Alaska Days with John Muir
by Samual Hall Young
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After a few days Muir changed his tone, saying, "There's more in that wee beastie than I thought"; and before a week passed Stickeen's victory was complete; he slept at Muir's feet, went with him on all his rambles; and even among dangerous crevasses or far up the steep slopes of granite mountains the little dog's splendid tail would be seen ahead of Muir, waving cheery signals to his new-found human companion.

Our canoe was light and easily propelled. Our outfit was very simple, for this was to be a quick voyage and there were not to be so many missionary visits this time. It was principally a voyage of discovery; we were in search of the glacier that we had lost. Perched in the high stern sat our captain, Lot Tyeen, massive and capable, handling his broad steering paddle with power and skill. In front of him Joe and Billy pulled oars, Joe, a strong young man, our cook, hunter and best oarsman; Billy, a lad of seventeen, our interpreter and Joe's assistant. Towards the bow, just behind the mast, sat Muir and I, each with a paddle in his hands. Stickeen slumbered at our feet or gazed into our faces when our conversation interested him. When we began to discuss a landing place he would climb the high bow and brace himself on the top of the beak, an animated figure-head, ready to jump into the water when we were about to camp.

Our route was different from that of '79. Now we struck through Wrangell Narrows, that tortuous and narrow passage between Mitkof and Kupreanof Islands, past Norris Glacier with its far-flung shaft of ice appearing above the forests as if suspended in air; past the bold Pt. Windham with its bluff of three thousand feet frowning upon the waters of Prince Frederick Sound; across Port Houghton, whose deep fiord had no ice in it and, therefore, was not worthy of an extended visit. We made all haste, for Muir was, as the Indians said, "always hungry for ice," and this was more especially his expedition. He was the commander now, as I had been the year before. He had set for himself the limit of a month and must return by the October boat. Often we ran until late at night against the protests of our Indians, whose life of infinite leisure was not accustomed to such rude interruption. They could not understand Muir at all, nor in the least comprehend his object in visiting icy bays where there was no chance of finding gold and nothing to hunt.

The vision rises before me, as my mind harks back to this second trip of seven hundred miles, of cold, rainy nights, when, urged by Muir to make one more point, the natives passed the last favorable camping place and we blindly groped for hours in pitchy darkness, trying to find a friendly beach. The intensely phosphorescent water flashed about us, the only relief to the inky blackness of the night. Occasionally a salmon or a big halibut, disturbed by our canoe, went streaming like a meteor through the water, throwing off coruscations of light. As we neared the shore, the waves breaking upon the rocks furnished us the only illumination. Sometimes their black tops with waving seaweed, surrounded by phosphorescent breakers, would have the appearance of mouths set with gleaming teeth rushing at us out of the dark as if to devour us. Then would come the landing on a sandy beach, the march through the seaweed up to the wet woods, a fusillade of exploding fucus pods accompanying us as if the outraged fairies were bombarding us with tiny guns. Then would ensue a tedious groping with the lantern for a camping place and for some dry, fat spruce wood from which to coax a fire; then the big camp-fire, the bean-pot and coffee-pot, the cheerful song and story, and the deep, dreamless sleep that only the weary voyageur or hunter can know.

Four or five days sufficed to bring us to our first objective—Sumdum or Holkham Bay, with its three wonderful arms. Here we were to find the lost glacier. This deep fiord has two great prongs. Neither of them figured in Vancouver's chart, and so far as records go we were the first to enter and follow to its end the longest of these, Endicott Arm. We entered the bay at night, caught again by the darkness, and groped our way uncertainly. We probably would have spent most of the night trying to find a landing place had not the gleam of a fire greeted us, flashing through the trees, disappearing as an island intervened, and again opening up with its fair ray as we pushed on. An hour's steady paddling brought us to the camp of some Cassiar miners—my friends. They were here at the foot of a glacier stream, from the bed of which they had been sluicing gold. Just now they were in hard luck, as the constant rains had swelled the glacial stream, burst through their wing-dams, swept away their sluice-boxes and destroyed the work of the summer. Strong men of the wilderness as they were, they were not discouraged, but were discussing plans for prospecting new places and trying it again here next summer. Hot coffee and fried venison emphasized their welcome, and we in return could give them a little news from the outside world, from which they had been shut off completely for months.

