A DETENTION of a month at Fort Wrangel, Alaska, awaiting the means of
transportation back to Portland, Oregon, gave me the opportunity of making a trip up the
Stickeen River, which empties into the Pacific a few miles north of the fort, and of seeing
its glaciers, the principal one of which, the "Great Glacier," being, it is said, one of the
largest in the world.
Embarking with a pleasant party from the post, one beautiful July
morning, on one of the boats carrying passengers and supplies to the head-waters of the river;
with a supply of water-proofs and gum-boots for the glacier, with sketching materials,
fishing-tackle, shot-guns and rifles, besides cards, organ and violin, - we were, in a few
minutes, steaming away toward our destination. The passengers, besides our party, were a Mrs.
Lovell, who was on the way to join her husband at Glenora, a town at the head of the river, and
Mr. Colbraith, the principal merchant at the Cassiar mines.
Rounding a point half a mile from
the wharf, the mouth of the Stickeen came in view; at ten A. M. we were fairly in it, and then
the character of the scenery began to change from that of
the coast. We had left behind us mountains, high and wooded, but here they became higher and
more rugged and were occasionally capped with snow. New beauties presented themselves every
moment until the sun set and it became too dark to see anything. We were to stop that night at
a landing called "Bucks," just opposite to the "Great Glacier," and, as the captain had
promised in the morning to give us an opportunity of going over on the ice, we waited
patiently, until we were securely tied up, when we "turned in," but not to sleep; for,
although the night was chilly, from our nearness to the "Ice Mountain," the mosquitoes
were terrible and the first streak of daylight saw us on deck.
Opposite to us was the monster
glacier, white and cold in the uncertain morning light, but which, as the sun broke upon it,
sparkled and glistened like miles of heaped-up jewels. From where we lay we could look
out over the surface of the ice as it came out of the mountains, dipping with a gentle slope
river of from six to seven hundred feet high and about seven miles wide. From where the
pressure was removed, at the mouth of the gorge, great cracks and chasms showed themselves
until, as the edge of the face was approached, the whole ice plain was toward the river;
immediately in front of us was the mountain-gorge, about two miles wide, through which it
issued before spreading out into its fan-like shape which terminated in a perpendicular
face next to the seen to be a net-work of cracks which appeared to run, with broken joints,
to the very bottom of the glacier. As we looked into these fissures in the clear ice, from
about one mile and a half distant, the prismatic colors were superb. The surface of the
ice has the appearance of being covered with snow, but the face of the precipice is all clear
The belt of timber, between the river-bank and the glacier,
prevented us from seeing
down to its base; but with the captain's promise in view, we made a hasty breakfast and
immediately afterward the boat was loosened from its moorings and, running across, made a
landing on the other bank. We were quickly ashore and started through the dense timber and
undergrowth belt, which occupies the space between the "moraine" at the foot of the glacier
and the river. This belt seemed to us, from the deck, to be very narrow, but being in reality
almost a quarter of a mile wide and the undergrowth being very dense, with swampy ground here
and there, the traveling through it was extremely difficult. It was climbing over and creeping
under obstacles the whole way, and while both hands were occupied in putting aside branches
or in climbing over fallen timbers, the mosquitoes were feasting on the tenderest parts of
our faces or endeavoring to explore the hidden recesses of our ears.
At last, however, with
numerous falls and with scratched bands and faces, we reached the great mass of moraine or
ground-up rocks, which has been forced down in front of the "ice-plow" of the glacier. This
is piled up in an immense, irregular, tumulose mass one hundred feet high and about
one-fourth of a mile wide, parallel to the whole length of the face of the glacier, and
perfectly destitute of vegetable life. Up this we clambered and at last reached the top.
Who can describe the sight which presented itself to our eyes?
It was at once grand and terrible;
for miles on either side of our stand-point stretched this perpendicular
ice-cliff, towering above our heads, fissured and seamed with great cracks and chasms, in
which such tints were seen as were never laid on painter's palette; here a block, as large
as a church, split out from the face and just ready to fall, and then a rock, weighing tons,
which had been brought down by the tedious but terribly irresistible movement of the glacier
from the mountain-tops sixty miles away, caught in a crack and held there, as one would
hold a nut between thumb and finger. We were about one-quarter of a mile distant from the
face of the cliff; from the foot of the moraine next to the glacier an ice slope ascends, at
an angle of from ten to fifteen degrees, which has been formed by the constant breaking off
of immense blocks from the face. These fall in numberless pieces, melting and flowing down
in the day-time, the water freezing again at night and gradually building up the slope
solidly. The edge next to the moraine is quite thin, and the movement of the glacier pushing
this plow ahead against it breaks up the edges in many places, forcing the pieces into
miniature bridges which span, with their pointed arch, the tiny stream flowing between the
ice-plow and the moraine and emptying into the river miles above.
