the upper waters of the Fraser,
and were popularly supposed to be getting rich.
The townspeople were possessed of thrift quite American in quality, and were making the most of the rush
over the trail. "The grass is improving each day,"
they said to the goldseekers, who were disposed to feel
that the townsmen were anything but disinterested, especially the hotel keepers. Among the outfitters of
course the chief  beneficiaries were the horse dealers, 14 The Trail of the Goldseekers
and every corral swarmed with mangy little cayuses,
thin, hairy, and wild-eyed; while on the fences, in
silent meditation or low-voiced conferences, the intending purchasers sat in rows like dyspeptic ravens. The
wind storm continued, filling the houses with dust and
making life intolerable in the camps below the town.
But the crowds moved to and fro restlessly on the one
wooden sidewalk, outfitting busily. The costumes were
as various as the fancies of the men, but laced boots
and cow-boy hats predominated.
As I talked with some of the more thoughtful and
conscientious citizens, I found them taking a very serious view of our trip into the interior. " It is a
mighty hard and long road," they said, " and a lot of
those fellows who have never tried a trail of this kind
will find it anything but a picnic excursion." They
had known a few men who had been as far as Hazle-
ton, and the tales of rain, flies, and mosquitoes which
these adventurers brought back with them, they repeated in confidential whispers.
However, I had determined to go, and had prepared
myself for every emergency. I had designed an insect-
proof tent, and was provided with a rubber mattress,
a down sleeping-bag, rain-proof clothing, and stout
shoes. I purchased, as did many of the others, two
bills of goods from the Hudson Bay Company, to be
delivered at Hazleton on the Skeena, and at Glenora
on the Stikeen. Even with this arrangement it was
necessary to carry every crumb of food, in one case
three hundred and sixty miles, and in the other case Outfitting 15
four hundred miles. However, the first two hundred
and twenty miles would be in the nature of a practice
march, for the trail ran through a country with occasional ranches where feed could be obtained. We
planned to start with four horses, taking on others as
we needed them. And for one week we scrutinized
the ponies swarming around the corrals, in an attempt
to find two packhorses that would not give out on the
trail, or buck their packs off* at the start.
"We do not intend to be bothered with a lot of
mean broncos," I said, and would not permit myself
to be deceived. Before many days had passed, we had
acquired the reputation of men who thoroughly knew
what they wanted. At least, it became known that we
would not buy wild cayuses at an exorbitant price.
All the week long we saw men starting out with sore-
backed or blind or weak or mean broncos, and heard
many stories of their troubles and trials. The trail was
said to be littered for fifty miles with all kinds of
One evening, as I stood on the porch of the hotel, I
saw a man riding a spirited dapple-gray horse up the
street. As I watched the splendid fling of his forefeet, the proud carriage of his head, the splendid nostrils,
the deep intelligent eyes, I said : " There is my horse !
I wonder if he is for sale."
A bystander remarked, " He's coming to see you,
and you can have the horse if you want it."
The rider drew rein, and I went out to meet him.
After looking the horse all over, with a subtle show of i6
The Trail of the Goldseekers
not being in haste, I asked, " How much will you take
for him ? "
" Fifty dollars," he replied, and I knew by the tone
of his voice that he would not take less.
I hemmed and hawed a decent interval, examining
every limb meanwhile; finally I said, " Get off your
With a certain sadness the man complied. I placed
in his hand a fifty-dollar bill, and took the horse by the
bridle.    "What is his name ? "
II call him Prince."
" He shall be called Prince Ladrone," I said to Burton, as I led the horse away.
Each moment increased my joy and pride in my
dapple-gray gelding. I could scarcely convince myself
of my good fortune, and concluded there must be something the matter with the horse. I was afraid of some
trick, some meanness, for almost all mountain horses
are " streaky," but I could discover nothing. He was
quick on his feet as a cat, listened to every word that
was spoken to him, and obeyed as instantly and as
cheerfully as a dog. He took up his feet at request, he
stood over in the stall at a touch, and took the bit
readily (a severe test). In every way he seemed to be
exactly the horse I had been waiting for. I became
quite satisfied of his value the following morning, when
his former owner said to me, in a voice of sadness,
" Now treat him well, won't you ?"
" He shall have the best there is," I replied.
My partner, meanwhile, had rustled together three Outfitting 17
packhorses, which were guaranteed to be kind and
gentle, and so at last we were ready to make a trial. It
was a beautiful day for a start, sunny, silent, warm,
with great floating clouds filling the sky.
We had tried our tent, and it was pronounced a " jim-
cracker-jack " by all who saw it, and exciting almost as
much comment among the natives as my Anderson
pack-saddles. Our " truck " was ready on the platform
of the storehouse, and the dealer in horses had agreed to
pack the animals in order to show that they were " as
represented." The whole town turned out to see the
fun. The first horse began bucking before the pack-
saddle was fairly on, to the vast amusement of the bystanders.
" That will do for that beast," I remarked, and he
was led away.    " Bring up your other candidate."
The next horse seemed to be gentle enough, but
when one of the men took off his bandanna and began
binding it round the pony's head, I interrupted.
" That'll do," I said ; " I know that trick. I don't
want a horse whose eyes have to be blinded. Take him
This left us as we were before, with the exception of
Ladrone. An Indian standing near said to Burton, " I
have gentle horse, no buck, all same like dog."
" All right," said partner, with a sigh, " let's see
The " dam Siwash " proved to be more reliable than
his white detractor. His horses turned out to be gentle
and strong, and we made a bargain without noise.    At The Trail of the Goldseekers
last it seemed we might be able to get away. " Tomorrow morning," said I to Burton, " if nothing further
intervenes, we hit the trail a resounding whack."
All around us similar preparations were going on.
Half-breeds were breaking wild ponies, cow-boys were
packing, roping, and instructing the tenderfoot, the
stores swarmed with would-be miners fitting out, while
other outfits already supplied were crawling up the
distant hill like loosely articulated canvas-colored worms.
Outfits from Spokane and other southern towns began to
drop down into the valley, and every train from the East
brought other prospectors to stand dazed and wondering
before the squalid little camp. Each day, each hour,
increased the general eagerness to get away. FROM   PLAIN   TO   PEAK
From hot low sands aflame with heat,
From crackling cedars dripping odorous gum,
I ride to set my burning feet
On heights whence Uncompagre's waters hum,
From rock to rock, and run
As white as wool.
My panting horse sniffs on the breeze
The water smell, too faint for me to know;
But I can see afar the trees,.
Which tell of grasses where the asters blow,
And columbines and clover bending low
Are honey-full.
I catch the gleam of snow-fields, bright
As burnished shields of tempered steel,
And round each sovereign lonely height
I watch the storm-clouds vault and reel,
Heavy with hail and trailing
Veils of sleet.
" Hurrah, my faithful! soon you shall plunge
Your burning nostril to the bit in snow;
Soon you shall rest where foam-white waters lunge
From cliff to cliff, and you shall know
No more of hunger or the flame of sand
Or windless desert's heat! "  CHAPTER III
On the third day of May, after a whole forenoon
of packing and " fussing," we made our start and passed
successfully over some fourteen miles of the road. It
was warm and beautiful, and we felt greatly relieved to
escape from the dry and dusty town with its conscienceless horse jockeys and its bibulous teamsters.
As we mounted the white-hot road which climbed
sharply to the northeast, we could scarcely restrain a
shout of exultation. It was perfect weather. We rode
good horses, we had chosen our companions, and before
us lay a thousand miles of trail, and the mysterious gold
fields of the far-off Yukon. For two hundred and
twenty miles the road ran nearly north toward the town
of Quesnelle, which was the trading camp for the
Caribou Mining Company. This highway was filled
with heavy teams, and stage houses were frequent. We
might have gone by the river trail, but as the grass was
yet young, many of the outfits decided to keep to the
stage road.
We made our first camp beside the dusty road near
the stage barn, in which we housed our horses. A
beautiful stream came down from the hills near us.     A 22
The Trail of the Goldseekers
little farther up the road a big and hairy Californian,
with two half-breed assistants, was struggling with
twenty-five wild cayuses. Two or three campfires
sparkled near.
There was a vivid charm in the scene. The poplars
were in tender leaf. The moon, round and brilliant, was
rising just above the mountains to the east, as we made
our bed and went to sleep with the singing of the stream
in our ears.
While we were cooking our breakfast the next morning the big Californian sauntered by, looking at our
little folding stove, our tent, our new-fangled pack-
saddles, and our luxurious beds, and remarked: —
" I reckon you fellers are just out on a kind of little
hunting trip."
We resented the tone of derision in his voice, and I
replied: —
" We are bound for Teslin Lake. We shall be glad
to see you any time during the coming fall."
He never caught up with us again.
We climbed steadily all the next day with the wind
roaring over our heads in the pines. It grew much
colder and the snow covered the near-by hills. The road
was full of trampers on their way to the mines at
Quesnelle and Stanley. I will not call them tramps^ for
every man who goes afoot in this land is entitled to a
certain measure of respect. We camped at night just
outside the little village called Clinton, which was not
unlike a town in Vermont, and was established during
the Caribou rush in '66.    It lay in a lovely valley beside On the Stage Road 23
a swift, clear stream. The sward was deliciously green
where we set our tent.
Thus far Burton had wrestled rather unsuccessfully
with the crystallized eggs and evaporated potatoes which
made up a part of our outfit. " I don't seem to get just
the right twist on 'em," he said.
" You'll have plenty of chance to experiment," I remarked. However, the bacon was good and so was the
graham bread which he turned out piping hot from the
little oven of our folding stove.
Leaving Clinton we entered upon a lonely region, a
waste of wooded ridges breaking illimitably upon the
sky. The air sharpened as we rose, till it seemed like
March instead of April, and our overcoats were grateful.
Somewhere near the middle of the forenoon, as we
were jogging along, I saw a deer standing just at the
edge of the road and looking across it, as if in fear of
its blazing publicity. It seemed for a moment as if he
were an optical illusion, so beautiful, so shapely, and so
palpitant was he. I had no desire to shoot him, but, turning to Burton, called in a low voice, "See that deer."
He replied, " Where is your gun ?"
Now under my knee I carried a new rifle with a
quantity of smokeless cartridges, steel-jacketed and soft-
nosed, and yet I was disposed to argue the matter. " See
here, Burton, it will be bloody business if we kill that
deer. We couldn't eat all of it; you wouldn't want to
skin it; I couldn't. You'd get your hands all bloody
and the memory of that beautiful creature would not be
pleasant.    Therefore I stand for letting him go." 1
The Trail of the Goldseekers
Burton looked thoughtful. " Well, we might sell it
or give it away."
Meanwhile the deer saw us, but seemed not to be apprehensive. Perhaps it was a thought-reading deer, and
knew that we meant it no harm. As Burton spoke, it
turned, silent as a shadow, and running to the crest
of the hill stood for a moment outlined like a figure
of bronze against the sky, then disappeared into the
forest. He was so much a part of nature that the horses
gave no sign of having seen him at all.
At a point a few miles beyond Clinton most of the
pack trains turned sharply to the left to the Fraser River,
where the grass was reported to be much better. We
determined to continue on the stage road, however, and
thereafter met but few outfits. The road was by no
means empty, however. We met, from time to time,
great blue or red wagons drawn by four or six horses,
moving with pleasant jangle of bells and the crack of
great whips. The drivers looked down at us curiously
and somewhat haughtily from their high seats, as if to
say, " We know where we are going — do you know as
much ?"
The landscape grew ever wilder, and the foliage each
day spring-like. We were on a high hilly plateau between Hat Creek and the valley of Lake La Hache.
We passed lakes surrounded by ghostly dead trees, which
looked as though the water had poisoned them. There
were no ranches of any extent on these hills. The trail
continued to be filled with tramping miners; several
seemed to be without bedding or food.    Some drove little On the Stage Road 25
pack animals laden with blankets, and all walked like
fiends, pressing forward doggedly, hour after hour. Many
of them were Italians, and one group which we overtook
went along killing robins for food. They were a merry
and dramatic lot, making the silent forests echo with their
I headed my train on Ladrone, who led the way with
a fine stately tread, his deep brown eyes alight with intelligence, his sensitive ears attentive to every word.
He had impressed me already by his learning and gentleness, but when one of my packhorses ran around him,
entangling me in the lead rope, pulling me to the ground,
the final test of his quality came. I expected to be
kicked into shreds. But Ladrone stopped instantly, and
looking down at me inquiringly, waited for me to scramble out from beneath his feet and drag the saddle up to
its place.
With heart filled with gratitude, I patted him on the
nose, and said, " Old boy, if you carry me through to
Teslin Lake, I will take care of you for the rest of your
At about noon the next day we came down off the
high plateau, with its cold and snow, and camped in a
sunny sward near a splendid ranch where lambs were at
play on the green grass. Blackbirds were calling, and
we heard our first crane bugling high in the sky. From
the loneliness and desolation of the high country, with
its sparse road houses, we were now surrounded by
sunny fields mellow with thirty seasons' ploughing.
The ride was very beautiful.    Just the sort of thing 26
The Trail of the Goldseekers
we had been hoping for. All day we skirted fine lakes
with grassy shores. Cranes, ducks, and geese filled every
pond, the voice of spring in their brazen throats.
Once a large flight of crane went sweeping by high
in the sky, a royal, swift scythe reaping the clouds. I
called to them in their own tongue, and they answered.
I called again and again, and they began to waver and
talk among themselves; and at last, having decided that
this voice from below should be heeded, they broke
rank and commenced sweeping round and round in great
circles, seeking the lost one whose cry rose from afar.
Baffled and angered, they rearranged themselves at last
in long regular lines, and swept on into the north.
We camped on this, the sixth day, beside a fine stream
which came from a lake, and here we encountered our
first mosquitoes. Big, black fellows they were, with a
lazy, droning sound quite different from any I had ever
heard. However, they froze up early and did not
bother us very much.
At the one hundred and fifty-nine mile house, which
was a stage tavern, we began to hear other bogie stories
of the trail. We were assured that horses were often
poisoned by eating a certain plant, and that the mud and
streams were terrible. Flies were a never ending torment. All these I regarded as the croakings of men
who had never had courage to go over the trail, and
who exaggerated the accounts they had heard from
We were jogging along now some fifteen or twenty
miles  a day, thoroughly enjoying the trip.    The sky On the Stage Road 27
was radiant, the aspens were putting forth transparent
yellow leaves. On the grassy slopes some splendid yellow flowers quite new to me waved in the warm but
strong breeze. On the ninth day we reached Soda
Creek, which is situated on the Fraser River, at a point
where the muddy stream is deep sunk in the wooded
The town was a single row of ramshackle buildings,
not unlike a small Missouri River town. The citizens,
so far as visible, formed a queer collection of old men
addicted to rum. They all came out to admire Ladrone
and to criticise my pack-saddle, and as they stood about
spitting and giving wise instances, they reminded me of
the Jurors in Mark Twain's " Puddin Head Wilson."
One old man tottered up to my side to inquire, " Cap,
where you going ? "
" To Teslin Lake," I replied.
" Good Lord, think of it," said he. " Do you ever
expect to get there ? It is a terrible trip, my son, a
terrible trip."
At this point a large number of the outfits crossed to
the opposite side of the river and took the trail which
kept up the west bank of the river. We, however,
kept the stage road which ran on the high ground of the
eastern bank, forming a most beautiful drive. The river
was in full view all the time, with endless vista of blue
hills above and the shimmering water with radiant
foliage below.
Aside from the stage road and some few ranches on
the river bottom, we were now in the wilderness.    On 28
The Trail of the Goldseekers
our right rolled a wide wild sea of hills and forests,
breaking at last on the great gold range. To the west,
a still wilder country reaching to the impassable east
range. On this, our eighth day out, we had our second
sight of big game. In the night I was awakened by
Burton, calling in excited whisper, " There's a bear
It was cold, I was sleepy, my bed was very comfortable, and I did not wish to be disturbed. I merely
growled, " Let him alone."
But Burton, putting his head out of the door of the
tent, grew still more interested. u There is a bear out
there eating those mutton bones.     Where's the gun ? "
I was nearly sinking off to sleep once more and I
muttered, " Don't bother me; the gun is in the corner
of the tent." Burton began snapping the lever of the
gun impatiently and whispering something about not
being able to put the cartridge in. He was accustomed to the old-fashioned Winchester, but had not
tried these.
" Put it right in the top," I wearily said, " put it right
in the top."
" I have," he replied; " but I can't get it in or out! "
Meanwhile I had become sufficiently awake to take a
mild interest in the matter. I rose and looked out. As
I saw a long, black, lean creature muzzling at something
on the ground, I began to get excited myself.
" I guess we better let him go, hadn't we ?" said
" Well, yes, as the cartridge is stuck in the gun; and On the Stage Road 29
so long as he lets us alone I think we had better let him
alone, especially as his hide is worth nothing at this
season of the year, and he is too thin to make steak."
The situation was getting comic, but probably it is
well that the cartridge failed to go in. Burton stuck
his head out of the tent, gave a sharp yell, and the huge
creature vanished in the dark of the forest. The whole
adventure came about naturally. The smell of our frying meat had gone far up over the hills to our right and
off into the great wilderness, alluring this lean hungry
beast out of his den. Doubtless if Burton had been
able to fire a shot into his woolly hide, we should have
had a rare " mix up " of bear, tent, men, mattresses, and
Mosquitoes increased, and, strange to say, they seemed
to like the shade. They were all of the big, black, lazy
variety. We came upon flights of humming-birds. I
was rather tired of the saddle, and of the slow jog, jog,
jog. But at last there came an hour which made the
trouble worth while. When our camp was set, our fire
lighted, our supper eaten, and we could stretch out and
watch the sun go down over the hills beyond the river,
then the day seemed well spent. At such an hour we
grew reminiscent of old days, and out of our talk an
occasional verse naturally rose.  MOMENTOUS   HOUR
A coyote wailing in the yellow dawn,
A mountain land that stretches on and on,
And ceases not till in the skies
Vast peaks of rosy snow arise,
Like walls of plainsman's paradise.
I cannot tell why this is so;
I cannot say, I do not know
Why wind and wolf and yellow sky,
And grassy mesa, square and high,
Possess such power to satisfy.
But so it is.    Deep in the grass
I lie and hear the winds' feet pass;
And all forgot is maid and man,
And hope and set ambitious plan
Are lost as though they ne'er began.
31 A  WISH
All day and many days I rode,
My horse's head set toward the sea;
And as I rode a longing came to me
That I might keep the sunset road,
Riding my horse right on and on,
O'ertake the day still lagging at the west,
And so reach boyhood from the dawn,
And be with all the days at rest.
For then the odor of the growing wheat,
The flare of sumach on the hills,
The touch of grasses to my feet
Would cure my brain of all its ills,—
Would fill my heart so full of joy
That no stern lines could fret my face.
There would I be forever boy,
Lit by the sky's unfailing grace.
We came into Quesnelle about three o'clock of the
eleventh day out. From a high point which overlooked
the two rivers, we could see great ridges rolling in
waves of deep blue against the sky to the northwest.
Over these our slender little trail ran. The wind was
in the south, roaring up the river, and green grass was
springing on the slopes.
Quesnelle we found to be a little town on a high,
smooth slope above the Fraser. We overtook many
prospectors like ourselves camped on the river bank
waiting to cross.
Here also telegraph bulletins concerning the Spanish
war, dated London, Hong Kong, and Madrid, hung on
the walls of the post-office. They were very brief and
left plenty of room for imagination and discussion.
Here I took a pony and a dog-cart and jogged away
toward the long-famous Caribou Mining district next
day, for the purpose of inspecting a mine belonging to
some friends of mine. The ride was very desolate and
lonely, a steady climb all the way, through fire-devastated
forests, toward the great peaks. Snow lay in the roadside ditches. Butterflies were fluttering about, and in
the high hills I saw many toads crawling over the
D 33 34 The Trail of the Goldseekers
snowbanks, a singular sight to me. They were silent,
perhaps from cold.
Strange to say, this ride called up in my mind visions
of the hot sands, and the sun-lit buttes and valleys of
Arizona and Montana, and I wrote several verses as
I jogged along in the pony-cart.
When I returned to camp two days later, I found
Burton ready and eager to move. The town swarmed
with goldseekers pausing here to rest and fill their
parfleches. On the opposite side of the river others
could be seen in camp, or already moving out over the
trail, which left the river and climbed at once into the
high ridges dark with pines in the west.
As I sat with my partner at night talking of the start
the next day, I began to feel not a fear but a certain
respect for that narrow little path which was not an
arm's span in width, but which was nearly eight hundred
miles in length. " From this point, Burton, it is business.    Our practice march is finished."
The stories of flies and mosquitoes gave me more
trouble than anything else, but a surveyor who had had
much experience in this Northwestern country recommended the use of oil of pennyroyal, mixed with lard
or vaseline. " It will keep the mosquitoes and most of
the flies away," he said. " I know, for I have tried it.
You can't wear a net, at least I never could. It is too
warm, and then it is always in your way. You are in
no danger from beasts, but you will curse the day you
set out on this trail on account of the insects. It is the
worst mosquito country in the world." THE   GIFT   OF  WATER
tt Is water nigh ? "
The plainsmen cry,
As they meet and pass in the desert grass.
With finger tip
Across the lip
I ask the sombre Navajo.
The brown man smiles and answers " Sho !"1
With fingers high, he signs the miles
To the desert spring,
And so we pass in the dry dead grass,
Brothers in bond of the water's ring.
I mount and mount toward the sky,
The eagle's heart is mine,
I ride to put the clouds a-by
Where silver lakelets shine.
The roaring streams wax white with snow,
The eagle's nest draws near,
The blue sky widens, hid peaks glow,
The air is frosty clear.
And so from cliff to cliff I rise,
The eagle's heart is mine ;
Above me ever hroadning skies,
Below the rivers shine,
1 Listen.    Your attention.
35 1
From rock-built nest,
The mother eagle, with a threatning tongue,
Utters a warning scream.    Her shrill voice rings
Wild as the snow-topped crags she sits among;
While hovering with her quivering wings
Her hungry brood, with eyes ablaze
She watches every shadow.    The water calls
Far, far below.    The sun's red rays
Ascend the icy, iron walls,
And leap beyond the mountains in the west,
And over the trail and the eagle's nest
The clear night falls.
Camp Twelve
Next morning as we took the boat — which was filled
with horses wild and restless — I had a moment of exultation to think we had left the way of tin cans and
whiskey bottles, and were now about to enter upon
the actual trail. The horses gave us a great deal of
trouble on the boat, but we managed to get across safely
without damage to any part of our outfit.
Here began our acquaintance with the Blue Rat.
It had become evident to me during our stay in Quesnelle that we needed one more horse to make sure of
having provisions sufficient to carry us over the three
hundred and sixty miles which lay between the Fraser
and our next eating-place on the Skeena. Horses, however, were very scarce, and it was not until late in the
day that we heard of a man who had a pony to sell.
The name of this man was Dippy.
He was a German, and had a hare-lip and a most
seductive gentleness of voice. I gladly make him historical. He sold me the Blue Rat, and gave me a
chance to study a new type of horse.
37 m
38 The Trail of the Goldseekers
Herr Dippy was not a Washington Irving sort of
Dutchman; he conformed rather to the modern New
York tradesman. He was small, candid, and smooth,
very smooth, of speech. He said : " Yes, the pony is
gentle. He can be rode or packed, but you better lead
him for a day or two till he gets quiet."
I had not seen the pony, but my partner had crossed
to the west side of the Fraser River, and had reported
him to be a " nice little pony, round and fat and gentle."
On that I had rested. Mr. Dippy joined us at the ferry
and waited around to finish the trade. I presumed he
intended to cross and deliver the pony, which was in a
corral on the west side, but he lisped out a hurried excuse.
"The ferry is not coming back for to-day and so —"
Well, I paid him the money on the strength of my
side partner's report; besides, it was Hobson's choice.
Mr. Dippy took the twenty-five dollars eagerly and
vanished into obscurity. We passed to the wild side of
the Fraser and entered upon a long and intimate study
of the Blue Rat. He shucked out of the log stable a
smooth, round, lithe-bodied little cayuse of a blue-gray
color. He looked like a child's toy, but seemed sturdy
and of good condition. His foretop was "banged,"
and he had the air of a mischievous, resolute boy. His
eyes were big and black, and he studied us with tranquil
but inquiring gaze as we put the pack-saddle on him.
He was very small.
" He's not large, but he's a gentle little chap," said
I, to ease my partner of his dismay over the pony's surprising smallness. The Psychology of the Blue Rat        39
" I believe he shrunk during the night," replied my
partner.    " He seemed two sizes bigger yesterday."
We packed him with one hundred pounds of our
food and lashed it all on with rope, while the pony dozed
peacefully. Once or twice I thought I saw his ears
cross; one laid back, the other set forward, — bad
signs, — but it was done so quickly I could not be sure
of it.
We packed the other horses while the blue pony
stood resting one hind leg, his eyes dreaming.
I flung the canvas cover over the bay packhorse. . . .
Something took place. I heard a bang, a clatter, a rattling of hoofs. I peered around the bay and saw the
blue pony performing some of the most finished, vigorous, and varied bucking it has ever been given me to
witness. He all but threw somersaults. He stood on
his upper lip. He humped up his back till he looked
like a lean cat on a graveyard fence. He stood on his
toe calks and spun like a weather-vane on a livery
stable, and when the pack exploded and the saddle
slipped under his belly, he kicked it to pieces by using
both hind hoofs as featly as a man would stroke his
After calming the other horses, I faced my partner
"Oh, by the way, partner, where did you get that
nice, quiet, little blue pony of yours ? "
Partner smiled sheepishly. "The little divil. Buffalo Bill ought to have that pony."
" Well, now,"  said I, restraining my laughter, " the 4°
The Trail of the Goldseekers
thing to do is to put that pack on so that it will stay.
That pony will try the same thing again, sure."
We packed him again with great care. His big, innocent black eyes shining under his bang were a little
more alert, but they showed neither fear nor rage. We
roped him in every conceivable way, and at last stood
clear and dared him to do his prettiest.
He did it. All that had gone before was merely preparatory, a blood-warming, so to say; the real thing
now took place. He stood up on his hind legs and shot
into the air, alighting on his four feet as if to pierce the
earth. He whirled like a howling dervish, grunting,
snorting — unseeing, and almost unseen in a nimbus of
dust, strap ends, and flying pine needles. His whirling
undid him. We seized the rope, and just as the pack
again slid under his feet we set shoulder to the rope and
threw him. He came to earth with a thud, his legs
whirling uselessly in the air. He resembled a beetle in
molasses.    We sat upon his head and discussed him.
" He is a wonder," said my partner.
We packed him again with infinite pains, and when
he began bucking we threw him again and tried to kill
him. We were getting irritated. We threw him hard,
and drew his hind legs up to his head till he grunted.
When he was permitted to rise, he looked meek and
small and tired and we were both deeply remorseful.
We rearranged the pack — it was some encouragement
to know he had not bucked it entirely off— and by
blindfolding him we got him started on the trail behind
the train. The Psychology of the Blue Rat        41
" I suppose that simple-hearted Dutchman is gloating
over us from across the river,'' said I to partner; "but
no matter, we are victorious."
I was now quite absorbed in a study of the blue
pony's psychology. He was a new type of mean ponye
His eye did not roll nor his ears fall back. He seemed
neither scared nor angry. He still looked like a roguish,
determined boy. He was alert, watchful, but not vicious.
He went off—precisely like one of those mechanical mice or turtles which sidewalk venders operate.
Once started, he could not stop till he ran down. He
seemed not to take our stern measures in bad part. He
regarded it as a fair contract, apparently, and considered
that we had won. True, he had lost both hair and skin
by getting tangled in the rope, but he laid up nothing
against us, and, as he followed meekly along behind,
partner dared to say : —
" He's all right now. I presume he has been running out all winter and is a little wild. He's satisfied
now.    We'll have no more trouble with him."
Every time I looked back at the poor, humbled little
chap, my heart tingled with pity and remorse. "We
were too rough," I said.    " We must be more gentle."
"Yes, he's nervous and scary; we must be careful not
to give him a sudden start.    I'll lead him for a while."
An hour later, as we were going down a steep and
slippery hill, the Rat saw his chance. He passed into
another spasm, opening and shutting like a self-acting
jack-knife. He bounded into the midst of the peaceful
horses, scattering them to right and to left in terror. 42
The Trail of the Goldseekers
He turned and came up the hill to get another start.
Partner took a turn on a stump, and all unmindful of it
the Rat whirled and made a mighty spring. He reached
the end of the rope and his hand-spring became a vaulting somersault. He lay, unable to rise, spatting the
wind, breathing heavily. Such annoying energy I have
never seen. We were now mad, muddy, and very
resolute. We held him down till he lay quite still.
Any well-considered, properly bred animal would have
been ground to bone dust by such wondrous acrobatic
movements. He was skinned in one or two places, the
hair was scraped from his nose, his tongue bled, but all
these were mere scratches. When we repacked him he
walked off comparatively unhurt. NOON   ON   THE   PLAIN
The horned toad creeping along the sand,
The rattlesnake asleep beneath the sage,
Have now a subtle fatal charm.
In their sultry calm, their love of heat,
I read once more the burning page
Of nature under cloudless skies.
O pitiless and splendid land!
Mine eyelids close, my lips are dry
By force of thy hot floods of light.
Soundless as oil the wind flows by,
Mine aching brain cries out for night!
As we left the bank of the Fraser River we put all
wheel tracks behind. The trail turned to the west and
began to climb, following an old swath which had been
cut into the black pines by an adventurous telegraph
company in 1865. Immense sums of money were put
into this venture by men who believed the ocean cable
could not be laid. The work was stopped midway by
the success of Field's wonderful plan, and all along the
roadway the rusted and twisted wire lay in testimony
of the seriousness of the original design.
The trail was a white man's road. It lacked grace
and charm. It cut uselessly over hills and plunged
senselessly into ravines. It was an irritation to all of
us who knew the easy swing, the circumspection, and
the labor-saving devices of an Indian trail. The telegraph line was laid by compass, not by the stars and
the peaks; it evaded nothing; it saved distance, not
My feeling of respect deepened into awe as we began
to climb the great wooded divide which lies between
the Fraser and the Blackwater. The wild forest settled around us, grim, stern, and forbidding. We were
45 46
The Trail of the Goldseekers
done with civilization. Everything that was required
for a home in the cold and in the heat was bound upon
our five horses. We must carry bed, board, roof, food,
and medical stores, over three hundred and sixty miles
of trail, through all that might intervene of flood and
This feeling of awe was emphasized by the coming
on of the storm in which we camped that night. We
were forced to keep going until late in order to obtain
feed, and to hustle in order to get everything under
cover before the rain began to fall. We were only
twelve miles on our way, but being wet and cold and
hungry, we enjoyed the full sense of being in the wilderness. However, the robins sang from the damp
woods and the loons laughed from hidden lakes.
