Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Ocean to Ocean
The Rocky Mountains


The Flora.—The Mountains.—Prairie River.— Grilled Beaver.— Roche à Myette—Roohe à Perdrix— Roche Ronde.—Jasper House.—Roche Jacques.—Roche Suette.—Roche Bosohe. —First night in the Mountains. —Crossing the Athabasca. —Magnificent mountain scenery.—Pyramid Rock.—Jasper Lake.—Snaring River.—Jasper Valley-—We meet Pacific men.—Hyiu muck-a-muck! Hyiu iktahs!—Old Henry House.—The Caledonian Valley.— A rough trail.— Desolate camping ground. — Good cheer.— The trail party.—Yellow Head Pass.—Nameless mountain peaks.- Sunday dinner in "The Pass."

September 10th.—The Athabasca fell six inches during the night. Got away from camp at 7.30 A.M., and for two hours had a delightful ride to Prairie River. The trail ran along a terrace of shingle or alluvial flats, and was free from fallen timber and muskegs. Most of the flowers were out of blossom, but in the spring and summer these open meadow-like places must be gay with anemones, roses, vetches, and a great variety of compositae—none of which were now in bloom, except a light-blue aster that had accompanied us from the North Saskatchewan, and all the way through the wooded country. The burnt ground shewed a brilliant crimson flower from which red ink is made, and which we had seen on the Matawan.

Few, however, thought of plants to-day or of anything but the mountains that stood in massive grandeur, thirty miles ahead, but on account of the morning light, in which every point came out clear, seemingly just on the other side of each new patch of wood or bit of prairie before us.

They rose bold and abrupt five or six thousand feet from the wooded country at their feet,—the western verge of the plains, the elevation of which was over three thousand feet additional above the sea,—and formed in long unbroken line across our path, save where cleft in the centre down to their very feet, by the chasm that the Athabasca, long ago forced, or found for itself. "There are no Rocky Mountains" has been the remark of many a disappointed traveller by the Union and Central Pacific Railways. The remark will never be made by those who travel on the Canadian Pacific ; there was no ambiguity about these being mountains, nor about where they commenced. The line was defined, and the scarp as clear, as if they had been hewn and chiselled for a fortification. The summits on one side of the Athabasca were serrated, looking sharp as the teeth of a saw; on the other, the Roche à Myette, immediately behind the first line, reared a great solid unbroken cube, two thousand feet high, a "forehead bare," twenty times higher than Ben An's; and, before and beyond it, away to the south and west, extended ranges with bold summits and sides scooped deep, and corries far down, where formerly, the wood buffalo, and the elk, and now the moose, bighorn, and bear find shelter. There was nothing fantastic about their forms. Everything was imposing. And these too were ours, an inheritance as precious, if not as plentiful in corn and milk, as the vast rich plains they guarded. For mountains elevate the mind, and give an inspiration of courage and dignity to the hardy races who own them, and who breathe their atmosphere.

For the strength of the hills we bless thee
Our God, our fathers' God.
Thou hast made our spirits mighty
With the touch of the mountain sod.

The scent had its effect on the whole party. As we wound in long Indian file along the sinuous trail, that led across grassy bas-fonds under the shadow of the mountains that were still a day's journey distant, not a word was heard nor a cry to the horses for the first half-hour. Valad led the way, clad friar-like in blue hooded capote which he wore all regardless of the fact that the sun was shining; Brown next, in rugged miner costume half-leathern half-woollen, and Beaupré in the same with a touch of colour added ; the Chief and the Doctor in their yellow moose-hide jackets; even Terry, who of late invariably brought up the rear, ceased to howl "git up out o' that" to the unfortunate animal he sat upon, dropped his stick, and put his pipe in his waistcoat pocket. He had seen Vesuvius, the Himalayas and the Hill of Howth, but they were "nauthin to this." Before us, at times, a grove of dark green spruce, and, beyond the sombre wood, the infinitely more sombre grey of the mountains; where the wood had been burnt, the bare blackened poles seemed to be only a screen hung before, half revealing, half concealing, what was beyond. The mountains dwarfed and relieved everything else. There was less snow than had appeared yesterday, the explanation being that the first and least elevated mountain range only was before us now that we were near, whereas, when at a greater distance, many of the higher summits beyond were visible.

Soon after crossing Prairie River, the trail led away to the east from the Athabasca among windfalls of the worst kind, or muskegs, and up and down steep banks. Little progress was made for the next two hours, but the mountain air told so on our appetites that at midday a halt of an hour and a half was imperatively demanded, although it had to be on the borders of a swamp among blackened poles.

After dinner we resumed the march and soon crossed another Prairie River, formed apparently by the union of three streamlets, winding by different valleys down a wooded range that lies at the foot of the mountains, and extends east by north for some distance. By one of these valleys there is a direct road to the McLeod, and probably a route may be found by the same for the railway. The view of the mountains all this afternoon more than made up for the difficulties of the road. Instead of being clearly outlined, cold, and grey as in the morning, they appeared indistinct through a warm deep blue haze; we had come nearer but they seemed to have removed farther back.