After gazing at this
wonder for a while from the top of the moraine, we went down its inside slope, and jumping
the stream, found ourselves on the ice slope and on the back of our head simultaneously.
From where we had first seen it the ascent looked perfectly easy, but when we all got upon
it it was discovered that an epidemic of sitting down hard at intervals, and without
due warning, had broken out in our party, and it was only by taking advantages of
the pebbles imbedded here and there in the ice, that we could make any progress. Then,
too, there were in the ice many water-washed holes of from two to four feet in diameter,
which went down like wells to the ground beneath; and the idea of going far up the slope,
slipping and coming down, with the speed of a billiard ball to be fairly "pocketed" in
one of these holes, deterred us from making any experiments.
Even here on the ice the
mosquitoes were, most annoying and kept us moving our arms about like the fans of a wind-mill,
but the sight was so grand that we felt as if we could not tear ourselves away. There was
something in this mass of ice that fascinated one by its immensity. Members of the party a
few hundred yards away looked like insects, and nothing was great but the ice, and that was
clear, beautiful, majestic and awful. No one seemed inclined to talk, and the stillness was
only broken by murmurs of admiration and wonder.
I cannot learn that the surface of this
glacier has ever been explored. There is a story current, however, that two Russian officers
from the garrison at Sitka, years ago made the attempt and were never beard from again, having
probably become bewildered and lost in the labyrinth of chasms that can be so distinctly
seen from the other bank of the river. The Indians say that at one time the glacier crossed
the Stickeen, and that an old Indian and his wife paddled their canoe under it, through
the ice caverns and gleaming passages that were worn by the current.
While many pleasing
thoughts stole upon us as we looked up at the great ice-cliff, a prolonged whistle from the
boat recalling us did not sound unwelcome, and we girt our loins for another struggle with
the chaparral. Getting to the top of the moraine, we turned to have a last look, and then
plunged down the slope into the bush, and after a long struggle reached the landing with
disordered dresses, hats awry, hands full of the thorns of the "Devil's Club," thoroughly
tired, and thirsty enough to drink dry all the water-butts on the boat.
We soon scrambled
over the gang-plank, and the lines, having been let go, were on our way again. The scenery
continued grand, peak after peak shooting up, not in ranges, but singly, each timbered to the
snow line, and then reaching up bare and gray to the very heavens. Here and there a small
glacier, starting from near the peak, reached one of the rocky gulches, and as its foot
approached the warmer air below it melted into a stream, looking tiny in the miles of
distance, and dashed down to join the water of the main stream, - a full-grown river, as
cold as the ice itself and as clear as crystal, its purity showing half-way across our
river before mingling with its muddiness.
We staggered along bravely, making but little
headway against this boiling, whirling torrent of a river until, having been
under way for a few hours, it was discovered that the tubes in the boiler were leaking.
Being almost abreast of the site of the old Hudson Bay fort, we ran in and tied up. As soon
as the boat was quiet, off came great clouds of mosquitoes from the woods and thick bushes,
and we were driven to the invention of all sorts of contrivances to keep from being
literally eaten alive. I thought that I bad been in mosquito countries before; but, bless
you, I was a babe in mosquito experience. They were business fellows too; did not sing and
enjoy themselves as others of their class do, but possibly, knowing that the boat would not
tarry long, wasted none of their valuable time but attended strictly to blood-letting.
where we lay the bushes ran back in great luxuriance, and with a perfect evenness of height
for about a half-mile, the sameness being broken by great lone pines, spruce and hemlock,
with here and there a gaunt dead tree. Beyond this the larger timber grew thicker, and the
bushes were lost; the pine-covered country became more broken until it suddenly reared itself
boldly toward the sky. The trees became more and more scattered, until but a few detached
ones were to be seen, and then up, up to a dizzy height, the bare gray rocks towered to the
clouds. Away up on the first mélange of mountains a small glacier was visible, from under
the foot of which a tiny cascade threw itself over the precipice, but it was miles away, and
when it reached us, just astern of the boat, it was a roaring, tumbling brook.