It rained all night, and in the morning we were
forced to get out in a cold, wet dawn. It was a grim
start, dismal and portentous, bringing the realities of
the trail very close to us. While I rustled the horses
out of the wet bush, partner stirred up a capital breakfast of bacon, evaporated potatoes, crystallized eggs, and
graham bread. He had discovered at last the exact
amount of water to use in cooking these " vegetables,"
and they were very good. The potatoes tasted not
unlike mashed potatoes, aud together with the eggs
made a very savory and wholesome dish0 With a cup
of strong coffee and some hot graham gems we got ofF
in very good spirits indeed.
It continued muddy, wet, and cold. I walked most
of the day, leading my horse, upon whom I had packed The Beginning of the Long Trail       47
a part of the outfit to relieve the other horses. There
was no fun in the day, only worry and trouble. My
feet were wet, my joints stiff, and my brain weary of
the monotonous black, pine forest.
There is a great deal of work on the trail, — cooking,
care of the horses, together with almost ceaseless packing and unpacking, and the bother of keeping the pack-
horses out of the mud. We were busy from five
o'clock in the morning until nine at night. There
were other outfits on the trail having a full ton of
supplies, and this great weight had to be handled four
times a day. In our case the toil was much less, but
it was only by snatching time from my partner that
I was able to work on my notes and keep my diary.
Had the land been less empty of game and richer in
color, I should not have minded the toil and care taking.
As it was, we were all looking forward to the beautiful
lake country which we were told lay just beyond the
One tremendous fact soon impressed me. There
were no returning footsteps on this trail. All toes
pointed in one way, toward the golden North. No
man knew more than his neighbor the character of the
land which lay before us.
The life of each outfit was practically the same. At
about 4.30 in the morning the campers awoke. The
click-clack of axes began, and slender columns of pale
blue smoke stole softly into the air. Then followed
the noisy rustling of the horses by those set aside for
that duty.    By the time the horses were " cussed into 48
The Trail of the Goldseekers
camp," the coffee was hot, and the bacon and beans
ready to be eaten. A race in packing took place to see
who should pull out first. At about seven o'clock in
the morning the outfits began to move. But here there
was a difference of method. Most of them travelled
for six or seven hours without unpacking, whereas our
plan was to travel for four hours, rest from twelve to
three, and pack up and travel four hours more. This
difference in method resulted in our passing outfit after
outfit who were unable to make the same distances by
their one march.
We went to bed with the robins and found it no
hardship to rise with the sparrows. As Burton got the
fire going, I dressed and went out to see if all the
horses were in the bunch, and edged them along toward
the camp. I then packed up the goods, struck the
tent and folded it, and had everything ready to sling on
the horses by the time breakfast was ready.
With my rifle under my knee, my rain coat rolled
behind my saddle, my camera dangling handily, my
rope coiled and lashed, I called out, " Are we all set ? "
u Oh, I guess so," Burton invariably replied.
With a last look at the camping ground to see that
nothing of value was left, we called in exactly the same
way each time, " Hike, boys, hike, hike." (Hy-ak:
Chinook for " hurry up.") It was a fine thing, and it
never failed to touch me, to see them fall in, one by
one. The " Ewe-neck" just behind Ladrone, after
him "Old Bill," and behind him, groaning and taking
on as if in great pain, " Major Grunt," while at the The Beginning of the Long Trail       49
rear, with sharp outcry, came Burton riding the blue
pony, who was quite content, as we soon learned, to
carry a man weighing seventy pounds more than his
pack. He considered himself a saddle horse, not a
pack animal.
It was not an easy thing to keep a pack train like
this running. As the horses became tired of the saddle,
two of them were disposed to run off into the brush in an
attempt to scrape their load from their backs. Others
fell to feeding. Sometimes Bill would attempt to pass
the bay in order to walk next Ladrone. Then they
would scrouge against each other like a couple of country
schoolboys, to see who should get ahead. It was necessary to watch the packs with worrysome care to see
that nothing came loose, to keep the cinches tight, and
to be sure that none of the horses were being galled by
their burdens.
We travelled for the most part alone and generally in
complete silence, for I was too far in advance to have
any conversation with my partner.
The trail continued wet, muddy, and full of slippery
inclines, but we camped on a beautiful spot on the edge
of a marshy lake two or three miles in length. As we
threw up our tent and started our fire, I heard two
cranes bugling magnificently from across the marsh,
and with my field-glass I could see them striding along
in the edge of the water. The sun was getting well
toward the west. All around stood the dark and mysterious forest, out of which strange noises broke.
In answer to the bugling of the cranes, loons were £§F**S3
The Trail of the Goldseekers
wildly calling, a flock of geese, hidden somewhere under
the level blaze of the orange-colored light of the setting
sun, were holding clamorous convention. This is one
of the compensating moments of the trail. To come
out of a gloomy and forbidding wood into an open and
grassy bank, to see the sun setting across the marsh
behind the most splendid blue mountains, makes up for
many weary hours of toil.
As I lay down to sleep I heard a coyote cry, and the
loons answered, and out of the cold, clear night the splendid voices of the cranes rang triumphantly. The heavens
were made as brass by their superb, defiant notes. THE   WHOOPING   CRANE
At sunset from the shadowed sedge
Of lonely lake, among the reeds,
He lifts his brazen-throated call,
And the listening cat with teeth at edge
With famine hears and heeds.
" Come one, come all, come all, come all! "
Is the bird's challenge bravely blown
To every beast the woodlands own.
uAfy legs are long, my wings are strong,
I wait the answer to my threat"
Echoing, fearless, triumphant, the cry
Disperses through the world, and yet
Only the clamorous, cloudless sky
And the wooded mountains make reply.
At some far time
This water sprite
A brother of the coyote must have been.
For when the sun is set,
Forth from the failing light
His harsh cries fret
The silence of the night,
And the hid wolf answers with a wailing keen.
About noon the next day we suddenly descended to
the Blackwater, a swift stream which had been newly
bridged by those ahead of us. In this wild land streams
were our only objective points; the mountains had no
names, and the monotony of the forest produced a singular effect on our minds. Our journey at times seemed
a sort of motionless progression. Once our tent was
set and our baggage arranged about us, we lost all sense
of having moved at all.
Immediately after leaving the Blackwater bridge we
had a grateful touch of an Indian trail. The telegraph
route kept to the valley flat, but an old trail turned to
the right and climbed the north bank by an easy and
graceful grade which it was a joy to follow. The top
of the bench was wooded and grassy, and the smooth
brown trail wound away sinuous as a serpent under the
splendid pine trees. For more than three hours we
strolled along this bank as distinguished as those who
occupy boxes at the theatre. Below us the Blackwater
looped away under a sunny sky, and far beyond, enormous and unnamed, deep blue mountains rose, notching
the western sky. The scene was so exceedingly rich
53 gg*-m
The Trail of the Goldseekers
and amiable we could hardly believe it to be without
farms and villages, yet only an Indian hut or two gave
indication of human life.
After following this bank for a few miles, we turned
to the right and began to climb the high divide which
lies between the Blackwater and the Muddy, both of
which are upper waters of the Fraser. Like all the
high country through which we had passed this ridge
was covered with a monotonous forest of small black
pines, with very little bird or animal life of any kind.
By contrast the valley of the Blackwater shone in our
memory like a jewel.
After a hard drive we camped beside a small creek,
together with several other outfits. One of them belonged to a doctor from the Chilcoten country. He
was one of those Englishmen who are natural plainsmen. He was always calm, cheerful, and self-contained.
He took all worry and danger as a matter of course, and
did not attempt to carry the customs of a London hotel
into the camp. When an Englishman has this temper,
he makes one of the best campaigners in the world.
As I came to meet the other men on the trail, I found
that some peculiar circumstance had led to their choice
of route. The doctor had a ranch in the valley of the
Fraser. One of " the Manchester boys " had a cousin
near Soda Creek. " Siwash Charley " wished to prospect
on the head-waters of the Skeena; and so in almost every
case some special excuse was given. When the truth
was known, the love of adventure had led all of us to
take the telegraph route.    Most of the miners argued The Blackwater Divide
that they could make their entrance by horse as cheaply,
if not as quickly, as by boat. For the most part they
were young, hardy, and temperate young men of the
middle condition of American life.
One of the Manchester men had been a farmer in
Connecticut, an attendant in an insane asylum in Massachusetts, and an engineer. He was fat when he started,
and weighed two hundred and twenty pounds. By the
time we had overtaken him his trousers had begun to
flap around him. He was known as " Big Bill." His
companion, Frank, was a sinewy little fellow with no
extra flesh at all, — an alert, cheery, and vociferous boy,
who made noise enough to scare all the game out of the
valley. Neither of these men had ever saddled a horse
before reaching the Chilcoten, but they developed at once
into skilful packers and rugged trailers, though they still
exposed themselves unnecessarily in order to show that
they were not " tenderfeet."
" Siwash Charley " was a Montana miner who spoke
Chinook fluently, and swore in splendid rhythms on occasion. He was small, alert, seasoned to the trail, and
capable of any hardship. "The Man from Chihuahua"
was so called because he had been prospecting in Mexico.
He had the best packhorses on the trail, and cared for
them like a mother. He was small, weazened, hardy
as oak, inured to every hardship, and very wise in all
things. He had led his fine little train of horses from
Chihuahua to Seattle, thence to the Thompson River,
joining us at Quesnelle. He was the typical trailer.
He spoke in the Missouri fashion, though he was a born m&m.
The Trail of the Goldseekers
Californian. His partner was a quiet little man from
Snohomish flats, in Washington. These outfits were
typical of scores of others, and it will be seen that they
were for the most part Americans, the group of Germans
from New York City and the English doctor being the
There was little talk among us. We were not merely
going a journey, but going as rapidly as was prudent, and
there was close attention to business. There was something morbidly persistent in the action of these trains.
They pushed on resolutely, grimly, like blind worms following some directing force from within. This peculiarity of action became more noticeable day by day. We
were not on the trail, after all, to hunt, or fish, or skylark. We had set our eyes on a distant place, and
toward it our feet moved, even in sleep.
The Muddy River, which we reached late in the afternoon, was silent as oil and very deep, while the banks,
muddy and abrupt, made it a hard stream to cross.
As we stood considering the problem, a couple of
Indians appeared on the opposite bank with a small raft,
and we struck a bargain with them to ferry our outfit.
They set us across in short order, but our horses were
forced to swim. They were very much alarmed and
shivered with excitement (this being the first stream that
called for swimming), but they crossed in fine style,
Ladrone leading, his neck curving, his nostrils wide-blown.
We were forced to camp in the mud of the river bank,
and the gray clouds flying overhead made the land exceedingly dismal.    The night closed in wet and cheerless. The Blackwater Divide 57
The two Indians stopped to supper with us and ate
heartily. I seized the opportunity to talk with them,
and secured from them the tragic story of the death of
the Blackwater Indians. " Siwash, he die hy-u (great
many). Hy-u die, chilens, klootchmans (women), all
die. White man no help. No send doctor. Siwash
all die, white man no care belly much."
In this simple account of the wiping out of a village of harmless people by " the white man's disease "
(small-pox), unaided by the white man's wonderful skill,
there lies one of the great tragedies of savage life. Very
few were left on the Blackwater or on the Muddy,
though a considerable village had once made the valley
cheerful with its primitive pursuits.
They were profoundly impressed by our tent and gun,
and sat on their haunches clicking their tongues again
and again in admiration, saying of the tent, " All the
same lilly (little) house." I tried to tell them of the
great world to the south, and asked them a great many
questions to discover how much they knew of the
people or the mountains. They knew nothing of the
plains Indians, but one of them had heard of Vancouver and Seattle. They had not the dignity and thinking
power of the plains people, but they seemed amiable
and rather jovial.
We passed next day two adventurers tramping their
way to Hazleton. Each man carried a roll of cheap
quilts, a skillet, and a cup. We came upon them as
they were taking off their shoes and stockings to wade
through a swift little river, and I realized with a sudden m&&
The Trail of the Goldseekers
pang of sympathetic pain, how distressing these streams
must be to such as go afoot, whereas I, on my fine
horse, had considered them entirely from an aesthetic
point of view.
We had been on the road from Quesnelle a week,
and had made nearly one hundred miles, jogging along
some fifteen miles each day, camping, eating, sleeping,
with nothing to excite us — indeed, the trail was quiet
as a country lane. A dead horse here and there warned
us to be careful how we pushed our own burden-bearers.
We were deep in the forest, with the pale blue sky
filled with clouds showing only in patches overhead.
We passed successively from one swamp of black pine
to another, over ridges covered with white pine, all precisely alike. As soon as our camp was set and fires
lighted, we lost all sense of having travelled, so similar
were the surroundings of each camp.
Partridges could be heard drumming in the lowlands.
Mosquitoes were developing by the millions, and cooking
had become almost impossible without protection. The
" varments " came in relays. A small gray variety took
hold of us while it was warm, and when it became too
cold for them, the big, black, " sticky " fellows appeared
mysteriously, and hung around in the air uttering deep,
bass notes like lazy flies. The little gray fellows were
singularly ferocious and insistent in their attentions.
At last, as we were winding down the trail beneath
the pines, we came suddenly upon an Indian with a gun
in the hollow of his arm. So still, so shadowy, so
neutral in color was he, that at first sight he seemed a The Blackwater Divide 59
part of the forest, like the shaded bole of a tree. He
turned out to be a " runner," so to speak, for the ferrymen at Tchincut Crossing, and led us down to the outlet of the lake where a group of natives with their slim
canoes sat waiting to set us over. An hour's brisk
work and we rose to the fine grassy eastern slope overlooking the lake.
We rose on our stirrups with shouts of joy. We
had reached the land of our dreams! Here was the
trailers' heaven! Wooded promontories, around which
the wavelets sparkled, pushed out into the deep, clear
flood. Great mountains rose in the background, lonely,
untouched by man's all-desolating hand, while all about
us lay suave slopes clothed with most beautiful pea-
vine, just beginning to ripple in the wind, and beyond
lay level meadows lit by little ponds filled with wildfowl. There was just forest enough to lend mystery to
these meadows, and to shut from our eager gaze the
beauties of other and still more entrancing glades. The
most exacting hunter or trailer could not desire more
perfect conditions for camping. It was God's own
country after the gloomy monotony of the barren pine
forest, and needed only a passing deer or a band of elk
to be a poem as well as a picture.
All day we skirted this glorious lake, and at night we
camped on its shores. The horses were as happy as
their masters, feeding in plenty on sweet herbage for
the first time in long days.
Late in the day we passed the largest Indian village
we had yet  seen.    It  was situated  on   Stony Creek, 6o
The Trail of the Goldseekers
which came from Tatchick Lake and emptied into
Tchincut Lake. The shallows flickered with the passing of trout, and the natives were busy catching and
drying them. As we rode amid the curing sheds, the
children raised a loud clamor, and the women laughed
and called from house to house, " Oh, see the white
men ! "    We were a circus parade to them.
Their opportunities for earning money are scant, and
they live upon a very monotonous diet of fish and possibly dried venison and berries. Except at favorable
points like Stony Creek, where a small stream leads
from one lake to another, there are no villages because
there are no fish.
I shall not soon forget the shining vistas through
which we rode that day, nor the meadows which possessed all the allurement and mystery which the word
" savanna" has always had with me. It was like
going back to the prairies of Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa,
as they were sixty years ago, except in this case the elk
and the deer were absent. ^1
We wallowed deep in mud and sand;
We swam swift streams that roared in wrath;
They stood at guard in that lone land,
Like dragons in the slender path.
Yet still we rode right on and on,
And shook our clenched hands at the sky.
We dared the frost at early dawn,
And the dread tempest sweeping by.
It was not all so dark.    Now and again
The robin, singing loud and long,
Made wildness tame, and lit the rain
With sudden sunshine with his song.
Wild roses filled the air with grace,
The shooting-star swung like a bell
From bended stem, and all the place
Was like to heaven after hell.
Here was perfection of camping, but no allurement
could turn the goldseekers aside. Some of them remained for a day, a few for two days, but not one forgot
for a moment that he was on his way to the Klondike
River sixteen hundred miles away. In my enthusiasm
I proposed to camp for a week, but my partner, who
was "out for gold instid o' daisies, 'guessed' we'd better
be moving." He could not bear to see any one pass us,
and that was the feeling of every man on the trail.
Each seemed to fear that the gold might all be claimed
before he arrived. With a sigh I turned my back on
this glorious region and took up the forward march.
All the next day we skirted the shores of Tatchick
Lake, coming late in the afternoon to the Nechaco
River, a deep, rapid stream which rose far to our left in
the snowy peaks of the coast range. All day the sky to
the east had a brazen glow, as if a great fire were raging
there, but toward night the wind changed and swept it
away. The trail was dusty for the first time, and the
flies venomous. Late in the afternoon we pitched
camp, setting our tent securely, expecting rain. Before
we went to sleep the drops began to drum on the tent
63 64
The Trail of the Goldseekers
roof, a pleasant sound after the burning dust of the trail.
The two trampers kept abreast of us nearly all day, but
they began to show fatigue and hunger, and a look of
almost sullen desperation had settled on their faces.
As we came down next day to where the swift Ne-
chaco met the Endako rushing out of Fraser Lake, we
found the most dangerous flood we had yet crossed. A
couple of white men were calking a large ferry-boat,
but as it was not yet seaworthy and as they had no
cable, the horses must swim. I dreaded to see them
enter this chill, gray stream, for not only was it wide
and swift, but the two currents coming together made
the landing confusing to the horses as well as to ourselves. Rain was at hand and we had no time to
The horses knew that some hard swimming was expected of them and would gladly have turned back if
they could. We surrounded them with furious outcry
and at last Ladrone sprang in and struck for the nearest
point opposite, with that intelligence which marks the
bronco horse. The others followed readily. Two of
the poorer ones labored heavily, but all touched shore in
good order.
The rain began to fall sharply and we were forced to
camp on the opposite bank as swiftly as possible, in
order to get out of the storm. We worked hard and
long to put everything under cover and were muddy and
tired at the end of it. At last the tent was up, the outfit covered with waterproof canvas, the fire blazing and
our bread baking.    In pitching our camp we had plenty "We Swim the Nechaco 65
of assistance at the hands of several Indian boys from a
near-by village, who hung about, eager to lend a hand,
in the hope of getting a cup of coffee and a piece of
bread in payment. The streaming rain seemed to have
no more effect upon them than on a loon. The conditions were all strangely similar to those at the Muddy
Night closed in swiftly. Through the dark we could
hear the low swish of the rising river, and Burton, with
a sly twinkle in his eye, remarked, " For a semi-arid
country, this is a pretty wet rain."
In planning the trip, I had written to him saying:
" The trail runs for the most part though a semi-arid
country, somewhat like eastern Washington."
It rained all the next day and we were forced to
remain in camp, which was dismal business; but we
made the best of it, doing some mending of clothes and
tackle during the long hours.
We were visited by all the Indians from Old Fort
Fraser, which was only a mile away. They sat about
our blazing fire laughing and chattering like a group of
girls, discussing our characters minutely, and trying to
get at our reasons for going on such a journey.
One of them who spoke a little English said, after
looking over my traps : " You boss, you ty-ee, you belly
rich man.    Why you come ? "
This being interpreted meant, " You have a great
many splendid things, you are rich. Now, why do you
come away out here in this poor Siwash country ? "
I tried to convey to him that I wished to see the 66
The Trail of the Goldseekers
mountains and to get acquainted with the people. He
then asked, " More white men come ? "
Throwing my hands in the air and spreading my
fingers many times, I exclaimed, " Hy-u white man,
hy-u!" Whereat they all clicked their tongues and
looked at each other in astonishment. They could not
understand why this sudden flood of white people should
pour into their country. This I also explained in lame
Chinook: " We go klap Pilchickamin (gold). White
man hears say Hy-u Pilchickamin there (I pointed to
the north). White man heap like Pilchickamin, so he
All the afternoon and early evening little boys came
and went on the swift river in their canoes, singing wild,
hauntingly musical boating songs. They had no horses,
but assembled in their canoes, racing and betting precisely as the Cheyenne lads run horses at sunset in the
valley of the Lamedeer. All about the village the grass
was rich and sweet, uncropped by any animal, for these
poor fishermen do not aspire to the wonderful wealth of
owning a horse. They had heard that cattle were coming over the trail and all inquired, " Spose when Moos-
Moos come ?" They knew that milk and butter were
good things, and some of them had hopes of owning a
cow sometime.
They had tiny little gardens in sheltered places on the
sunny slopes, wherein a few potatoes were planted; for
the rest they hunt and fish and trap in winter and trade
skins for meat and flour and coffee, and so live. How
they endure the winters in such wretched houses, it is "^1
We Swim the Nechaco 67
impossible to say. There was a lone white man living
on the site of the old fort, as agent of the Hudson Bay
Company. He kept a small stock of clothing and
groceries and traded for " skins," as the Indians all call
pelts. They count in skins. So many skins will buy a
rifle, so many more will secure a sack of flour.
The storekeeper told me that the two trampers had
arrived there a few days before without money and without food. " I gave 'em some flour and sent 'em on,"
he said. "The Siwashes will take care of them, but it
ain't right. What the cussed idiots mean by setting out
on such a journey I can't understand. Why, one tramp
came in here early in the spring who couldn't speak
English, and who left Quesnelle without even a blanket
or an axe. Fact ! And yet the Lord seems to take care
of these fools. You wouldn't believe it, but that fellow
picked up an axe and a blanket the first day out. But
he'd a died only for the Indians. They won't let even
a white man starve to death. I helped him out with
some flour and he went on. They all rush on. Seems
like they was just crazy to get to Dawson — couldn't
sleep without dreamin' of it."
I was almost as eager to get on as the tramps, but
Burton went about his work regularly as a clock. I
wrote, yawned, stirred the big campfire, gazed at the
clouds, talked with the Indians, and so passed the day. I
began to be disturbed, for I knew the power of a rain on
the trail. It transforms it, makes it ferocious. The
path that has charmed and wooed, becomes uncertain,
treacherous,  gloomy,  and   engulfing.      Creeks become 68
The Trail of the Goldseekers
rivers, rivers impassable torrents, and marshes bottomless
abysses. Pits of quicksand develop in most unexpected
places. Driven from smooth lake margins, the trailers'
ponies are forced to climb ledges of rock, and to rattle
over long slides of shale. In places the threadlike way
itself becomes an aqueduct for a rushing overflow of
At such times the man on the trail feels the grim
power of Nature. She has no pity, no consideration.
She sets mud, torrents, rocks, cold, mist, to check and
chill him, to devour him. Over him he has no roof,
under him no pavement. Never for an instant is he free
from the pressure of the elements. Sullen streams lie
athwart his road like dragons, and in a land like this,
where snowy peaks rise on all sides, rain meant sudden
and enormous floods of icy water.
It was still drizzling on the third day, but we packed
and pushed on, though the hills were slippery and the
creeks swollen. Water was everywhere, but the sun
came out, lighting the woods into radiant greens and
purples. Robins and sparrows sang ecstatically, and
violets, dandelions, and various kinds of berries were in
odorous bloom. A vine with a blue flower, new to me,
attracted my attention, also a yellow blossom of the cowslip variety. This latter had a form not unlike a wild
Here for the first time I heard a bird singing a song
quite new to me. He was a thrushlike little fellow,
very shy and difficult to see as he sat poised on the tip
of a black pine in the deep forest.    His note was a clear We Swim the Nechaco 69
cling-ling, like the ringing of a steel triangle. Ching-
aling, chingaling, one called near at hand, and then farther
off another answered, ching, ching, chingaling-aling, with
immense vim, power, and vociferation.
Burton, who had spent many years in the mighty forests of Washington, said: " That little chap is familiar
to me. Away in the pines where there is no other bird
I used to hear his voice. No matter how dark it was, I
could always tell when morning was coming by his note,
and on cloudy days I could always tell when the sunset
was coming by hearing him call."
To me his phrase was not unlike the metallic ringing
cry of a sort of blackbird which I heard in the torrid
plazas of Mexico. He was very difficult to distinguish,
for the reason that he sat so high in the tree and was so
wary. He was very shy of approach. He was a plump,
trim little fellow of a plain brown color, not unlike a
small robin.
There was another cheerful little bird, new to me
also, which uttered an amusing phrase in two keys,
something like tee tay, tee tay, tee tay, one note sustained
high and long, followed by another given on a lower key.
It was not unlike to the sound made by a boy with a tuning pipe. This, Burton said, was also a familiar sound
in the depths of the great Washington firs. These two
cheery birds kept us company in the gloomy, black-pine
forest, when we sorely needed solace of some kind.
Fraser Lake was also very charming, romantic enough
to be the scene of Cooper's best novels. The water was
deliciously clear and cool, and from the farther shore 7°
The Trail of the Goldseekers
great mountains rose in successive sweeps of dark green
foothills. At this time we felt well satisfied with ourselves and the trip. With a gleam in his eyes Burton
said, " This is the kind of thing our folks think we're
doing all the time." RELENTLESS   NATURE
She laid her rivers to snare us,
She set her snows to chill,
Her clouds had the cunning of vultures,
Her plants were charged to kill.
The glooms of her forests benumbed us,
On the slime of her ledges we sprawled;
But we set our feet to the northward,
And crawled and crawled and crawled !
We defied her, and cursed her, and shouted:
" To hell with your rain and your snow.
Our minds we have set on a journey,
And despite of your anger we go! "
We were now following a chain of lakes to the
source of the Endako, one of the chief northwest
sources of the Fraser, and were surrounded by tumultuous ridges covered with a seamless robe of pine forests.
For hundreds of miles on either hand lay an absolutely
untracked wilderness. In a land like this the trail
always follows a water-course, either ascending or descending it; so for some days we followed the edges of
these lakes and the banks of the connecting streams,
toiling over sharp hills and plunging into steep ravines,
over a trail belly-deep in mud and water and through a
wood empty of life.
These were hard days. We travelled for many hours
through a burnt-out tract filled with twisted, blackened
uprooted trees in the wake of fire and hurricane. From
this tangled desolation I received the suggestion of some
verses which I call "The Song of the North Wind."
The wind and the fire worked together. If the wind
precedes, he prepares the way for his brother fire, and in
return the fire weakens the trees to the wind.
We had settled into a dull routine, and the worst
feature of each day's work was the drag, drag of slow
73 74
The Trail of the Goldseekers
hours on the trail. We could not hurry, and we were
forced to watch our horses with unremitting care in
order to nurse them over the hard spots, or, rather, the
soft spots, in the trail. We were climbing rapidly and
expected soon to pass from the watershed of the Fraser
into that of the Skeena.
We passed a horse cold in death, with his head flung
up as if he had been fighting the wolves in his final
death agony. It was a grim sight. Another beast
stood abandoned beside the trail, gazing at us reproachfully, infinite pathos in his eyes. He seemed not to have
the energy to turn his head, but stood as if propped upon
his legs, his ribs showing with horrible plainness a tragic
dejection in every muscle and limb.
The feed was fairly good, our horses were feeling well,
and curiously enough the mosquitoes had quite left us.
We overtook and passed a number of outfits camped
beside a splendid rushing stream.
On Burns' Lake we came suddenly upon a settlement of quite sizable Indian houses with beautiful
pasturage about. The village contained twenty-five or
thirty families of carrier Indians, and was musical with
the plaintive boat-songs of the young people. How
long these native races have lived here no one can tell,
but their mark on the land is almost imperceptible.
They are not of those who mar the landscape.
On the first of June we topped the divide between
the two mighty watersheds. Behind us lay the Fraser,
before us the Skeena. The majestic coast range rose
like a wall of snow far away to the northwest, while a ^1
The First Crossing of the Bulkley      75
near-by lake, filling the foreground, reflected the blue
ridges of the middle distance — a magnificent spread
of wild landscape. It made me wish to abandon the
trail and push out into the unexplored.
From this point we began to descend toward the
Bulkley, which is the most easterly fork of the Skeena.
Soon after starting on our downward path we came to a
fork in the trail. One trail, newly blazed, led to the
right and seemed to be the one to take. We started
upon it, but found it dangerously muddy, and so returned to the main trail which seemed to be more
numerously travelled. Afterward we wished we had
taken the other, for we got one of our horses into the
quicksand and worked for more than three hours in the
attempt to get him out. A horse is a strange animal.
He is counted intelligent, and so he is if he happens to
be a bronco or a mule. But in proportion as he is a
thoroughbred, he seems to lose power to take care of
himself— loses heart. Our Ewe-neck bay had a trace
of racer in him, and being weakened by poor food, it
was his bad luck to slip over the bank into a quicksand
creek. Having found himself helpless he instantly gave
up heart and lay out with a piteous expression of resignation in his big brown eyes. We tugged and lifted and
rolled him around from one position to another, each
more dangerous than the first, all to no result.
While I held him up from drowning, my partner
" brushed in " around him so that he could not become
submerged. We tried hitching the other horses to him
in order to drag   him  out, but   as they were  saddle- ii
The Trail of the Goldseekers
horses, and had never set shoulder to a collar in their
lives, they refused to pull even enough to take the
proverbial setting hen off the nest.
Up to this time I had felt no need of company on the
trail, and for the most part we had travelled alone. But
I now developed a poignant desire to hear the tinkle of
a bell on the back trail, for there is no " funny business " about losing a packhorse in the midst of a wild
country. His value is not represented by the twenty-
five dollars which you originally paid for him. Sometimes his life is worth all you can give for him.
After some three hours of toil (the horse getting
weaker all the time), I looked around once more with
despairing gaze, and caught sight of a bunch of horses
across the valley flat. In this country there were no
horses except such as the goldseeker owned, and this
bunch of horses meant a camp of trailers. Leaping to
my saddle, I galloped across the spongy marsh to hailing
My cries for help brought two of the men running
with spades to help us. The four of us together lifted
the old horse out of the pit more dead than alive. We
fell to and rubbed his legs to restore circulation. Later
we blanketed him and turned him loose upon the grass.
In a short time he was nearly as well as ever.
It was a sorrowful experience, for a fallen horse is a
horse in ruins and makes a most woful appeal upon
one's sympathies. I went to bed tired out, stiff and
sore from pulling on the rope, my hands blistered, my
nerves shaken. The First Crossing of the Bulkley      77
As I was sinking off to sleep I heard a wolf howl, as
though he mourned the loss of a feast.
We had been warned that the Bulkley River was a
bad stream to cross, — in fact, the road-gang had cut a
new trail in order to avoid it, — that is to say, they kept
to the right around the sharp elbow which the river makes
at this point, whereas the old trail cut directly across the
elbow, making two crossings. At the point where the
new trail led to the right we held a council of war to
determine whether to keep to the old trail, and so save
several days' travel, or to turn to the right and avoid the
difficult crossing. The new trail was reported to be
exceedingly miry, and that determined the matter — we
concluded to make the short cut.
We descended to the Bulkley through clouds of
mosquitoes and endless sloughs of mud. The river
was out of its banks, and its quicksand flats were exceedingly dangerous to our pack animals, although the
river itself at this point was a small and sluggish stream.