Muir called us before daylight the next morning. He had been up since two or three o'clock, "studying the night effects," he said, listening to the roaring and crunching of the charging ice as it came out of Endicott Arm, spreading out like the skirmish line of an army and grinding against the rocky point just below us. He had even attempted a moonlight climb up the sloping face of a high promontory with Stickeen as his companion, but was unable to get to the top, owing to the smoothness of the granite rock. It was newly glaciated—this whole region—and the hard rubbing ice-tools had polished the granite like a monument. A hasty meal and we were off.

"We'll find it this time," said Muir.

A miner crawled out of his blankets and came to see us start. "If it's scenery you're after," he said, "ten miles up the bay there's the nicest canyon you ever saw. It has no name that I know of, but it is sure some scenery."

The long, straight fiord stretched southeast into the heart of the granite range, its funnel shape producing tremendous tides. When the tide was ebbing that charging phalanx of ice was irresistible, storming down the canyon with race-horse speed; no canoe could stem that current. We waited until the turn, then getting inside the outer fleet of icebergs we paddled up with the flood tide. Mile after mile we raced past those smooth mountain shoulders; higher and higher they towered, and the ice, closing in upon us, threatened a trap. The only way to navigate safely that dangerous fiord was to keep ahead of the charging ice. As we came up towards the end of the bay the narrowing walls of the fiord compressed the ice until it crowded dangerously around us. Our captain, Lot, had taken the precaution to put a false bow and stern on his canoe, cunningly fashioned out of curved branches of trees and hollowed with his hand-adz to fit the ends of the canoe. These were lashed to the bow and stern by thongs of deer sinew. They were needed. It was like penetrating an arctic ice-floe. Sometimes we would have to skirt the granite rock and with our poles shove out the ice-cakes to secure a passage. It was fully thirty miles to the head of the bay, but we made it in half a day, so strong was the current of the rising tide.

I shall never forget the view that burst upon us as we rounded the last point. The face of the glacier where it discharged its icebergs was very narrow in comparison with the giants of Glacier Bay, but the ice cliff was higher than even the face of Muir Glacier. The narrow canyon of hard granite had compressed the ice of the great glacier until it had the appearance of a frozen torrent broken into innumerable crevasses, the great masses of ice tumbling over one another and bulging out for a few moments before they came crashing and splashing down into the deep water of the bay. The fiord was simply a cleft in high mountains, and the depth of the water could only be conjectured. It must have been hundreds of feet, perhaps thousands, from the surface of the water to the bottom of that fissure. Smooth, polished, shining breasts of bright gray granite crowded above the glacier on every side, seeming to overhang the ice and the bay. Struggling clumps of evergreens clung to the mountain sides below the glacier, and up, away up, dizzily to the sky towered the walls of the canyon. Hundreds of other Alaskan glaciers excel this in masses of ice and in grandeur of front, but none that I have seen condense beauty and grandeur to finer results.

"What a plucky little giant!" was Muir's exclamation as we stood on a rock-mound in front of this glacier. "To think of his shouldering his way through the mountain range like this! Samson, pushing down the pillars of the temple at Gaza, was nothing to this fellow. Hear him roar and laugh!"

Without consulting me Muir named this "Young Glacier," and right proud was I to see that name on the charts for the next ten years or more, for we mapped Endicott Arm and the other arm of Sumdum Bay as we had Glacier Bay; but later maps have a different name. Some ambitious young ensign on a surveying vessel, perhaps, stole my glacier, and later charts give it the name of Dawes. I have not found in the Alaskan statute books any penalty attached to the crime of stealing a glacier, but certainly it ought to be ranked as a felony of the first magnitude, the grandest of grand larcenies.