o'clock in the afternoon, the tubes having been repaired, the fires were started , the
hand of the steam-gauge soon showed the requisite amount of steam, and casting off the lines
we were under way, and in a few minutes rid of the mosquitoes. Then, in anticipation of the
night and sleep to come, we went to our state-room, closed all of the avenues of retreat, and
with a towel, slightly wet at one end to give it weight, passed half an hour in an
indiscriminate slaughter of all of the little pests that bad not been driven out by the
draught of air through the boat. Leaving all closed we slipped out, with the satisfaction
of knowing that we had purchased for ourselves undisturbed rest, as far as these little
nuisances were concerned, and climbed up to the pilot-house, where all of the party had
collected to enjoy the scenery.
Every moment brought fresh beauties, fresh surprises;
mountain towered above mountain, - there was no sameness, every turn brought
a picture characteristic in itself; the foreground the river, every inch of it covered with
circular swirls as the water boiled up from the bottom in its rapid descent toward the ocean;
now and then a great tree, shorn of its limbs and anchored to the bottom by its rock-laden roots
and bowing and plunging in the torrent in its vain efforts to free itself; then the ragged
banks, with their over-hanging grasses, enormous ferns and the immense leaves of the
"Devil's Club." The eye rested upon moss-covered boulders half concealed in the soil, and
followed the straggling, far-reaching roots that dipped and withdrew their long arms as they
struck the current ; the many-colored greens of the willows, alders, cotton-woods, British
Columbia pines, spruce, hemlock and balsam, melted into the haze of distance, where the
brownish-green pines began to show on the mountain-sides; then up and up traveled the
delighted vision until the line of timber ceased, and the variously tinted mosses gave their
tone to the scene; beyond this were gray and red masses of pitiless rocks in countless shapes;
over the shoulders of these, in the deep blue of the great distance, other and higher peaks
miles upon miles away. It was a perfect pandemonium of mountains; patches of snow lay on the
sides and in the great fissures of the highest. Scores of "baby glaciers" were in sight,
and on every hand thread-like streams of water poured down from the melting snow, leaping at
times over thousands of feet of precipice, their volume dispersed in cloud-like vapor long
before the bottom was reached; we all gazed in silence, exclamations of wonder and admiration
breaking from our lips at intervals as our advance opened to us a view which seemed grander
than anything that we had seen before.
Finally the captain, pointing in the direction, shouted "There's the
Mud Glacier!" All eyes were turned in the direction indicated, and soon, away off to
our left, over the trees, we caught sight of the face of a large glacier with a perpendicular
bluff of ice, and immense heaps of lateral, and terminal moraine. The trees soon hid it from
view as we ran in under the bank to take advantage of an eddy, but running out again, further
up, we brought it into full view about three miles away.
This glacier is next in extent to the one visited by us in the morning, and
as the river makes an enormous bend here, called the "Devil's Elbow," we were in sight of it
for five hours, seeing it from all points; the flow of ice is from the mountains of the right
bank, and when one can first see it it sweeps out from a ravine which runs apparently parallel
to the river, and then, turning at right angles, wends its difficult way through a
cañon, directly toward us, always slightly descending as it advances until it reaches the
mouth of the cañon, when it spreads out into the fan shape before alluded to, terminating
abruptly in a precipice of ice some three hundred feet high; from this ice-face, back to where
the glacier comes out of the cañon, the distance cannot be less than from seven to eight
miles, and how much further it extends no one could tell us; its width, where it leaves the
cafion, must be about one mile, while at its face it is about three. Its moraine is pushed
out on each side and in front, and in one place on the side, it has surrounded a belt of
timber, which, I am sure, must soon give way to the force of the moving ice. This is called the
"Mud Glacier," from the fact of its surface being covered with sand and dirt blown upon it from
the encroaching mountains by the fierce winter winds that here prevail; and in contradistinction
to the Great Glacier, the surface of which is very pure.