It took us exactly five hours of most exhausting toil
to cross the river and its flat. We worked like beavers,
we sweated like hired men, wading up to our knees in
water, and covered with mud, brushing in a road over
the quicksand for the horses to walk. The Ewe-
necked bay was fairly crazy with fear of the mud, and
it was necessary to lead him over every foot of the way.
We went into camp for the first time too late to eat by
daylight. It became necessary for us to use a candle
inside the tent at about eleven o'clock.
The horses were exhausted, and crazy for feed.    It 78
The Trail of the Goldseekers
was a struggle to get them unpacked, so eager were
they to forage. Ladrone, always faithful, touched my
heart by his patience and gentleness, and his reliance
upon me. I again heard a gray wolf howl as I was
sinking off to sleep. THE   GAUNT   GRAY   WOLF
O a shadowy beast is the gaunt gray wolf!
And his feet fall soft on a carpet of spines;
Where the night shuts quick and the winds are cold
He haunts the deeps of the northern pines.
His eyes are eager, his teeth are keen,
As he slips at night through the bush like a snake,
Crouching and cringing, straight into the wind,
To leap with a grin on the fawn in the brake.
He falls like a cat on the mother grouse
Brooding her young in the wind-bent weeds,
Or listens to heed with a start of greed
The bittern booming from river reeds.
He's the symbol of hunger the whole earth through,
His spectre sits at the door or cave,
And the homeless hear with a thrill of fear
The sound of his wind-swept voice on the air.
A poor old horse with down-cast mien and sad wild eyes.
Stood by the lonely trail — and oh !
He was so piteous lean.
He seemed to look a mild surprise
At all mankind that we should treat him so.
How hardily he struggled up the trail
And through the streams
All men should know.
Yet now abandoned to the wolf, his waiting foe,
He stood in silence, as an old man dreams.
And as his master left him, this he seemed to say :
" You leave me helpless by the path;
I do not curse you, but I pray
Defend me from the wolves' wild wrath!"
And yet his master rode away!
As we rose to the top of the divide which lies between
the two crossings of the Bulkley, a magnificent view of
the coast range again lightened the horizon, In the
foreground a lovely lake lay. On the shore of this
lake stood a single Indian shack occupied by a half-
dozen children and an old woman. They were all
wretchedly clothed in graceless rags, and formed a bitter
and depressing contrast to the magnificence of nature.
One of the lads could talk a little Chinook mixed
with English.
" How far is it to the ford ? " I asked of him.
" White man say, mebbe-so six, mebbe-so nine mile."
Knowing the Indian's vague idea of miles, I said: —
" How long before we reach the ford ? Sit-kum sun ?"
which is to say noon.
He shook his head.
" Klip sun come. Me go-hyak make canoe. Me
By which he meant: " You will arrive at the ford by
sunset. I will hurry on and build a raft and ferry you
over the stream."
With an axe and a sack of dried fish on his back and
g 81 82
The Trail of the Goldseekers
a poor old shot-gun in his arm, he led the way down
the trail at a slapping pace. He kept with us till dinnertime, however, in order to get some bread and coffee.
Like the Jicarilla Apaches, these people have discovered the virtues of the inner bark of the black pine. All
along the trail were trees from which wayfarers had
lunched, leaving a great strip of the white inner wood
" Man heap dry — this muck-a-muck heap good,"
said the young fellow, as he handed me a long strip to
taste. It was cool and sweet to the tongue, and on a
hot day would undoubtedly quench thirst. The boy
took it from the tree by means of a chisel-shaped iron
after the heavy outer bark has been hewed away by the
All along the trail were tree trunks whereon some
loitering young Siwash had delineated a human face by
a few deft and powerful strokes of the axe, the sculptural planes of cheeks, brow, and chin being indicated
broadly but with truth and decision. Often by some
old camp a tree would bear on a planed surface the rude
pictographs, so that those coming after could read the
number, size, sex, and success at hunting of those who
had gone before. There is something Japanese, it seems
to me, in this natural taste for carving among all the
Northwest people.
All about us was now riotous June. The season
was incredibly warm and forward, considering the latitude. Strawberries were in bloom, birds were singing,
wild roses appeared in miles and in millions, plum and Down the Bulkley Valley 83
cherry trees were white with blossoms—in fact, the
splendor and radiance of Iowa in June. A beautiful
lake occupied our left nearly all day.
As we arrived at the second crossing of the Bulkley
about six o'clock, our young Indian met us with a sorrowful face.
" Stick go in chuck.    No canoe.    Walk stick."
A big cottonwood log had fallen across the stream and
lay half-submerged and quivering in the rushing river.
Over this log a half-dozen men were passing like ants,
wet with sweat, "bucking" their outfits across. The
poor Siwash was out of a job and exceedingly sorrowful.
"This is the kind of picnic we didn't expect," said
one of the young men, as I rode up to see what progress
they were making.
We took our turn at crossing the tree trunk, which
was submerged nearly a foot deep with water running
at mill-race speed, and resumed the trail, following running water most of the way over a very good path.
Once again we had a few hours' positive enjoyment,
with no sense of being in a sub-arctic country. We
could hardly convince ourselves that we were in latitude
54. The only peculiarity which I never quite forgot
was the extreme length of the day. At 10.30 at
night it was still light enough to write. No sooner did
it get dark on one side of the hut than it began to
lighten on the other. The weather was gloriously cool,
crisp, and invigorating, and whenever we had sound soil
under our feet we were happy.
The country was getting each hour more superbly 84
The Trail of the Goldseekers
mountainous. Great snowy peaks rose on all sides.
The coast range, lofty, roseate, dim, and far, loomed ever
in the west, but on our right a group of other giants
assembled, white and stern. A part of the time we
threaded our way through fire-devastated forests of fir,
and then as suddenly burst out into tracts of wild roses
with beautiful open spaces of waving pea-vine on which
our horses fed ravenously.
We were forced to throw up our tent at every meal,
so intolerable had the mosquitoes become. Here for
the first time our horses were severely troubled by
myriads of little black flies. They were small, but
resembled our common house flies in shape, and were
exceedingly venomous. They filled the horses' ears,
and their sting produced minute swellings all over the
necks and breasts of the poor animals. Had it not
been for our pennyroyal and bacon grease, the bay
horse would have been eaten raw.
We overtook the trampers again at Chock Lake.
They were thin, their legs making sharp creases in
their trouser legs — I could see that as I neared them.
They were walking desperately, reeling from side to
side with weakness. There was no more smiling on
their faces. One man, the smaller, had the countenance of a wolf, pinched in round the nose. His
bony jaw was thrust forward resolutely. The taller
man was limping painfully because of a shoe which
had gone to one side. Their packs were light, but
their almost incessant change of position gave evidence
of pain and great weariness. Down the Bulkley Valley 85
I drew near to ask how they were getting along.
The tall man, with a look of wistful sadness like that
of a hungry dog, said, " Not very well."
" How are you off for grub ? "
I Nothing left but some beans and a mere handful
of flour."
I invited them to a " square meal" a few miles farther on, and in order to help them forward I took one
of their packs on my horse. I inferred that they would
take turns at the remaining pack and so keep pace with
us, for we were dropping steadily now — down, down
through the most beautiful savannas, with fine spring
brooks rushing from the mountain's side. Flowers
increased; the days grew warmer; it began to feel
like summer. The mountains grew ever mightier,
looming cloudlike at sunset, bearing glaciers on their
shoulders. We were almost completely happy — but
alas, the mosquitoes ! Their hum silenced the songs
of the birds; their feet made the mountains of no
avail. The otherwise beautiful land became a restless
hell for the unprotected man or beast. It was impossible to eat or sleep without some defence, and our
pennyroyal salve was invaluable. It enabled us to
travel with some degree of comfort, where others suffered martyrdom.
At noon Burton made up a heavy mess, in expectation of the trampers, who had fallen a little behind.
The small man came into view first, for he had abandoned his fellow-traveller. This angered me, and I was
minded to  cast the little sneak out of camp, but his 86
The Trail of the Goldseekers
pinched and hungry face helped me to put up with
him. I gave him a smart lecture and said, " I supposed you intended to help the other man, or I wouldn't
have relieved you of a pound."
The other toiler turned up soon, limping, and staggering with weakness. When dinner was ready, they
came to the call like a couple of starving dogs. The
small man had no politeness left. He gorged himself
like a wolf. He fairly snapped the food down his
throat. The tall man, by great effort, contrived to
display some knowledge of better manners. As they
ate, I studied them. They were blotched by mosquito
bites and tanned to a leather brown. Their thin hands
were like claws, their doubled knees seemed about to
pierce their trouser legs.
"Yes," said the taller man, "the mosquitoes nearly
eat us up. We can only sleep in the middle of the
day, or from about two o'clock in the morning till sunrise. We walk late in the evening — till nine or ten
— and then sit in the smoke till it gets cold enough
to drive away the mosquitoes. Then we try to sleep.
But the trouble is, when it is cold enough to keep
them off, it's too cold for us to sleep."
"What did you do during the late rains ? " I inquired.
" Oh, we kept moving most of the time. At night
we camped under a fir tree by the trail and dried off.
The mosquitoes didn't bother us so much then. We
were wet nearly all the time."
I tried to get at his point of view, his justification
for such senseless  action, but   could only  discover  a Down the Bulkley Valley 87
sort of blind belief that something would help him pull
through. He had gone to the Caribou mines to find
work, and, failing, had pushed on toward Hazleton with
a dim hope of working his way to Teslin Lake and to
the Klondike. He started with forty pounds of provisions and three or four dollars in his pocket. He
was now dead broke, and  his provisions almost gone.
Meanwhile, the smaller man made no sign of hearing a word. He ate and ate, till my friend looked at
me with a comical wink. We fed him staples —
beans, graham bread, and coffee — and he slowly but
surely reached the bottom of every dish. He did not
fill up, he simply " wiped out " the cooked food. The
tall man was not far behind him.
As he talked, I imagined the life they had led. At
first the trail was good, and they were able to make
twenty miles each day. The weather was dry and
warm, and sleeping was not impossible. They camped
close beside the trail when they grew tired — I had seen
and recognized their camping-places all along. But the
rains came on, and they were forced to walk all day
through the wet shrubs with the water dripping from
their ragged garments. They camped at night beneath
the firs (for the ground is always dry under a fir), where
a fire is easily built. There they hung over the flame,
drying their clothing and their rapidly weakening shoes.
The mosquitoes swarmed upon them bloodily in the
shelter and warmth of the trees, for they had no netting or
tent. Their meals were composed of tea, a few hastily
stewed beans, and a poor quality of sticky camp bread. The Trail of the Goldseekers
Their sleep was broken and fitful. They were either
too hot or too cold, and the mosquitoes gave way only
when the frost made slumber difficult. In the morning
they awoke to the necessity of putting on their wet
shoes, and taking the muddy trail, to travel as long as
they could stagger forward.
In addition to all this, they had no maps, and knew
nothing of their whereabouts or how far it was to a
human habitation. Their only comfort lay in the passing of outfits like mine. From such as I, they "rustled
food" and clothing. The small man did not even
thank us for the meal; he sat himself down for a smoke
and communed with his stomach The tall man was
plainly worsted. His voice had a plaintive droop. His
shoe gnawed into his foot, and his pack was visibly
heavier than that of his companion.
We were two weeks behind our schedule, and our
own flour sack was not much bigger than a sachet-bag,
, but we gave them some rice and part of our beans and
oatmeal, and they moved away.
We were approaching sea-level, following the Bulkley,
which flows in a northwesterly direction and enters
the great Skeena River at right angles, just below its
three forks. Each hour the peaks seemed to assemble
and uplift. The days were at their maximum, the sun
set shortly after eight, but it was light until nearly
eleven. At midday the sun was fairly hot, but the
wind swept down from the mountains cool and refreshing. I shall not soon forget those radiant meadows,
over which the far mountains blazed in almost intol- Down the Bulkley Valley
erable splendor; it was too perfect to endure. Like
the light of the sun lingering on the high peaks with
most magical beauty, it passed away to be seen no
In the midst of these grandeurs we lost one of our
horses. Whenever a horse breaks away from his fellows
on the trail, it is pretty safe to infer he has " hit the
back track." As I went out to round up the horses,
" Major Grunt" was nowhere to be found. He had
strayed from the bunch and we inferred had started back
over the trail. We trailed him till we met one of the
trampers, who assured us that no horse had passed him
in the night, for he had been camped within six feet of
the path.
Up to this time there had been no returning footsteps,
and it was easy to follow the horse so long as he kept
to the trail, but the tramper's report was positive — no
horse had passed him. We turned back and began
searching the thickets around the camp.
We toiled all day, not merely because the horse was
exceedingly valuable to us, but also for the reason that
he had a rope attached to his neck and I was afraid he
might become entangled in the fallen timber and so
starve to death.
The tall tramper, who had been definitely abandoned
by his partner, was a sad spectacle. He was blotched
by mosquito bites, thin and weak with hunger, and his
clothes hung in tatters. He had just about reached the
limit of his courage, and though we were uncertain of
our horses, and our food was nearly exhausted, we gave 90 The Trail of the Goldseekers
him all the rice we had and some fruit and sent him on
his way.
Night came, and still no signs of " Major Grunt."
It began to look as though some one had ridden him
away and we should be forced to go on without him.
This losing of a horse is one of the accidents which
make the trail so uncertain. We were exceedingly
anxious to get on. There was an oppressive warmth in
the air, and flies and mosquitoes were the worst we had
ever seen. Altogether this was a dark day on our
After we had secured ourselves in our tents that night
the sound of the savage insects without was like the
roaring of a far-off hailstorm. The horses rolled in
the dirt, snorted, wheeled madly, stamped, shook their
heads, and flung themselves again and again on the
ground, giving every evidence of the most terrible suffering. " If this is to continue," I said to my partner, " I
shall quit, and either kill all my horses or ship them out
of the country. I will not have them eaten alive in this
It was impossible to go outside to attend to them.
Nothing could be done but sit in gloomy silence and
listen to the drumming of their frantic feet on the turf
as they battled against their invisible foes. At last, led
by old Ladrone, they started off at a hobbling gallop up
the trail.
" Well, we are in for it now," I remarked, as the
footsteps died away. " They've hit the back trail, and
we'll have another day's hard work to catch 'em and Down the Bulkley Valley
bring 'em back. However, there's no use worrying.
The mosquitoes would eat us alive if we went out now.
We might just as well go to sleep and wait till morning." Sleep was difficult under the circumstances, but
we dozed off at last.
As we took their trail in the cool of the next morning, we found the horses had taken the back trail till
they reached an open hillside, and had climbed to the
very edge of the timber. There they were all in a
bunch, with the exception of " Major Grunt," of whom
we had no trace.
With a mind filled with distressing pictures of the
lost horse entangled in his rope, and lying flat on his
side hidden among the fallen tree trunks, there to struggle and starve, I reluctantly gave orders for a start, with
intent to send an Indian back to search for him.
After two hours' smart travel we came suddenly upon
the little Indian village of Morricetown, which is built
beside a narrow canon through which the Bulkley
rushes with tremendous speed. Here high on the level
grassy bank we camped, quite secure from mosquitoes,
and surrounded by the curious natives, who showed us
where to find wood and water, and brought us the most
beautiful spring salmon, and potatoes so tender and fine
that the' skin could be rubbed from them with the
thumb. They were exactly like new potatoes in the
States. Out of this, it may be well understood, we had
a most satisfying dinner. Summer was in full tide.
Pieplant was two feet high, and strawberries were
almost ripe. 92 The Trail of the Goldseekers
Calling the men of the village around me, I explained
in Pigeon-English and worse Chinook that I had lost a
horse, and that I would give five dollars to the man who
would bring him to me. They all listened attentively,
filled with joy at a chance to earn so much money. At
last the chief man of the village, a very good-looking
fellow of twenty-five or thirty, said to me: " All light,
me go, me fetch 'um. You stop here. Mebbe-so,
klip-sun, I come bling horse."
His confidence relieved us of anxiety, and we had a
very pleasant day of it, digesting our bountiful meal of
salmon and potatoes, and mending up our clothing.
We were now pretty ragged and very brown, but in
excellent health.
Late in the afternoon a gang of road-cutters (who
had been sent out by the towns interested in the route)
came into town from Hazleton, and I had a talk with
the boss, a very decent fellow, who gave a grim report
of the trail beyond. He said : " Nobody knows anything about that trail. Jim Deacon, the head-man of
our party when we left Hazleton, was only about seventy
miles out, and cutting fallen timber like a man chopping
cord wood, and sending back for more help. We are
now going back to bridge and corduroy the places we
had no time to fix as we came."
Morricetown was a superb spot, and Burton was
much inclined to stay right there and prospect the
near-by mountains. So far as a mere casual observer
could determine, this country offers every inducement to
prospectors.    It  is possible to grow potatoes, hay, and Down the Bulkley Valley
oats, together with various small fruits, in this valley,
and if gold should ever be discovered in the rushing
mountain streams, it would be easy to sustain a camp
and feed it well.
Long before sunset an Indian came up to us and
smilingly said, "You hoss — come." And a few minutes later the young ty-ee came riding into town leading
" Major Grunt," well as ever, but a little sullen. He
had taken the back trail till he came to a narrow and
insecure bridge. There he had turned up the stream,
going deeper and deeper into the "stick," as the Siwash
called the forest. I paid the reward gladly, and Major
took his place among the other horses with no sign of
joy.  DO   YOU   FEAR   THE   WIND?
Do you fear the force of the wind,
The slash of the rain ?
Go face them and fight them,
Be savage again.
Go hungry and cold like the wolf,
Go wade like the crane.
The palms of your hands will thicken,
The skin of your cheek will tan,
You'll grow ragged and weary and swarthy,
But you'll walk like a man !
We were now but thirty miles from Hazleton, where
our second bill of supplies was waiting for us, and we
were eager to push on. Taking the advice of the road-
gang we crossed the frail suspension bridge (which the
Indians had most ingeniously constructed out of logs and
pieces of old telegraph wire) and started down the west
side of the river. Every ravine was filled by mountain
streams' foam — white with speed.
We descended all day and the weather grew more and
more summer-like each mile. Ripe strawberries lured
us from the warm banks. For the first time we came
upon great groves of red cedar under which the trail ran
very muddy and very slippery by reason of the hard
roots of the cedars which never decay. Creeks that
seemed to me a good field for placer mining came down
from the left, but no one stopped to do more than pan a
little gravel from a cut bank or a bar.
At about two o'clock of the second day we came to
the Indian village of Hagellgate, which stands on the
high bank overhanging the roaring river just before it
empties into the Skeena. Here we got news of the
tramp who had fallen in exhaustion and was being
cared for by the Indians.
h 97 li
98 The Trail of the Goldseekers
Descending swiftly we came to the bank of the river,
which was wide, tremendously swift and deep and cold.
Rival Indian ferry companies bid for our custom, each
man extolling his boat at the expense of the " old canoe
— no good " of his rivals.
The canoes were like those to be seen all along the
coast, that is to say they had been hollowed from cotton-
wood or pine trees and afterward steamed and spread by
means of hot water to meet the maker's idea of the
proper line of grace and speed. They were really beautiful and sat the water almost as gracefully as the birch-
bark canoe of the Chippewas. At each end they rose
into a sort of neck, which terminated often in a head
carved to resemble a deer or some fabled animal. Some
of them had white bands encircling the throat of this
figurehead. Their paddles were short and broad, but
light and strong.
These canoes are very seaworthy. As they were
driven across the swift waters, they danced on the waves
like leaves, and the boatmen bent to their oars with
almost desperate energy and with most excited outcry.
Therein is expressed a mighty difference between
the Siwash and the plains Indian. The Cheyenne, the
Sioux, conceal effort, or fear, or enthusiasm. These
little people chattered and whooped at each other like
monkeys. Upon hearing them for the first time I
imagined they were losing control of the boat. Judging
from their accent they were shrieking phrases like
these: —
" Quick, quick!    Dig in deep, Joe.    Scratch now, Hazleton.    Midway on the Trail        99
we're going down — whoop! Hay, now ! All together — swing her, dog-gone ye — SWING HER!
Now straight — keep her straight! Can't ye see that
eddy ? Whoop, whoop! Let out a link or two, you
spindle-armed child.    Now quick or we're lost! "
While the other men seemed to reply in kind: " Oh,
rats, we're a makin' it. Head her toward that bush.
Don't get scared — trust me — I'll sling her ashore !"
A plains Indian, under similar circumstances, would
have strained every muscle till his bones cracked, before
permitting himself to show effort or excitement.
With all their confusion and chatter these little people
were always masters of the situation. They came out
right, no matter how savage the river, and the Bulkley
at this point was savage. Every drop of water was in
motion. It had no eddies, no slack water. Its momentum was terrific. In crossing, the boatmen were obliged
to pole their canoes far up beypnd the point at which
they meant to land; then, at the word, they swung into
the rushing current and pulled like fiends for the opposite shore. Their broad paddles dipped so rapidly they
resembled paddle-wheels. They kept the craft head-on
to the current, and did not attempt to charge the bank
directly, but swung-to broadside. In this way they led
our horses safely across, and came up smiling each time.
We found Hazleton to be a small village composed
mainly of Indians, with a big Hudson Bay post at its
centre. It was situated on a lovely green flat, but a few
feet above the Skeena, which was a majestic flood at this
point.    There were some ten or fifteen outfits camped IOO
The Trail of the Goldseekers
in and about the village, resting and getting ready for the
last half of the trail. Some of the would-be miners had
come up the river in the little Hudson Bay steamer,
which makes two or three trips a year, and were waiting for her next trip in order to go down again.
The town was filled with gloomy stories of the trail.
No one knew its condition. In fact, it had not been
travelled in seventeen years, except by the Indians on
foot with their packs of furs. The road party was ahead,
but toiling hard and hurrying to open a way for us.
As I  now reread  all the  advance literature of this
" prairie route," I perceived how skilfully every detail
with regard to the last half of the trail had been slurred
. over.    We had been led into a sort of sack, and the
string was tied behind us.
The Hudson Bay agent said to me with perfect frankness, " There's no one in this village, except one or two
Indians, who's ever been over the trail, or who can give
you any information concerning it." He furthermore
said, " A large number of these fellows who are starting
in on this trip with their poor little cayuses will never
reach the Stikeen River, and might better stop right here."
Feed was scarce here as everywhere, and we were
forced to camp on the trail, some two miles above the
town. In going to and from our tent we passed the
Indian burial ground, which was very curious and interesting to me. It was a veritable little city of the dead,
with streets of tiny, gayly painted little houses in which
the silent and motionless ones had been laid in their last
sleep.    Each tomb was a shelter, a roof, and a tomb, Hazleton.    Midway on the Trail      101
and upon each the builder had lavished his highest skill
in ornament. They were all vivid with paint and carving
and lattice work. Each builder seemed trying to outdo
his neighbor in making a cheerful habitation for his dead.
More curious still, in each house were the things
which the dead had particularly loved. In one, a trunk
contained all of a girl's much-prized clothing. A complete set of dishes was visible in another, while in a third
I saw a wash-stand, bowl, pitcher, and mirror. There
was something deeply touching to me in all this. They
are so poor, their lives are so bare of comforts, that the
consecration of these articles to the dead seemed a greater
sacrifice than we, who count ourselves civilized, would
make. Each chair, or table, or coat, or pair of shoes,
costs many skins. The set of furniture meant many
hard journeys in the cold, long days of trailing, trapping,
and packing. The clothing had a high money value,
yet it remained undisturbed. ,1 saw one day a woman
and two young girls halt to look timidly in at the window of a newly erected tomb, but only for a moment;
and then, in a panic of fear and awe, they hurried away.
The days which followed were cold and gloomy, quite
in keeping with the grim tales of the trail. Bodies of
horses and mules, drowned in the attempt to cross the
Skeena, were reported passing the wharf at the post.
The wife of a retired Indian agent, who claimed to have
been over the route many years ago, was interviewed
by my partner. After saying that it was a terrible trail,
she sententiously ended with these words, " Gentlemen,
you may consider yourselves explorers." Kill!
102 The Trail of the Goldseekers
I halted a very intelligent Indian who came riding by
dur camp.    " How far to Teslin Lake ? " I asked.
He mused. " Maybe so forty days, maybe so thirty
days.    Me think forty days."
" Good feed ?    Hy-u muck-a-muck ? "
He looked at me in silence and his face grew a little
graver. " Ha—lo muck-a-muck (no feed). Long time no
glass.   Hy-yu stick (woods).   Hy-u river—all day swim."
Turning to Burton, I said, " Here we get at the truth
of it. This man has no reason for lying. We need
another horse, and we need fifty pounds more flour."
One by one the outfits behind us came dropping
down into Hazleton in long trains of weary horses,
some of them in very bad condition. Many of the goldseekers determined to " quit." They sold their horses
as best they could to the Indians (who were glad to buy
them), and hired canoes to take them to the coast, intent
to catch one of the steamers which ply to and fro between
Skagway and Seattle.
But one by one, with tinkling bells and sharp outcry
of drivers, other outfits passed us, cheerily calling : " Good
luck! See you later," all bound for the " gold belt."
Gloomy skies continued to fill the imaginative ones with
forebodings, and all day they could be seen in groups
about the village discussing ways and means. Quarrels
broke out, and parties disbanded in discouragement and
bitterness. The road to the golden river seemed to grow
longer, and the precious sand more elusive, from day to
day. Here at Hazleton, where they had hoped to reach
a gold  region,  nothing was doing.     Those  who  had Hazleton.    Middle of the Trail        103
visited the Kisgagash Mountains to the north were lukewarm in their reports, and no one felt like stopping to
explore.    The cry was, " On to Dawson."
Here in Hazleton I came upon the lame tramp. He
had secured lodging in an empty shack and was, being
helped to food by some citizens in the town for whom
he was doing a little work. Seeing me pass he called to
me and began to inquire about the trail.
I read in the gleam of his eye an insane resolution to
push forward. This I set about to check. " If you
wish to commit suicide, start on this trail. The four
hundred miles you have been over is a summer picnic
excursion compared to that which is now to follow. My
advice to you is to stay right where you are until the
next Hudson Bay steamer comes by, then go to the
captain and tell him just how you are situated, and ask
him to carry you down to the coast. You are insane to
think for a moment of attempting the four hundred miles
of unknown trail between here and Glenora, especially
without a cent in your pocket and no grub. You have
no right to burden the other outfits with your needs."
This plain talk seemed to affect him and he looked
aggrieved. " But what can I do ? I have no money
and no work."
I replied in effect: "Whatever you do, you can't afford to enter upon this trail, and you can't expect men
who are already short of grub to feed and take care of
you. There's a chance for you to work your way back
to the coast on the Hudson Bay steamer. There's only
starvation on the trail." UPgfgpsssp
104 The Trail of the Goldseekers
As I walked away he called after me, but I refused to
return. I had the feeling in spite of all I had said that
he would attempt to rustle a little grub and make his
start on the trail. The whole goldseeking movement
was, in a way, a craze; he was simply an extreme development of it.
It seemed necessary to break camp in order not to be
eaten up by the Siwash dogs, whose peculiarities grew
upon me daily. They were indeed strange beasts. They
seemed to have no youth. I never saw them play; even
the puppies were grave and sedate. They were never
in a hurry and were not afraid. They got out of our
way with the least possible exertion, looking meekly reproachful or snarling threateningly at us. They were
ever watchful. No matter how apparently deep their
slumber, they saw every falling crumb, they knew where
we had hung our fish, and were ready as we turned our
backs to make away with it. It was impossible to leave
anything eatable for a single instant. Nothing but the
sleight of hand of a conjurer could equal the mystery of
their stealing.
After buying a fourth pack animal and reshoeing all
our horses, we got our outfit into shape for the long,
hard drive which lay before us. Every ounce of superfluous weight, every tool, every article not absolutely essential, was discarded and its place filled with food. We
stripped ourselves like men going into battle, and on the
third day lined up for Teslin Lake, six hundred miles to
the north. SIWASH    GRAVES
Here in their tiny gayly painted homes
They sleep, these small dead people of the streams,
Their names unknown, their deeds forgot,
Their by-gone battles lost in dreams.
A few short days and we who laugh
Will be as still, will lie as low
As utterly in dark as they who rot
Here where the roses blow.
They fought, and loved, and toiled, and jlied,
As all men do, and all men must.
Of what avail ? we at the end
Fall quite as shapelessly to dust.
The packs are on, the cinches tight,
The patient horses wait,
Upon the grass the frost lies white,
The dawn is gray and late.
The leader's cry rings sharp and clear,
The campflres smoulder low;
Before us lies a shallow mere,
Beyond, the mountain snow.
" Line up, Billy, line up, boys,
The east is gray with coming day,
We must away, we cannot stay.
Hy-o, hy-ak, brave boys ! "
Five hundred miles behind us lie,
As many more ahead,
Through mud and mire on mountains high
Our weary feet must tread.
So one by one, with loyal mind,
The horses swing to place,
The strong in lead, the weak behind,
In patient plodding grace.
uHy-o, Buckskin, brave boy, "Joe !
The sun is high,
The hid loons cry:
Hy-ak — away !    Hy-o ! "
Our stay at Hazleton in some measure removed the
charm of the first view. The people were all so miserably poor, and the hosts of howling, hungry dogs made
each day more distressing. The mountains remained
splendid to the last; and as we made our start I looked
back upon them with undiminished pleasure.
We pitched tent at night just below the ford, and
opposite another Indian village in which a most mournful medicine song was going on, timed to the beating of
drums. Dogs joined with the mourning of the people
with cries of almost human anguish, to which the beat
of the passionless drum added solemnity, and a sort of
inexorable marching rhythm. It seemed to announce
pestilence and flood, and made the beautiful earth a
place of hunger and despair.
I was awakened in the early dawn by a singular cry
repeated again and again on the farther side of the river.
It seemed the voice of a woman uttering in wailing
chant the most piercing agony of despairing love. It
ceased as the sun arose and was heard no more. It was
difficult to imagine such anguish in the bustle of the
bright morning. It seemed as though it must have been
an illusion—a dream of tragedy.
a io8
The Trail of the Goldseekers
In the course of an hour's travel we came down to
the sandy bottom of the river, whereon a half-dozen fine
canoes were beached and waiting for us. The skilful
natives set us across very easily, although it was the
maddest and wildest of all the rivers we had yet seen.
We crossed the main river just above the point at which
the west fork enters. The horses were obliged to swim
nearly half a mile, and some of them would not have
reached the other shore had it not been for the Indians,
who held their heads out of water from the sterns of the
canoes, and so landed them safely on the bar just opposite the little village called Kispyox, which is also the
Indian name of the west fork.
The trail made off up the eastern bank of this river,
which was as charming as any stream ever imagined by
a poet. The water was gray-green in color, swift and
active. It looped away in most splendid curves, through
opulent bottom lands, filled with wild roses, geranium
plants, and berry blooms. Openings alternated with
beautiful woodlands and grassy meadows, while over
and beyond all rose the ever present mountains of the
coast range, deep blue and snow-capped.
There was no strangeness in the flora — on the contrary, everything seemed familiar. Hazel bushes, poplars, pines, all growth was amazingly luxuriant. The
trail was an Indian path, graceful and full of swinging
curves. We had passed beyond the telegraph wire of
the old trail.