A couple of days and nights spent in the vicinity of Young Glacier were a period of unmixed pleasure. Muir spent all of these days and part of the nights climbing the pinnacled mountains to this and that viewpoint, crossing the deep, narrow and dangerous glacier five thousand feet above the level of the sea, exploring its tributaries and their side canyons, making sketches in his note-book for future elaboration. Stickeen by this time constantly followed Muir, exciting my jealousy by his plainly expressed preference. Because of my bad shoulder the higher and steeper ascents of this very rugged region were impossible to me, and I must content myself with two thousand feet and even lesser climbs. My favorite perch was on the summit of a sugar-loaf rock which formed the point of a promontory jutting into the bay directly in front of my glacier, and distant from its face less than a quarter of a mile. It was a granite fragment which had evidently been broken off from the mountain; indeed, there was a niche five thousand feet above into which it would exactly fit. The sturdy evergreens struggled half-way up its sides, but the top was bare.

On this splendid pillar I spent many hours. Generally I could see Muir, fortunate in having sound arms and legs, scaling the high rock-faces, now coming out on a jutting spur, now spread like a spider against the mountain wall. Here he would be botanizing in a patch of green that relieved the gray of the granite, there he was dodging in and out of the blue crevasses of the upper glacial falls. Darting before him or creeping behind was a little black speck which I made out to be Stickeen, climbing steeps up which a fox would hardly venture. Occasionally I would see him dancing about at the base of a cliff too steep for him, up which Muir was climbing, and his piercing howls of protest at being left behind would come echoing down to me.

But chiefly I was engrossed in the great drama which was being acted before me by the glacier itself. It was the battle of gravity with flinty hardness and strong cohesion. The stage setting was perfect; the great hall formed by encircling mountains; the side curtains of dark-green forest, fold on fold; the gray and brown top-curtains of the mountain heights stretching clear across the glacier, relieved by vivid moss and flower patches of yellow, magenta, violet and crimson. But the face of the glacier was so high and rugged and the ice so pure that it showed a variety of blue and purple tints I have never seen surpassed—baby-blue, sky-blue, sapphire, turquoise, cobalt, indigo, peacock, ultra-marine, shading at the top into lilac and amethyst. The base of the glacier-face, next to the dark-green water of the bay, resembled a great mass of vitriol, while the top, where it swept out of the canyon, had the curves and tints and delicate lines of the iris.

But the glacier front was not still; in form and color it was changing every minute. The descent was so steep that the glacial rapids above the bay must have flowed forward eighty or a hundred feet a day. The ice cliff, towering a thousand feet over the water, would present a slight incline from the perpendicular inwards toward the canyon, the face being white from powdered ice, the result of the grinding descent of the ice masses. Here and there would be little cascades of this fine ice spraying out as they fell, with glints of prismatic colors when the sunlight struck them. As I gazed I could see the whole upper part of the cliff slowly moving forward until the ice-face was vertical. Then, foot by foot it would be pushed out until the upper edge overhung the water. Now the outer part, denuded of the ice powder, would present a face of delicate blue with darker shades where the mountain peaks cast their shadows. Suddenly from top to bottom of the ice cliff two deep lines of prussian blue appeared. They were crevasses made by the ice current flowing more rapidly in the center of the stream. Fascinated, I watched this great pyramid of blue-veined onyx lean forward until it became a tower of Pisa, with fragments falling thick and fast from its upper apex and from the cliffs out of which it had been split. Breathless and anxious, I awaited the final catastrophe, and its long delay became almost a greater strain than I could bear. I jumped up and down and waved my arms and shouted at the glacier to "hurry up."

Suddenly the climax came in a surprising way. The great tower of crystal shot up into the air two hundred feet or more, impelled by the pressure of a hundred fathoms of water, and then, toppling over, came crashing into the water with a roar as of rending mountains. Its weight of thousands of tons, falling from such a height, splashed great sheets of water high into the air, and a rainbow of wondrous brilliance flashed and vanished. A mighty wave swept majestically down the bay, rocking the massive bergs like corks, and, breaking against my granite pillar, tossed its spray half-way up to my lofty perch. Muir's shout of applause and Stickeen's sharp bark came faintly to my ears when the deep rumbling of the newly formed icebergs had subsided.

That night I waited supper long for Muir. It was a good supper—a mulligan stew of mallard duck, with biscuits and coffee. Stickeen romped into camp about ten o'clock and his new master soon followed.