When on the other side of Prairie River, the wooded range from which it flowed was on our left, and the high wooded hills beyond the Athabasca on our right. Woods and hills in front closed up the lower part of the gorge from which the Athabasca issued, and completely divided the Rocky Mountains into two ranges, right and left; thus an amphitheatre of mountains closed round while we were making for the open that yawned right in front.

It was now only 4.30 P.M. and the travel of the day not more them 17 miles; but Valad stated that there was no other good place for the horses to rest on this side of the south end of Lac Brule, and that it would take four hours to reach it. Reluctantly the order was given to camp ; and to improve the time, Frank and Valad went off to hunt, and the Chief and the Secretary to climb a hill and note the surrounding country. Bear and fresh moose tracks were seen by the latter two, and fresh otter trails leading down into the river. On their return they fell in with Frank carrying a beaver; he and Valad had fired at two and shot one. The Doctor in their absence had fished in most primitive style, with a tent pole and twine, and a hook baited with pemmican, and had caught two fine trout. Having this varied provision, supper without richaud was unanimously decreed, and Valad set to work at once on the beaver and Terry on the fish. In fifteen minutes Valad had the animal skinned, boned, the whole of the meat stretched out in one piece on a brander of sticks and exposed to the fire to grill; the tail on another stick, and the liver on a third. We waited impatiently for supper, the Secretary making toast of Terry's under-done bread to keep himself from murmuring. In due time everything was ready, and the five who had never tasted beaver, prepared themselves to sit in judgment. The verdict was favourable throughout; the meat tender, though dry, the liver a delicious morsel, and the tail superior to the famous moose-muffle. Within an hour after that beaver had been industriously at work on his dam, he formed part of the interior economy of eight different stomachs, and scarcely a scrap was left to show what he once had been. More sudden and complete metamorphosis, surely, is not in Ovid. The trout were excellent, so that it may be understood that a "straight meal" was made. In honour of the great event of the evening, this, our forty-fifth, was named Beaver Camp.

Having lost an hour and a half of sunlight by not knowing whether there was grass ahead, and by not wishing the horses to run the risk of going supperless to bed, we made arrangements to start early tomorrow for a long spell.

This was to be our last night on the plains. To-morrow night we would be in the embrace of the mountains.

September 11th.—Away this morning at 6.15 A.M., and halted at 1 P.M., after crossing the Rivière de Violon or Fiddle river, when fairly inside the first range. It was a grand morning for mountain scenery. For the first three hours the trail continued at some distance east from the valley of the Athabasca, among wooded hills, now ascending, now descending, but on the whole with an upward slope, across creeks where the ground was invariably boggy, over fallen timber, where infinite patience was required on the part of horse and man. Suddenly it opened out on a lakelet, and right in front, a semi-circle of five glorious mountains appeared; a high wooded hill and Roche à Perdrix on our left, Roche à Myette beyond, Roche Ronde in front, and a mountain above Lac Brule on our right. For half a mile down from their summits, no tree, shrub, or plant covered the nakedness of the three that the old trappers had thought worthy of names; and a clothing of vegetation would have marred their massive grandeur. The first three were so near and towered up so bold that their full forms, even to the long shadows on them, were reflected clearly in the lakelet, next to the rushes and spruce of its own shores. Here is scene for a grand picture equal to Hill's much admired painting of the "Yo Semite Valley." A little farther on, another lakelet reflected the mountains to the right, showing not only the massive grey and blue of the limestone, but red and green colourings among the shales that separated the strata of limestone. The road now descended rapidly from the summit of the wooded hill that we had so slowly gained, to the valley of the Athabasca. As it wound from point to point among the tall dark green spruces, and over rose bushes and vetches, the soft blue of the mountains gleamed through everywhere, and when the woods parted, the mighty column of Roche à Perdrix towered a mile above our heads, scuds of clouds kissing its snowy summit, and each plication and angle of the different strata up its giant sides boldly and clearly revealed. We were entering the magnificent Jasper portals of the Rocky Mountains by a quiet path winding between groves of trees and rich lawns like an English gentleman's park.

Crossing a brook divided into half a dozen brooklets by willows, the country opened a little and the base and inner side of Roche à Perdrix were revealed; but, it was still an amphitheatre of mountains that opened out before us, and Roche a Myette seemed as far off as ever. Soon the Rivière de Violon was heard brawling round the base of Roche à Perdrix and rushing on like a true mountain torrent to the Athabasca. We stopped to drink to the Queen out of its clear ice cold waters, and halted for dinner in a grove on the other side of it, thoroughly excited and awed by the grand forms that had begirt our path for the last three hours. We could now sympathise with the daft enthusiast, who returned home after years of absence, and when asked what he had as an equivalent for so much lost time, answered only "I have seen the Rocky Mountains."