Early in the afternoon we passed some five or six
outfits camped on a beautiful grassy bank overlooking the Crossing the Big Divide 109
river, and forming a most satisfying picture. The bells
on the grazing horses were tinkling, and from sparkling
fires, thin columns of smoke arose. Some of the young
men were bathing, while others were washing their
shirts in the sunny stream. There was a cheerful
sound of whistling and rattling of tinware mingled with
the sound of axes. Nothing could be more jocund,
more typical; of the young men and the trail. It was
one of the few pleasant camps of the long journey.
It was raining when we awoke, but before noon it
cleared sufficiently to allow us to pack. We started at
one, though the bushes were loaded with water, and had
we not been well clothed in waterproof, we should
have been drenched to the bone. We rode for four
hours over a good trail, dodging wet branches in the
pouring rain. It lightened at five, and we went into
camp quite dry and comfortable.
We unpacked near an Indian ranch belonging to an
old man and his wife, who came up at once to see us.
They were good-looking, rugged old souls, like powerful
Japanese. They could not speak Chinook, and we
could not get much out of them. The old wife toted
a monstrous big salmon up the hill to sell to us, but we
had more fish than we could eat, and were forced to
decline. There was a beautiful spring just back of the
cabin, and the old man seemed to take pleasure in having us get our water from it. Neither did he object to
our horses feeding about his house, where there was very
excellent grass. It was a charming camping-place,
wild flowers made the trail radiant even in the midst of no
The Trail of the Goldseekers
rain. The wild roses grew in clumps of sprays as high
as a horse's head.
Just before we determined to camp we had passed
three or four outfits grouped together on the sward on
the left bank of the river. As we rode by, one of the
men had called to me saying: " You had better camp.
It is thirty miles from here to feed." To this I had
merely nodded, giving it little attention; but now as we
sat around our campfire, Burton brought the matter up
again: " If it is thirty miles to feed, we will have to get
off early to-morrow morning and make as big a drive as
we can, while the horses are fresh, and then make the
latter part of the run on empty stomachs."
"Oh, I think they were just talking for our special
benefit," I replied.
" No, they were in earnest. One of them came out
to see me. He said he got his pointer from the mule
train ahead of us. Feed is going to be very scarce, and
the next run is fully thirty miles."
I insisted it could not be possible that we should go
at once from the luxuriant pea-vine and bluejoint into
a thirty-mile stretch of country where nothing grew.
" There must be breaks in the forest where we can
graze our horses."
It rained all night and in the morning it seemed as if
it had settled into a week's downpour. However, we
were quite comfortable with plenty of fresh salmon, and
were not troubled except with the thought of the mud
which would result from this rainstorm. We were
falling steadily behind our schedule each day, but the Crossing the Big Divide
horses were feeding and gaining strength —" And
when we hit the trail, we will hit it hard," I said to
It was Sunday. The day was perfectly quiet and
peaceful, like a rainy Sunday in the States. The old
Indian below kept to his house all day, not visiting us.
It is probable that he was a Catholic. The dogs came
about us occasionally; strange, solemn creatures that
they are, they had the persistence of hunger and the
silence of burglars.
It was raining when we awoke Monday morning, but
we were now restless to get under way. We could not
afford to spend another day waiting in the rain. It was
gloomy business in camp, and at the first sign of lightening sky we packed up and started promptly at twelve
That ride was the sternest we had yet experienced.
It was like swimming in a sea of green water. The
branches sloshed us with blinding raindrops. The
mud spurted under our horses' hoofs, the sky was gray
and drizzled moisture, and as we rose we plunged into
ever deepening forests. We left behind us all hazel
bushes, alders, wild roses, and grasses. Moss was on
every leaf and stump: the forest became savage, sinister
and silent, not a living thing but ourselves moved or
uttered voice.
This world grew oppressive with its unbroken clear
greens, its dripping branches, its rotting trees; its snakelike roots half buried in the earth convinced me that our
warning was well-born.    At last we came into upper
Mi 112
The Trail of the Goldseekers
heights where no blade of grass grew, and we pushed on
desperately, on and on, hour after hour. We began to
suffer with the horses, being hungry and cold ourselves.
We plunged into bottomless mudholes, slid down slippery slopes of slate, and leaped innumerable fallen logs
of fir. The sky had no more pity than the mossy
ground and the desolate forest. It was a mocking land,
a land of green things, but not a blade of grass: only
austere trees and noxious weeds.
During the day we met an old man so loaded down
I could not tell whether he was man, woman, or
beast. A sort of cap or wide cloth band went across
his head, concealing his forehead. His huge pack
loomed over his shoulders, and as he walked, using two
paddles as canes, he seemed some anomalous four-footed
beast of burden.
As he saw us he threw off his pack to rest and stood
erect, a sturdy man of sixty, with short bristling hair
framing a kindly resolute face. He was very light-
hearted. He shook hands with me, saying, " Kla-how-
ya," in answer to my, " Kla-how-ya six," which is
to say, " How are you, friend ? " He smiled, pointed
to his pack, and said," Hy-u skin." His season had been
successful and he was going now to sell his catch. A
couple of dogs just behind carried each twenty pounds
on their backs. We were eating lunch, and I invited
him to sit and eat. He took a seat and began to parcel
out the food in two piles.
" He has a companion coming," I said to my partner.    In a few moments a boy of fourteen or  fifteen Crossing the Big Divide 113
came up, carrying a pack that would test the strength of
a powerful white man. He, too, threw off his load and
at a word from the old man took a seat at the table.
They shared exactly alike. It was evident that they
were father and son.
A few miles farther on we met another family, two
men, a woman, a boy, and six dogs, all laden in proportion. They were all handsomer than the Siwashes of
the Fraser River. They came from the head-waters
of the Nasse, they said. They could speak but little
Chinook and no English at all. When I asked in Chi-
' nook, " How far is it to feed for our horses ?" the
woman looked first at our thin animals, then at us,
and shook her head sorrowfully; then lifting her hands
in the most dramatic gesture she half whispered, " Si-ah,
si-ah!"    That is to say, " Far, very far ! "
Both these old people seemed very kind to their dogs,
which were fat and sleek and not related to those I had
seen in Hazleton. When the old man spoke to them,
his voice was gentle and encouraging. At the word
they all took up the line of march and went off down
the hill toward the Hudson Bay store^there to remain
during the summer. We pushed on, convinced by the
old woman's manner that our long trail was to be a
gloomy one.
Night began to settle over us at last, adding the final
touches of uncertainty and horror to the gloom. We
pushed on with necessary cruelty, forcing the tired
horses to their utmost, searching every ravine and every
slope for a feed; but only ferns and strange green poi- H4 The Trail of the Goldseekers
sonous plants could be seen. We were angling up the
side of the great ridge which separated the west fork of
the Skeena River from the middle fork. It was evident
that we must cross this high divide and descend into the
valley of the middle fork before we could hope to feed
our horses.
However, just as darkness was beginning to come
on, we came to an almost impassable slough in the
trail, where a small stream descended into a little flat
marsh and morass. This had been used as a camping-place by others, and we decided to camp, because
to travel, even in the twilight, was dangerous to life
and limb.
It was a gloomy and depressing place to spend the
night. There was scarcely level ground enough to
receive our camp. The wood was soggy and green. In
order to reach the marsh we were forced to lead our
horses one by one through a dangerous mudhole, and once
through this they entered upon a quaking bog, out of
which grew tufts of grass which had been gnawed to the
roots by the animals which had preceded them; only
a rank bottom of dead leaves of last year's growth was
left for our tired horses. I was deeply anxious for fear
they would crowd into the central bog in their efforts to
reach the uncropped green blades which grew out of
reach in the edge of the water. They were ravenous
with hunger after eight hours of hard labor.
Our clothing was wet to the inner threads, and we
were tired and muddy also, but our thoughts were on
the horses rather than upon ourselves.    We soon had a Crossing the Big Divide 115
fire going and some hot supper, and by ten o'clock were
stretched out in our beds for the night.
I have never in my life experienced a gloomier or
more distressing camp on the trail. My bed was dry
and warm, but I could not forget our tired horses grubbing about in the chilly night on that desolate marsh.  A   CHILD   OF  THE   SUN
Give me the sun and the sky,
The wide sky.    Let it blaze with light,
Let it burn with heat — I care not.
The sun is the blood of my heart,
The wind of the plain my breath.
No woodsman am I.    My eyes are set
For the wide low lines.    The level rim
Of the prairie land is mine.
The semi-gloom of the pointed firs,
The sleeping darks of the mountain spruce,
Are prison and poison to such as I.
In the forest I long for the rose of the plain,
In the dark of the firs I die.
O to lie in long grasses !
O to dream of the plain !
Where the west wind sings as it passes
A weird and unceasing refrain;
Where the rank grass wallows and tosses,
And the plains' ring dazzles the eye;
Where hardly a silver cloud bosses
The flashing steel arch of the sky.
To watch the gay gulls as they flutter
Like snowflakes and fall down the sky,
To swoop in the deeps of the hollows,
Where the crow's-foot tosses awry;
And gnats in the lee of the thickets
Are swirling like waltzers in glee
To the harsh, shrill creak of the crickets
And the song of the lark and the bee.
O far-off plains of my west land !
O lands of winds and the free,
Swift deer — my mist-clad plain !
From my bed in the heart of the forest,
From the clasp and the girdle of pain
Your light through my darkness passes;
To your meadows in dreaming I fly
To plunge in the deeps of your grasses,
To bask in the light of your sky!
We were awake early and our first thought was of
our horses. They were quite safe and cropping away
on the dry stalks with patient diligence. We saddled
up and pushed on, for food was to be had only in the
valley, whose blue and white walls we could see far
ahead of us. After nearly six hours' travel we came out
of the forest, out into the valley of the middle fork of
the Skeena, into sunlight and grass in abundance, where
we camped till the following morning, giving the horses
time to recuperate.
We were done with smiling valleys — that I now
perceived. We were coming nearer to the sub-arctic
country, grim and desolate. The view was magnificent, but the land seemed empty and silent except of
mosquitoes, of which there were uncounted millions.
On our right just across the river rose the white peaks
of the Kisgagash Mountains. Snow was still lying in
the gullies only a few rods above us.
The horses fed right royally and soon forgot the
dearth of the big divide. As we were saddling up to
move the following morning, several outfits came trailing down into the valley, glad as we had been of the
119 120 The Trail of the Goldseekers
splendid field of grass. They were led by a grizzled
old American, who cursed the country with fine fervor.
" I can stand any kind of a country," said he,
"except one where there's no feed. And as near's I
can find out we're in fer hell's own time fer feed till we
reach them prairies they tell about."
After leaving this flat, we had the Kuldo (a swift and
powerful river) to cross, but we found an old Indian and
a girl camped on the opposite side waiting for us. The
daughter, a comely child about sixteen years of age,
wore a calico dress and " store " shoes. She was a self-
contained little creature, and clearly in command of the
boat, and very efficient. It was no child's play to put
the light canoe across such a stream, but the old man,
with much shouting and under command of the girl,
succeeded in crossing six times, carrying us and our
baggage. As we were being put across for the last time
it became necessary for some one to pull the canoe
through the shallow water, and the little girl, without
hesitation, leaped out regardless of new shoes, and tugged
at the rope while the old man poled at the stern, and so
we were landed.
As a recognition of her resolution I presented her
with a dollar, which I tried to make her understand was
her own, and not to be given to her father. Up to that
moment she had been very shy and rather sullen, but
my present seemed to change her opinion of us, and she
became more genial at once. She was short and sturdy,
and her little footsteps in the trail were strangely
suggestive of civilization.
rasas The Silent Forests of the Dread Skeena    121
After leaving the river we rose sharply for about three
miles. This brought us to the first notice on the trail
which was signed by the road-gang, an ambiguous
scrawl to the effect that feed was to be very scarce for a
long, long way, and that we should feed our horses
before going forward. The mystery of the sign lay in
the fact that no feed was in sight, and if it referred
back to the flat, then it was in the nature of an Irish
There was a fork in the trail here, and another notice
informed us that the trail to the right ran to the Indian
village of Kuldo. Rain threatened, and as it was late
and no feed promised, I determined to camp. Turning
to the right down a tremendously steep path (the horses
sliding on their haunches), we came to an old Indian
fishing village built on a green shelf high above the
roaring water of the Skeena.
The people all came rushing out to see us, curious
but very hospitable. Some of the children began plucking grasses for the horses, but being unaccustomed to
animals of any kind, not one would approach within
reach of them. I tried, by patting Ladrone and putting
his head over my shoulder, to show them how gentle he
was, but they only smiled and laughed as much as to
say, "Yes, that is all right for you, but we are afraid."
They were all very good-looking, smiling folk, but
poorly dressed. They seemed eager to show us where
the best grass grew, demanded nothing of us, begged
nothing, and did not attempt to overcharge us. There
were some eight or ten families in the cafion, and their 122
The Trail of the Goldseekers
houses were wretched shacks, mere lodges of slabs with
vents in the peak. So far as they could, they conformed
to the ways of white men.
Here they dwell by this rushing river in the midst of
a gloomy and trackless forest, far removed from any
other people of any sort. They were but a handful of
human souls. As they spoke little Chinook and almost
no English, it was difficult to converse with them.
They had lost the sign language or seemed not to use it.
Their village was built here because the canon below
offered a capital place for fishing and trapping, and the
principal duty of the men was to watch the salmon trap
dancing far below. For the rest they hunt wild animals
and sell furs to the Hudson Bay Company at Hazleton,
which is their metropolis.
They led us to the edge of the village and showed us
where the road-gang had set their tent, and we soon had
a fire going in our little stove, which was the amazement and delight of a circle of men, women, and children, but they were not intrusive and asked for nothing.
Later in the evening the old man and the girl who
had helped to ferry us across the Kuldo came down the
hill and joined the circle of our visitors.
She smiled as we greeted her and so did the father,
who assured me he was the ty-ee (boss) of the village,
which he seemed to be.
After our supper we distributed some fruit among the
children, and among the old women some hot coffee
with sugar, which was a keen delight to them. Our
desire  to be friendly was deeply appreciated   by these
■M The Silent Forests of the Dread Skeena    123
poor people, and our wish to do them good was greater
than our means. The way was long before us and we
could not afford to give away our supplies. How they
live in winter I cannot understand; probably they go
down the river to Hazleton.
I began to dread the dark green dripping firs which
seemed to encompass us like some vast army. They
chilled me, oppressed me. Moreover, I was lame in
every joint from the toil of crossing rivers, climbing
steep hills, and dragging at cinches. I had walked down
every hill and in most cases on the sharp upward slopes
in order to relieve Ladrone of my weight.
As we climbed back to our muddy path next day, we
were filled with dark forebodings of the days to come.
We climbed all day, keeping the bench high above the
river. The land continued silent. It was a wilderness
of firs and spruce pines. It was like a forest of bronze.
Nothing but a few rose bushes and some leek-like plants
rose from the mossy floor, on which the sun fell, weak
and pale, in rare places. No beast or bird uttered
sound save a fishing eagle swinging through the canon
above the roaring water.
In the gloom the voice of the stream became a raucous
roar. On every side cold and white and pitiless the
snowy peaks lifted above the serrate rim of the forest.
Life was scant here. In all the mighty spread of
forest between the continental divide on the east and the
coast range at the west there are few living things, and
these few necessarily centre in the warm openings on
the banks of the streams where the sunlight falls or in 124 The Trail of the Goldseekers
the high valleys above the firso There are no serpents
and no insects.
As we mounted day by day we crossed dozens of swift
little streams cold and gray with silt. Our rate of speed
was very low. One of our horses became very weak
and ill, evidently poisoned, and we were forced to stop
often to rest him. All the horses were weakening day
by day.
Toward the middle of the third day, after crossing a
stream which came from the left, the trail turned as if
to leave the Skeena behind. We were mighty well
pleased and climbed sharply and with great care of our
horses till we reached a little meadow at the summit,
very tired and disheartened, for the view showed only
other peaks and endless waves of spruce and fir. We
rode on under drizzling skies and dripping trees. There
was little sunshine and long lines of heavily weighted
gray clouds came crawling up the valley from the sea to
break in cold rain over the summits.
The horses again grew hungry and weak, and it was
necessary to use great care in crossing the streams. We
were lame and sore with the toil of the day, and what
was more depressing found ourselves once more upon
the banks of the Skeena, where only an occasional bunch
of bluejoint could be found. The constant strain of
watching the horses and guiding them through the mud
began to tell on us both. There was now no moment
of ease, no hour of enjoyment. We had set ourselves
grimly to the task of bringing our horses through alive.
We no longer rode, we toiled in  silence, leading our The Silent Forests of the Dread Skeena    125
saddle-horses on which we had packed a part of our
outfit to relieve the sick and starving packhorses.
On the fourth day we took a westward shoot from
the river, and following the course of a small stream
again climbed heavily up the slope. Our horses were
now so weak we could only climb a few rods at a time
without rest. But at last, just as night began to fall, we
came upon a splendid patch of bluejoint, knee-deep and
rich. It was high on the mountain side, on a slope so
steep that the horses could not lie down, so steep that it
was almost impossible to set our tent. We could not
persuade ourselves to pass it, however, and so made the
best of it. Everywhere we could see white mountains,
to the south, to the west, to the east.
" Now we have left the Skeena Valley," said Burton.
" Yes, we have seen the last of the Skeena," I replied, " and I'm glad of it. I never want to see that
gray-green flood again."
A part of the time that evening we spent in picking
the thorns of devil's-club out of our hands. This
strange plant I had not seen before, and do not care to
see it again. In plunging through the mudholes we
spasmodically clutched these spiny things. Ladrone
nipped steadily at the bunch of leaves which grew at
the top of the twisted stalk. Again we plunged down
into the cold green forest, following a stream whose
current ran to the northeast. This brought us once
again to the bank of the dreaded Skeena. The trail
was " punishing," and the horses plunged and lunged
all day through the mud, over logs, stones, and roots. 126
The Trail of the Goldseekers
Our nerves quivered with the torture of piloting our
mistrusted desperate horses through these awful pitfalls. We were still in the region of ferns and
We allowed no feed to escape us. At any hour of
the day, whenever we found a bunch of grass, no
matter if it were not bigger than a broom, we stopped
for the horses to graze it and so we kept them on
their feet.
At five o'clock in the afternoon we climbed to a low,
marshy lake where an Indian hunter was camped. He
said we would find feed on another lake some miles up,
and we pushed on, wallowing through mud and water of
innumerable streams, each moment in danger of leaving
a horse behind. I walked nearly all day, for it was torture to me as well as to Ladrone to ride him over such
a trail. Three of our horses now showed signs of
poisoning, two of them walked with a sprawling action
of the fore legs, their eyes big and glassy. One was
too weak to carry anything more than his pack-saddle,
and our going had a sort of sullen desperation in it.
Our camps were on the muddy ground, without comfort
or convenience.
Next morning, as I swung into the saddle and started
at the head of my train, Ladrone threw out his nose with
a sharp indrawn squeal of pain. At first I paid little
attention to it, but it came again — and then I noticed
a weakness in his limbs. I dismounted and examined
him carefully. He, too, was poisoned and attacked by
spasms.    It was a sorrowful thing to see my proud gray The Silent Forests of the Dread Skeena    127
reduced to this condition. His eyes were dilated and
glassy and his joints were weak. We could not stop,
we could not wait, we must push on to feed and open
ground; and so leading him carefully I resumed our slow
But at last, just when it seemed as though we could
not go any farther with our suffering animals, we came'
out of the poisonous forest upon a broad grassy bottom
where a stream was flowing to the northwest. We
raised a shout of joy, for it seemed this must be a branch
of the Nasse. If so, we were surely out of the clutches
of the Skeena. This bottom was the first dry and level
ground we had seen since leaving the west fork, and
the sun shone. " Old man, the worst of our trail is
over," I shouted to my partner. " The land looks more
open to the north. We're coming to that plateau they
told us of."
Oh, how sweet, fine, and sunny the short dry grass
seemed to us after our long toilsome stay in the subaqueous gloom of the Skeena forests ! We seemed about
to return to the birds and the flowers.
Ladrone was very ill, but I fed him some salt mixed
with lard, and after a doze in the sun he began to nibble
grass with the others, and at last stretched out on the
warm dry sward to let the glorious sun soak into his
blood. It was a joyous thing to us to see the faithful
ones revelling in the healing sunlight, their stomachs
filled at last with sweet rich forage. We were dirty,
ragged, and lame, and our hands were calloused and
seamed with dirt, but we were strong and hearty. 128
The Trail of the Goldseekers
We were high in the mountains here. Those little
marshy lakes and slow streams showed that we were on
a divide, and to our minds could be no other than the
head-waters of the Nasse, which has a watershed of its
own to the sea. We believed the worst of our trip to
They go to certain death — to freeze,
To grope their way through blinding snow,
To starve beneath the northern trees —
Their curse on us who made them go!
They trust and we betray the trust;
They humbly look to us for keep.
The rifle crumbles them to dust,
And we — have hardly grace to weep
As they line up to die.
On mountains cold and bold and high,
Where only golden eagles fly,
He builds his home against the sky.
Above the clouds he sits and whines,
The morning sun about him shines;
Rivers loop below in shining lines.
No wolf or cat may find him there,
That winged corsair of the air,
The eagle, is his only care.
He sees the pink snows slide away,
He sees his little ones«at play,
And peace fills out each summer day.
In winter, safe within his nest,
He eats his winter store with zest,
And takes his young ones to his breast.
At about eight o'clock the next morning, as we
were about to line up for our journey, two men came
romping down the trail, carrying packs on their backs
and taking long strides. They were " hitting the high
places in the scenery," and seemed to be entirely absorbed in the work. I hailed them and they turned
out to be two young men from Duluth, Minnesota.
They were without hats, very brown, very hairy, and
very much disgusted with the country.
For an hour we discussed the situation. They were
the first white men we had met on the entire journey,
almost the only returning footsteps, and were able to
give us a little information of the trail, but only for
a distance of about forty miles; beyond this they had
not ventured.
" We left our outfits back here on a little lake —
maybe you saw our Indian guide — and struck out
ahead to see if we could find those splendid prairies
they were telling us about, where the caribou and the
moose were so thick you couldn't miss 'em. We've
been forty miles up the trail. It's all a climb, and the
very worst yet. You'll come finally to a high snowy
*3* 132
The Trail of the Goldseekers
divide with nothing but mountains on every side.
There is no prairie; it's all a lie, and we're going back
to Hazleton to go around by way of Skagway. Have
you any idea where we are ?"
" Why, certainly; we're in British Columbia."
" But where ?    On what stream ?"
<c Oh, that is a detail," I replied. " I consider the
little camp on which we are camped one of the headwaters of the Nasse; but we're not on the Telegraph
Trail at all. We're more nearly in line with the old
Dease Lake Trail."
"Why is it, do you suppose, that the road-gang
ahead of us haven't left a single sign, not even a word
as to where we are ? "
" Maybe they can't write," said my partner.
" Perhaps they don't know where they are at, themselves," said I.
" Well, that's exactly the way it looks to me."
" Are there any outfits ahead of us ? "
" Yes, old Bob Borlan's about two days up the slope
with his train of mules, working like a slave to get
through. They're all getting short of grub and losing
a good many horses. You'll have to work your way
through with great care, or you'll lose a horse or two
in getting from here to the divide."
" Well, this won't do. So-long, boys," said one of the
young fellows, and they started off with immense vigor,
followed by their handsome dogs, and we lined up once
more with stern faces, knowing now that a terrible trail
for at least one hundred miles was before us.     There The Great Stikeen Divide 133
was no thought of retreat, however. We had set our
feet to this journey, and we determined to go.
After a few hours' travel we came upon the grassy
shore of another little lake, where the bells of several
outfits were tinkling merrily. On the bank of a swift
little river setting out of the lake, a couple of tents
stood, and shirts were flapping from the limbs of nearby willows. The owners were " The Man from Chihuahua," his partner, the blacksmith, and the two young
men from Manchester, New Hampshire, who had started
from Ashcroft as markedly tenderfoot as any men could
be. They had been lambasted and worried into perfect
efficiency as packers and trailers, and were entitled to
respect—even the respect of "The Man from Chihuahua."
They greeted us with jovial outcry.
" Hullo, strangers !    Where ye think you're goin' ?"
" Goin' crazy," replied Burton.
" You look it," said Bill.
" By God, we was all sure crazy when we started on
this damn trail," remarked the old man. He was in bad
humor on account of his horses, two of which were
suffering from poisoning. When anything touched his
horses, he was " plum irritable."
He came up to me very soberly. " Have you any
idee where we're at ?"
" Yes — we're on the head-waters of the Nasse."
" Are we on the Telegraph Trail ? "
"No; as near as I can make out we're away to the
right of the telegraph crossing." 134
The Trail of the Goldseekers
Thereupon we compared maps. " It's mighty little
use to look at maps — they're all drew by guess — an' —
by God, anyway," said the old fellow, as he ran his
grimy forefinger over the red line which represented the
trail. "We've been a slantin' hellwards ever since we
crossed the Skeeny — I figure it we're on the old Dease
Lake Trail."
To this we all agreed at last, but our course thereafter
was by no means clear.
"If we took the old Dease Lake Trail we're three
hundred miles from Telegraph Creek yit — an' somebody's goin' to be hungry before we get in," said the old
trailer. " I'd like to camp here for a few days and feed
up my horses, but it ain't safe — we got 'o keep movin'.
We've been on this damn trail long enough, and besides
grub is gittin' lighter all the time."
" What do you think of the trail ? " asked Burton.
" I've been on the trail all my life," he replied, " an' I
never was in such a pizen, empty no-count country in
my life. Wasn't that big divide hell ? Did ye ever see
the beat of that fer a barren ? No more grass than a
cellar. Might as well camp in a cistern. I wish I
could lay hands on the feller that called this c The Prairie
Route ' — they'd sure be a dog-fight right here."
The old man expressed the feeling of those of us who
were too shy and delicate of speech to do it justice, and
we led him on to most satisfying blasphemy of the land
and the road-gang.
"Yes, there's that road-gang sent out to put this
trail    into    shape — what    have   they   done ?      You'd The Great Stikeen Divide 13c
think they couldn't read or write — not a word to help
us out."
Partner and I remained in camp all the afternoon and
all the next day, although our travelling companions
packed up and moved out the next morning. We felt
the need of a day's freedom from worry, and our horses
needed feed and sunshine.
Oh, the splendor of the sun, the fresh green grass, the
rippling water of the river, the beautiful lake ! And
what joy it was to see our horses feed and sleep. They
looked distressingly thin and poor without their saddles.
Ladrone was still weak in the ankle joints and the arch
had gone out of his neck, while faithful Bill, who never
murmured or complained, had a glassy stare in his eyes,
the lingering effects of poisoning. The wind rose in the
afternoon, bringing to us a sound of moaning tree-tops,
and somehow it seemed to be an augury of better things
— seemed to prophesy a fairer and dryer country to the
north of us. The singing of the leaves went to my
heart with a hint of home, and I remembered with a
start how absolutely windless the sullen forest of the
Skeena had been.
Near by a dam was built across the river, and a fishing trap made out of willows was set in the current.
Piles of caribou hair showed that the Indians found
game in the autumn. We took time to explore some
old fishing huts filled with curious things, — skins,
toboggans, dog-collars, cedar ropes, and many other traps
of small value to anybody. Most curious of all we
found   some   flint-lock   muskets   made   exactly on the 136
The Trail of the Goldseekers
models of one hundred years ago, but dated 1883 ! I*
seemed impossible that guns of such ancient models
should be manufactured up to the present date; but there
they were all carefully marked "London, 1883."
It was a long day of rest and regeneration. We took
a bath in the clear, cold waters of the stream, washed
our clothing and hung it up to dry, beat the mud out of
our towels, and so made ready for the onward march.
We should have stayed longer, but the ebbing away of
our grub pile made us apprehensive. To return was
impossible. THE clouds
Circling the mountains the gray clouds go
Heavy with storms as a mother with child,
Seeking release from their burden of snow
With calm slow motion they cross the wild —
Stately and sombre, they catch and cling
To the barren crags of the peaks in the west,
Weary with waiting, and mad for rest.
A land of mountains based in hills of fir,
Empty, lone, and cold.    A land of streams
Whose roaring voices drown the whirr
Of aspen leaves, and fill the heart with dreams
Of dearth and death.    The peaks are stern and white
The skies above are grim and gray,
And the rivers cleave their sounding way
Through endless forests dark as night,
Toward the ocean's far-off line of spray.
The Nasse River, like the Skeena and the Stikeen,
rises in the interior mountains, and flows in a southwesterly direction, breaking through the coast range
into the Pacific Ocean, not far from the mouth of the
It is a much smaller stream than the Skeena, which
is, moreover, immensely larger than the maps show.
We believed we were about to pass from the watershed of the Nasse to the east fork of the Iskoot, on
which those far-shining prairies were said to lie, with
their flowery meadows rippling under the west wind.
If we could only reach that mystical plateau, our horses
would be safe from all disease.
We crossed the Cheweax, a branch of the Nasse, and
after climbing briskly to the northeast along the main
branch we swung around over a high wooded hog-back,
and made off up the valley along the north and lesser
fork. We climbed all day, both of us walking, leading
our horses, with all our goods distributed with great care
over the six horses. It was a beautiful day overhead —
that was the only compensation. We were sweaty,
eaten by flies and mosquitoes, and covered with mud.
139 140 The Trail of the Goldseekers
All day we sprawled over roots, rocks, and logs, plunging into bogholes and slopping along in the running
water, which in places had turned the trail into an
aqueduct.    The men from Duluth had told no lie.
After crawling upward for nearly eight hours we
came upon a little patch of bluejoint, on the high side
of the hill, and there camped in the gloom of the mossy
and poisonous forest. By hard and persistent work we
ticked off nearly fifteen miles, and judging from the
stream, which grew ever swifter, we should come to a
divide in the course of fifteen or twenty miles.
The horses being packed light went along fairly well,
although it was a constant struggle to get them to go
through the mud. Old Ladrone walking behind me
groaned with dismay every time we came to one of those
terrible sloughs. He seemed to plead with me, " Oh,
my master, don't send me into that dreadful hole! "
But there was no other way. It must be done, and
so Burton's sharp cry would ring out behind and our
little train would go in one after the other, plunging,
splashing, groaning, struggling through. Ladrone, seeing me walk a log by the side of the trail, would sometimes follow me as deftly as a cat. He seemed to think
his right to avoid the mud as good as mine. But as
there was always danger of his slipping off and injuring
himself, I forced him to wallow in the mud, which was
as distressing to me as to him.
The next day we started with the determination to
reach the divide. " There is no hope of grass so long
as we remain in this forest," said Burton.    " We must In the Cold Green Mountains        141
get above timber where the sun shines to get any feed
for our horses. It is cruel, but we must push them today just as long as they can stand up, or until we reach
the grass."
