Abbildungen der Seite

On the afternoon of the 14th they left Juneau for Dye3, 101 miles further north, on the tug Sealin. From Dyea (Tai-ya) it is about twenty-three miles across the coast-range to Lake Lindeman, the first of the lakes which are the head-waters of a river (the Lewes), flowing north into the Yukon, and for this distance the goods should be packed (that is, carried in packs) by the Indians who do this work. The mountains form the watershed which divides the basin of the Yukon on the north from that of the streams running south into the Gulf of Alaska, as this part of the North Pacific is called.

The first six miles were along a rapid stream where the rough track ran from side to side, over sand and boulders, with from sis inches to two feet of water, and a very swist current; thence over boulders with fair footing to a cañon which was the end of the so-called wagon track. Then began the steep and rocky climb through the woods up the face of the mountain and across numerous deep and narrow gullies, towards the Chilcoot Pass (the name by which the Tai-ya Pass is known to the miners). To men accustomed to Alpine climbing this would be mere holiday work, but to youngsters who had spent all their life on the prairies it was, of course, particularly trying. The first halt was at Sheep Camp, which they reached in the evening, having left Dyea at ten in the morning, and here they had to stay for a day on account of rain. At 1.30 next morning they left for the summit with their Indians, twenty in number, including boys and squaws, an early start being necessary since the days were hot and the snow soft in the afternoon. After leaving Sheep Camp, vegetation is stunted, and the ascent becomes stiff; for a thousand feet they had to stick their toe-nails in for all they were worth, as the Canadian expression goes, and take steps of only a few inches When the top was reached, the descent was begun, and if one lost his footing it would be a serious matter. There were altogether six miles over snow, but the latter part of the rocky track down to Lake Lindeman, though quite rough enough for our travellers, was found not to be so very bad.

The lake, nine miles from the top of the pass, they reached on June 19, 'a little disfigured, but still in the ring. Only two of the party had had their goods 'packed' right through to the lake ; some, indeed, had only had them packed to Sheep Camp, intending to do the rest of the work alone, but they speedily found themselves obliged to call in the help of the Indians; the

[ocr errors]

others bad their stuff packed to the summit of the pass, but fter struggling for three miles under their loads, they too were bliged to stop and look for Indians to relieve them. The sriter who mentions this advises anyone who cannot afford o pay for transportation on this part of the journey not to come it all, as some men had been on the trail three weeks, and were then only half-way through. At Lake Lindeman most of the party remained nearly three weeks, since it is here that the boats have to be built for the rest of the journey to the Klondike, between 500 and 600 miles. From the time of first finding and then felling your trees, until your boat is ready for use, this boat building involves a great amount of hard work, even for men who know how to handle tools, but Canadians are very quick at this sort of thing, as General Middleton discovered in the last Riel rebellion in 1885 on the Saskatchewan, on which occasion he found that the Canadian volunteers contrasted very favourably with British regulars in their aptitude at necessary and urgent work of this description.

In the first place, after the trees are felled, the logs themselves are very hard to get down to the water; then the stream is very rough and full of boulders, the water being icy cold and running like a mill-race, and into this you have to get up to your middle and hand-spike the logs along, in danger all the time of being swept away by the current. As to the size of the boats here built, one, which was named the Katie, was 18 feet long at the bottom, and 20 feet at the top. Another was 19 feet bottom and 28 feet top, 41 feet across bottom, 6} across top, 24 inches high in centre, and 28 in bow; the mast 12 feet high. This one involved twelve days' hard work from early to late, in cutting down the logs and sawing them, and then building the boat. It was afterwards found that it would have been much better if the boat had been 6 feet longer, but logs good enough to build it that long could not be got, since trees which could be converted into good building timber were very scarce, the country being mostly rock and scrub. At Lake Lindeman there was quite a tenttown, and potatoes were then 30 cents a pound, flour 18 dollars a hundred, and pitch 100 dollars a barrel. Five or six boats were built here, to take a crew of three or four men in each. The lake is five miles long, and is connected with Lake Bennett, the next one below, by a rapid stream three-quarters of a mile in length, rough and rocky, with a fall of 20 feet between the

two lakes. Here the boats have to be unloaded and the gooi: packed over the 'portage,' as such stretches over land are called in America, where the loads and sometimes the boats themselves have to be carried instead of going by water. The Katie and some of the other boats were let down through the worst part in safety, but one boat, which was foolishly left by its crew to run itself through the rapids, was lost and became a complete wreck The larger boat described above was hauled out of the water and portaged for fifty yards on skids. It was found

to be leaking considerably, and had to be turned over and re-pitched. In the case of another boat, which they tried to run through the rapids, they were not so fortunate, for a serious accident occurred which would certainly have terminated fatally, had it not been for the readiness and presence of mind of those on the spot. Two of the crew were in the boat to guide her through the rapids, while there were three men on the tow-line. In the forcible language of the narrator, 'they snubbed the line to a stump on the bank, and M- and N. got in for the run; the men at the stump let out too much slack, and it got fast in the rocks in the river; and when the boat got near to a pile of drift timber in the middle of the shoot, she took up the loose line and went up against the timber, tipped up and filled with water. M-jumped out, but N- (a young doctor) was tumbled headlong into the water ; he came up fifty yards down, and was carried down the rapids like a shot, but someone threw a rope to him, and he got ashore pretty well shaken up, it being a miracle he was not dashed to pieces on the rocks. We spent nearly two days trying to get the boat out, and did so, but she was a total wreck, and was burned for her nails.'