After dinner, a short walk enabled us to take bearings. The valley of the Athabasca from two to five miles wide, according as a sandy bas-fond or intervale along its shore varied in width, extended up to the west and south, guarded on each side by giant forms. We had come inside the range, and it was no longer an amphitheatre of hills but a valley ever opening, and at each turn revealing new forms, that was now before us. Roche Ronde was to our right, its stratification as distinct as the leaves of a half opened book. The mass of the rock was limestone, and what at a distance had been only peculiarly bold and rugged outlines, were now seen to be the different angles and contortions of the strata. And such contortions! One high mass twisting up the sides in serpentine folds, as if it had been so much pie-crust; another bent in great waving lines like petrified billows. The colouring too was all that artist could desire. Not only the dark green of the spruce in the corries which turned into black when far up; but autumn tints of red and gold as high as vegetation had climbed on the hill sides; and above that, streaks and patches of yellow, green, rusty red, and black relieving the grey mass of limestone; while up the valley, every shade of blue, came out according as the hills were near or far away, and summits hoary with snow bounded the horizon.

There was a delay of three hours at dinner because the horses as if allured by the genii of the mountains, had wandered more than a mile up the valley, but at four o'clock all was in order again and the march resumed in the same direction. A wooded hill that threw itself out between Roches à Perdrix and a Myette had first to be rounded. This hill narrowed the valley, and forced the trail near the river. When fairly round it, Roche a Myette came full into view, and the trail now led along its base.

Myette is the characteristic mountain of the Jasper valley. There are others as high, but its grand bare forehead is recognized everywhere. It is five thousand eight hundred feet above the valley, or over nine thousand feet above the sea. Doctor Hector with the agent in charge of Jasper House climbed to a sharp peak far above any vegetation, three thousand five hundred feet above the valley, but the great cubical block which formed the top towered more than two thousand feet higher. A hunter who has given his name to the mountain, is the only one that ever ascended this cube. He made the ascent from the south side, every other being absolutely inaccessible. Dr. Hector gives the following description of the composition of Myette. "It is composed of a mass of strata, which have at one time formed the trough of a huge plication; viz:

"The ridge we had ascended is formed of cherty limestone and capped by yellow shales with beds of black sandstone forming the highest point."

The views this afternoon from every new point were wonderfully striking. Looking back on Roche à Perdrix it assumed more massive proportions than when we were immediately beneath. A huge shoulder stretched up the valley, one side covered with bare poles, grey as itself, and the other with sombre firs. From it the great summit upreared itself so conspicuously, that it filled the back ground and closed the mouth of the valley. Valad in grave tones told the story of his old partner—an unfortunate half-breed,—who when hunting bighorn on its precipitous slopes, twenty-two years ago, was carried over one of them on a snow slide and dashed in pieces.

A good photographer would certainly make a name and perhaps a fortune, if he came up here and took views. At every step we longed for a camera. On the opposite side of the river a valley opened to the north, along the sides of which rose mountain after mountain with the clearly defined outlines that the secondary formation of the rocks here gives to them. On the same side the range from Roche Ronde was continued further up the Athabasca by a hump-shaped rock, and then by a vast mass, like a quadrilateral rampart, with only two sides of the square visible, the sides furrowed deep, but the line of the summit unbroken. At the base of this—Roche Suette—is Jasper's House and opposite it, Roche Jacques showed as great a mass, with two snow-clad peaks, while the horizon beyond seemed a continuous bank of snow on mountain ranges. But the most wonderful object was Roche à Myette, right above us on our left. That imposing sphinx-like head with the swelling Elizebethan ruff of sandstone and shales all around the neck, save on one side where a corrugated mass of party coloured strata twisted like a coil of serpents from far down nearly half way up the head, haunted us for days. Mighty must have been the forces that upreared and shaped such a monument. Vertical strata were piled on horizontal, and horizontal again on the vertical, as if nature had determined to build a tower that would reach to the skies. As we passed this old warder of the valley, the sun was setting behind Roche Suette. A warm south-west wind as it came in contact with the snowy summit formed heavy clouds, that threw long black shadows, and threatened rain; but the wind carried them past to empty their buckets on the woods and prairies.