Nothing seemed to appall or disturb my partner; he
was always ready to proceed, his voice ringing out with
inflexible resolution.
It was one of the most laborious days of all our hard
journey. Hour after hour we climbed steadily up beside
the roaring gray-white little stream, up toward the far-
shining snowfields, which blazed back the sun like mirrors. The trees grew smaller, the river bed seemed to
approach us until we slumped along in the running
water. At last we burst out into the light above timber
line. Around us porcupines galloped, and whistling
marmots signalled with shrill vehemence. We were
weak with fatigue and wet with icy water to the knees,
but we pushed on doggedly until we came to a little
mound of short, delicious green grass from which the
snow had melted. On this we stopped to let the horses
graze. The view was magnificent, and something wild
and splendid came on the wind over the snowy peaks
and smooth grassy mounds.
We were now in the region of great snowfields, under
which roared swift streams from still higher altitudes.
There were thousands of marmots, which seemed to
utter the most intense astonishment at the inexplicable coming of these strange creatures. The snow in
the gullies had a curious bloody line which I could not
account for.    A little bird high up here uttered a sweet 142 The Trail of the Goldseekers
little whistle, so sad, so full of pleading, it almost brought
tears to my eyes. In form it resembled a horned lark,
but was smaller and kept very close to the ground.
We reached the summit at sunset, there to find only
other mountains and other enormous gulches leading
downward into far blue canons. It was the wildest land
I have ever seen. A country unmapped, unsurveyed,
and unprospected. A region which had known only an
occasional Indian hunter or trapper with his load of furs
on his way down to the river and his canoe. Desolate,
•without life, green and white and flashing illimitably,
the gray old peaks aligned themselves rank on rank until
lost in the mists of still wilder regions.
From this high point we could see our friends, the
Manchester boys, on the north slope two or three miles
below us at timber line. Weak in the knees, cold and
wet and hungry as we were, we determined to push down
the trail over the snowfields, down to grass and water.
Not much more than forty minutes later we came out
upon a comparatively level spot of earth where grass was
fairly good, and where the wind-twisted stunted pines
grew in clumps large enough to furnish wood for our
fires and a pole for our tent. The land was meshed
with roaring rills of melting snow, and all around went
on the incessant signalling of the marmots — the only
cheerful sound in all the wide green land.
We had made about twenty-three miles that day, notwithstanding tremendous steeps and endless mudholes
mid-leg deep. It was the greatest test of endurance of
our trip. In the Cold Green Mountains 143
We had the good luck to scare up a ptarmigan (a
sort of piebald mountain grouse), and though nearly
fainting with hunger, we held ourselves in check until
we had that bird roasted to a turn. I shall never experience greater relief or sweeter relaxation of rest than
that I felt as I stretched out in my down sleeping bag
for twelve hours' slumber.
I considered that we were about one hundred and
ninety miles from Hazleton, and that this must certainly
be the divide between the Skeena and the Stikeen. The
Manchester boys reported finding some very good pieces
of quartz on the hills, and they were all out with spade
and pick prospecting, though it seemed to me they
showed but very little enthusiasm in the search.
"I b'lieve there's gold here," said "Chihuahua," "but
who's goin' to stay here and look fer it ? In the first
place, you couldn't work fer mor'n 'bout three months
in the year, and it 'ud take ye the other nine months fer
to git yer grub in. Them hills look to me to be mineralized, but I ain't honin' to camp here."
This seemed to be the general feeling of all the other
prospectors, and I did not hear that any one else went
so far even as to dig a hole.
As near as I could judge there seemed to be three
varieties of " varmints " galloping around over the grassy
slopes of this high country. The largest of these, a
gray and brown creature with a tawny, bristling mane,
I took to be a porcupine. Next in size were the giant
whistlers, who sat up like old men and signalled, like one
boy to another.   And last and least, and more numerous 144 The Trail of the Goldseekers
than all, were the smaller " chucks" resembling prairie
dogs. These animals together with the ptarmigan made
up the inhabitants of these lofty slopes.
I searched every green place on the mountains far
and near with my field-glasses, but saw no sheep, caribou, or moose, although one or two were reported to
have been killed by others on the trail. The ptarmigan
lived in the matted patches of willow. There were a
great many of them, and they helped out our monotonous diet very opportunely. They moved about in
pairs, the cock very loyal to the hen in time of danger;
but not even this loyalty could save him. Hunger such
as ours considered itself very humane in stopping short
of the slaughter of the mother bird. The cock was
easily distinguished by reason of his party-colored plumage and his pink eyes.
We spent the next forenoon in camp to let our
horses feed up, and incidentally to rest our own weary
bones. All the forenoon great, gray clouds crushed
against the divide behind us, flinging themselves in rage
against the rocks like hungry vultures baffled in their
chase. We exulted over their impotence. " We are
done with you, you storms of the Skeena — we're out of
your reach at last! "
We were confirmed in this belief as we rode down the
trail, which was fairly pleasant except for short periods,
when the clouds leaped the snowy walls behind and
scattered drizzles of rain over us. Later the clouds
thickened, the sky became completely overcast, and my
exultation changed to dismay, and we camped at night In the Cold Green Mountains        145
as desolate as ever, in the rain, and by the side of a little
marsh on which the horses could feed only by wading
fetlock deep in the water. We were wet to the skin,
and muddy and tired.
I could no longer deceive myself. Our journey had
become a grim race with the wolf. Our food grew
each day scantier, and we were forced to move each day
and every day, no matter what the sky or trail might be.
Going over our food carefully that night, we calculated
that we had enough to last us ten days, and if we were
within one hundred and fifty miles of the Skeena, and if
no accident befell us, we would be able to pull in without
great suffering.
But accidents on the trail are common. It is so easy
to lose a couple of horses, we were liable to delay and
to accident, and the chances were against us rather than
in our favor. It seemed as though the trail would never
mend. We were dropping rapidly down through dwarf
pines, down into endless forests of gloom again. We
had splashed, slipped, and tumbled down the trail to this
point with three horses weak and sick. The rain had
increased, and all the brightness of the morning on the
high mountain had passed away. For hours we had
walked without a word except to our horses, and now
night was falling in thick, cold rain. As I plodded along
I saw in vision and with great longing the plains, whose
heat and light seemed paradise by contrast.
The next day was the Fourth of July, and such a
day ! It rained all the forenoon, cold, persistent, drizzling rain.    We hung around the campfire waiting for 146
The Trail of the Goldseekers
some let-up to the incessant downpour. We discussed
the situation. I said: " Now, if the stream in the cafion
below us runs to the left, it will be the east fork of the
Iscoot, and we will then be within about one hundred
miles of Glenora. If it runs to the right, Heaven only
knows where we are."
The horses, chilled with the rain, came off the sloppy
marsh to stand under the trees, and old Ladrone edged
close to the big fire to share its warmth. This caused
us to bring in the other horses and put them close to the
fire under the big branches of the fir tree. It was deeply
pathetic to watch the poor worn animals, all life and
spirit gone out of them, standing about the fire with
drooping heads and half-closed eyes. Perhaps they
dreamed, like us, of the beautiful, warm, grassy hills of
the south. ^1
Beneath the burning brazen sky,
The yellowed tepes stand.
Not far away a singing river
Sets through the\sand.
Within the shadow of a lonely elm tree
The tired ponies keep.
The wild land, throbbing with the sun's hot magic,
Is rapt as sleep.
From out a clump of scanty willows
A low wail floats.
The endless repetition of a lover's
Melancholy notes;
So sad, so sweet, so elemental,
All lover's pain
Seems borne upon its sobbing cadence —
The love-song of the plain.
From frenzied cry forever falling,
To the wind's wild moan,
It seems the voice of anguish calling
Alone! alone! Caught from the winds forever moaning
On the plain,
Wrought from the agonies of woman
In maternal pain,
It holds within its simple measure
All death of joy,
Breathed though it be by smiling maiden
Or lithe brown boy.
It hath this magic, sad though its cadence
And short refrain;
It helps the exiled people of the mountain
Endure the plain;
For when at night the stars aglitter
Defy the moon,
The maiden listens, leans to seek her lover
Where waters croon.
Flute on, O lithe and tuneful Utah,
Reply brown jade;
There are no other joys secure to either
Man or maid.
Soon you are old and heavy hearted,
Lost to mirth;
While on you lies the white man's gory
Greed of earth.
148 1
Strange that to me that burning desert
Seems so dear.
The endless sky and lonely mesa,
Flat and drear,
Calls me, calls me as the flute of Utah
Calls his mate —
This wild, sad, sunny, brazen country,
Hot as hate.
Again the glittering sky uplifts star-blazing;
Again the stream
From out the far-off snowy mountains
Sings through my dream;
And on the air I hear the flute-voice calling
The lover's croon,
And see the listening, longing maiden
Lit by the moon.
It is a sprawling, hateful thing,
Thorny and twisted like a snake,
Writhing to work a mischief, in the brake
It stands at menace, in its cling
Is danger and a venomed sting.
It grows on green and slimy slopes,
It is a thing of shades and slums,
For passing feet it wildly gropes,
And loops to catch all feet that run
Seeking a path to sky and sun.
In the cold green mountains where the savage torrents
And the clouds were gray above us,
And the fishing eagle soared,
Where no grass waved, where no robins cried,
There our horses starved and died,
In the cold green mountains.
In the cold green mountains,
Nothing grew but moss and trees,
Water dripped and sludgy streamlets
Trapped our horses by the knees.
Where we slipped, slid, and lunged,
Mired down and wildly plunged
Toward the cold green mountains !
At noon, the rain slacking a little, we determined to
pack up, and with such cheer as we could called out,
" Line up, boys — line up ! " starting on our way down
the trail.
After making about eight miles we came upon a
number of outfits camped on the bank of the river. As
I rode along on my gray horse, for the trail there allowed
me to ride, I passed a man seated gloomily at the mouth
of his tent. To him I called with an assumption of
jocularity I did not feel, "Stranger, where are you
bound for ?"
He replied, " The North Pole."
" Do you expect to get there ? "
" Sure," he replied.
Riding on I met others beside the trail, and all wore a
similar look of almost sullen gravity. They were not
disposed to joke with me, and perceiving something to
be wrong, I passed on without further remark.
When we came down to the bank of the   stream,
behold it ran to the right.    And I could have sat me
down and blasphemed with the rest.    I now understood
the gloom of the others.     We were still in the valley of
151 152
The Trail of the Goldseekers
the inexorable Skeena. It could be nothing else; this
tremendous stream running to our right could be no
other than the head-waters of that ferocious flood which
no surveyor has located. It is immensely larger and
longer than any map shows.
We crossed the branch without much trouble, and
found some beautiful bluejoint-grass on the opposite
bank, into which we joyfully turned our horses. When
they had filled their stomachs, we packed up and pushed
on about two miles, overtaking the Manchester boys on
the side-hill in a tract of dead, burned-out timber, a
cheerless spot.
In speaking about the surly answer I had received
from the man on the banks of the river, I said: " I
wonder why those men are camped there ? They must
have been there for several days."
Partner replied : " They are all out of grub and are
waiting for some one to come by to whack-up with 'em.
One of the fellows came out and talked with me and
said he had nothing left but beans, and tried to buy some
flour of me."
This opened up an entirely new line of thought. I
understood now that what I had taken for sullenness
was the dejection of despair. The way was growing
gloomy and dark to them. They, too, were racing with
the wolf.
We had one short moment of relief next day as we
entered a lovely little meadow and camped for noon.
The sun shone warm, the grass was thick and sweet.
It  was  like  late April  in  the   central  West — cool, *\
The Passing of the Beans 153
fragrant, silent. Aisles of peaks stretched behind us
and before us. We were still high in the mountains,
and the country was less wooded and more open. But
we left this beautiful spot and entered again on a morass.
It was a day of torture to man and beast. The land
continued silent. There were no toads, no butterflies,
no insects of any kind, except a few mosquitoes, no
crickets, no singing thing. I have never seen a land so
empty of life. We had left even the whistling marmots
entirely behind us.
We travelled now four outfits together, with some
twenty-five horses. Part of the time I led with Ladrone,
part of the time "The Man from Chihuahua" took the
lead, with his fine strong bays. If a horse got down we all
swarmed around and lifted him out, and when any question of the trail came up we held " conferences of the
We continued for the most part up a wide mossy and
grassy river bottom covered with water. We waded
for miles in water to our ankles, crossing hundreds of
deep little rivulets. Occasionally a horse went down
into a hole and had to be " snailed out," and we were
wet and covered with mud all day. It was a new sort
of trail and a terror. The mountains on each side were
very stately and impressive, but we could pay little
attention to views when our horses were miring down
at every step.
We could not agree about the river. Some were
inclined to the belief that it was a branch of the Stikeen,
the   old   man  was  sure it was " Skeeny."    We were 154 The Trail of the Goldseekers
troubled by a new sort of fly, a little orange-colored
fellow whose habits were similar to those of the little
black fiends of the Bulkley Valley. They were very
poisonous indeed, and made our ears swell up enormously— the itching and burning was well-nigh intolerable. We saw no life at all save one grouse hen
guarding her young. A paradise for game it seemed,
but no game. A beautiful grassy, marshy, and empty
land. We passed over one low divide after another
with immense snowy peaks thickening all around us.
For the first time in over two hundred miles we were
all able to ride. Whistling marmots and grouse again
abounded. We had a bird at every meal. The wind
was cool and the sky was magnificent, and for the first
time in many days we were able to take off our hats
and face the wind in exultation.
Toward night, however, mosquitoes became troublesome in their assaults, covering the horses in solid
masses. Strange to say, none of them, not even Ladrone, seemed to mind them in the least. We felt sure
now of having left the Skeena forever. One day we
passed over a beautiful little spot of dry ground, which
filled us with delight; it seemed as though we had
reached the prairies of the pamphlets. We camped
there for noon, and though the mosquitoes were terrific
we were all chortling with joy. The horses found grass
in plenty and plucked up spirits amazingly. We were
deceived.    In half an hour we were in the mud again.
The whole country for miles and miles in every
direction was a series of high open valleys almost en- The Passing of the Beans 155
tirely above timber line. These valleys formed the
starting-points of innumerable small streams which fell
away into the Iskoot on the left, the Stikeen on the
north, the Skeena on the east and south. These
valleys were covered with grass and moss intermingled,
and vast tracts were flooded with water from four to
eight inches deep, through which we were forced to
slop hour after hour, and riding was practically impossible.
As we were plodding along silently one day a dainty
white gull came lilting through the air and was greeted
with cries of joy by the weary drivers. More than one
of them could " smell the salt water." In imagination
they saw this bird following the steamer up the Stikeen
to the first south fork, thence to meet us. It seemed
only a short ride down the valley to the city of Glenora
and the post-office.
Each day we drove above timber line, and at noon
were forced to rustle the dead dwarf pine for fire. The
marshes were green and filled with exquisite flowers and
mosses, little white and purple bells, some of them the
most beautiful turquoise-green rising from tufts of
verdure like mignonette. I observed also a sort of
crocus and some cheery little buttercups. The ride
would have been magnificent had it not been for the
spongy, sloppy marsh through which our horses toiled.
As it was, we felt a certain breadth and grandeur in it
surpassing anything we had hitherto seen. Our three
outfits with some score of horses went winding through
the wide, green, treeless valleys with tinkle of bells and 156 The Trail of the Goldseekers
sharp cry of drivers. The trail was difficult to follow,
because in the open ground each man before us had to
take his own course, and there were few signs to mark
the line the road-gang had taken.
It was impossible to tell where we were, but I was
certain we were upon the head-waters of some one of
the many forks of the great Stikeen River. Marmots
and a sort of little prairie dog continued plentiful, but
there was no other life. The days were bright and
cool, resplendent with sun and rich in grass.
Some of the goldseekers fired a salute with shotted
guns when, poised on the mountain side, they looked
down upon a stream flowing to the northwest. But
the joy was short-lived. The descent of this mountain's
side was by all odds the most terrible piece of trail we
had yet found. It led down the north slope, and was
oozy and slippery with the melting snow. It dropped
in short zigzags down through a grove of tangled,
gnarled, and savage cedars and pines, whose roots were
like iron and filled with spurs that were sharp as chisels.
The horses, sliding upon their haunches and unable to
turn themselves in the mud, crashed into the tangled
pines and were in danger of being torn to pieces. For
more than an hour we slid and slewed through this
horrible jungle of savage trees, and when we came out
below we had two horses badly snagged in the feet, but
Ladrone was uninjured.
We now crossed and recrossed the little stream,
which dropped into a deep canon running still to the
northwest.    After descending for some hours we took The Passing of the Beans 157
a trail which branched sharply to the northeast, and
climbed heavily to a most beautiful camping-spot between the peaks, with good grass, and water, and wood
all around us.
We were still uncertain of our whereabouts, but all
the boys were fairly jubilant. " This would be a
splendid camp for a few weeks," said partner.
That night as the sun set in incommunicable splendor over the snowy peaks to the west the empty land
seemed left behind. We went to sleep with the sound
of a near-by mountain stream in our ears, and the voice
of an eagle sounding somewhere on the high cliffs.
The next day we crossed another divide and entered
another valley running north. Being confident that
this was the Stikeen, we camped early and put our little
house up. It was raining a little. We had descended
again to the aspens and clumps of wild roses. It was
good to see their lovely faces once more after our long
stay in the wild, cold valleys of the upper lands.
The whole country seemed drier, and the vegetation
quite different. Indeed, it resembled some of the Colorado valleys, but was less barren on the bottoms. There
were still no insects, no crickets, no bugs, and very few
birds of any kind.
All along the way on the white surface of the blazed
trees were messages left by those who had gone before
us. Some of them were profane assaults upon the road-
gang. Others were pathetic inquiries : " Where in hell
are we ?" — " How is this for a prairie route ? " —
" What river is this, anyhow ?"    To these pencillings i58
The Trail of the Goldseekers
others had added facetious replies. There were also
warnings and signs to help us keep out of the mud.
We followed the same stream all day. Whether the
Iskoot or not we did not know. The signs of lower
altitude thickened. Wild roses met us again, and
strawberry blossoms starred the sunny slopes. The
grass was dry and ripe, and the horses did not relish it
after their long stay in the juicy meadows above. We
had been wet every day for nearly three weeks, and did
not mind moisture now, but my shoes were rapidly
going to pieces, and my last pair of trousers was
frazzled to the knees.
Nearly every outfit had lame horses like our old bay,
hobbling along bravely. Our grub was getting very
light, which was a good thing for the horses; but we had
an occasional grouse to fry, and so as long as our flour
held out we were well fed.
It became warmer each day, and some little weazened
berries appeared on the hillsides, the first we had seen,
and they tasted mighty good after months of bacon and
beans. We were taking some pleasure in the trip again,
and had it not been for the sores on our horses' feet and
our scant larder we should have been quite at ease. Our
course now lay parallel to a range of peaks on our right,
which we figured to be the Hotailub Mountains. This
settled the question of our position on the map — we
were on the third and not the first south fork of the
Stikeen and were a long way still from Telegraph
We tunnelled miles of silent pines,
Dark forests where the stillness was so deep
The scared wind walked a tip-toe on the spines,
And the restless aspen seemed to sleep.
We threaded aisles of dripping fir;
We climbed toward mountains dim and far,
Where snow forever shines and shines,
And only winds and waters are.
Red streams came down from hillsides crissed and crossed
With fallen firs; but on a sudden, lo!
A silver lakelet bound and barred
With sunset's clouds reflected far below.
These lakes so lonely were, so still and cool,
They burned as bright as burnished steel;
The shadowed pine branch in the pool
Was no less vivid than the real.
We crossed the great divide and saw
The sun-lit valleys far below us wind;
Before us opened cloudless sky; the raw,
Gray rain swept close behind.
We saw great glaciers grind themselves to foam;
We trod the moose's lofty home,
And heard, high on the yellow hills,
The wildcat clamor of his ills.
*59 The way grew grimmer day by day,
The weeks to months stretched on and on;
And hunger kept, not far away,
A never failing watch at dawn.
We lost all reckoning of season and of time;
Sometimes it seemed the bitter breeze
Of icy March brought fog and rain,
And next November tempests shook the trees.
It was a wild and lonely ride.
Save the hid loon's mocking cry,
Or marmot on the mountain side,
The earth was silent as the sky.
All day through sunless forest aisles,
On cold dark moss our horses trod;
It was so lonely there for miles and miles,
The land seemed lost to God.
Our horses cut by rocks; by brambles torn,
Staggered onward, stiff and sore;
Or broken, bruised, and saddle-worn,
Fell in the sloughs to rise no more.
Yet still we rode right on and on,
And shook our clenched hands at the clouds,
Daring the winds of early dawn,
And the dread torrent roaring loud.
160 So long we rode, so hard, so far,
We seemed condemned by stern decree
To ride until the morning star
Should sink forever in the sea.
Yet now, when all is past, I dream
Of every mountain's shining cap.
I long to hear again the stream
Roar through the foam-white granite gap.
The pains recede.    The joys draw near.
The splendors of great Nature's face
Make me forget all need, all fear,
And the long journey grows in grace.
We had been long in mountain snow,
In valleys bleak, and broad, and bare,
Where only moss and willows grow,
And no bird wings the silent air.
And so when on our downward way,
Wild roses met us, we were glad;
They were so girlish fair, so gay,
It seemed the sun had made them mad.
About noon of the fiftieth day out, we came down to
the bank of a tremendously swift stream which we called
the third south fork. On a broken paddle stuck
in the sand we found this notice : " The trail crosses
here. Swim horses from the bar. It is supposed to be
about ninety miles to Telegraph Creek. — (Signed) The
We were bitterly disappointed to find ourselves so far
from our destination, and began once more to calculate
on the length of time it would take us to get out of the
Partner showed me the flour-sack which he held in
one brawny fist. " I believe the dern thing leaks," said
he, and together we went over our store of food. We
found ourselves with an extra supply of sugar, condensed
cream, and other things which our friends the Manchester boys needed, while they were able to spare us a little
flour. There was a tacit agreement that we should
travel together and stand together. Accordingly we began to plan for the crossing of this swift and dangerous
stream. A couple of canoes were found cached in the
bushes, and these would enable us to set our goods
163 164 The Trail of the Goldseekers
across, while we forced our horses to swim from a big
bar in the stream above.
While we were discussing these thing around our fires
at night, another tramper, thin and weak, came into
camp. He was a little man with a curly red beard, and
was exceedingly chipper and jocular for one in his condition. He had been out of food for some days, and had
been living on squirrels, ground-hogs, and such other
small deer as he could kill and roast along his way. He
brought word of considerable suffering among the outfits
behind us, reporting " The Dutchman " to be entirely
out of beans and flour, while others had lost so many of
their horses that all were in danger of starving to death
in th^ mountains.
As he warmed up on coffee and beans, he became very
He was hairy and ragged, but neat, and his face
showed a certain delicacy of physique. He, too, was a
marked example of the craze to " get somewhere where
gold is." He broke off suddenly in the midst of his story
to exclaim with great energy : " I want to do two things,
go back and get my boy away from my wife, and break
the back of my brother-in-law.   He made all the trouble."
Once and again he said, " I'm going to find the gold
up here or lay my bones on the hills."
In the midst of these intense phrases he whistled gayly
or broke off to attend to his cooking. He told of his
hard experiences, with pride and joy, and said, " Isn't it
lucky I caught you just here ? " and seemed willing to
talk all night.
■MM The Wolves and the Vultures Assemble    165
In the morning I went over to the campfire to see if
he were still with us. He was sitting in his scanty bed
before the fire, mending his trousers. " I've just got to
put a patch on right now or my knee'll be through," he
explained. He had a neat little kit of materials and
everything was in order. " I haven't time to turn the
edges of the patch under," he went on. " It ought to
be done — you can't make a durable patch unless you
do. This c housewife ' my wife made me when we was
first married. I was peddlin' then in eastern Oregon.
If it hadn't been for her brother — oh, I'll smash his face
in, some day" — he held up the other trouser leg:
" See that patch ? Ain't that a daisy ? — that's the way
I ought to do. Say, looks like I ought to rustle enough
grub out of all these outfits to last me into Glenora,
don't it ?"
We came down gracefully — we could not withstand
such prattle. The blacksmith turned in some beans,
the boys from Manchester divided their scanty store of
flour and bacon, I brought some salt, some sugar, and
some oatmeal, and as the small man put it away he
chirped and chuckled like a cricket. His thanks were
mere words, his voice was calm. He accepted our aid
as a matter of course. No perfectly reasonable man
would ever take such frightful chances as this absurd
little ass set his face to without fear. He hummed a
little tune as he packed his outfit into his shoulder-straps.
" I ought to rattle into Glenora on this grub, hadn't I ?"
he said.
At last he was ready to be ferried across the river, 166 The Trail of the Goldseekers
which was swift and dangerous. Burton set him
across, and as he was about to depart I gave him a letter
to post and a half-dollar to pay postage. My name was
written on the corner of the envelope. He knew me
then and said, " I've a good mind to stay right with
you; I'm something of a writer myself."
I hastened to say that he could reach Glenora two or
three days in advance of us, for the reason that we were
bothered with a lame horse. In reality, we were getting
very short of provisions and were even then on rations.
" I think you'll overtake the Borland outfit," I said. " If
you don't, and you need help, camp by the road till we
come up and we'll all share as long as there's anything
to share. But you are in good trim and have as much
grul> as we have, so you'd better spin along."
He " hit the trail " with a hearty joy that promised
well, and I never saw him again. His cheery smile and
unshrinking cheek carried him through a journey that
appalled old packers with tents, plenty of grub, and good
horses. To me he was simply a strongly accentuated
type of the goldseeker — insanely persistent; blind to
all danger, deaf to all warning, and doomed to failure at
the start.
The next day opened cold and foggy, but we entered
upon a hard day's work. Burton became the chief
canoeman, while one of the Manchester boys, stripped
to the undershirt, sat in the bow to pull at the paddle
" all same Siwash." Burton's skill and good judgment
enabled us to cross without losing so much as a buckle.
Some of our poor lame horses had a hard struggle in the The Wolves and the Vultures Assemble    167
icy current. At about 4 p.m. we were able to line
up in the trail on the opposite side. We pressed on up
to the higher valleys in hopes of finding better feed, and
camped in the rain about two miles from the ford. The
wind came from the northwest with a suggestion of
autumn in its uneasy movement. The boys were now
exceedingly anxious to get into the gold country. They
began to feel most acutely the passing of the summer.
In the camp at night the talk was upon the condition of
Telegraph Creek and the Teslin Lake Trail.
Rain, rain, rain ! It seemed as though no day could
pass without rain. And as I woke I heard the patter
of fine drops on our tent roof. The old man cursed
the weather most eloquently, expressing the general
feeling of the whole company. However, we saddled
up and pushed on, much delayed by the lame horses.
At about twelve o'clock I missed my partner's voice
and looking about saw only two of the packhorses
following. Hitching those beside the trail, I returned
to find Burton seated beside the lame horse, which could
not cross the slough. I examined the horse's foot and
found a thin stream of arterial blood spouting out.
" That ends it, Burton," I said. " I had hoped to
bring all my horses through, but this old fellow is out
of the race. It is a question now either of leaving him
beside the trail with a notice to have him brought forward or of shooting him out of hand."
To this partner gravely agreed, but said, " It's going
to be pretty hard lines to shoot that faithful old chap."
" Yes," I replied, " I confess I haven't the courage 168 The Trail of the Goldseekers
to face him with a rifle after all these weeks of faithful
service. But it must be done. You remember that
horse back there with a hole in his flank and his head
flung up ? We mustn't leave this old fellow to be a
prey to the wolves. Now if you'll kill him you can set
your price on the service. Anything at all I will pay.
Did you ever kill a horse ? "
Partner was honest. " Yes, once. He was old and
sick and I believed it better to put him out of his suffering than to let him drag on."
" That settles it, partner," said I. " Your hands are
already imbued with gore — it must be done."
He rose with a sigh. " All right. Lead him out
into the thicket."
I handed him the gun (into which I had shoved two
steel-jacketed bullets, the kind that will kill a grizzly
bear), and took the old horse by the halter. " Come,
boy," I said, " it's hard, but it's the only merciful
thing." The old horse looked at me with such serene
trust and confidence, my courage almost failed me. His
big brown eyes were so full of sorrow and patient
endurance. With some urging he followed me into the
thicket a little aside from the trail. Turning away I
mounted Ladrone in order that I might not see what
happened. There was a crack of a rifle in the bush —
the sound of a heavy body falling, and a moment later
Burton returned with a coiled rope in his hand and a
look of trouble on his face. The horses lined up again
with one empty place and an extra saddle topping the
pony's pack.    It was a sorrowful thing to do, but there The Wolves and the Vultures Assemble    169
was no better way. As I rode on, looking back occasionally to see that my train was following, my heart
ached to think of the toil the poor old horse had undergone— only to meet death in the bush at the hands
of his master.
Relieved of our wounded horse we made good time
and repassed before nine o'clock several outfits that had
overhauled us during our trouble. We rose higher and
higher, and came at last into a grassy country and to a
series of small lakes, which were undoubtedly the source
of the second fork of the Stikeen. But as we had lost
so much time during the day, we pushed on with all our
vigor for a couple of hours and camped about nine
o'clock of a beautiful evening, with a magnificent sky
arching us as if with a prophecy of better times ahead.
The horses were now travelling very light, and our
food supply was reduced to a few pounds of flour and
bread — we had no game and no berries. Beans were
all gone and our bacon reduced to the last shred. We
had come to expect rain every day of our lives, and were
feeling a little the effects of our scanty diet of bread and
bacon — hill-climbing was coming to be laborious. However, the way led downward most of the time, and we
were able to rack along at a very good pace even on an
empty stomach.
During the latter part of the second day the trail led
along a high ridge, a sort of hog-back overlooking a
small river valley on our left, and bringing into view an
immense blue cafion far ahead of us. " There lies the
Stikeen," I called to Burton.    " We're on the second 170 The Trail of the Goldseekers
south fork, which we follow to the Stikeen, thence to
the left to Telegraph Creek." I began to compose doggerel verses to express our exultation.
We were very tired and glad when we reached a
camping-place. We could not stop on this high ridge
for lack of water, although the feed was very good. We
were forced to plod on and on until we at last descended
into the valley of a little stream which crossed our path.
The ground had been much trampled, but as rain was
falling and darkness coming on, there was nothing to
do but camp.
Out of our last bit of bacon grease and bread and tea
we made our supper. While we were camping, " The
Wild Dutchman," a stalwart young fellow we had seen
once or twice on the trail, came by with a very sour
visage. He went into camp near, and came over to see
us. He said: "I hain't had no pread for more dan a
veek. I've nuttin' put peans. If you can, let me haf
a biscuit.     By Gott, how goot dat vould taste."
I yielded up a small loaf and encouraged him as best
I could: " As I figure it, we are within thirty-five miles
of Telegraph Creek; I've kept a careful diary of our
travel. If we've passed over the Dease Lake Trail, which
is probably about four hundred miles from Hazleton to
Glenora, we must be now within thirty-five miles of
Telegraph Creek."