"Ah!" sighed Muir between sips of coffee, "what a Lord's mercy it is that we lost this glacier last fall, when we were pressed for time, to find it again in these glorious days that have flashed out of the mists for our special delectation. This has been a day of days. I have found four new varieties of moss, and have learned many new and wonderful facts about world-shaping. And then, the wonder and glory! Why, all the values of beauty and sublimity—form, color, motion and sound—have been present to-day at their very best. My friend, we are the richest men in all the world to-night."

Charging down the canyon with the charging ice on our return, we kept to the right-hand shore, on the watch for the mouth of the canyon of "some scenery." We had not been able to discover it from the other side as we ascended the fiord. We were almost swept past the mouth of it by the force of the current. Paddling into an eddy, we were suddenly halted as if by a strong hand pushed against the bow, for the current was flowing like a cataract out of the narrow mouth of this side canyon. A rocky shelf afforded us a landing place. We hastily unloaded the canoe and pulled it up upon the beach out of reach of the floating ice, and there we had to wait until the next morning before we could penetrate the depths of this great canyon.

We shot through the mouth of the canyon at dangerous speed. Indeed, we could not do otherwise; we were helpless in the grasp of the torrent. At certain stages the surging tide forms an actual fall, for the entrance is so narrow that the water heaps up and pours over. We took the beginning of the flood tide, and so escaped that danger; but our speed must have been, at the narrows, twenty miles an hour. Then, suddenly, the bay widened out, the water ceased to swirl and boil and the current became gentle.

When we could lay aside our paddles and look up, one of the most glorious views of the whole world "smote us in the face," and Muir's chant arose, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow."

Before entering this bay I had expressed a wish to see Yosemite Valley. Now Muir said: "There is your Yosemite; only this one is on much the grander scale. Yonder towers El Capitan, grown to twice his natural size; there are the Sentinel, and the majestic Dome; and see all the falls. Those three have some resemblance to Yosemite Falls, Nevada and Bridal Veil; but the mountain breasts from which they leap are much higher than in Yosemite, and the sheer drop much greater. And there are so many more of these and they fall into the sea. We'll call this Yosemite Bay—a bigger Yosemite, as Alaska is bigger than California."

Two very beautiful glaciers lay at the head of this canyon. They did not descend to the water, but the narrow strip of moraine matter without vegetation upon it between the glaciers and the bay showed that it had not been long since they were glaciers of the first class, sending out a stream of icebergs to join those from the Young Glacier. These glaciers stretched away miles and miles, like two great antennae, from the head of the bay to the top of the mountain range. But the most striking features of this scene were the wonderfully rounded and polished granite breasts of these great heights. In one stretch of about a mile on either side of the narrow bay parallel mouldings, like massive cornices of gray granite, five or six thousand feet high, overhung the water. These had been fluted and rounded and polished by the glacier stream, until they seemed like the upper walls and Corinthian capitals of a great temple. The power of the ice stream could be seen in the striated shoulders of these cliffs. What awful force that tool of steel-like ice must have possessed, driven by millions of tons of weight, to mould and shape and scoop out these flinty rock faces, as the carpenter's forming plane flutes a board!

When we were half-way up this wonderful bay the sun burst through a rift of cloud. "Look, look!" exclaimed Muir. "Nature is turning on the colored lights in her great show house."

Instantly this severe, bare hall of polished rock was transformed into a fairy palace. A score of cascades, the most of them invisible before, leapt into view, falling from the dizzy mountain heights and spraying into misty veils as they descended; and from all of them flashed rainbows of marvelous distinctness and brilliance, waving and dancing—a very riot of color. The tinkling water falling into the bay waked a thousand echoes, weird, musical and sweet, a riot of sound. It was an enchanted palace, and we left it with reluctance, remaining only six hours and going out at the turn of the flood tide to escape the dangerous rapids. Had there not been any so many things to see beyond, and so little time in which to see them, I doubt if Muir would have quit Yosemite Bay for days.



Two friends I have, and close akin are they. For both are free And wild and proud, full of the ecstasy Of life untrammeled; living, day by day, A law unto themselves; yet breaking none Of Nature's perfect code. And far afield, remote from man's abode, They roam the wilds together, two as one.