It was time to camp, but where? The Chief, Beaupré, and Brown rode ahead to see if the river was fordable. The rest followed, going down to the bank and crossing to an island formed by a slew of the river, to avoid a steep rock, the trail along which was fit only for chamois or bighorn. Here we were soon joined by the three who had ridden ahead, and who brought back word that the Athabasca looked ugly, but was still subsiding, and might be fordable in the morning. It was decided to camp on the spot, and send the horses back a mile for feed. The resources of the island would not admit of our light cotton sheet being stretched as an overhead shelter, so we selected the lee side of a dwarf aspen thicket, and spread our blankets on the gravel; a good fire being made in front to cook our supper and keep our feet warm through the night. Some of us sat up late, watching the play of the moonlight on the black clouds that drifted about her troubled face, as she hung over Roche Jacques; and, then we stretched ourselves out to sleep, on our rough but truly enviable couch, rejoicing in the open sky for a canopy, and in the circle of great mountains that formed the walls of our indescribably magnificent bed chamber. It had been a day long to be remembered. Only one mishap had occurred ; the Chief's bag got a crush against a rock, and his flask, that held a drop of brandy carefully preserved for the next plum-pudding, was broken. It was hard, but on an expedition like this the most serious losses are taken calmly and soon forgotten.

September 2nd.—We slept soundly our first night in the mountains, and after a dip in the Athabasca and breakfast, Valad went off on horse-back to try the fords. Though the river had fallen six inches since last night, he found it still too deep for pack horses, and there was nothing for it but to construct a raft, —a work of some difficulty when a big one is needed, and there is no auger and only one axe to cut down the wood. We had time now to take a good view from our Island Camp. Looking forward, Roche Jacques closed the horizon on the left; to his right and farther up the river, the Pyramid Rock barred the way, a graceful conical shaped mountain like Schiehallion, but grander, his front-face a mass of snow. Between these two our road lay after crossing the river. Opposite the camp to the north, the hump of Roche à Bosche, stood out prominently; separated from it by the Indian Snake River, and two or three miles farther up stream, the great wall of Roche Suette, at the foot of which Jasper house is situated, blocked the western way.

The forenoon looked as if it meant rain. Sunrise gilded with fire the tops of the mountains ; but the light soon died away. Clouds and mists gathered round Roches Jacques and Suette, but hung there instead of coming down, and the white face of the Pyramid Rock, that divided the two, stood out clear and untouched by the rolling vapour.

The Chief made some pencil sketches, while the men' went up stream a mile to a suitable part of the river and worked hard preparing a raft till 10.30 A.M., by which time they had enough logs for the purpose cut and carried down to the bank. Returning to camp for an early dinner of tea and cold pemmican, they then "packed" the horses, carried everything up to the raft and unpacked there. Fifteen or sixteen logs bound together by three strong crosspoles, and tied each to each with folds of rope, composed the raft. Between the crosspoles a number of smaller ones were laid, to serve for a floor and keep the luggage from getting wet. The Chief and the two packers were then left to manage the raft, and the rest stripped to the middle and rode across— Centaur like—driving before them the unsaddled pack-horses. At the crossing the river is divided by sand bars into three parts, and at two of these the water reached to the pommel of the saddle. All got over safely, though there was some danger on account of the strength of the current; and the raft followed, after a delay caused by the weight of the cargo necessitating the addition of two big logs to make the ship float lightly enough. A ride of two miles took us to Jasper's, where we arrived exactly fifteen days after leaving Edmonton, two of them days of rest and a third lost by the obstruction of the Athabasca. It is hardly fair to speak of it as lost however, for there was no point at which the delay of a day was so little unacceptable to us. The mountains of the Jasper valley would have repaid us for a week's detention.

This station is now all but abandoned by the Hudson's Bay Cy. It was formerly of considerable importance, not only from the number of fur-bearing animals around, but because it was the centre of a regular line of communication between Norway House and Edmonton on the one side, and the Columbia District and Fort Vancouver on the other. An agent and three or four men were then stationed at it all the year round. Even in Dr. Hector's time the house must have been of a somewhat pretentious order, for he speaks of it as "constructed after the Swiss style, with overhanging roofs and trellised porticos." Now there are only two log houses, the largest propped up before and behind with rough shores, as if to prevent it being blown away into the River or back into the Mountain gorges. The houses are untenanted, locked, and shuttered. Twice a year an agent comes up from Edmonton to trade with the Indians of the surrounding country and carry back the furs.

The Chief expected to meet at this point, or to hear some tidings of one of his parties that had been instructed to explore from the Pacific side of the mountains in the direction of the Jasper valley. As no trace of any recent visit could be found, we moved on up the Athabasca; the trail leading along the sandy beach of Lake Jasper for two miles to a little opening on the hill side above, where as there was a species of small bunch-grass growing, and no one knew of feed farther on, camp was pitched for the night about five P.M.

Our four miles travel to day on the west bank of the river was a succession of magnificent mountain views. After crossing the Athabasca the valley of Rocky River, which runs into it, opposite Jasper House, opened out, extending away to the south least, bordered on both banks by ranges of serrated bare peaks while seemingly in the very centre rose a wooded conical hill. Round all these, masses of mist were enfolding themselves, and the sun. shining at the same time brought out the nearest in clear relief.