I was not half so sure of this as I made him think;
but it gave him a great deal of comfort, and he went off
very much enlivened.
Sunday and no sun!    It was raining when we awoke The Wolves and the Vultures Assemble    171
and the mosquitoes were stickier than ever. Our grub
was nearly gone, our horses thin and weak, and the journey uncertain. All ill things seemed to assemble like
vultures to do us harm. The world was a grim place
that day. It was a question whether we were not still
on the third south fork instead of the second south
fork, in which case we were at least one hundred miles
from our supplies. If we were forced to cross the main
Stikeen and go down on the other side, it might be even
The men behind us were all suffering, and some of
them were sure to have a hard time if such weather continued. At the same time I felt comparatively sure of
our ground.
We were ragged, dirty, lame, unshaven, and unshorn
— we were fighting from morning till night. The trail
became more discouraging each moment that the rain
continued to fall. There was little conversation even
between partner and myself. For many days we had
moved in perfect silence for the most part, though no
gloom or sullenness appeared in Burton's face. We
were now lined up once more, taking the trail without
a word save the sharp outcry of the drivers hurrying the
horses forward, or the tinkle of the bells on the lead
horse of the train. THE vulture
He wings a slow and watchful flight,
His neck is bare, his eyes are bright,
His plumage fits the starless night.
He sits at feast where cattle lie
Withering in ashen alkali,
And gorges till he scarce can fly.
But he is kingly on the breeze!
On rigid wing, in careless ease,
A soundless bark on viewless seas.
Piercing the purple storm cloud, he makes
The sun his neighbor, and shakes
His wrinkled neck in mock dismay,
And swings his slow, contemptuous way
Above the hot red lightning's play.
Monarch of cloudland — yet a ghoul of prey.
I.   Popple
A river curves like a bended bow,
And over it winds of summer lightly blow;
Two boys are feeding a flame with bark
Of the pungent popple.    Hark !
They are uttering dreams.    " I
Will go hunt gold toward the western sky,'
Says the older lad; " I know it is there,
For the rairfbow shows just where
It is.    I'll go camping, and take a pan,
And shovel gold, when I'm a man."
2.   Sage Brush
The burning day draws near its end,
And on the plain a man and his friend
Sit feeding an odorous sage-brush fire.
A lofty butte like a funeral pyre,
With the sun atop, looms high
In the cloudless, windless, saffron sky.
A snake sleeps under a grease-wood plant;
A horned toad snaps at a passing ant;
The plain is void as a polar floe,
And the limitless sky has a furnace glow.
173 I;
The men are gaunt and shaggy and gray,
And their childhood river is far away;
The gold still hides at the rainbow's tip,
Yet the wanderer speaks with a resolute lip.
" I will seek till I find — or till I die,"
He mutters, and lifts his clenched hand high,
And puts behind him love and wife,
And the quiet round of a farmer's life.
3.   Pine
The dark day ends in a bitter night.
The mighty mountains cold, and white,
And stern as avarice, still hide their gold
Deep in wild canons fold on fold,
Both men are old, and one is grown
As gray as the snows around him sown.
He hovers over a fire of pine,
Spicy and cheering; toward the line
Of the towering peaks he lifts his eyes.
" I'd rather have a boy with shining hair,
To bear my name, than all your share
Of earth's red gold," he said;
And died, a loveless, childless man,
Before the morning light began.
About the middle of the afternoon of the fifty-
eighth day we topped a low divide, and came in sight of
the Stikeen River. Our hearts thrilled with pleasure
as we looked far over the deep blue and purple-green
spread of valley, dim with mist, in which a little silver
ribbon of water could be seen.
After weeks of rain, as if to make amend for useless
severity, the sun came out, a fresh westerly breeze
sprang up, and the sky filled with glowing clouds
flooded with tender light. The bloom of flreweed almost concealed the devastation of flame in the fallen
firs, and the grim forest seemed a royal road over which
we could pass as over a carpet — winter seemed far
But all this was delusion. Beneath us lay a thousand
quagmires. The forest was filled with impenetrable
jungles and hidden streams, ridges sullen and silent were
to be crossed, and the snow was close at hand. Across
this valley an eagle might sweep with joy, but the pack
trains must crawl in mud and mire through long hours
of torture. We spent but a moment here, and then
with grim resolution called out, " Line up, boys, line
i7S 176
The Trail of the Goldseekers
up!" and struck down upon the last two days of our
long journey.
On the following noon we topped another rise, and
came unmistakably in sight of the Stikeen River lying
deep in its rocky cafion. We had ridden all the morning in a pelting rain, slashed by wet trees, plunging
through bogs and sliding down ravines, and when we
saw the valley just before us we raised a cheer. It
seemed we could hear the hotel bells ringing far below.
But when we had tumbled down into the big canon
near the water's edge, we found ourselves in scarcely
better condition than before. We were trapped with
no feed for our horses, and no way to cross the river,
which was roaring mad by reason of the heavy rains,
a swift and terrible flood, impossible to swim. Men
were camped all along the bank, out of food like ourselves, and ragged and worn and weary. They had
formed a little street of camps. Borland, the leader of
the big mule train, was there, calm and efficient as ever.
" The Wilson Outfit," " The Man from Chihuahua,"
" Throw-me-feet," and the Manchester boys were
also included in the group. " The Dutchman " came
sliding down just behind us.
After a scanty dinner of bacon grease and bread we
turned our horses out on the flat by the river, and joined
the little village. Borland said : " We've been here for
a day and a half, tryin' to induce that damn ferryman to
come over, and now we're waitin' for reinforcements.
Let's try it again, numbers will bring 'em."
Thereupon we marched out solemnly upon the bank At Last the Stikeen 177
(some ten or fifteen of us) and howled like a pack of
For two hours we clamored, alternating the Ute war-
whoop with the Swiss yodel. It was truly cacophonous,
but it produced results. Minute figures came to the
brow of the hill opposite, and looked at us like cautious
cockroaches and then went away. At last two shadowy
beetles crawled down the zigzag trail to the ferry-boat,
and began bailing her out. Ultimately three men,
sweating, scared, and tremulous, swung a clumsy scow
upon the sand at our feet. It was no child's play to
cross that stream. Together with one of " The Little
Dutchmen," and a representation from " The Mule
Outfit," I stepped into the boat and it was swung off
into the savage swirl of gray water. We failed of landing the first time. I did not wonder at the ferryman's
nervousness, as I felt the heave and rush of the whirling
savage flood.
At the " ratty" little town of Telegraph Creek we
purchased beans at fifteen cents a pound, bacon at
thirty-five cents, and flour at ten cents, and laden with
these necessaries hurried back to the hungry hordes on
the opposite side of the river. That night " The Little
Dutchman " did nothing but cook and eat to make up
for lost time.    Every face wore a smile.
The next morning Burton and one or two other men
from the outfits took the horses back up the trail to
find feed, while the rest of us remained in camp to be
ready for the boats. Late in the afternoon we heard
far down the river a steamer whistling for Telegraph 178 The Trail of the Goldseekers
Creek, and everybody began packing truck down to the
river where the boat was expected to land. Word was
sent back over the trail to the boys herding the horses,
and every man was in a tremor of apprehension lest the
herders should not hear the boat and bring the horses
down in time to get off on it.
It was punishing work packing our stuff down the
sloppy path to the river bank, but we buckled to it hard,
and in the course of a couple of hours had all snug and
ready for embarkation.
There was great excitement among the outfits, and
every man was hurrying and worrying to get away. It
was known that charges would be high, and each of us
felt in his pocket to see how many dollars he had left.
The steamboat company had us between fire and water
and could charge whatever it pleased. Some of the poor
prospectors gave up their last dollar to cross this river
toward which they had journeyed so long.
The boys came sliding down the trail wildly excited, driving the horses before them, and by 5.30 we
were all packed on the boat, one hundred and twenty
horses and some two dozen men. We were a seedy
and careworn lot, in vivid contrast with the smartly
uniformed purser of the boat. The rates were exorbitant, but there was nothing to do but to pay them.
However, Borland and I, acting as committee, brought
such pressure to bear upon the purser that he " threw
in " a dinner, and there was a joyous rush for the table
when this good news was announced. For the first
time in nearly three months we were able to sit down to At Last the Stikeen 179
a fairly good meal with clean nice tableware, with pie
and pudding to end the meal. It seemed as though we
had reached civilization. The boat was handsomely
built, and quite new and capacious, too, for it held
our horses without serious crowding. I was especially
anxious about Ladrone, but was able to get him into a '
very nice place away from the engines and in no danger
of being kicked by a vicious mule.
We drifted down the river past Telegraph Creek
without stopping, and late at night laid by at Glenora
and unloaded in the crisp, cool dusk. As we came off
the boat with our horses we were met by a crowd of
cynical loafers who called to us out of the dark, " What
in hell you fellows think you're doing ?" We were
regarded as wildly insane foi having come over so long
and tedious a route.
We erected our tents, and went into camp beside our
horses on the bank near the dock. It was too late to
move farther that night. We fed our beasts upon hay
at five cents a pound, — poor hay at that, — and they
were forced to stand exposed to the searching river wind.
As for ourselves, we were filled with dismay by the
hopeless dulness of the town. Instead of being the
hustling, rushing gold camp we had expected to find, it
came to light as a little town of tents and shanties, filled
with men who had practically given up the Teslin Lake
Route as a bad job. The government trail was incomplete, the wagon road only built halfway, and the railroad— of which we had heard so much talk — had
been abandoned altogether. 180 The Trail of the Goldseekers
As I slipped the saddle and bridle from Ladrone next
day and turned him out upon the river bottom for a two
weeks' rest, my heart was very light. The long trail
was over. No more mud, rocks, stumps, and roots for
Ladrone. Away the other poor animals streamed down
the trail, many of them lame, all of them poor and weak,
and some of them still crazed by the poisonous plants of
the cold green mountains through which they had passed.
This ended the worst of the toil, the torment of the
trail. It had no dangers, but it abounded in worriments
and disappointments. As I look back upon it now I
suffer, because I see my horses standing ankle-deep in
water on barren marshes or crowding round the fire
chilled and weak, in endless rain. If our faces looked
haggard and worn, it was because of the never ending
anxiety concerning the faithful animals who trusted in
us to find them food and shelter. Otherwise we suffered little, slept perfectly dry and warm every night, and
ate three meals each day : true, the meals grew scanty
and monotonous, but we did not go hungry.
The trail was a disappointment to me, not because it
was long and crossed mountains, but because it ran
through a barren, monotonous, silent, gloomy, and rainy
country. It ceased to interest me. It had almost no
wild animal life, which I love to hear and see. Its
lakes and rivers were for the most part cold and sullen,
and its forests sombre and depressing. The only pleasant places after leaving Hazleton were the high valleys
above timber line. They were magnificent, although
wet and marshy to traverse. At Last the Stikeen
As a route to reach the gold fields of Teslin Lake
and the Yukon it is absurd and foolish. It will never
be used again for that purpose. Should mines develop
on the high divides between the Skeena, Iskoot, and
Stikeen, it may possibly be used again from Hazleton;
otherwise it will be given back to the Indians and their
A man put love forth from his heart,
And rode across the desert far away.
"Woman shall have no place nor part
In my lone life," men heard him say.
He rode right on.    The level rim
Of the barren plain grew low and wide;
It seemed to taunt and beckon him,
To ride right on and fiercely ride.
One day he rode a well-worn path,
And lo! even in that far land
He saw (and cursed in gusty wrath)
A woman's footprint in the sand.
Sharply he drew the swinging rein,
And hanging from his saddle bow
Gazed long and silently — cursed again,
Then turned as if to go.
" For love will seize you at the end,
Fear loneliness — fear sickness, too,
For they will teach you wisdom, friend."
Yet he rode on as madmen do.
He built a cabin by a sounding stream,
He digged in canons dark and deep,
And ever the waters caused a dream
And the face of woman broke his sleep.
182 w
It was a slender little mark,
And the man had lived alone so long
Within the canon's noise and dark,
The footprint moved him like a song.
It spoke to him of women in the East,
Of girls in silken robes, with shining hair,
And talked of those who sat at feast,
While sweet-eyed laughter filled the air.
And more.    A hundred visions rose,
He saw his mother's knotted hands
Ply round thick-knitted homely hose,
Her thoughts with him in desert lands.
A smiling wife, in bib and cap,
Moved busily from chair to chair,
Or sat with apples in her lap,
Content with sweet domestic care.
All these his curse had put away,
All these were his no more to hold;
He had his canon cold and gray,
He had his little heaps of gold.
Glenora, like Telegraph Creek, was a village of
tents and shacks. Previous to the opening of the year
it had been an old Hudson Bay trading-post at the
head of navigation on the Stikeen River, but during
April and May it had been turned into a swarming
camp of goldseekers on their way to Teslin Lake by
way of the much-advertised " Stikeen Route" to the
A couple of months before our arrival nearly five
thousand people had been encamped on the river flat;
but one disappointment had followed another, the government road had been abandoned, the pack trail had
proved a menace, and as a result the camp had thinned
away, and when we of the Long Trail began to drop into
town Glenora contained less than five hundred people,
including tradesmen and mechanics.
The journey of those who accompanied me on the
Long Trail was by no means ended. It was indeed only
half done. There remained more than one hundred and
seventy miles of pack trail before the head of navigation
on the Yukon could be reached. I turned aside. My
partner went on.
185 186 The Trail of the Goldseekers
In order to enter the head-waters of the Pelly it was
necessary to traverse four hundred miles of trail, over
which a year's provision for each man must be carried.
Food was reported to be " a dollar a pound " at Teslin
Lake and winter was coming on. To set face toward
any of these regions meant the most careful preparation
or certain death.
The weather was cold and bleak, and each night the
boys assembled around the big campfire to discuss the
situation. They reported the country full of people
eager to get away. Everybody seemed studying the
problem of what to do and how to do it. Some were
for going to the head-waters of the Pelly, others advocated the Nisutlin, and others still thought it a good
plan to prospect on the head-waters of the Tooya, from
which excellent reports were coming in.
Hour after hour they debated, argued, and agreed. In
the midst of it all Burton remained cool and unhurried.
Sitting in our tent, which flapped and quivered in the
sounding southern wind, we discussed the question of
future action. I determined to leave him here with four
of the horses and a thousand pounds of grub with which
to enter the gold country; for my partner was a miner,
not a literary man.
It had been my intention to go with him to Teslin
Lake, there to build a boat and float down the river to
Dawson; but I was six weeks behind my schedule, the
trail was reported to be bad, and the water in the Hota-
linqua very low, making boating slow and hazardous.
Therefore I concluded to join the stream of goldseekers «1
The Goldseekers' Camp at Glenora    187
who were pushing down toward the coast to go in by
way of Skagway.
There was a feeling in the air on the third day after
going into camp which suggested the coming of autumn.
Some of the boys began to dread the desolate north, out
of which the snows would soon begin to sweep. It
took courage to set face into that wild land with winter
coming on, and yet many of them were ready to do it.
The Manchester boys and Burton formed a " side-partnership," and faced a year of bacon and beans without
visible sign of dismay.
The ominous cold deepened a little every night. It
seemed like October as the sun went down. Around
us on every side the mountain peaks cut the sky keen
as the edge of a sword, and the wind howled up the
river gusty and wild.
A little group of tents sprang up around our own and
every day was full of quiet enjoyment. We were all
living very high, with plenty of berries and an occasional piece of fresh beef. Steel-head salmon were running and were a drug in the market.
The talk of the Pelly River grew excited as a report
came in detailing a strike, and all sorts of outfits began
to sift out along the trail toward Teslin Lake. The
rain ceased at last and the days grew very pleasant with
the wind again in the south, roaring up the river all day
long with great power, reminding me of the equatorial
currents which sweep over Illinois and Wisconsin in
September. We had nothing now to trouble us but the
question of moving out into the gold country. 18 8 The Trail of the Goldseekers
One by one the other misguided ones of the Long
Trail came dropping into camp to meet the general depression and stagnation. They were brown, ragged,
long-haired, and for the most part silent with dismay.
Some of them celebrated their escape by getting drunk,
but mainly they were too serious-minded to waste time
or substance. Some of them had expended their last
dollar on the trail and were forced to sell their horses
for money to take them out of the country. Some of
the partnerships went to pieces for other causes. Long-
smouldering dissensions burst into flame. " The Swedes "
divided and so did " The Dutchman," the more resolute
of them keeping on the main trail while others took the
trail to the coast or returned to the States.
Meanwhile, Ladrone and his fellows were rejoicing
like ourselves in fairly abundant food and in continuous
rest. The old gray began to look a little more like his
own proud self. As I went out to see him he came up
to me to be curried and nosed about me, begging for
salt. His trust in me made him doubly dear, and I took
great joy in thinking that he, at least, was not doomed
to freeze or starve in this savage country which has no
mercy and no hope for horses.
There was great excitement on the first Sunday following our going into camp, when the whistle of a
steamer announced the coming of the mail. It produced
as much movement as an election or a bear fight. We
all ran to the bank to see her struggle with the current,
gaining headway only inch by inch. She was a small
stern-wheeler, not unlike the boats which run on the The Goldseekers* Camp at Glenora    189
upper Missouri. We all followed her down to the
Hudson Bay post, like a lot of small boys at a circus, to
see her unload. This was excitement enough for one
day, and we returned to camp feeling that we were once
more in touch with civilization.
Among the first of those who met us on our arrival
was a German, who was watching some horses and some
supplies in a big tent close by the river bank. While
pitching my tent on that first day he came over to see
me, and after a few words of greeting said quietly, but
with feeling, " I am glad you've come, it was so lonesome here." We were very busy, but I think we
were reasonably kind to him in the days that followed.
He often came over of an evening and stood about
the fire, and although I did not seek to entertain him,
I am glad to say I answered him civilly; Burton was
even social.
I recall these things with a certain degree of feeling,
because not less than a week later this poor fellow was
discovered by one of our company swinging from the
£rosstree of the tent, a ghastly corpse. There was
something inexplicable in the deed. No one could
account for it. He seemed not to be a man of deep
feeling. And one of the last things he uttered in my
hearing was a coarse jest which I did not like and to
which I made no reply.
In his pocket the coroner found a letter wherein he
had written, " Bury me right here where I failed, here
on the bank of the river." It contained also a message
to his wife and children  in the States.    There were 190 The Trail of the Goldseekers
tragic splashes of red on the trail, murder, and violent
death by animals and by swift waters. Now here at the
end of the trail was a suicide.
So this is the end of the trail to him —
To swing at the tail of a rope and die;
Making a chapter gray and grim,
Adding a ghost to the midnight sky ?
He toiled for days on the icy way,
He slept at night on the wind-swept snow;
Now here Jie hangs in the morning's gray,
A grisly shape by the river's flow.
It was just two weeks later when I put, the bridle and
saddle on Ladrone and rode him down the trail. His
heart was light as mine, and he had gained some part of
his firm, proud, leaping walk. He had confidence in
the earth once more. This was the first firm stretch of
road he had trod for many weeks. He was now to take
the boat for the outside world.
There was an element of sadness in the parting between Ladrone and the train he had led for so many
miles. As we saddled up for the last time he stood
waiting. The horses had fared together for ninety
days. They had "lined up" nearly two hundred times,
and now for the last time I called out: " Line up, boys !
Line up !    Heke ! Heke ! "
Ladrone swung into the trail. Behind him came
" Barney," next " Major," then sturdy " Bay Bill," and
lastly " Nibbles," the pony.   For the last time they were The Goldseekers' Camp at Glenora    191
to follow their swift gray leader, who was going south
to live at ease, while they must begin again the ascent
of the trail.
Ladrone whinnied piteously for his mates as I led
him aboard the steamer, but they did not answer. They
were patiently waiting their master's signal. Never
again would they set eyes on the stately gray leader who
was bound to most adventurous things. Never again
would they see the green grass come on the hills.
I had a feeling that I could go on living this way,
leading a pack train across the country indefinitely. It
seemed somehow as though this way of life, this routine, must continue. I had a deep interest in the four
horses, and it was not without a feeling of guilt that
I saw them move away on their last trail. At bottom
the end of every horse is tragic. Death comes sooner
or later, but death here in this country, so cold and
bleak and pitiless to all animals, seems somehow closer,
more inevitable, more cruel, and flings over every animal the shadow of immediate tragedy. There was
something approaching crime in bringing a horse over
that trail for a thousand miles only to turn him loose
at the end, or to sell him to some man who would
work him to the point of death, and then shoot him or
turn him out to freeze.
As the time came when I must return to the south
and to the tame, the settled, the quiet, I experienced
a profound feeling of regret, of longing for the wild
and lonely. I looked up at the shining green and
white mountains   and   they allured   me   still, notwith- 192 The Trail of the Goldseekers
standing all the toil and discomfort of the journey just
completed. The wind from the south, damp and cool,
the great river gliding with rushing roar to meet the
sea, had a distinct and wonderful charm from which I
rent myself with distinct effort. THE  TOIL   OF   THE  TRAIL
What have I gained by the toil of the trail ?
I know and know well.
I have found once again the lore I had lost
In the loud city's hell.
I have broadened my hand to the cinch and the axe,
I have laid my flesh to the rain;
I was hunter and trailer and guide;
I have touched the most primitive wildness again.
I have threaded the wild with the stealth of the deer,
No eagle is freer than I;
No mountain can thwart me, no torrent appall,
I defy the stern sky.
So long as I live these joys will remain,
I have touched the most primitive wildness again.
Boat after boat had come up, stopped for a night, and
dropped down the river again, carrying from ten to
twenty of the goldseekers who had determined to quit
or to try some other way in ; and at last the time had come
for me to say good-by to Burton and all those who had
determined to keep on to Teslin Lake. I had helped
them buy and sack and weigh their supplies, and they
were ready to line up once more.
As I led Ladrone down toward the boat, he called
again for his fellows, but only strangers made reply.
After stowing him safely away and giving him feed,
I returned to the deck in order to wave my hat to
In accordance with his peculiar, undemonstrative
temperament, he stood for a few moments in silence,
with his hands folded behind his back, then, with a
final wave of the hand, turned on his heel and returned
to his work.
Farewells and advice more or less jocular rang across
the rail of the boat between some ten or fifteen of us
who had hit the new trail and those on shore.
" Good-by, boys ; see you at Dawson."
*95 L
196 The Trail of the Goldseekers
" We'll beat you in yet," called Bill. " Don't overwork."
" Let us know if you strike it! " shouted Frank.
"All right; you do the same," I replied.
As the boat swung out into the stream, and the little
group on the bank faded swiftly away, I confess to a
little dimness of the eyes. I thought of the hardships
toward which my uncomplaining partner was headed,
and it seemed to me Nature was conspiring to crush
The trip down the river was exceedingly interesting.
The stream grew narrower as we approached the coast
range, and became at last very dangerous for a heavy
boat such as the Strathcona was. We were forced to
lay by at last, some fifty miles down, on account of
the terrific wind which roared in through the gap,
making the steering of the big boat through the canon
very difficult.
At the point where we lay for the night a small
creek came in. Steel-headed salmon were running,
and the creek was literally lined with bear tracks of
great size, as far up as we penetrated. These bears
are said to be a sort of brown fishing bear of enormous
bulk, as large as polar bears, and when the salmon are
spawning in the upper waters of the coast rivers, they
become so fat they can hardly move. Certainly I have
never been in a country where bear signs were so plentiful. The wood was an almost impassable tangle of
vines and undergrowth, and the thought of really finding a bear was appalling. Great News at Wrangell 197
The Stikeen breaks directly through the coast range
at right angles, like a battering-ram. Immense glaciers
were on either side. One tremendous river of ice came
down on our right, presenting a face wall apparently
hundreds of feet in height and some miles in width.
I should have enjoyed exploring this glacier, which is
said to be one of the greatest on the coast.
The next day our captain, a bold and reckless man,
carried us through to Wrangell by walking his boat over
the sand bars on its paddle-wheel. I was exceedingly
nervous, because if for any reason we had become stuck
in mid river, it would have been impossible to feed Ladrone or to take him ashore except by means of another
steamer. However, all things worked together to bring
us safely through, and in the afternoon of the second
day we entered an utterly different world—the warm,
wet coast country. The air was moist, the grasses and
tall ferns were luxuriant, and the forest trees immense.
Out into a sun-bright bay we swept with a feeling of
being in safe waters once more, and rounded-to about
sunset at a point on the island just above a frowzy
little town. This was Wrangell Island and the town
was Fort Wrangell, one of the oldest stations on the
I had placed my horse under bond intending to send
him through to Vancouver to be taken care of by the
Hudson Bay Company. He was still a Canadian horse
and so must remain upon the wharf over night. As he
was very restless and uneasy, I camped down beside
him on the planks. 198 The Trail of the Goldseekers
I lay for a long time listening to the waters flowing
under me and looking at the gray-blue sky, across which
stars shot like distant rockets dying out in the deeps of
the heavens in silence. An odious smell rose from the
bay as the tide went out, a seal bawled in the distance,
fishes flopped about in the pools beneath me, and a man
playing a violin somewhere in the village added a melancholy note. I could hear the boys crying, " All about
the war," and Ladrone continued restless and eager.
Several times in the night, when he woke me with his
trampling, I called to him, and hearing my voice he
became quiet.
I took breakfast at a twenty-five cent " joint," where
I washed out of a tin basin in an ill-smelling area.
After breakfast I grappled with the customs man and
secured the papers which made Ladrone an American
horse, free to eat grass wherever it could be found under
the stars and stripes. I started immediately to lead him
to pasture, and this was an interesting and memorable
There are no streets, that is to say no roads, in
Wrangell. There are no carriages and no horses, not
even donkeys. Therefore it was necessary for Ladrone
to walk the perilous wooden sidewalks after me. This
he did with all the dignity of a county judge, and at last
we came upon grass, knee deep, rich and juicy.
Our passage through the street created a great sensation. Little children ran to the gates to look upon us.
" There goes a horsie," they shouted. An old man
stopped me on the  street and asked me where I was mm
Great News at Wrangell 199
taking "T'old 'orse." I told him I had already ridden
him over a thousand miles and now he was travelling
with me back to God's country. He looked at me in
amazement, and walked off tapping his forehead as a
sign that I must certainly " have wheels."
As I watched Ladrone at his feed an old Indian
woman came along and smiled with amiable interest.
At last she said, pointing to the other side of the village,
" Over there muck-a-muck, hy-u muck-a-muck." She
wished to see the horse eating the best grass there was
to be had on the island.
A little later three or four native children came down
the hill and were so amazed and so alarmed at the sight
of this great beast feeding beside the walk that they
burst into loud outcry and ran desperately away. They
were not accustomed to horses. To them he was quite
as savage in appearance as a polar bear.
In a short time everybody in the town knew of the
old gray horse and his owner. I furnished a splendid
topic for humorous conversation during the dull hours
of the day.
Here again I came upon other gaunt and rusty-
coated men from the Long Trail. They could be
recognized at a glance by reason of their sombre faces
and their undecided action. They could scarcely bring
themselves to such ignominious return from a fruitless
trip on which they had started with so much elation,
and yet they hesitated about attempting any further
adventure to the north, mainly because their horses had
sold for so little and their expenses had been so great. 200 The Trail of the Goldseekers
Many of them were nearly broken. In the days that
followed they discussed the matter in subdued voices,
sitting in the sun on the great wharf, sombrely looking
out upon the bay.
On the third day a steamer came in from the north,
buzzing with the news of another great strike not far
from Skagway. Juneau, Dyea, as well as Skagway itself, were said to be almost deserted. Men were leaving
the White Pass Railway in hundreds, and a number of
the hands on the steamer herself had deserted under the
excitement. Mingling with the passengers we eagerly
extracted every drop of information possible. No one
knew much about it, but they said all they knew and a
good part of what they had heard, and when the boat
swung round and disappeared in the moonlight, she left
the goldseekers exultant and tremulous on the wharf.
They were now aflame with desire to take part in
this new stampede, which seemed to be within their
slender means, and I, being one of them and eager to see
such a " stampede," took a final session with the customs
collector, and prepared to board the next boat.
I arranged with Duncan McKinnon to have my old
horse taken care of in his lot. I dug wells for him so
that he should not lack for water, and treated him to a
dish of salt, and just at sunset said good-by to him
with another twinge of sadness and turned toward the
wharf. He looked very lonely and sad standing there
with drooping head in the midst of the stumps of his
pasture lot. However, there was plenty of feed and half
a dozen men volunteered to keep an eye on him.
raraarararaa Great News at Wrangell 201
" Don't worry, mon," said Donald McLane. " He'll
be gettin' fat and strong on the juicy grass, whilst you're
a-heavin' out the gold-dust."
There were about ten of us who lined up to the purser's
window of the little steamer which came along that night
and purchased second-class passage. The boat was
very properly named the Utopia, and was so crowded
with other goldseekers from down the coast, that we of
the Long Trail were forced to put our beds on the floor
of the little saloon in the stern of the boat which was
called the " social room." We were all second-class, and
we all lay down in rows on the carpet, covering every foot
of space. Each man rolled up in his own blankets, and
I was the object of considerable remark by reason of my
mattress, which gave me as good a bed as the vessel
There was a great deal of noise on the boat, and its
passengers, both men and women, were not of the highest type. There were several stowaways, and some of
the women were not very nice as to their actions, and,
rightly or wrongly, were treated with scant respect by
the men, who were loud and vulgar for the most part.
Sleep was difficult in the turmoil.
Though second-class passengers, strange to say, we
came first at table and were very well fed. The boat
ran entirely inside a long row of islands, and the water
was smooth as a river. The mountains grew each
moment more splendid as we neared Skagway, and the
ride was most enjoyable. Whales and sharks interested
us on the way.    The women came to light next day,
(II 202 The Trail of the Goldseekers
and on the whole were much better than I had inferred
from the two or three who were the source of disturbance the night before. The men were not of much
interest; they seemed petty and without character for
the most part.
At Juneau we came into a still more mountainous
country, and for the rest of the way the scenery was
magnificent. Vast rivers of ice came curving down absolutely out of the clouds which hid the summits of the
mountains — came curving in splendid lines down to the
very water's edge. The sea was chill and gray, and as
we entered the mouth of Lynn Canal a raw swift wind
swept by, making us shiver with cold. The grim bronze-
green mountains' sides formed a most impressive but
forbidding scene.
It was nine o'clock the next morning as we swung to
and unloaded ourselves upon one of the long wharves
which run out from the town of Skagway toward the
deep water. We found the town exceedingly quiet.
Half the men had gone to the new strike. Stores were
being tended by women, some small shops were closed
entirely, and nearly every business firm had sent representatives into the new gold fields, which we now found
to be on Atlin Lake.
It was difficult to believe that this wharf a few months
before had been the scene of a bloody tragedy which
involved the shooting of " Soapy Smith," the renowned
robber and desperado. On the contrary, it seemed quite
like any other town of its size in the States. The air
was warm and delightful in midday, but toward night *)
Great News at Wrangell 203
the piercing wind swept down from the high mountains,
making an overcoat necessary.