Our stock of wood being almost exhausted, we
ran into one of the company's wood-yards to replenish. While the wood was being thrown aboard,
the steward of the boat took a bucket and went up to the mouth of the stream that flows from
beneath the glacier, and before we had completed the wooding returned with some of the most
delicious water that I ever tasted, as cold as the ice itself. We had postponed dinner until
we should arrive at this place; our morning on the upper deck,where we had drunk in great
draughts of fresh air, had given us all ravenous appetites, and we all blessed "old Uncle,"
the cook, as dish after dish of appetizing food made its appearance. The dinner
was excellent as were all of our meals while on the boat.
It was a long pull around the bend:
an extraordinary circular sweep, with the face of the Mud Glacier for a center; once I lost
sight of the ice, as we worked along, for some time, close in under the trees, and when
it again made its appearance the boat had so changed her course, by reason of the course in
the river, that I thought I had discovered a new field of ice, and so hailed it, much to
the amusement of the captain. Thus we steamed on, always through the same sublime scenery,
until we arrived, at ten o'clock, at the bend just below the "Big Cañon." It was still
light, but some difficult passages lay just ahead of us; and as full daylight, and plenty
of it, is necessary in order to make the run, we went to the bank and in a few minutes were
securely tied up under the lee of a point which juts out into the river just above us.
Below, and midway in the river, there is a long, low sand island,
and on the point of it, next to
us, was encamped a party of Indians, with an enormous thirty-paddle canoe of solid cedar; it
was a beautiful model, as are all of the canoes of these Indians. This, being an
extraordinarily large one, had attracted my attention as it left Fort Wrangel, two days before
we did, with a small American flag flying from a short staff, stuck in a hole made for it in
the solid wood of the high stem. The Indians were cooking their supper on the sand, their
canoe being pulled well up out of the water; they had evidently arrived but a short time
before us. Night soon shut down, and after supper and a diversion
of cards and music, we were
quite ready to turn in; the fresh air and the excitement of sight-seeing had worn us all
out, and we needed no opiate to send us off post-haste into the Land of Nod.
I was sleeping
like a baby when the morning stir and the swash of the water against the cabin bulkheads,
in deck-washing, awoke me, and I dressed and went on deck, where I learned that, on getting
steam, it was discovered that the tubes were again leaking, and that it had been
necessary to let the fires go out, so that the engineer might get at the tubes again; for
every pound of steam is most valuable in stemming this powerful current, and the worst of
our trip was to come. A movement among our Indian friends on the sand island now attracted
our attention; they had their huge canoe in the water, their camp equipage all on board, and
all but three of their party were seated. Of these three, two were at the bow and one at the
stern, holding her in; the current from the point of land just above us ran directly across
to the head of the island, and then swept along the side on which they were with great
velocity, - so great that the water was banked up at least six inches in the swiftest of it,
while between this elevation and the shore to which they were holding, there was a sufficient
eddy to make her berth a comparatively easy one.
We could hear nothing, of course, of their
conversation; but, with our glasses upon them, we saw the steersman throw up his hand as a
signal; the three men leap into the canoe; with one accord, the crew sprang to their paddles.
The struggle was to cross the swift current outside of the eddy. They took it quartering,
with the paddles bending and springing to their limit, and the two steering paddles at the
stem trying to hold them up to it. If any boat in the world could cross such a "mill-tail"
that canoe, with her beautiful lines, ought to have done it; but her prow had hardly dipped
into it before she was whirling down stream like a teetotum, and all control of her was lost
until she bad gone the whole length of the island, where the current seemed to have lost
some of its power, or where it had been distributed over the width of the stream. They then
took once more to their paddles, and, crossing the river diagonally, got under the lee of the
same promontory that had sheltered us during the night. They passed us with a greeting of
"Cla-how-ya ?" (How are you ?) and went around the point and out of sight.
the engineer reported that the tubes were again in good order, and that sufficient steam-power
to send us ahead was to be had for the asking. The lines were cast off, the bell-signal
made to the engineer to "open her out wide," and once more we were under way, enjoying
every moment in the grandeur of the scenery; it was eternal change in eternal sameness; there
were always mountains, always snow, always glaciers; but they were different mountains,
different snow, different glaciers, and the constantly changing atmospheric effects, the
great, sweeping shadows of clouds across the faces of the mountains, the variously tinted
spray of the leaping cascades, all combined to make monotony impossible. And then, too, there
was just sufficient sense of danger in the navigation of this tearing, boiling river to give
a spice to the feast.
brought us up to the "Great Cañon," where the whole of
this great river flows through a cleft in the mountains but fifty yards wide.