Jasper House itself is one of the best possible places for seeing to advantage the mountains up and down the valley. It is situated on a pretty glade that slopes gently to the Athabasca, sufficiently large and open to command a view in every direction. Roche a Myette, distant five or six miles, is half concealed by intervening heights and is here less conspicuous than elsewhere even when seen from greater distances, but a gleam of sunlight brightens his great face and makes even it look lighsome. A score of miles to the south, the Pyramid Rock gracefully uplifts its snowy face and shuts in the valley, the space between being filled by the mountains of Rocky River and the great shoulders of Roche Jacques. Looking westerly, and behind the House, is Suette, his rampart rising cold, stern, and grey above his furrowed sides. Other peaks overhang the valley to the north, and between them deep wooded valleys are dark as night. Separated from these by the Snake Indian River, the true proportions of Roche a Bosche are seen for the first time. Away to the south the masses of snow on the Pyramid speak of coming-winter.

There is a wonderful combination of beauty about these mountains. Great masses of boldly defined bare rock are united to all the beauty that variety of form, colour, and vegetation give. A noble river with many tributaries each defining a distinct range, and a beautiful lake ten miles long, embosomed three thousand three hundred feet above the sea, among mountains twice as high, offer innumerable scenes, seldom to be found within the same compass, for the artist to depict and for every traveller to delight in.

Valad informed us that the winter in this quarter is wonderfully mild, considering the height and latitude; that the Athabasca seldom if ever freezes here, and that wild ducks remain all the year instead of migrating south, as birds farther east invariably do. The lake freezes, but there is so little snow that travellers prefer fording the river to trusting to the glare ice.

Our tent was pitched among firs on a slope above Lake Jasper. Gusts of wind came from every point in the compass, and blew about the sparks in a way dangerous to the blankets, but before we were well asleep rain began to fall and dispelled all apprehensions on the score of fire.

September 13th.—The rain that had been brewing all yesterday came down last night in torrents. One awakened to find the boots at his head full of water; the feet of another, the head of a third, the shoulders of a fourth, were in pools according to the form of the ground, or the precautions that each had taken before turning in. The clouds were lifting, however, and promised a fine day, and nobody cared for a little wetting, but everybody cared very much, when the Chief announced that the flour bag was getting so light that it might be neccesary to allowance the bread rations. That struck home, though there was abundance of pemmican and tea. By 6.45 A.M. we were on the march again, to go deeper into the mountains.

The trail led along Lake Jasper and was so good that we made the west end of the lake, which is ten miles long, in two hours. Practically we were now without a guide; for Valad had not been beyond Jasper House for twenty years, and twice before dinner he missed the trail. Every mile we advanced revealed new features. Roche Jacques rises on the opposite side of the lake, and one deep valley in his sides would be bright as an autumn garden, up to the line of snow; the next, sombre with firs. Each of those valleys is seamed transversely by a number of streamlets, that divide it into a succession of plateaus rising higher and higher till the wall of steep bare rock is reached.

But there is no sharp line dividing vegetation from the naked rock. A belt of harder rock intervening breaks the forest; one or two hundred feet above, the trees may reappear in a long thin streak along the side of the mountain, like a regiment in line, or in a dense grove, like a column; and a different stratification above stops them again. The same change of strata, probably accounts for the absence of snow from belts which have snow above and beneath them; far away these bare belts look like highways winding round the mountain. Behind, Myette reared his head over us, seemingly as near as ever; the Pyramid Mountain supported by a great rampart of rock, from which his lofty head rose gracefully, still closed the view; and a cluster of snow clad peaks surrounded him at a respectful distance. From time to time we passed through woods that usually grow along the sides of burns rushing down into the lake; and these prepared us for a fresh prospect beyond, so that the eye had a perpetual feast.

At one point the trail led up some steep rocks, and from these the most charming views of the lake and the mountains were had. Towards the west end, a lakelet, separated from Lake Jasper by two low narrow pine clad ridges, presented in its dark green waters, that reflected the forest, a striking contrast to the light sunny grey of the larger lake reflecting the sky.

Rounding the lake, the trail was encumbered with fallen timber, and from this point to the halting place for dinner at two o'clock we travelled slowly, doing altogether not more than eighteen or nineteen miles in the seven and a quarter hours. A great part of the last half of this distance, was through wood, some of it injured by fire, but most of it good. At the end of Lake Jasper, a strath, from two to five miles wide, which may still be called the Jasper valley, bends to the south. Our first look up this valley showed new lines of mountains on both sides, closed at the head by a great mountain so white with snow that it looked like a sheet suspended from the heavens. That, Valad said, was "La montagne de la grande traverse," adding that the road to the Columbia country up the formidable Athabasca Pass, lay along its south eastern base, while our road would turn west up the valley of the River Myette. He mentioned the old local titles of the mountains on this side, but every passer by thinks that he has a right to give his own and his friends' names to them over again.

In going through the woods we saw several broken traps. This was a famous place in the olden time for trappers, and on that account a foaming torrent that comes down between Pyramid Rock and three great crags to the north, like Salisbury Crags, Edinburgh, on a large scale, is called "Snaring River."