A few men had returned from this new district, and
were full of enthusiasm concerning the prospects. Their
reports increased the almost universal desire to have a
part in the stampede. The Iowa boys from the Long
Trail wasted no time, but set about their own plans for
getting in. They expected to reach the creek by sheer
force and awkwardness.
They had determined to try the "cut-off," which
left the wagon road and took off up the east fork of
the Skagway River. Nearly three hundred people had
already set out on this trail, and the boys felt sure of
" making it all right — all right," though it led over a
great glacier and into an unmapped region of swift
streams. " After the Telegraph Trail," said Doc,
"we're not easily scared."
It seemed to me a desperate chance, and I was not
ready to enter upon such a trip with only such grub and
clothing as could be carried upon my back; but it was
the last throw of the dice for these young fellows. They
had very little money left, and could Jiot afford to hire
pack trains; but by making a swift dash into the country,
each hoped to get a claim. How they expected to hold
it or use it after they got it, they were unable to say;
but as they were out for gold, and here was a chance
(even though it were but the slightest chance in the
world) to secure a location, they accepted it with the
sublime audacity of youth and ignorance. They saddled
themselves with their packs, and with a cheery wave of 204 The Trail of the Goldseekers
the hand said " Good-by and good luck" and marched
away in single file.
Just a week later I went round to see if any news of
them had returned to their bunk house. I found their
names on the register. They had failed. One of them
set forth their condition of purse and mind by writing : " Dave Walters, Boone, Iowa. Busted and going
home." ■^
I saw these dreamers of dreams go by,
I trod i n their footsteps a space;
Each marched with his eyes on the sky,
Each passed with a light on his face.
They came from the hopeless and sad,
They faced the future and gold;
Some the tooth of want's wolf had made mad,
And some at the forge had grown old.
Behind them these serfs of the tool
The rags of their service had flung;
No longer of fortune the fool,
This word from each bearded lip rung:
" Once more I'm a man, I am free!
No man is my master, I say;
To-morrow I fail, it may be —
No matter, I'm freeman to-day."
They go to a toil that is sure,
To despair and hunger and cold;
Their sickness no warning can cure,
They are mad with a longing for gold.
205 The light will fade from each eye,
The smile from each face;
They will curse the impassible sky,
And the earth when the snow torrents race.
Some will sink by the way and be laid
In the frost of the desolate earth;
And some will return to a maid,
Empty of hand as at birth.
But this out of all will remain,
They have lived and have tossed;
So much in the game will be gain,
Though the gold of the dice has been lost.
It took me longer to get under way, for I had determined to take at least thirty days' provisions for myself
and a newspaper man who joined me here. Our supplies, together with tent, tools, and clothing, made a
considerable outfit. However, in a few days we were
ready to move, and when I again took my place at the
head of a little pack train it seemed quite in the natural
order of things.
We left late in the day with intent to camp at the
little village of White Pass, which was the end of the
wagon road and some twelve miles away. We moved
out of town along a road lined with refuse, camp-bottoms, ruined cabins, tin cans, and broken bottles, — all
the unsightly debris of the rush of May and June. A
part of the way had been corduroyed, for which I was
exceedingly grateful, for the Skagway River roared savagely under our feet, while on either side of the roadway
at other points I could see abysses of mud which, in the
growing darkness, were sufficiently menacing.
Our course was a northerly one. We were ascending the ever narrowing canon of the river at a gentle
grade, with snowy mountains in vista. We arrived at
207 208 The Trail of the Goldseekers
White Pass at about ten o'clock at night. A little town
is springing up there, confident of being an important station on the railroad which was already built to that point.
Thus far the journey had been easy and simple, but
immediately after leaving White Pass we entered upon
an exceedingly stony road, filled with sharp rock which
had been blasted from the railway above us. Upon
reaching the end of the wagon road, and entering upon
the trail, we came upon the Way of Death. The waters
reeked with carrion. The breeze was the breath of
carrion, and all nature was made indecent and disgusting by the presence of carcasses. Within the distance
of fifteen miles we passed more than two thousand dead
horses. It was a cruel land, a land filled with the
record of men's merciless greed. Nature herself was
cold, majestic, and grand. The trail rough, hard,
and rocky. The horses labored hard under their heavy
burdens, though the floor they trod was always firm.
Just at the summit in the gray mist, where a bulbous
granite ridge cut blackly and lonesomely against the
sky, we overtook a flock of turkeys being driven by a
one-armed man with a singularly appropriate Scotch cap
on his head. The birds sat on the bleak gray rocks in
the gathering dusk with the suggestion of being utterly
at the end of the world. Their feathers were blown
awry by the merciless wind and they looked weary,
disconsolate, and bewildered. Their faint, sad gobbling
was like the talk of sick people lost in a desert. They
were on their way to Dawson City to their death and
they seemed to know it. ^
The Rush to Atlin Lake 209
We camped at the Halfway House, a big tent surrounded by the most diabolical landscape of high peaks
lost in mist, with near-by slopes of gray rocks scantily
covered with yellow-green grass. All was bare, wild,
desolate, and drear. The wind continued to whirl down
over the divide, carrying torn gray masses of vapor
which cast a gloomy half light across the gruesome
little meadow covered with rotting carcasses and crates
of bones which filled the air with odor of disease and
Within the tent, which flopped and creaked in the
wind, we huddled about the cook-stove in the light of a
lantern, listening to the loud talk of a couple of packers
who were discussing their business with enormous enthusiasm. Happily they grew sleepy at last and peace
settled upon us. I unrolled my sleeping bag and slept
dreamlessly until the " Russian nobleman," who did the
cooking, waked me.
Morning broke bleak and desolate. Mysterious
clouds which hid the peaks were still streaming wildly
down the canon. We got away at last, leaving behind
us that sad little meadow and its gruesome lakes, and
began the slow and toilsome descent over slippery ledges
of rock, among endless rows of rotting carcasses, over
poisonous streams and through desolate, fire-marked, and
ghastly forests of small pines. Everywhere were the
traces of the furious flood of humankind that had broken
over this height in the early spring. Wreckage of
sleighs, abandoned tackle, heaps of camp refuse, clothing, and most eloquent of all the pathway itself, worn 210 The Trail of the Goldseekers
into the pitiless iron ledges, made it possible for me to
realize something of the scene.
Down there in the gully, on the sullen drift of snow,
the winter trail could still be seen like an unclean ribbon and here, where the shrivelled hides of horses lay
thick, wound the summer pathway. Up yonder summit, lock-stepped like a file of convicts, with tongues
protruding and breath roaring from their distended
throats, thousands of men had climbed with killing
burdens on their backs, mad to reach the great inland
river and the gold belt. Like the men of the Long
Trail, they, too, had no time to find the gold under their
It was terrible to see how on every slippery ledge the
ranks of horses had broken like waves to fall in heaps
like rows of seaweed, tumbled, contorted, and grinning.
Their dried skins had taken on the color of the soil, so
that I sometimes set foot upon them without realizing
what they were. Many of them had saddles on and
nearly all had lead-ropes. Some of them had even been
tied to trees and left to starve.
In all this could be read the merciless greed and impracticability of these goldseekers. Men who had never
driven a horse in their lives, and had no idea what an animal could do, or what he required to eat, loaded their
outfits upon some poor patient beast and drove him without feed until, weakened and insecure of foot, he slipped
and fell on some one of these cruel ledges of flinty rock.
The business of packing, however, had at last fallen
into less cruel   or  at   least   more  judicial   hands, and
mmmm The Rush to Atlin  Lake 211
though the trail was filled with long pack trains going
and coming, they were for the most part well taken care
of. We met many long trains of packhorses returning
empty from Bennett Lake. They were followed by
shouting drivers who clattered along on packhorses
wherever the trail would permit.
One train carried four immense trunks—just behind
the trunks, mounted astride of one of tl^e best horses,
rode a bold-faced, handsome white woman followed by
a huge negress. The white woman had made her pile
by dancing a shameless dance in the dissolute dens of
Dawson City, and was on her way to Paris or New
York for a "good time." The reports of the hotel
keepers made her out to be unspeakably vile. The
negress was quite decent by contrast.
At Log Cabin we came in sight of the British flag
which marks the boundary line of United States territory,
where a camp of mounted police and the British customs officer are located. It was a drear season even in
midsummer, a land of naked ledges and cold white
peaks. A few small pine trees furnished logs for the
cabins and wood for their fires. The government
offices were located in tents.
I found the officers most courteous, and the customs
fair. The treatment given me at Log Cabin was in
marked contrast with the exactions of my own government at Wrangell. All goods were unloaded before the
inspector's tent and quickly examined. The miner
suffered very little delay.
A number of badly maimed packhorses were running 212 The Trail of the Goldseekers
about on the American side. I was told that the police.
had stopped them by reason of their sore backs. If a
man came to the line with horses overloaded or suffering, he was made to strip the saddles from their backs.
" You can't cross this line with animals like that,"
was the stern sentence in many cases. This humanity,
as unexpected as it was pleasing, deserves the best word
of praise of which I am capable.
At last we left behind us all these wrecks of horseflesh, these poisonous streams, and came down upon
Lake Bennett, where the water was considered safe to
drink, and where the eye could see something besides
death-spotted ledges of savage rocks.
The town was a double row of tents, and log huts
set close to the beach whereon boats were building and
saws and hammers were uttering a cheerful chorus.
Long trains of packhorses filled the streets. The
wharfs swarmed with men loading chickens, pigs, vegetables, furniture, boxes of dry-goods, stoves, and every
other conceivable domestic utensil into big square barges,
which were rigged with tall strong masts bearing most
primitive sails. It was a busy scene, but of course very
quiet as compared with the activity of May, June, and
These barges appealed to me very strongly. They
were in some cases floating homes, a combination of
mover's wagon and river boat. Many of them contained women and children, with accompanying cats and
canary birds. In every face was a look of exultant faith
in the venture.    They were bound for Dawson  City. ■w
The Rush to Atlin Lake
The men for Atlin were setting forth in rowboats, or
were waiting for the little steamers which had begun to
ply between Bennett City and the new gold fields.
I set my little tent, which was about as big as a dog
kennel, and crawled into it early, in order to be shielded
from the winds, which grew keen as sword blades as the
sun sank behind the western mountains. The sky was
like November, and I wondered where Burton was
encamped. I would have given a great deal to have
had him with me on this trip.  THE   COAST   RANGE   OF   ALASKA
The wind roars up from the angry sea
With a message of warning and haste to me.
It bids me go where the asters blow,
And the sun-flower waves in the sunset glow.
From the granite mountains the glaciers crawl,
In snow-white spray the waters fall.
The bay is white with the crested waves,
And ever the sea wind ramps and raves.
I hate this cold, bleak northern land,
I fear its snow-flecked harborless strand —
I fly to the south as a homing dove,
Back to the land of corn I love.
And never again shall I set my feet
Where the snow and the sea and the mountains meet.
215  m^
There is nothing drearier than camping on the edge
of civilization like this, where one is surrounded by ill
smells, invaded by streams of foul dust, and deprived of
wood and clear water. I was exceedingly eager to get
away, especially as the wind continued cold and very
searching.    It was a long dull day of waiting.
At last the boat came in and we trooped aboard — a
queer mixture of men and bundles. The boat itself was
a mere scow with an upright engine in the centre and a
stern-wheel tacked on the outside. There were no
staterooms, of course, and almost no bunks. The interior resembled a lumberman's shanty.
We moved off towing a big scow laden with police
supplies for Tagish House. The wind was very high
and pushed steadily behind, or we would not have gone
faster than a walk. We had some eight or ten passengers, all bound for the new gold fields, and these together
with their baggage and tools filled the boat to the utmost
corner. The feeling of elation among these men re-
minded me of the great land boom of Dakota in 1883,
in which I took a part. There was something fine and
free and primitive in it all.
217   . The Trail of the Goldseekers
We cooked our supper on the boat's stove, furnishing our own food from the supplies we were taking in with
us. The ride promised to be very fine. We made off
down the narrow lake, which lies between two walls of
high bleak mountains, but far in the distance more alluring ranges arose. There was no sign of mineral in
the near-by peaks.
Late in the afternoon the wind became so high and
the captain of our boat so timid, we were forced to lay
by for the night and so swung around under a point,
seeking shelter from the wind, which became each
moment more furious. I made my bed down on the
roof of the boat and went to sleep looking at the drifting
clouds overhead. Once or twice during the night when
I awoke I heard the howling blast sweeping by with
increasing power.
All the next day we loitered on Bennett Lake — the
wind roaring without ceasing, and the white-caps running like hares. We drifted at last into a cove and
there lay in shelter till six o'clock at night. The sky
was clear and the few clouds were gloriously bright and
cool and fleecy.
We met several canoes of goldseekers on their return who shouted doleful warnings at us and cursed the
worthlessness of the district to which we were bound.
They all looked exceedingly dirty, ragged, and sour of visage. At the same time, however, boat after boat went
sailing down past us on their way to Atlin and Dawson.
They drove straight before the wind, and for the most
part   experienced little danger, all of which seemed to mm
Atlin Lake and the Gold Fields       219
us to emphasize the unnecessary timidity of our own
There was a charm in this wild spot, but we were too
impatient to enjoy it. There were men on board who
felt that they were being cheated of a chance to get a
gold mine, and when the wind began to fall we fired up
and started down the lake. As deep night came on I
made my bed on the roof again and went to sleep with
the flying sparks lining the sky overhead. I was in
some danger of being set on fire, but I preferred sleeping
there to sleeping on the floor inside the boat, where the
reek of tobacco smoke was sickening.
When I awoke we were driving straight up Tagish
Lake, a beautiful, clear, green and blue spread of rippling water with lofty and boldly outlined peaks on each
side. The lake ran from southeast to northwest and
was much larger than any map shows. We drove
steadily for ten hours up this magnificent water with
ever increasing splendor of scenery, arriving about sunset at Taku City, which we found to be a little group of
tents at the head of Taku arm.
Innumerable boats of every design fringed the shore.
Men were coming and men were going, producing a bewildering clash of opinions with respect to the value of
the mines. A few of these to whom we spoke said,
"It's all a fake," and others were equally certain it was
u All right."
A short portage was necessary to reach Atlin Lake,
and taking a part of our baggage upon our shoulders we
hired the remainder packed on horses and within an hour 220 The Trail of the Goldseekers
were moving up the smooth path under the small black
pines, across the low ridge which separates the two lakes.
At the top of this ridge we were able to look out over the
magnificent spread of Atlin Lake, which was more beautiful in every way than Tagish or Taku. It is, in fact,
one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen.
Far to the southeast it spread until it was lost to view
among the bases of the gigantic glacier-laden mountains
of the coast range. To the left — that is to the north
— it seemed to divide, enclosing a splendid dome-shaped
solitary mountain, one fork moving to the east, the other
to the west. Its end could not be determined by the
eye in either direction. Its width was approximately
about ten miles.
At the end of the trail we found an enterprising Canadian with a naphtha launch ready to ferry us across
to Atlin City, but were forced to wait for some one who
had gone back to Taku for a second load.
While we were waiting, the engineer, who was a
round-faced and rather green boy, fell under the influences of a large, plump, and very talkative lady who
made the portage just behind us. She so absorbed and
fascinated the lad that he let the engine run itself into
some cramp of piston or wheel. There was a sudden
crunching sound and the propeller stopped. The boy
minimized the accident, but the captain upon arrival
told us it would be necessary to unload from the boat
while the engine was being repaired.
It was now getting dark, and as it was pretty evident
that the repairs on the boat would take a large part of Atlin Lake and the Gold Fields        221
the night, we camped where we were. The talkative
lady, whom the irreverent called "the glass front," occupied a tent which belonged to the captain of the launch
and the rest of us made our beds down under the big
A big fire was built and around this we sat, doing
more or less talking. There was an old Tennesseean in
the party from Dawson, who talked interminably. He
told us of his troubles, trials, and victories in Dawson :
how he had been successful, how he had fallen ill, and
how his life had been saved by a good old miner who
gave him an opportunity to work over his dump. Sick
as he was he was able in a few days to find gold enough
to take him out of the country to a doctor. He was
now on his way back to his claim and professed to be
very sceptical of Atlin and every other country except
The plump lady developed exceedingly kittenish manners late in the evening, and invited the whole company
to share her tent. A singular type of woman, capable
of most ladylike manners and having astonishingly sensible moments, but inexpressibly silly most of the time.
She was really a powerful, self-confident, and shrewd
woman, but preferred to seem young and helpless. Altogether the company was sufficiently curious. There
was a young civil engineer from New York City, a
land boomer from Skagway, an Irishman from Juneau,
a representative of a New York paper, one or two nondescripts from the States, and one or two prospectors from
Quebec.    The night was cold and beautiful and my
j E:
222 The Trail of the Goldseekers
partner and I, by going sufficiently far away from the
old Tennesseean and the plump lady, were able to sleep
soundly until sunrise.
The next morning we hired a large unpainted skiff
and by working very hard ourselves in addition to paying full fare we reached camp at about ten o'clock in
the morning. Atlin City was also a clump of tents half
hidden in the trees on the beach of the lake near the
mouth of Pine Creek. The lake was surpassingly beautiful under the morning sun.
A crowd of sullen, profane, and grimy men were
lounging around, cursing the commissioners and the police. The beach was fringed with rowboats and canoes, like a New England fishing village, and all day long
men were loading themselves into these boats, hungry,
tired, and weary, hastening back to Skagway or the coast 1
while others, fresh, buoyant, and hopeful, came gliding in.
To those who came, the sullen and disappointed ones
who were about to go uttered approbrious cries : " See
the damn fools come! What d'you think you're doin' ?
On a fishin' excursion ? "
We went into camp on the water front, and hour after
hour men laden with packs tramped ceaselessly to and
fro along the pathway just below our door. I was now
chief cook and bottle washer, my partner, who was entirely unaccustomed to work of this kind, having the
status of a boarder.
The lake was a constant joy to us. As the sun sank
the glacial mountains to the southwest became most
royal in their robes of purple and silver.    The sky filled Atlin Lake and the Gold Fields       223
with crimson and saffron clouds which the lake reflected
like a mirror. The little rocky islands drowsed in the
mist like some strange monsters sleeping on the bosom
of the water. The men were filthy and profane for the
most part, and made enjoyment of nature almost impossible. Many of them were of the rudest and most
uninteresting types, nomads — almost tramps. They
had nothing of the epic qualities which belong to the
mountaineers and natural miners of the Rocky Mountains. Many of them were loafers and ne'er-do-wells
from Skagway and other towns of the coast.
We had a gold pan, a spade, and a pick. Therefore
early the next morning we flung a little pack of grub
over our shoulders and set forth to test the claims which
were situated upon Pine Creek, a stream which entered
Lake Atlin near the camp. It was said to be eighteen
miles long and Discovery claim was some eight miles up.
We traced our way up the creek as far as Discovery
and back, panning dirt at various places with resulting
colors in some cases. The trail was full of men racking
to and fro with heavy loads on their backs. They moved
in little trains of four or five or six men, some going out
of the country, others coming in — about an equal number each way. Everything along the creek was staked,
and our test work resulted in nothing more than gaining
information with regard to what was going on.
The camps on the hills at night swarmed with men
in hot debate. The majority believed the camps to be
a failure, and loud discussions resounded from the trees
as partner and I sat at supper.     The town-site  men 224 The Trail of the Goldseekers
were very nervous. The camps were decreasing in
population, and the tone was one of general foreboding.
The campfires flamed all along the lake walk, and
the talk of each group could be overheard by any one
who listened. Altercations went on with clangorous
fury. Almost every party was in division. Some enthusiastic individual had made a find, or had seen some
one else who had. His cackle reached other groups,
and out of the dark hulking figures loomed to listen or
to throw in hot missiles of profanity. Phrases multiplied, mingling inextricably.
" Morgan claims thirty cents to the pan .... good creek
claim .... his sluice is about ready .... a clean-up last night
.... I don't believe it.... No, Sir, I wouldn't give a hundred
dollars for the whole damn moose pasture.... Well, it's
good enough for me .... I tell you it's rotten, the whole
damn cheese .... You've got to stand in with the police
or you can't get...." and so on and on unendingly,
without coherence. I went to sleep only when the
sound of the wordy warfare died away.
I permitted myself a day of rest. Borrowing a boat
next day, we went out upon the water and up to the
mouth of Pine Creek, where we panned some dirt to
amuse ourselves. The lake was like liquid glass, the
bottom visible at an enormous depth. It made me
think of the marvellous water of McDonald Lake in the
Kalispels. I steered the boat (with a long-handled spade)
and so was able to look about me and absorb at ease the
wonderful beauty of this unbroken and unhewn wilderness.    The clouds were resplendent, and in every direc- Atlin Lake and the Gold Fields
tion the lake vistas were ideally beautiful and constantly
Toward night the sky grew thick and heavy with
clouds. The water of the lake was like molten jewels,
ruby and amethyst. The boat seemed floating in some
strange, ethereal substance hitherto unknown to man —
translucent and iridescent. The mountains loomed like
dim purple pillars at the western gate of the world, and
the rays of the half-hidden sun plunging athwart these
sentinels sank deep into the shining flood. Later the
sky cleared, and the inverted mountains in the lake were
scarcely less vivid than those which rose into the sky.
The next day I spent with gold pan and camera,
working my way up Spruce Creek, a branch of Pine.
I found men cheerily at work getting out sluice boxes
and digging ditches. I panned everywhere, but did not
get much in the way of colors, but the creek seemed
to grow better as I went up, and promised very rich
returns. I came back rushing, making five miles just
inside an hour, hungry and tired.
The crowded camp thinned out. The faint-hearted
ones who had no courage to sweat for gold sailed away.
Others went out upon their claims to build cabins and
lay sluices. I found them whip-sawing lumber, building
cabins, and digging ditches. Each day the news grew
more encouraging, each day brought the discovery of a
new creek or a lake. Men came back in swarms and
reporting finds on " Lake Surprise," a newly discovered
big body of water, and at last came the report of surprising discoveries in the benches high above the creek. 226 The Trail of the Goldseekers
In the camp one night I heard a couple of men talking around a campfire near me. One of them said:
"Why, you know old Sperry was digging on the ridge
just above Discovery and I came along and see him up
there. And I said, c Hullo, uncle, what you doin', diggin'
your grave ?' And the old feller said, c You just wait a
few minutes and I'll show ye.' Well, sir, he filled up a
sack o' dirt and toted it down to the creek, and I went
along with him to see him wash it out, and say, he took
$3.25 out of one pan of that dirt, and $1.85 out of the
other pan. Well, that knocked me. I says, c Uncle,
you're all right.' And then I made tracks for a bench
claim next him. Well, about that time everybody began
to hustle for bench claims, and now you can't get one
anywhere near him."
At another camp, a packer was telling of an immense
nugget that had been discovered somewhere on the
upper waters of Birch Creek. " And say, fellers, you
know there is another lake up there pretty near as big as
Atlin. They are calling it Lake Surprise. I heard a
feller say a few days ago there was a big lake up there
and I thought he meant a lake six or eight miles long.
On the very high ground next to Birch, you can look
down over that lake and I bet it's sixty miles long. It
must reach nearly to Teslin Lake." There was something pretty fine in the thought of being in a country
where lakes sixty miles long were being discovered
and set forth on the maps of the world. Up to this
time Atlin Lake itself was unmapped. To an unpractical man like myself it was reward enough to feel Atlin Lake and the Gold Fields
the thrill of excitement which  comes  with  such discoveries.
However, I was not a goldseeker, and when I determined to give up any further pursuit of mining and to
delegate it entirely to my partner, I experienced a feeling
of relief. I determined to " stick to my last," notwithstanding the fascination which I felt in the sight of placer
gold. Quartz mining has never had the slightest attraction for me, but to see the gold washed out of the sand,
to see it appear bright and shining in the black sand in
the bottom of the pan, is really worth while. It is firsthand contact with Nature's stores of wealth.
' I went up to Discovery for the last time with my
camera slung over my shoulder, and my note-book in
hand to take a final survey of the miners and to hear for
the last time their exultant talk. I found them exceedingly cheerful, even buoyant.
The men who had gone in with ten days' provisions,
the tender-foot miners, the men " with a cigarette and a
sandwich," had gone out. Those who remained were
men who knew their business and were resolute and
There was a crowd of such men around the land-office
tents and many filings were made. Nearly every man
had his little phial of gold to show. No one was loud,
but every one seemed to be quietly confident and replied
to my questions in'a low voice, " Well, you can safely
say the country is all right."
The day was fine like September in Wisconsin. The
lake as I walked back to it was very alluring.    My mind 228 The Trail of the Goldseekers
returned again and again to the things I had left behind
for so long. My correspondence, my books, my friends,
all the literary interests of my life, began to reassert
their dominion over me. For some time I had realized
that this was almost an ideal spot for camping or mining.
Just over in the wild country toward Teslin Lake, herds
of caribou were grazing. Moose and bear were being
killed daily, rich and unknown streams were waiting for
the gold pan, the pick and the shovel, but — it was not
for me !    I was ready to return — eager to return. THE    FREEMAN    OF   THE   HILLS
I have no master but the wind,
My only liege the sun;
All bonds and ties I leave behind,
Free as the wolf I run.
My master wind is passionless,
He neither chides nor charms;
He fans me or he freezes me,
And helps are quick as harms.
He never turns to injure me,
And when his voice is high
I crouch behind a rock and see
His storm of snows go by.
He too is subject of the sun,
As all things earthly are,
Where'er he flies, where'er I run,
We know our kingly star.
I am worn with the dull-green spires of fir,
I am tired of endless talk of gold,
I long for the cricket's cheery whirr,
And the song that the maples sang of old.
O the beauty and learning and light
That lie in the leaves of the level lands !
They shake my heart in the deep of the night,
They call me and bless me with calm, cool hands.
Sing, O leaves of the maple tree,
I hear your voice by the savage sea,
Hear and hasten to home and thee !
The day on which I crossed the lake to Taku City
was most glorious. A September haze lay on the
mountains, whose high slopes, orange, ruby, and golden-
green, allured with almost irresistible attraction. Although the clouds were gathering in the east, the sunset was superb. Taku arm seemed a river of gold
sweeping between gates of purple. As the darkness
came on, a long creeping line of fire crept up a near-by
mountain's side, and from time to time, as it reached
some great pine, it flamed to the clouds like a mighty
geyser of red-hot lava. It was splendid but terrible to
The next day was a long, long wait for the steamer.
I now had in my pocket just twelve dollars, but possessed a return ticket on one of the boats. This ticket
was not good on any other boat, and naturally I felt
considerable anxiety for fear it would not turn up. My
dinner consisted of moose steak, potatoes, and bread, and
was most thoroughly enjoyed.
At last the steamer came, but it was not the one on
which I had secured passage, and as it took almost my
last dollar to pay for deck passage thereon, I lived on
. 232 The Trail of the Goldseekers
some small cakes of my own baking, which I carried
in a bag. I was now in a sad predicament unless I
should connect at Lake Bennett with some one who
would carry my outfit back to Skagway on credit. I
ate my stale cakes and drank lake water, and thus fooled
the little Jap steward out of two dollars. It was a sad
business, but unavoidable.
The lake being smooth, the trip consumed but thirteen hours, and we arrived at Bennett Lake late at night.
Hoisting my bed and luggage to my shoulder, I went
up on the side-hill like a stray dog, and made my bed
down on the sand beside a cart, near a shack. The
wind, cold and damp, swept over the mountains with
a roar. I was afraid the owners of the cart might discover me there, and order me to seek a bed elsewhere.
Dogs sniffed around me during the night, but on the
whole I slept very well. I could feel the sand blowing
over me in the wild gusts of wind which relented not
in all my stay at Bennett City.
I spent literally the last cent I had on a scanty breakfast, and then, in company with Doctor G. (a fellow
prospector), started on my return to the coast over the
far-famed Chilcoot Pass.
At 9 a.m. we took the little ferry for the head of
Lindeman Lake. The doctor paid my fare. The
boat, a wabbly craft, was crowded with returning Klon-
dikers, many of whom were full of importance and talk
of their wealth; while others, sick and worn, with a
wistful gleam in their eyes, seemed eager to get back to
civilization and medical care.   There were some women, ■p
The End of the Trail 233
also, who had made a fortune in dance-houses and
were now bound for New York and Paris, where
dresses could be had in the latest styles and in any
My travelling mate, the doctor, was a tall and vigorous man from Winnipeg, accustomed to a plainsman's
life, hardy and resolute. He said, " We ought to
make Dyea to-day." I said in reply, "Very well,
we can try."
It was ten o'clock when we left the little boat and
hit the trail, which was thirty miles long, and passed
over the summit three thousand six hundred feet above
the sea. The doctor's pace was tremendous, and we
soon left every one else behind.
I carried my big coat and camera, which hindered
me not a little. For the first part of the journey the
doctor preceded me, his broad shoulders keeping off the
powerful wind and driving mist, which grew thicker as
we rose among the ragged cliffs beside a roaring stream.
That walk was a grim experience. Until two
o'clock we climbed resolutely along a rough, rocky, and
wooded trail, with the heavy mist driving into our faces.
The road led up a rugged canon and over a fairly good
wagon road until somewhere about twelve o'clock.
Then the foot trail deflected to the left, and climbed
sharply over slippery ledges, along banks of ancient
snows in which carcasses of horses lay embedded, and
across many rushing little streams. The way grew
grimmer each step. At last we came to Crater Lake,
and from that point on it was a singular and sinister 234 The Trail of the Goldseekers
land of grassless crags swathed in mist. Nothing
could be seen at this point but a desolate, flat expanse
of barren sands over which gray-green streams wandered in confusion, coming from darkness and vanishing in obscurity. Strange shapes showed in the gray
dusk of the Crater. It was like a landscape in hell.
It seemed to be the end of the earth, where no life
had ever been or could long exist.
Across this flat to its farther wall we took our way,
facing the roaring wind now heavy with clouds of rain.
At last we stood in the mighty notch of the summit,
through which the wind rushed as though hurrying to
some far-off, deep-hidden vacuum in the world. The
peaks of the mountains were lost in clouds out of which
water fell in vicious slashes.
The mist set the imagination free. The pinnacles
around us were like those which top the Valley of Desolation. We seemed each moment about to plunge into
ladderless abysses. Nothing ever imagined by Poe or
Dore could be more singular, more sinister, than these
summits in such a light, in such a storm. It might
serve as the scene for an exiled devil. The picture of
Beelzebub perched on one of those gray, dimly seen
crags, his form outlined in the mist, would shake the
heart. I thought of " Peer Gynt" wandering in the
high home of the Trolls. Crags beetled beyond crags,
and nothing could be heard but the wild waters roaring
in the obscure depths beneath our feet. There was no
sky, no level place, no growing thing, no bird or beast,
— only crates of bones to show where some heartless The End of the Trail
master had pushed a faithful horse up these terrible
heights to his death.