Yet, one's a dog—a wisp of silky hair, Two sharp black eyes, A face alert, mysterious and wise, A shadowy tail, a body lithe and fair. And one's a man—of Nature's work the best, A heart of gold, A mind stored full of treasures new and old, Of men the greatest, strongest, tenderest.

They love each other—these two friends of mine— Yet both agree In this—with that pure love that's half divine They both love me.



There is no time to tell of all the bays we explored; of Holkham Bay, Port Snettisham, Tahkou Harbor; all of which we rudely put on the map, or at least extended the arms beyond what was previously known. Through Gastineau Channel, now famous for some of the greatest quartz mines and mills in the world, we pushed, camping on the site of what is now Juneau, the capital city of Alaska.

An interesting bit of history is to be recorded here. Pushing across the flats at the head of the bay at high tide the next morning (for the narrow, grass-covered flat between Gastineau Channel and Stevens Passage can only be crossed with canoes at flood tide), we met two old gold prospectors whom I had frequently seen at Wrangell—Joe Harris and Joe Juneau. Exchanging greetings and news, they told us they were out from Sitka on a leisurely hunting and prospecting trip. Asking us about our last camping place, Harris said to Juneau, "Suppose we camp there and try the gravel of that creek."

These men found placer gold and rock "float" at our camp and made quite a clean-up that fall, returning to Sitka with a "gold-poke" sufficiently plethoric to start a stampede to the new diggings. Both placer and quartz locations were made and a brisk "camp" was built the next summer. This town was first called Harrisburg for one of the prospectors, and afterwards Juneau for the other. The great Treadwell gold quartz mine was located three miles from Juneau in 1881, and others subsequently. The territorial capital was later removed from Sitka to Juneau, and the city has grown in size and importance, until it is one of the great mining and commercial centers of the Northwest.

Through Stevens Passage we paddled, stopping to preach to the Auk Indians; then down Chatham Strait and into Icy Strait, where the crystal masses of Muir and Pacific glaciers flashed a greeting from afar. We needed no Hoonah guide this time, and it was well we did not, for both Hoonah villages were deserted. The inhabitants had gone to their hunting, fishing or berry-picking grounds.

At Pleasant Island we loaded, as on the previous trip, with dry wood for our voyage into Glacier Bay. We were not to attempt the head of the bay this time, but to confine our exploration to Muir Glacier, which we had only touched upon the previous fall. Pleasant Island was the scene of one of Stickeen's many escapades. The little island fairly teemed with big field mice and pine squirrels, and Stickeen went wild. We could hear his shrill bark, now here, now there, from all parts of the island. When we were ready to leave the next morning he was not to be seen. We got aboard as usual, thinking that he would follow. A quarter of a mile's paddling and still no little black head could be discovered in our wake. Muir, who was becoming very much attached to the little dog, was plainly worried.

"Row back," he said.

So we rowed back and called, but no Stickeen. Around the next point we rowed and whistled; still no Stickeen. At last, discouraged, I gave the signal to move off. So we rounded the curving shore and pushed towards Glacier Bay. At the far point of the island, a mile from our camping place, we suddenly discovered Stickeen away out in the water, paddling calmly and confidently towards our canoe. How he had ever got there I cannot imagine. I think he must have been taking a long swim out on the bay for the mere pleasure of it. Muir always insisted that he had listened to our discussion of the route to be taken, and, with an uncanny intuition that approached clairvoyance, knew just where to head us off.

When we took him aboard he went through his usual performance, making his way, the whole length of the canoe, until he got under Muir's legs, before shaking himself. No protests or discipline availed, for Muir's kicks always failed of their pretended mark. To the end of his acquaintance with Muir, he always chose the vicinity of Muir's legs as the place to shake himself after a swim.