Some of the timber here is three feet in diameter, chiefly fir, but near Snaring River a growth of small pines has sprung up on burnt ground.

This torrent will be remembered by us because of the danger in crossing it, and because beside it we found the first traces of one of the parties we expected to meet in the Jasper valley. It is a foaming mountain torrent, with a bed full of large round boulders which it piles along its banks, or hurls down its bed to the Athabasca. These make the footing so precarious that if a horse falls, there is little hope for him or his rider. Valad crossed first. As the water came up to his horse's shoulder, and the horse stumbled several times, it was evidently risky. Just at this moment, Brown who had gone down stream to look for another ford, called out that he saw footprints of men and horses. Off went the Chief, and at the same moment Valad screamed across the torrent that white men had just been there. All followed the Chief, and Valad came back at a lower crossing. The traces of three men and three shod horses, (showing that they did not belong to Indians) were clearly made out going down in the direction of the Athabasca; but though guns were fired as a signal, no response was heard ; and the word was passed to cross at the lower ford. Beaupré took some pemmican in his pocket, as a precaution, in case all hands but himself were lost; notwithstanding the omen, we reached the other side safely, and pushed across a pine flat, and then a quaking bog like Chatmoss to a little lake, with treacherous quicksands on its shore and in its bed. On the other side is an extensive sandy bas-fond where we halted for dinner, sorely regretting that the men who were on their way to Jasper's for the very purpose of meeting us, had missed us by being on a different trail or on no trail, for as the old one had been burnt over, neither party had found it. But the packs were scarcely off the horses' backs when a Shuswap Indian rode up the bank so quietly, that he was in our midst before we saw him, and after the usual handshaking, delivered a slip of paper to the Chief. Hurrah! it was from Moberly, and stated that he had just struck fresh tracks and had sent back this Indian to learn who we were. Valad spoke to the Indian in Cree, and Beaupré in French, but he was from the Pacific side and only shook his head in answer. Brown then tried him in Chinook, a barbarous lingo of one or two hundred words, first introduced by the Hudson's Bay agents, for common use among themselves and the Pacific Indians ; and, generally spoken now all through Oregon, B. Columbia, and the north, by whites, Chinese, Indians, and all nationalities. The Shuswap's face brightened, and he answered in Chinook to the effect that Moberly was five or six miles back: that they had come three day's journey from their big camp, where there were lots of men and horses. Brown asked if they had enough to eat at the camp; 'Oh! hy-iu, muck a muck! hy-iu iktahsl' 'Lots of grub, lots of good things'—was the ready answer. He was offered some pemmican and took it, but said that he had never seen such food before. A note was at once sent back to Moberly that we would move on, and that he would probably overtake us on the morrow. After dinner the march was resumed for seven miles up the valley. On the east side a succession of peaks ressembling each other with the exception of one—'Roche à Bonhomme'—hemmed us in: while on the west, with lines of stratification parallel to lines on the east side, the solid rampart at the base of the Pyramid rose so steep and high, that the snowy summit behind could not be seen. The valley still averaged from two to five miles wide, though horizontal distances are so dwarfed by the towering altitude of the naked massive rocks on both sides, that it seemed to be scarcely one fourth of that width. What a singularly easy opening into the mountains, formed by some great convulsion that had cleft them asunder, crushed and piled them up on each side like cakes of ice, much in the same way as may be seen in winter on the St. Lawrence or any of our rivers, on a comparatively microscopic scale, in ice-shoves! The Athabasca finding so plain a course had taken it, gradually shaped and finished the valley, and strewn the bas-fonds, which cross-torrents from the hills have seamed and broken up. It looks as if nature had united all her forces to make this the natural highway into the heart of the Rocky Mountains.

Myette and all his companions of the first range, that had become so familiar to us in the last few days, were completely hidden by the turn of the Athabasca; and the mountains ahead, that had shown at the bend, were also hidden from view; but at sunset we came to another bend that the river makes again to the west, and "La grande montagne de la traverse" came fully out in his snowy raiment, and the Pyramid peeped over the great wall, that girds his body and flows down over his feet, to see our backs. We turned with the river and, after going another mile encumbered with fallen timber, camped on a terrace overlooking the river and surrounded on all sides with snow-capped mountains. As this was to be our last night by the Athabasca and perhaps the last on the eastern slope of the mountains, we named this camp, the forty-eighth from Lake Superior, "Athabasca."

September 14th.—The trail this morning led along the Athabasca for seven miles, to where the Myette runs into it, opposite the old "Henry House." With the exception of a difficulty soon after starting, caused by the disappearance of the trail near the fiver and the forcing a path through thick brush till we found it again, the road was excellent; passing for four or five miles over beautiful little "prairies,"—which had not been touched as yet by the frost, and on which grew the bunch-grass that horses prefer to any other feed,—and for the next two or three miles through small and middling sized pines, so well apart from one another that it was easy to ride in any direction. The day was warm and sunny, and the black flies that had left us for a week reappeared here. This valley, which seemed as beautiful on the other side of the river, is so completely sheltered, that the winter in it must be very mild.