And here —just here in a world of crags and mist —
I heard a shout of laughter, and then bursting upon my
sight, strong-limbed, erect, and full-bosomed, appeared a
girl. Her face was like a rain-wet rose — a splendid, unexpected flower set in this dim and gray and desolate
place. Fearlessly she fronted me to ask the way, a
laugh upon her lips, her big gray eyes confident of man's
chivalry, modest and sincere. I had been so long
among rude men and their coarse consorts that this fair
woman lit the mist as if with sudden sunshine—just a
moment and was gone. There were others with her,
but they passed unnoticed. There in the gloom, like a
stately pink rose, I set the Girl of the Mist.
Sheep Camp was the end of the worst portion of the
trail. I had now crossed both the famed passes, much
improved of course. They are no longer dangerous (a
woman in good health can cross them easily), but they
are grim and grievous ways. They reek of cruelty and
every association that is coarse and hard. They possess
a peculiar value to me in that they throw into fadeless
splendor the wealth, the calm, the golden sunlight which
lay upon the proud beauty of Atlin Lake.
The last hours of the trip formed a supreme test of
endurance. At Sheep Camp, a wet and desolate shanty
town, eight miles from Dyea, we came upon stages just
starting over our road. But as they were all open
carriages, and we were both wet with perspiration and
rain, and hungry and tired, we refused to book passage. 236 The Trail of the Goldseekers
"To ride eight miles in an open wagon would mean
a case of pneumonia to me," I said.
" Quite right," said the doctor, and we pulled out
down the road at a smart clip.
The rain had ceased, but the air was raw and the sky
gray, and I was very tired, and those eight miles stretched
out like a rubber string. Night fell before we had
passed over half the road, which lay for the most part
down the flat along the Chilcoot River. In fact, we
crossed this stream again and again. In places there
were bridges, but most of the crossings were fords where
it was necessary to wade through the icy water above
our shoe tops. Our legs, numb and weary, threw off
this chill with greater pain each time. As the night
fell we could only see the footpath by the dim shine of
its surface patted smooth by the moccasined feet of the
Indian packers. At last I walked with a sort of mechanical action which was dependent on my subconscious will. There was nothing else to do but to go
through. The doctor was a better walker than I. His
long legs had more reach as well as greater endurance.
Nevertheless he admitted being about as tired as ever in
his life.
At last, when it seemed as though I could not wade
any more of those icy streams and continue to walk, we
came in sight of the electric lights on the wharfs of
Dyea, sparkling like jewels against the gray night.
Their radiant promise helped over the last mile miraculously. We were wet to the knees and covered with
mud as we entered upon the straggling street of the de- ~
The End of the Trail 237
caying town. We stopped in at the first restaurant to
get something hot to eat, but found ourselves almost too
tired to enjoy even pea soup. But it warmed us up a
little, and keeping on down the street we came at last
to a hotel of very comfortable accommodations. We
ordered a fire built to dry our clothing, and staggered up
the stairs.
That ended the goldseekers' trail for me. Henceforward I intended to ride — nevertheless I was pleased to
think I could still walk thirty miles in eleven hours
through a rain storm, and over a summit three thousand
six hundred feet in height. The city had not entirely
eaten the heart out of my body.
We arose from a dreamless sleep, somewhat sore, but
in amazingly good trim considering our condition the
night before, and made our way into our muddy clothing with grim resolution. After breakfast we took a
small steamer which ran to Skagway, where we spent
the day arranging to take the steamer to the south. We
felt quite at home in Skagway now, and Chicago seemed
not very far away. Having made connection with my
bankers I stretched out in my twenty-five cent bunk
with the assurance of a gold king.
Here the long trail took a turn. I had been among
the miners and hunters for four months. I had been
one of them. I had lived the essentials of their lives,
and had been able to catch from them some hint of their
outlook on life. They were a disappointment to me in
some ways. They seemed like mechanisms. They
moved as if drawn by some great magnet whose centre 238 The Trail of the Goldseekers
was Dawson City. They appeared to drift on and in
toward that human maelstrom going irresolutely to their
ruin. They did not seem to me strong men — on the
contrary, they seemed weak men — or men strong with
one insane purpose. They set their faces toward the
golden north, and went on and on through every obstacle like men dreaming, like somnambulists — bending
their backs to the most crushing burdens, their faces
distorted with effort. "On to Dawson!" "To the
Klondike ! "    That was all they knew.
I overtook them in the Fraser River Valley, I found
them in Hazleton. They were setting sail at Bennett,
tugging oars on the Hotalinqua, and hundreds of them
were landing every day at Dawson, there to stand with
lax jaws waiting for something to turn up — lost among
thousands of their kind swarming in with the same insane purpose.
Skagway was to me a sad place. On either side
rose green mountains covered with crawling glaciers.
Between these stern walls, a cold and violent wind
roared ceaselessly from the sea gates through which the
ships drive hurriedly. All these grim presences depressed me. I longed for release from them. I waited
with impatience the coming of the steamer which was
to rescue me from the merciless beach.
At last it came, and its hoarse boom thrilled the heart
of many a homesick man like myself. We had not
much to put aboard, and when I climbed the gang-plank
it was with a feeling of fortunate escape* A   GIRL   ON   THE   TRAIL
A flutter of skirts in the dapple of leaves on the trees,
The sound of a small, happy voice on the breeze,
The print of a slim little foot on the trail,
And the miners rejoice as they hammer with picks in
the vale.
For fairer than gold is the face of a maid,
And sovereign as stars the light of her eyes;
For women alone were the long trenches laid;
For women alone they defy the stern skies.
These toilers are grimy, and hairy, and dun
With the wear of the wind, the scorch of the sun;
But their picks fall slack, their foul tongues are mute —
As the maiden goes by these earthworms salute!
The steamer was crowded with men who had also
made the turn at the end of the trail. There were
groups of prospectors (disappointed and sour) from
Copper River, where neither copper nor gold had been
found. There were miners sick and broken who had
failed on the Tanana, and others, emaciated and eager-
eyed, from Dawson City going out with a part of the
proceeds of the year's work to see their wives and children. There were a few who considered themselves
great capitalists, and were on their way to spend the
winter in luxury in the Eastern cities, and there were
grub stakers who had squandered their employers' money
in drink and gaming.
None of them interested me very greatly. I was
worn out with the filth and greed and foolishness of
many of these men. They were commonplace citizens,
turned into stampeders without experience or skill.
One of the most successful men on the boat had been
a truckman in the streets of Tacoma, and was now the
silly possessor of a one-third interest in some great
mines on the Klondike River. He told every one of
his great deeds, and what he was worth.    He let us
R 24I 242 The Trail of the Goldseekers
know how big his house was, and how much he paid
for his piano. He was not a bad man, he was merely
a cheap man, and was followed about by a gang of
heelers to whom drink was luxury and vice an entertainment. These parasites slapped the teamster on the
shoulder and listened to every empty phrase he uttered,
as though his gold had made of him something sacred
and omniscient.
I had no interest in him till being persuaded to play
the fiddle he sat in the " social room," and sawed away
on " Honest John," " The Devil's Dream," " Haste to
the Wedding," and " The Fisher's Hornpipe." He
lost all sense of being a millionnaire, and returned to his
simple, unsophisticated self. The others cheered him
because he had gold. I cheered him because he was a
good old "corduroy fiddler."
Again we passed between the lofty blue-black and
bronze-green walls of Lynn Canal. The sea was cold,
placid, and gray. The mist cut the mountains at the
shoulder. Vast glaciers came sweeping down from the
dread mystery of the upper heights. Lower still lines
of running water white as silver came leaping down
from cliff to cliff—slender, broken of line, nearly perpendicular— to fall at last into the gray hell of the sea.
It was a sullen land which menaced as with lowering
brows and clenched fists. A landscape without delicacy
of detail or warmth or variety of color — a land demand-
ing young, cheerful men. It was no place for the old
or for women.
As we neared Wrangell the next afternoon I tackled Homeward Bound 243
the purser about horse. He had no room,
so I left the boat in order to wait for another with
better accommodations for Ladrone.
Almost the first man I met on the wharf was Donald.
" How's the horse ?" I queried.
" Gude ! — fat and sassy. There's no a fence in a'
the town can hold him. He jumped into Colonel Crit-
tendon's garden patch, and there's a dollar to pay for
the cauliflower he ate, and he broke down a fence by
the church, ye've to fix that up — but he's in gude trim
" Tell 'm to send in their bills," I replied with vast
relief.    " Has he been much trouble to you ? "
"Verra leetle except to drive into the lot at night.
I had but to go down where he was feeding and soon as
he heard me comin' he made for the lot — he knew
quite as well as I did what was wanted of him. He's
a canny old boy."
As I walked out to find the horse I discovered his
paths everywhere. He had made himself entirely at
home. He owned the village and was able to walk any
sidewalk in town. Everybody knew his habits. He
drank in a certain place, and walked a certain round
of daily feeding. The children all cried out at me:
" Goin' to find the horsie ? He's over by the church."
A darky woman smiled from the door of a cabin and
said, " You ole hoss lookin' mighty fine dese days."
When I came to him I was delighted and amused.
He had taken on some fat and a great deal of dirt.
He had also acquired an aldermanic paunch which quite
. 244 The Trail of the Goldseekers
destroyed his natural symmetry of body, but he was well
and strong and lively. He seemed to recognize me,
and as I put the rope about his neck and fell to in the
effort to make him clean once more, he seemed glad of
my presence.
That day began my attempt to get away. I carted
out my feed and saddles, and when all was ready I sat
on the pier and watched the burnished water of the bay
for the dim speck which a steamer makes in rounding
the distant island. At last the cry arose, "A steamer
from the north!" I hurried for Ladrone, and as I
passed with the horse the citizens smiled incredulously
and asked, " Goin' to take the horse with you, eh ?"
The boys and girls came out to say good-by to the
horse on whose back they had ridden. Ladrone followed me most trustfully, looking straight ahead, his feet
clumping loudly on the boards of the walk. Hitching
him on the wharf I lugged and heaved and got everything in readiness.
In vain! The steamer had no place for my horse
and I was forced to walk him back and turn him loose
once more upon the grass. I renewed my watching.
The next steamer did not touch at the same wharf.
Therefore I carted all my goods, feed, hay, and general
plunder, around to the other wharf. As I toiled to and
fro the citizens began to smile very broadly. I worked
like a hired man in harvest. At last, horse, feed, and
baggage were once more ready. When the next boat
came in I timidly approached the purser.
No, he had no place   for  me   but would  take   my Homeward Bound 245
horse! Once more I led Ladrone back to pasture and
the citizens laughed most unconcealedly. They laid
bets on my next attempt. In McKinnon's store I was
greeted as a permanent citizen of Fort Wrangell. I
began to grow nervous on my own account. Was I
to remain forever in Wrangell? The bay was most
beautiful, but the town was wretched. It became each
day more unendurable to me. I searched the waters of
the bay thereafter, with gaze that grew really anxious.
I sat for hours late at night holding my horse and glaring
out into the night in the hope to see the lights of a
steamer appear round the high hills of the coast.
At last the Forallen, a great barnyard of a ship, came
in. I met the captain. I paid my fare. I got my contract and ticket, and leading Ladrone into the hoisting
box I stepped aside.
The old boy was quiet while I stood near, but when
the whistle sounded and the sling rose in air leaving me
below, his big eyes flashed with fear and dismay. He
struggled furiously for a moment and then was quiet.
A moment later he dropped into the hold and was safe.
He thought himself in a barn once more, and when I
came hurrying down the stairway he whinnied. He
seized the hay I put before him and thereafter was quite
at home.
The steamer had a score of mules and work horses on
board, but they occupied stalls on the upper deck, leaving
Ladrone aristocratically alone in his big, well-ventilated
barn, and there three times each day I went to feed and
water him.    I rubbed him with hay till his coat began 246 The Trail of the Goldseekers
to glimmer in the light and planned what I could do to
help him through a storm. Fortunately the ocean was
perfectly smooth even across the entrance to Queen
Charlotte's Sound, where the open sea enters and the big
swells are sometimes felt. Ladrone never knew he was
moving at all.
The mate of the boat took unusual interest in the
horse because of his deeds and my care of him.
Meanwhile I was hearing from time to time of my
fellow-sufferers on the Long Trail. It was reported in
Wrangell that some of the unfortunates were still on
the snowy divide between the Skeena and the Stikeen.
That terrible trail will not soon be forgotten by any one
who traversed it.
On the fifth day we entered Seattle and once more
the sling-box opened its doors for Ladrone. This time
he struggled not at all. He seemed to say: " I know
this thing. I tried it once and it didn't hurt me — I'm
not afraid."
Now this horse belongs to the wild country. He was
born on the bunch-grass hills of British Columbia and
he had never seen a street-car in his life. Engines he
knew something about, but not much. Steamboats and
ferries he knew a great deal about; but all the strange
monsters and diabolical noises of a city street were new
to him, and it was with some apprehension that I took
his rein to lead him down to the freight depot and
his car.
Again this wonderful horse amazed me. He pointed
his alert and quivering ears at  me and  followed with Homeward Bound 247
never so much as a single start or shying bound. He
seemed to reason that as I had led him through many
dangers safely I could still be trusted. Around us huge
trucks rattled, electric cars clanged, railway engines
whizzed and screamed, but Ladrone never so much as
tightened the rein; and when in the dark of the chute
(which led to the door of the car) he put his soft nose
against me to make sure I was still with him, my heart
grew so tender that I would not have left him behind
for a thousand dollars.
I put him in a roomy box-car and bedded him knee-
deep in clean yellow straw. I padded the hitching pole
with his blanket, moistened his hay, and put some bran
before him. Then I nailed him in and took my leave
of him with some nervous dread, for the worst part of
his journey was before him. He must cross three great
mountain ranges and ride eight days, over more than
two thousand miles of railway. I could not well go
with him, but I planned to overhaul him at Spokane
and see how he was coming on.
I did not sleep much that night. I recalled how the
great forest trees were blazing last year when I rode
over this same track. I thought of the sparks flying
from the engine, and how easy it would be for a single
cinder to fall in the door and set all that dry straw
ablaze. I was tired and my mind conjured up such dire
images as men dream of after indigestible dinners.  O   THE   FIERCE   DELIGHT
O the fierce delight, the passion
That comes from the wild,
Where the rains and the snows go over,
And man is a child.
Go, set your face to the open,
And lay your breast to the blast,
When the pines are rocking and groaning,
And the rent clouds tumble past.
Go swim the streams of the mountains,
Where the gray-white waters are mad,
Go set your foot on the summit,
And shout and be glad !
With a little leisure to walk about and talk with the
citizens of Seattle, I became aware of a great change
since the year before. The boom of the goldseeker
was over. The talk was more upon the Spanish war;
the business of outfitting was no longer paramount; the
reckless hurrah, the splendid exultation, were gone.
Men were sailing to the north, but they embarked,
methodically, in business fashion.
It is safe to say that the north will never again witness such a furious rush of men as that which took place
between August, '97, and June, '98. Gold is still there,
and it will continue to be sought, but the attention of
the people is directed elsewhere. In Seattle, as all along
the line, the talk a year ago had been almost entirely
on gold hunting. Every storekeeper advertised Klondike
goods, but these signs were now rusty and faded. The
fever was over, the reign of the humdrum was restored.
Taking the train next day, I passed Ladrone in the
night somewhere, and as I looked from my window at
the great fires blazing in the forest, my fear of his burning came upon me again. At Spokane I waited with
great anxiety for him to arrive. At last the train drew
251 252 The Trail of the Goldseekers
in and I hurried to his car. The door was closed, and
as I nervously forced it open he whinnied with that glad
chuckling a gentle horse uses toward his master. He
had plenty of hay, but was hot and thirsty, and I hurried
at risk of life and limb to bring him cool water. His
eyes seemed to shine with delight as he saw me coming
with the big bucket of cool drink. Leaving him a tub
of water, I bade him good-by once more and started him
for Helena, five hundred miles ^away.
At Missoula, the following evening, I rushed into the
ticket office and shouted, " Where is '54' ?"
The clerk knew me and smilingly extended his hand.
" How de do ? She has just pulled out. The horse
is all O K.    We gave him fresh water and feed."
I thanked him and returned to my train.
Reaching Livingston in the early morning I was forced
to wait nearly all day for the train. This was no hardship, however, for it enabled me to return once more to
the plain. All the old familiar presences were there.
The splendid sweep of brown, smooth hills, the glory of
clear sky, the crisp exhilarating air, appealed to me with
great power after my long stay in the cold, green mountains of the north.
I walked out a few miles from the town over the grass
brittle and hot, from which the clapping grasshoppers
rose in swarms, and dropping down on the point of a
mesa I relived again in drowse the joys of other days.
It was plain to me that goldseeking in the Rocky Mountains was marvellously simple and easy compared to
even the best sections of the Northwest, and the long Ladrone Travels in State
journey of the Forty-niners was not only incredibly
more splendid and dramatic, but had the allurement of
a land of eternal summer beyond the final great range.
The long trail I had just passed was not only.grim and
monotonous, but led toward an ever increasing ferocity
of cold and darkness to the arctic circle and the silence
of death.
When the train came crawling down the pink and
purple slopes of the hills at sunset that night, I was
ready for my horse. Bridle in hand I raced after the
big car while it was being drawn up into the freight
yards. As I galloped I held excited controversy with
the head brakeman. I asked that the car be sent to the
platform. He objected. I insisted and the car was
thrown in. I entered, and while Ladrone whinnied glad
welcome I knocked out some bars, bridled him, and said,
" Come, boy, now for a gambol." He followed me
without the slightest hesitation out on the platform and
down the steep slope to the ground. There I mounted
him without waiting for saddle and away we flew.
He was gay as a bird. His neck arched and his eyes
and ears were quick as squirrels. We galloped down to
the Yellowstone River and once more he thrust his
dusty nozzle deep into the clear mountain water. Then
away he raced until our fifteen minutes were up. I was
glad to quit. He was too active for me to enjoy riding
without a saddle. Right up to the door of the car he
trotted, seeming to understand that his journey was not
yet finished. He entered unhesitatingly and took his
place.    I battened down the bars, nailed the doors into
m 254
The Trail of the Goldseekers
place, filled his tub with cold water, mixed him a bran
mash, and once more he rolled away. I sent him on
this time, however, with perfect confidence. He was
actually getting fat on his prison fare, and was too wise
to allow himself to be bruised by the jolting of the cars.
The bystanders seeing a horse travelling in such
splendid loneliness asked, " Runnin' horse ? " and I (to
cover my folly) replied evasively, " He can run a little
for good money." This satisfied every one that he was
a sprinter and quite explained his private car.
At Bismarck I found myself once more ahead of
" 54 " and waited all day for the horse to appear. As
the time of the train drew near I borrowed a huge
water pail and tugged a supply of water out beside the
track and there sat for three hours, expecting the train
each moment. At last it came, but Ladrone was not
there. His car was missing. I rushed into the
office of the operator: " Where's the horse in '13,238' ? "
I asked.
" I don't know," answered the agent, in the tone of
one who didn't care.
Visions of Ladrone side-tracked somewhere and perishing for want of air and water filled my mind. I
waxed warm.
" That horse must be found at once," I said. The
clerks and operators wearily looked out of the window.
The idea of any one being so concerned about a horse
was to them insanity or worse. I insisted. I banged
my fist on the table. At last one of the young men
yawned languidly, looked at me with dim eyes, and as Ladrone Travels in State 255
one brain-cell coalesced with another seemed to mature
an idea.    He said : —
"Rheinhart had a horse this morning on his extra."
"Did he — maybe that's the one." They discussed
this probability with lazy indifference. At last they
condescended to include me in their conversation.
I insisted on their telegraphing till they found that
horse, and with an air of distress and saint-like patience
the agent wrote out a telegram and sent it. Thereafter
he could not see me; nevertheless I persisted. I returned
to the office each quarter of an hour to ask if an answer
had come to the telegram. At last it came. Ladrone
was ahead and would arrive in St. Paul nearly twelve hours
before me. I then telegraphed the officers of the road
to see that he did not suffer and composed myself as
well as I could for the long wait.
At St. Paul I hurried to the freight office and found
the horse had been put in a stable. ! I sought the stable,
and there, among the big dray horses, looking small and
trim as a racer, was the lost horse, eating merrily on
some good Minnesota timothy. He was just as much
at ease there as in the car or the boat or on the marshes
of the Skeena valley, but he was still a half-day's ride
from his final home.
I bustled about filling up another car. Again for the
last time I sweated and tugged getting feed, water, and
bedding. Again the railway hands marvelled and looked
askance. Again some one said, " Does it pay to bring
a horse like that so far ?"
" Pay ! " I shouted, thoroughly disgusted, " does it 256 The Trail of the Goldseekers
pay to feed a dog for ten years ? Does it pay to ride a
bicycle ? Does it pay to bring up a child ? Pay — no;
it does not pay. I'm amusing myself. You drink beer
because you like to, you use tobacco — I squander my
money on a horse." I said a good deal more than the
case demanded, being hot and dusty and tired and — I
had broken loose. The clerk escaped through a side
Once more I closed the bars on the gray and saw him
wheeled out into the grinding, jolting tangle of cars
where the engines cried out like some untamable flesh-
eating monsters. The light was falling, the smoke thickening, and it was easy to imagine a tragic fate for the
patient and lonely horse.
Delay in getting the car made me lose my train and I
was obliged to take a late train which did not stop at
my home. I was still paying for my horse out of my
own bone and sinew. At last the luscious green hills,
the thick grasses, the tall corn-shocks and the portly
hay-stacks of my native valley came in view and they
never looked so abundant, so generous, so entirely sufficing to man and beast as now in returning from a land
of cold green forests, sparse grass, and icy streams.
At ten o'clock another huge freight train rolled in,
Ladrone's car was side-tracked and sent to the chute.
For the last time he felt the jolt of the car. In a few
minutes I had his car opened and a plank laid.
" Come, boy ! " I called.    " This is home."
He followed me as before, so readily, so trustingly, my
heart responded to his affection.    I swung to the saddle. Ladrone Travels in State
With neck arched high and with a proud and lofty stride
he left the door of his prison behind him. His fame had
spread through the village. On every corner stood the
citizens to see him pass.
As 1 opened the door to the barn I said to him: —
" Enter!    Your days of thirst, of hunger, of cruel
exposure to rain and snow are over.     Here is food that
shall not fail," and he seemed to understand.
It might seem absurd if I were to give expression to
the relief and deep pleasure it gave me to put that horse
into that familiar stall. He had been with me more
than four thousand miles. He had carried me through
hundreds of icy streams and over snow fields. He had
responded to every word and obeyed every command.
He had suffered from cold and hunger and poison. He
had walked logs and wallowed through quicksands. He
had helped me up enormous mountains and I had guided
him down dangerous declivities. His faithful heart had
never failed even in days of direst need, and now he
shall live amid plenty and have no care so long as he
lives. It does not pay, — that is sure, — but after all
what does pay ? THE lure of the desert
I lie in my blanket, alone, alone!
Hearing the voice of the»roaring rain,
And my heart is moved by the wind's low moan
To wander the wastes of the wind-worn plain,
Searching for something — I cannot tell —
The face of a woman, the love of a child —
Or only the rain-wet prairie swell
Or the savage woodland wide and wild.
I must go away — I know not where!
Lured by voices that cry and cry,
Drawn by fingers that clutch my hair,
Called to the mountains bleak and high,
Led to the mesas hot and bare.
0 God!    How my heart's blood wakes and thrills
To the cry of the wind, the lure of the hills.
I'll follow you, follow you far;
Ye voices of winds, and rain and sky,
To the peaks that shatter the evening star.
Wealth, honor, wife, child — all
1 have in the city's keep,
I loose and forget when ye call and call
And the desert winds around me sweep.
The goldseekers are still seeking. I withdrew, but
they went on. In the warmth and security of my study,
surrounded by the peace and comfort of my native
Coolly, I thought of them as they went toiling over
the trail, still toward the north. It was easy for me to
imagine their daily life. The Manchester boys and Burton, my partner, left Glenora with ten horses and more
than two thousand pounds of supplies.
Twice each day this immense load had to be handled;
sometimes in order to rest and graze the ponies, every
sack and box had to be taken down and lifted up to
their lashings again four times each day. This meant
toil. It meant also constant worry and care while the
train was in motion. Three times each day a campfire
was built and coffee and beans prepared.
However, the weather continued fair, my partner
wrote me, and they arrived at Teslin Lake in September,
after being a month on the road, and there set about
building a boat to carry them down the river.
Here the horses were sold, and I know it must have
been a sad moment for Burton to say good-by to his
faithful brutes. But there was no help for it. There
259 260 The Trail of the Goldseekers
was no more thought of going to the head-waters of the
Pelly and no more use for the horses. Indeed, the gold-
hunters abandoned all thought of the Nisutlin and the
Hotalinqua. They were fairly in the grasp of the tremendous current which seemed to get ever swifter as it
approached the mouth of the Klondike River. They
were mad to reach the pool wherein all the rest of the
world was fishing.    Nothing less would satisfy them.
At last they cast loose from the shore and started
down the river, straight into the north. Each hour,
each mile, became a menace. Day by day they drifted
while the spitting snows fell hissing into the cold water,
and ice formed around the keel of the boat at night.
They passed men camped and panning dirt, but continued resolute, halting only " to pass the good word."
It grew cold with appalling rapidity and the sun fell
away to the south with desolating speed. The skies
darkened and lowered as the days shortened. All signs
of life except those of other argonauts disappeared. The
river filled with drifting ice, and each night landing became more difficult.
At last the winter came. The river closed up like
an iron trap, and before they knew it they were caught in
the jam of ice and fighting for their lives. They landed
on a wooded island after a desperate struggle and went
into camp with the thermometer thirty below zero. But
what of that ? They were now in the gold belt. After
six months of incessant toil, of hope deferred, they were
at last on the spot toward which they had struggled.
All around them was the overflow from the Klondike. The Goldseekers Reach the Golden River   261
Their desire to go farther was checked. They had
reached the counter current — the back-water — and
were satisfied.
Leaving to others the task of building a permanent
camp, my sturdy partner, a couple of days later, started
prospecting in company with two others whom he had
selected to represent the other outfit. The thermometer was fifty-six degrees below zero, and yet for seven
days, with less than six hours' sleep, without a tent, those
devoted idiots hunted the sands of a near-by creek for
gold, and really staked claims.
On the way back one of the men grew sleepy and
would have lain down to die except for the vigorous
treatment of Burton, who mauled him and dragged him
about and rubbed him with snow until his blood began
to circulate once more. In attempting to walk on the
river, which was again in motion, Burton fell through,
wetting one leg above the knee. It was still more than
thirty degrees below zero, but what of that ? He merely
kept going.
They reached the bank opposite the camp late on the
seventh day, but were unable to cross the moving ice.
For the eighth night they " danced around the fire as
usual," not daring to sleep for fear of freezing. They
literally frosted on one side while scorching at the fire
on the other, turning like so many roasting pigs before
the blaze. The river solidified during the night and
they crossed to the camp to eat and sleep in safety.
A couple of weeks later they determined to move
down the river to a new stampede in Thistle  Creek. 262 The Trail of the Goldseekers
Once more these indomitable souls left their warm
cabin, took up their beds and nearly two thousand pounds
of outfit and toiled down the river still farther into the
terrible north. The chronicle of this trip by Burton is
of mathematical brevity: " On 20th concluded to move.
Took four days. Very cold. Ther. down to 45 below.
Froze one toe. Got claim — now building cabin. Expect to begin singeing in a few days."
The toil, the suffering, the monotonous food, the lack
of fire, he did not dwell upon, but singeing, that is to say
burning down through the eternally frozen ground, was
to begin at once. To singe a hole into the soil ten or
fifteen feet deep in the midst of the sunless severity of
the arctic circle is no light task, but these men will do it;
if hardihood and honest toil are of any avail they will all
share in the precious sand whose shine has lured them
through all the dark days of the long trail, calling with
such power that nothing could stay them or turn them
If they fail, well —
This out of all will remain,
They have lived and have tossed.
So much of the game will be gain,
Though the gold of the dice has been lost. HERE the trail ends
Here the trail ends — Here by a river
So swifter, and darker, and colder
Than any we crossed on our long, long way.
Steady, Dan, steady.     Ho, there, my dapple,
You first from the saddle shall slip and be free.
Now go, you are clear from command of a master;
Go wade in the grasses, go munch at the grain.
I love you, my faithful, but all is now over;
Ended the comradeship held 'twixt us twain.
I go to the river and the wide lands beyond it,
You go to the pasture, and death claims us all.
For here the trail ends!
Here the trail ends!
Draw near with the broncos.
Slip the hitch, loose the cinches,
Slide the saw-bucks away from each worn, weary back.
We are done with the axe, the camp, and the kettle;
Strike hand to each cayuse and send him away.
Let them go where the roses and grasses are growing,
To the meadows that slope to the warm western sea.
No more shall they serve us; no more shall they suffer
The sting of the lash, the heat of the day.
Soon they will go to a winterless haven,
To the haven of beasts where none may enslave.
For here the trail ends.
263 Here the trail ends.
Never again shall the far-shining mountains allure us,
No more shall the icy mad torrents appall.
Fold up the sling ropes, coil down the cinches,
Cache the saddles, and put the brown bridles away.
Not one of the roses of Navajo silver,
Not even a spur shall we save from the rust.
Put away the worn tent-cloth, let the red people have it;
We are done with all shelter, we are done with the gun.
Not so much as a pine branch, not even a willow
Shall swing in the air 'twixt us and our God.
Naked and lone we cross the wide ferry,
Bare to the cold, the dark and the rain.
For here the trail ends.
Here the trail ends.    Here by the landing
I wait the last boat, the slow silent one.
We each go alone — no man with another,
Each into the gloom of the swift black flood —
Boys, it is hard, but here we must scatter;
The gray boatman waits, and I — I go first.
All is dark over there where the dim boat is rocking —
But that is no matter!    No man need to fear;
For clearly we're told the powers that lead us
Shall govern the game to the end of the day.
Good-by — here the trail ends!
16mo.   Cloth.   Each, $1.25.
Pierre and his People.
When Valmond Came to Pontiac.
An Adventurer of the North.
A Romany of the Snows.
A Lover's Diary.
" He has the instinct of the thing: his narrative has distinction, his characters and incidents have the picturesque
quality, and he has the sense for the scale of character-
drawing demanded by romance, hitting the happy mean
between lay figures and over-analyzed ' souls.'"
— St. fames Gazette.
"Stories happily conceived and finely executed. There
is strength and genius in Mr. Parker's style."
— Daily Telegraph, London.
Cloth.   i2mo.   $1.50
" I cherish with a grateful sense of the high pleasure they have
given me Mr. Garland's splendid achievements in objective
"Its realism is hearty, vivid, flesh and blood realism, which
makes the book readable even to those who disapprove most
conscientiously of many things in it."
u It is, beyond all manner of doubt, one of the most powerful
novels of recent years.    It has created a sensation."
u After the fashion of all rare vintages Mr. Garland seems to
improve with age. No more evidence of this is needed than
a perusal of his i Rose of Dutcher's Coolly.' One might sum
up the many excellences of the entire story by saying that it
is not unworthy of any American writer."
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