At Muir Glacier we spent a week this time, making long trips up the mountains that overlooked the glacier and across its surface. On one occasion Muir, with the little dog at his heels, crossed entirely in a diagonal direction the great glacial lake, a trip of some thirty miles, starting before daylight in the morning and not appearing at camp until long after dark. Muir always carried several handkerchiefs in his pockets, but this time he returned without any, having used them all up making moccasins for Stickeen, whose feet were cut and bleeding from the sharp honeycomb ice of the glacial surface. This mass of ice is so vast and so comparatively still that it has but few crevasses, and Muir's day for traversing it was a perfect one—warm and sunny.

Another day he and I climbed the mountain that overlooked it and skirted the mighty ice-field for some distance, then walked across the face of the glacier just back of the rapids, keeping away from the deep crevasses. We drove a straight line of stakes across the glacial stream and visited them each day to watch the deflection and curves of the stakes, and thus arrive at some conception of the rate at which the ice mass was moving. In some parts of the glacial stream this ice current flowed as fast as fifty or sixty feet a day, and we could understand the constant breaking off and leaping up and smashing down of the ice and the formation of that great mass of bergs.

Shortly before we left Muir Glacier, I saw Muir furiously angry for the first and last time in my acquaintance with him. We had noticed day after day, whenever the mists admitted a view of the mountain slopes, bands of mountain goats looking like little white mice against the green of the high pastures. I said to Joe, the hunter, one morning: "Go up and get us a kid. It will be a great addition to our larder."

He took my breech-loading rifle and went. In the afternoon he returned with a fine young buck on his shoulders. While we were examining it he said:

"I picked the fattest and most tender of those that I killed."

"What!" I exclaimed, "did you kill more than this one?"

He put up both hands with fingers extended and then one finger:

"Tatlum-pe-ict (eleven)," he replied.

Muir's face flushed red, and with an exclamation that was as near to an oath as he ever came, he started for Joe. Luckily for that Indian he saw Muir and fled like a deer up the rocks, and would not come down until he was assured that he would not be hurt. I shared Muir's indignation and would have enjoyed seeing him administer the richly deserved thrashing.

Muir had a strong aversion to taking the life of any animal; although he would eat meat when prepared, he never killed a wild animal; even the rattlesnakes he did not molest during his rambles in California. Often his softness of heart was a source of some annoyance and a great deal of astonishment to our natives; for he would take pleasure in rocking the canoe when they were trying to get a bead on a flock of ducks or a deer standing on the shore.

On leaving the mouth of Glacier Bay we spent a week or more exploring the inlets and glaciers to the west. These days were rainy and cold. We groped blindly into unknown, unmapped, fog-hidden fiords and bayous, exploring them to their ends and often making excursions to the glaciers above them.

The climax of the trip, however, was the last glacier we visited, Taylor Glacier, the scene of Muir's great adventure with Stickeen. We reached this fine glacier in the afternoon of a very stormy day. We were approaching the open Pacific, and the saanah, the southeast rain-wind, was howling through the narrow entrance into Cross Sound. For twenty miles we had been facing strong head winds and tidal waves as we crept around rocky points and along the bases of dizzy cliffs and glacier-scored rock-shoulders. We were drenched to the skin; indeed, our clothing and blankets had been soaking wet for days. For two hours before we turned the point into the cozy harbor in front of the glacier we had been exerting every ounce of our strength; Lot in the stern wielding his big steering paddle, now on this side, now on that, grunting with each mighty stroke, calling encouragement to his crew, "Ut-ha, ut-ha! hlitsin! hlitsin-tin! (pull, pull, strong, with strength!)"; Joe and Billy rising from their seats with every stroke and throwing their whole weight and force savagely into their oars; Muir and I in the bow bent forward with heads down, butting into the slashing rain, paddling for dear life; Stickeen, the only idle one, looking over the side of the boat as though searching the channel and then around at us as if he would like to help. All except the dog were exhausted when we turned into the sheltered cove.

While the men pitched the tents and made camp Muir and I walked through the thick grass to the front of the large glacier, which front stretched from a high, perpendicular rock wall about three miles to a narrow promontory of moraine boulders next to the ocean.

"Now, here is something new," exclaimed Muir, as we stood close to the edge of the ice. "This glacier is the great exception. All the others of this region are receding; this has been coming forward. See the mighty ploughshare and its furrow!"