The highest mountains that we had yet seen, showed this morning away to the south in the direction of the Athabasca Pass, and "the Committee's Punch Bowl." This Pass is seven thousand feet high, and snow lies on its summit all the year round, but our road led westward up the Myette; and, as the Athabasca here sweeps away to the south, under the name of Whirlpool river, the turn shut out from view for the rest of our journey, both the valley and the mountains of the Whirlpool.

With the Myette bad roads began again. Just as they commenced, Moberly caught up to us, having ridden on in advance of his men. He had left Victoria, Vancouver's Island, for the Columbia, having organized large provision-trains in the spring on pack-horses, and brought them on over incredible difficulties to "Boat encampment" at the most northerly bend of the Columbia. From Boat encampment they were to cross to the Athabasca Pass and move on to the Jasper valley, to afford autumn and winter supplies to the parties operating from that centre. He himself had crossed in advance direct to the lake on the other side of the Yellow Head Pass, where he met one of the parties under his command, making a trail in the direction of the Pass from the west. Hearing nothing about us from them, he had loaded three horses with flour and bacon, and come on to meet us. But by taking the river trail from Snaring River, two hours before our arrival there, he had missed us yesterday. Except the two Iroquois on the MacLeod, his was the first face we had seen since leaving St. Ann's, and to meet him was like opening communication with the world again, although we, and not he had the latest news to give.—How welcome he was, we need not say!

The first five miles up the Caledonian valley, as the valley of the Myette is called in the old maps and in Dr. Hector's journals, we made in about three hours, and a little after midday halted for dinner. Fallen timber was the principal cause of the slow rate, though the steep sharp rocks hurt the horses so much, that they had to tread softly and slowly. The rocks are hard rough sandstone, with a slaty or a peculiar pebbly fracture. The trail so far was scarcely worthy of the bad name travellers had given to it, and we began to imagine that the remaining fifteen miles to the Yellow Head Pass, could be made before nightfall. Moberly quietly said that it was a fond imagination, and that if the next five miles were got over by dark he would be satisfied, as it had taken him a whole day to make seven miles on his way down. Myette has such unpretending portals, especially when compared with the magnificent ranges about the Athabasca, it's current is so quiet, almost sluggish, near the mouth, and the valley is so short that no one would fore-cast any formidable difficulties, in ascending it to the Pass. But the afternoon proved that the valley is worthy of its old name 'Caledonian,' if the name was meant to suggest the thistle or the "wha' daur meddle wi' me!"

The Myette has a wonderful volume of water for its short course. It rushes down a narrow valley fed at every corner by foaming fells from the hill-sides, and by several large tributaries, A short way up from its mouth it becomes simply a series of rapids or mad currents, hurling along boulders, trees, and debris of all kinds. The valley at first is uninteresting, but five miles up and for much of the rest of the way, is quite picturesque, two prominent mountains, that rise right above the Pass and the lake at the summit, closing it in at its head.

Moberly's three men and horses, came up just as we were rising from dinner; and they passed on ahead, axes in hand, to improve the trail a little. It certainly needed all the improvement it got, and a good deal more than they could give in an afternoon. Long swamps that reminded us of the muskegs on the MacLeod, covered with an under-brush of scrub birch, and tough willows eight to ten feet high, that slapped our faces, and defiled our clothing with foul-smelling marsh mud, had to be floundered through. Alternating with these, intervened the face of a precipice, the rocky bed and sides of the river, or fallen timber, stumps, and blackened poles, to climb, to scramble over, or to dodge. No wonder that Milton and Cheadle bade adieu to the unkindly Myette with immense satisfaction. We had to cross and recross the river or parts of it seven or eight times in the course of the afternoon, for the trail sought low levels and avoided as often as possible ascending the bluffs and walls of rugged rock that rise sheer from the water. The middle ten miles of the Caledonian valley present formidable difficulties for a road of any kind. Four hours hard work took us over five miles, and by that time every one was heartily sick of it, and full of longing to reach Moberly's camp; although as yet no suitable camping ground had offered. As we stumbled about on a patch recently burnt over on the south side of the river, one of his Indians that he had thoughtfully sent back, met and guided us to a desolate looking spot, the best camping ground he had been able to find. Some little grass had sprung up on the blackened soil, and no one was disposed to be particular. Supper was left in the hands of Tim—Moberly's Indian cook—and he prepared a variety of delicacies that made up for all other deficiencies; bread light as Parisian rolls, Columbia flour being as different from Red River as Tim's baking from Terry's; delicious Java coffee, sweetened with sugar from the Sandwich Islands, that now supply great part of the Pacific coast with sugar; and crisp bacon, almost as great a luxury to us as pemmican to Moberly's men. All the hardships of the afternoon were forgotten as the aroma of the coffee steamed up our nostrils, and when Tim announced that he had oatmeal enough to make porridge for breakfast, our "luck" in meeting him was declared to be 'wonderful,' and 'Caledonian Camp' was voted the jolliest of our forty-nine. An hour after, the united party gathered round the kettle to drink the three Saturday night toasts, with three times three and one cheer more.