One can readily imagine the force with which the mass of water tears through
this cut; it is, as is said of "The Dalles" of the Columbia, a river set on edge. To go
through it looks impossible; and, although but about two hundred yards in length, it seemed
almost madness to subject the steamer to the strain incident to an attempt at a passage.
The run through, however, is perfectly straight, and we could see the landscape beyond,
beautifully framed by the sky, the water, and these eternal rocks. The signal was given for
a full head of steam and at it we went! An involuntary shudder ran through us as the gray,
rocky faces shut us in; they seemed, as we got fairly under them, to incline from the
perpendicular toward us, ready to fall and crush us to the bottom as a punishment for our
temerity. The wheel threw the spray as high as the smoke-stack in its maddening whirl; every
timber and brace groaned and creaked as the fearful rush of the waters struck the boat, but
she lessened the distance inch by inch, until, in fifteen minutes from the time of entrance
we were fairly through and looking back on another picture through the same frame of sky,
rocks and water.
We soon came down to the jog-trot which we had maintained for the greater
part of the distance from the mouth. From this point the mountains decrease in size very
perceptibly; they would still be called grand, however, were they not in such contrast to
those that we have left behind. At six P.M. we passed
through "Cloutch-man's (Woman's) Cañon."
It is smaller than the others and is so called because the navigation through it is
so much less difficult that a woman can steer a canoe through it without trouble. We made
but one bite at this cherry of a cañon and emerged at the other end to find a cherry that
required a good deal of biting. The current was terribly swift and the boat hung and shivered
like a living being, for a time scarcely seeming to move as we watched the trees upon the
shore for parallax; but as we held our breath we saw that she did gradually climb the watery
slope until at last we ran into a place that gave her a little rest, when she plucked up her
courage and showed, by the more cheerful action of her machinery, that she still had
ambition left for anything that the captain saw fit to put her at. And she had need
for it all, for the "Grand Rapids," the bugbear of these river men, was ahead of us, and
we were all looking out for the first glimpse of it with a curiosity not unmixed with anxiety.
Early this year the Glenora, one of the opposition boats,
took a strong sheer while trying to make this passage, struck a rock and knocked a hole
in her side that a man could have crept through. There are several inches more of water,
however, on the rapids, the captain tells us, than when the Glenora fiasco occurred;
and as we have great faith in the skill of our friend
at the wheel we await patiently our arrival.
A sudden bend in the channel threw us out from
the wooded point of a mountain declivity and there, right before us, rushed the
rapid, foaming and leaping in its wild descent. The river just above the top of
this water-slope is contracted by the close encroachment of two of the mountains
and spreading out below to about six times its width makes the greater part of it
too shoal for the navigation of any boat that cannot be handled with ease on a
heavy dew. Where we are to try it, however, the river,
just after it passes the gorge, is met by an island which sends a fair portion of
the water around a strong bend to the left, and although it looks no deeper than
where one would ordinarily wade out, on a ripple, after trout, toward it the
captain points the bow of his boat and at eight P.M. we
are fairly upon it. The wheel seems to fly; its rapid motion appears to draw out
what little water there is under us and the vessel settles down as if we were
about to touch upon the bottom. Iron, steel and brain were pitted against the torrent; the hull springs and vibrates so that a mist seems to be in front of one's eyes as they are strained to take in any sign of a forward movement. The onward movement seems impossible; the desire to assist the boat by pushing against anything belonging to
the fittings of the pilothouse and which is in the direction of the course becomes
irresistible; she bangs, she recedes; the current is too strong for her! All turn
to the captain with a look of appeal. He whirls the wheel over, and, trembling
in every timber, she creeps diagonally across the torrent, and again, when quite
in shore, obeys her wheel, turns her bow to the current and stops to take breath.
If anything should give way now the result would be most disastrous. Again the
wheel is pressed over and again she slowly obeys her propelling power, quartering
the rapid and gaining perhaps one-quarter of her length in the right direction
before the shore of the island brings her up. Thus, by successive tacks, we
finally master the difficult passage and take at the top the first good breath that
we have drawn for twenty minutes. A good thrower could cast a stone the length of
the rapids and yet it is all that steel and steam can do to drive our light hull
over it in the third of an hour.