Then arose the question as to how the goods thus left stranded were to be disposed of. Were they to stay here, where already three weeks of precious time had been spent, while another boat was built, or run the risk of overcrowding the rest of the boats on their passage through the lakes ? Fortunately at this juncture, a stranger, named McCauley, who was also on his way down, came to the rescue, and with him they were able to arrange for taking along most of the stuff. To show how the land lay I must here state that Lake Bennett is the first of a series of lakes which form what is technically called a 'system of still-water navigation'an attractive-sounding phrase, which, however, only means that there are no obstacles in the shape of rapids or cataracts to obstruct the steady passage of a vessel. It by no means signifies


that your boat may not be overtaken in a violent storm, with the possibility of capsizing and the loss of all on board, through want of experience and skill in dealing with such an emergency.

These lakes are 2,150 feet above sea-level, and follow on in this order :--Lake Nares, the Windy Arm of Lake Tagish, Tagish Lake itself, and then Lake Marsh; the distance from the head of Lake Bennett to the foot of Lake Marsh being 70 miles.

In addition to the boats already referred to, six members of the party had a couple of boats built on Lake Bennett, and got away before the rest. One of these, the Dorothy, was steered by an archdeacon from Prince Albert, who was going north to serve as a missionary under Bishop Bompas; the other, named the Nina, being steered by an ex-alderman of Winnipeg, who was going to the Klondike to start a 'real estate and financial office' (an employment dear to the hearts of Canadians). They reached Dawson City on July 19, and found that three others of the party had arrived a few days previously; but these had not stopped to build boats, as they had contrived to get along with a couple of other parties who were already having boats built.

To return now to the rest of our adventurers, whom we left at the head of Lake Bennett, pulling themselves together after the dangers and troubles of the rapids, baking a supply of bread for the

voyage down, packing their stuff securely in the boats, and getting everything in readiness for the next stage of their journey, which would take them well through the lakes and down the first part of the Lewes River, a hundred miles or so of straight sailing, day and night.

On Lake Bennett they met with rough weather, and two of the 'boys' were laid up for a couple of days. They then camped on Cariboo Crossing, between Bennett and Nares Lake, and on July 11 tracked' to the Windy Arm, which required to be reached in the morning owing to its liability later in the day to such sudden squalls as have already been spoken of. Beyond difficulties from such causes, to which these lakes are particularly liable, no dangers of any special kind presented themselves.

Out of Lake Marsh runs the Lewes River, and it is on this river that some of the most exciting scenes of the journey occur, for serious obstacles are met with twenty-three miles below the lake, in the shape of the Miles Cañon and the White Horse Rapids. The stranger McCauley was among the first to arrive at the cañon with the extra load of goods which he had brought down, and

here they were unloaded, while he with two members of our party proceeded to run the cañon and the rapids. Along this dangerous part of the river, no less than three portages are necessary, which is a work of the most slavish toil, there being a steep ascent up the rocks at the head of the cañon, with a corresponding descent at the lower end, followed by a scramble along the rugged cliffs of the White Horse. It is a matter, in fact, of hard labour for four days, while the run through the cañon and down the rapids is reckoned by minutes.

Owing to unavoidable hindrances which had occurred, there was a delay at the head of the cañon of several days until the arrival of the remainder of the party, who did not all come together again after leaving Lake Bennett until they reached this point, and here the goods which had been unloaded by McCauley were packed and divided up among the rest.

The cañon is described as a most formidable-looking place; the river from having a width of about 200 yards is suddenly compressed into a space of about 30 yards, between perpendicular rocks of basalt looking like walls of masonry 75 or 100 feet high. Between these walls of rock the river rushes with tremendous velocity, boiling up in large waves, and it is only by frantic paddling that your boat can be kept in the middle and away from the rocks, against which, if it were dashed, it would be crushed like an egg-shell, and nothing could save you from death. Half-way down the cañon it opens out into a sort of basin, but again contracts, and the descent is more rapid than before, but the whole thing is over in a minute, though the cañon is nearly a mile in length.

From the foot of the cañon to the White Horse Rapids is a run of two to three miles, which are made in six or seven minutes. 'You go plunging along, and if you touch a rock it is all done with you,' says one of the letters. The White Horse Rapids themselves are about half a mile long, and are the most dangerous rapids on the Lewes River, the worst of these being at the lower end, where the basaltic banks suddenly close in, and the river is hardly more than 100 feet wide. The water rushes over boulders, dashes against them, and then recoils and boils backwards, covering itself with a white crest supposed to be like the niane of a white horse, whence of course the rapids take their name.

All the members of the party who attempted to run the cañon and rapids were fortunate enough to get over this part of the

« ZurückWeiter »