Consulting Moberly about the programme for next day, he advised that we should move on in the morning four miles to the last recrossing of the river and rest there for the day; for the two reasons, that by so doing we would get good feed for the horses, and probably fall in with the camp of his trail makers, who worked in advance of the surveying party. Both reasons were so good that the advice was taken nem. con.

September 15.—Had the promised porridge for breakfast, after some more of the good bread and bacon, and found it quite up to our anticipations. Left the "Caledonian Camp" at eight A.M. for our Sabbath day's journey, and found it not much better than yesterday afternoon's as far as quality was concerned. As every one needed rest and was tired of the Myette and its swamps, willows, and rocks, the sight of the crossing was hailed with general joy, and all the more when those in front called out that there was a fresh trail on the other side. Sure enough, as Moberly had expected, the trail party had reached the river, and their camp was only a quarter of a mile off. Our difficulties had come to an end, we supposed, for there would be a reasonably good trail now all the way to Kamloops; and the North Thompson canyons especially need no longer be dreaded. The conclusion proved to be somewhat hasty, but it cheered us at the time and was substantially correct. We rode up to the camp, and gave and received hearty greetings. An old-countryman named McCord was at the head of the trail party. He had pitched tents for the Sunday rest on a gentle incline beside the river, which flowed without rapids all the way from our last camp. We had been at the entrance of the "Yellow Head Pass" then, for though the actual summit was six miles farther west than where we met McCord, there was little or nothing of a rise up from our last night's camp. The two mountains that we had seen from near the bottom of the valley, closing its head, now appeared as the southern peaks of a noble ridge that bounded the pass to the north. The nearer to us of the two was almost conical and the other resembled the frustum of a cone, serrated into a number of peaks, like a crosscut saw, the big teeth in the centre and the small ones at the ends. These two mountains on which the snow rests the whole year are still nameless, strange to say. As the most prominent points on the Canadian Pacific Railway, we would suggest that the statesmen who have been most identified with the great project should have the honor of giving names to them.

After a hearty lunch on pork and beans—the favourite dish of miners and axemen, divine service was held. The congregation consisted of twenty-one men, including English, Scotch, Irish, Indians from both sides of the Rocky Mountains, and representatives of all the six provinces of the Dominion. We joined in singing Old Hundred and in common prayer, and a sermon was then preached—not very short on the plea that the majority of the Congregation had not heard a sermon for three months. As usual the worship had the effect of awakening old hallowed associations, and making us feel united in a common sacred life. In the evening all hands of their own accord gathered round our tent to share in the family worship.

McCord had selected his camping ground judiciously. Good wood, water, and pasture in his immediate neighbourhood; a beautiful slope covered with tall spruce, amid which the tents were scattered; an open meadow and low wooded hills to the Northwest round which the low line of the Pass winding in the same direction, could easily be made out; and the horizon, bounded by a bold ridge which threw out its two great peaks to overhang the Pass. This was one of the most picturesque spots in the Caledonian Valley, combining a soft lowland and woodland beauty, with stern rocky masses, capped with eternal snow. We were 3,700 feet above the sea, but the air was soft and warm. Even at night it was only pleasantly cool. We were all delighted with this our first view of the Yellow Head Pass.

Dinner was ordered for six o'clock and Brown set to work on his pemmican plum pudding in good time. It had to be made so large, however, that at six o'clock it required at least another hour's boiling. Fortunately McCord's cook, in ignorance of what Brown was about, had prepared at his fire a genuine old fashioned plum-pudding ; and full justice was done to this, till the pemmican one was ready. It was then proposed to keep it for breakfast, but the Dr. was impatient to put Brown's skill to the proof, and an hour after dinner, all gathered around our tent, to try the second pudding and decide on Brown's reputation. Terry in preparing the sauce had used salt instead of sugar, and the Dr. was accused of having put him up to the mistake to spoil the dish ; but the pudding was a decided success, though eaten under the great disadvantage of no one being very hungry, and plates were handed in for the second helping. Altogether this was a great day. The pleasure of meeting friends, of believing that our difficulties were practically at an end, the establishment of communication with the Pacific parties, the beauty of the prospect, the many novelties—to us luxuries of the table, the general good feeling, the quiet Sunday rest, the common worship, all contributed to heighten our enjoyment; and to make us rise from our second plum-pudding with the plough boy's sentiment in our hearts if not on our lips, "I'm fu', and as thankfu'."


Return to Book Index Page