The excitement of the Grand Rapids over, the
Beaver was again jogging along comfortably, and with a nod of
congratulation at the captain, we backed ourselves down the steep stair-way to
the saloon deck. A glance through the forward cabin windows showed us that a bend
in the river had brought in view a wooding station where we were to tie up for
the night. The captain soon dropped the boat in alongside of the bank as gingerly as if her hull were an egg-shell; we are made fast; the wheel ceased its crazy whirl,
and the decks, which had vibrated throughout the long day in response to the
"hog chains," became as quiet as the floors Of an inland cottage. What a relief it
was to both ears and nerves! The silence was in such contrast that the sound of
one's voice was almost startling; that of fne steward was, however, very soothing
as he announced supper.
The country toward Glenora loses much of its wildness, the land
rising in immense terraces for miles and miles back, where, in the great distance can be seen peaks, blue and indistinct, similar to those through which the river forces its way. Much placer gold mining has been done from time to time along the banks of the Stickeen and with some success; and this morning we have passed evidences of it
in the dilapidated huts and half tumbled-down sluices - not one of these places is
now in operation; the miners having pressed forward for their share in the greater discoveries of the Cassiar gold fields.
Four miles below Glenora we pass an Indian rancheria or settlement called Shakesville, consisting of two houses, constructed of logs set on end. One
of these was roofed with enormous shingles called "shakes," and the other with
large pieces of bark and pine-boughs. In front, and between them and the river,
were drying-frames, on which were suspended quantities of salmon, which were being
cured for winter's use; and hauled up on the bank were two large canoes, covered
from stem to stem with mats made of plaited grass to protect them from the sun,
while huddled together were a number of naked Indian children watching the
passage of our boat.
At half past seven A.M., we reached the
Hudson Bay Company's trading post, one mile below Glenora. This post was established
in 1874, when it was discovered that the old post, lower down the river, was within
the boundary line of Alaska; the company has a substantial warehouse built upon
the bank of the river, in which are stored the multifarious articles that are needed
in trading for furs with the Indians of the interior, besides a large stock of goods
necessary to the miners of Cassiar. Just across the river is another old mining
sluice, abandoned and falling to pieces; the trough gaping wide open in many places,
and the supporting trestle-work reeling about
in the drunkenest way possible, and looking for all the world like a "water-way" on
a spree. Soon after leaving the Hudson Bay post, we rounded the point of land on
which the company's buildings are situated, and saw before us the town of Glenora,
and at nine A.M., were lying broadside on the gently sloping
sand-beach which forms its levee, with our hawsers made fast to the "snubbing-posts"
ashore. As we were to remain here until the next morning, sight-seeing became
the order of the day, and we all went ashore.
The town is built on a low plateau that stretches back to the first bluff of the series of terraces which run like a huge staircase, to the distant mountains; this plateau is but a few hundred yards wide, and here are collected about fifteen log-houses and Indian huts; the houses are low and built of logs "chinked"
with mud and moss, as a protection against the terrible winds of winter; they all face toward the river and have inclosed yards and vegetable gardens at their back; the front apartments are nearly all occupied as stores, the "living-rooms" being at the back; while one, a very low barn of a building, sports across its front an enormous sign of cotton drilling stretched on a frame, partially obscuring, with the lower part of its overgrown proportions, the tops of the windows and door. On this is painted, in a bold style of lettering, "Cosmopolitan Hotel." The English have a custom-house here which is presided over by a pleasant, hospitable gentleman, Mr. Hunter. Having called upon us, he invited us very cordially to make him a visit, and so, following in the wake of the ladies of our party, of whom he had taken possession, we soon found ourselves at his house, a neat little cottage with a trim walk bordered with shells, leading up to it. Although it was small, we found, upon entering, that it was filled with many comforts and elegancies.
After a very pleasant chat, our host accompanied us on a tour of inspection of some of the gardens. Considering the latitude, 58° north, and the shortness of the growing season,we were very much astonished at the size and varieties of the vegetables raised - there were onions, cabbages, turnips, carrots, beets, parsnips and peas, and in full head, a patch of oats and another of the Mexican clover (alfalfa), as well as some of the common, hardier flowers, - and this in a country that has a summer of not more than three months, and where, in winter, the thermometer goes as low as 65° below zero. One might think that the ground would be frozen so deep that the short summer would barely suffice to take the frost from it.
The unloading of the boat made the levee very lively, and everybody seemed to be employed in some way or other. We were not only permitted to inspect the gardens and the exteriors of the houses, but were taken, by the main strength of kindly feeling into each and every family; the interiors were homely but comfortable, and if black with smoke, it only told of the cozy, roaring fires and the comfortable groups that sat around them during the imprisoning cold of the winter months.
Sun-down saw us again assembled in the cabin of the boat, where we held quite a reception for our new friends ashore, who came off for a good talk about the doings of the outside world; old news to us was new to them; things that had been wonderful to us when they occurred, months ago, were to them a new wonder; but our budget was after a while emptied and turned inside out, and, we then betook ourselves to music. Scotch, English, Irish, and American airs succeeded each other rapidly, and we sang and played on and on until we were aroused by the most unearthly, unmusical din ashore that I have ever beard, and with one accord we rushed out on the guards of the boat to find out what it meant. Lights were flashing about amid the din of beaten kettles and pans, the blowing of borns, the firing of guns and pistols and the howling and yelping of dogs. Some one suggested that it might be a "calathumpian serenade," and then it flashed upon us that Mr. Lovell was being made the recipient of a serenade in honor of the arrival of his wife, who came up with us, and that the inhabitants, in the absence of a brass band and the usual musical paraphernalia, had had recourse to their kitchen utensils.
We stood upon the guards wondering how long Mr. Lovell could stand the din before he capitulated, and whether, when he did appear, his reception of his wife's admirers would be with a loaded shot-gun or outstretched, welcoming hands. Suddenly a light streamed through the opened door of the store upon bronzed faces and gleaming pans and kettles, and the figure of Mr. Lovell could be seen in strong relief against the light within, bidding the calathumpers, by a wave of his band, to enter and partake of his hospitality. The closing door then shut the light in, and all was quiet. By this time it was quite late, and our guests gave us good-bye and God-speed, as we were to cast off our lines by early daylight, and, D. V.,
to be in Fort Wrangel before night-fall.
The return trip was made at break-neck speed, necessarily. I was anxious to see every inch of it, and made my arrangements to be awakened early, and after a delightful night's rest turn out willingly when called.
After a good dash into the cold water in my state-room, I got on deck at half-past four o'clock, just as the headline had been cast off and the boat was swinging her bow out into the current. She spun to it like a top, the rushing stream caused her to "heel over" strongly as it struck her broadside on, and then, as her head pointed quartering down the river, the stem line was let go, and we shot away, like an arrow from a bow, doing the distance to the Hudson Bay post, which took us twenty
minutes in coming up, in three minutes; it was like flying.
We passed over the Grand Rapids beautifully, but here there was such a pitch and roar of water that the wheel bad to be reversed to keep the vessel from going too fast, the speed that she attained even then being exciting, to say the least. The steering of the boat in the descent of this river was something marvelous to me. She seemed to obey the will of the captain like a sentient being. Now she whirled suddenly, with her bow as a pivot, and now her bow swept through an arc with the stem as a center, always nearly striking an obstacle but always missing it. The steering wheel was being constantly whirled about, as, in the swiftness of our course, object after object, in quick succession, arose before us. We flew past the mountains, which appeared to be engaged in a mad circular dance. Thus we sweep along until we arrive at the Great Cañon. The rush of waters through this cut seems terrible, but as there is an up stream wind which, by its concentration in the narrow gorge, is in considerable force, the captain laid the boat directly across the stream, and the wind, acting on her broadside in a direction diametrically opposed to the current, we went through easily, without turning our wheel, but still with great velocity, having been fifteen minutes in making the passage on our way up, and but three minutes and fifty seconds in going down. Clearing the lower end, the captain swung her on her heel and away we went, right end on again.
On and on we flew! Sand-bars with their piled-up logs, tumbling, foaming mountain torrents, baby glaciers, wooding stations, canoe loads of Indians working their way up, great mountain peaks, the Mud Glacier, and the old Hudson Bay post all are rapidly left behind until, at noon, we reached the Great Glacier, and passed its whole face in review as it lay like the Palisades of the Hudson done in ice.
With a full wheel whirling behind us, we moved out of the mouth of the river into the slaty blue of the salt water around the Point, bringing the flag-staff of Fort Wrangel in sight, and at five thirty, P.M., were heaving our lines to eager hands out- stretched on the wharf to catch them, every- body there to meet us, and everybody well.