For the icy mass was heaving up the ground clear across its front, and, on the side where we stood, had evidently found a softer stratum under a forest-covered hill, and inserted its shovel point under the hill, heaved it upon the ice, cracking the rocks into a thousand fragments; and was carrying the whole hill upon its back towards the sea. The large trees were leaning at all angles, some of them submerged, splintered and ground by the crystal torrent, some of the shattered trunks sticking out of the ice. It was one of the most tremendous examples of glacial power I have ever seen.

"I must climb this glacier to-morrow," said Muir. "I shall have a great day of it; I wish you could come along."

I sighed, not with resignation, but with a grief that was akin to despair. The condition of my shoulders was such that it would be madness to attempt to join Muir on his longer and more perilous climbs. I should only spoil his day and endanger his life as well as my own.

That night I baked a good batch of camp bread, boiled a fresh kettle of beans and roasted a leg of venison ready for Muir's breakfast, fixed the coffee-pot and prepared dry kindling for the fire. I knew he would be up and off at daybreak, perhaps long before.

"Wake me up," I admonished him, "or at least take time to make hot coffee before you start." For the wind was rising and the rain pouring, and I knew how imperative the call of such a morning as was promised would be to him. To traverse a great, new, living, rapidly moving glacier would be high joy; but to have a tremendous storm added to this would simply drive Muir wild with desire to be himself a part of the great drama played on the glacier-stage.

Several times during the night I was awakened by the flapping of the tent, the shrieking of the wind in the spruce-tops and the thundering of the ocean surf on the outer barrier of rocks. The tremulous howling of a persistent wolf across the bay soothed me to sleep again, and I did not wake when Muir arose. As I had feared, he was in too big a hurry to take time for breakfast, but pocketed a small cake of camp bread and hastened out into the storm-swept woods. I was aroused, however, by the controversy between him and Stickeen outside of the tent. The little dog, who always slept with one eye and ear alert for Muir's movements, had, as usual, quietly left his warm nest and followed his adopted master. Muir was scolding and expostulating with him as if he were a boy. I chuckled to myself at the futility of Muir's efforts; Stickeen would now, as always, do just as he pleased—and he would please to go along.

Although I was forced to stay at the camp, this stormy day was a most interesting one to me. There was an old Hoonah chief camped at the mouth of the little river which flowed from under Taylor Glacier. He had with him his three wives and a little company of children and grandchildren. The many salmon weirs and summer houses at this point showed that it had been at one time a very important fishing place.

But the advancing glacier had played havoc with the chief's salmon stream. The icy mass had been for several years traveling towards the sea at the rate of at least a mile every year. There were still silver hordes of fine red salmon swimming in the sea outside of the river's mouth. But the stream was now so short that the most of these salmon swam a little ways into the mouth of the river and then out into the salt water again, bewildered and circling about, doubtless wondering what had become of their parent stream.

The old chief came to our camp early, followed by his squaws bearing gifts of salmon, porpoise meat, clams and crabs; and at his command two of the girls of his family picked me a basketful of delicious wild strawberries. He sat motionless by my fire all the forenoon, smoking my leaf tobacco and pondering deeply. After the noon meal, which I shared with him, he called Billy, my interpreter, and asked for a big talk.

With all ceremony I made preparations, gave more presents of leaf tobacco and hardtack and composed myself for the palaver. After the usual preliminaries, in which he told me at great length what a great man I was, how like a father to all the people, comparing me to sun, moon, stars and all other great things; I broke in upon his stream of compliments and asked what he wanted.

Recalled to earth he said: "I wish you to pray to your God."

"For what do you wish me to pray?" I asked.

The old man raised his blanketed form to its full height and waved his hand with a magnificent gesture towards the glacier. "Do you see that great ice mountain?"


"Once," he said, "I had the finest salmon stream upon the coast." Pointing to a point of rock five or six miles beyond the mouth of the glacier he continued: "Once the salmon stream extended far beyond that point of rock. There was a great fall there and a deep pool below it, and here for years great schools of king salmon came crowding up to the foot of that fall. To spear them or net them was very easy; they were the fattest and best salmon among all these islands. My household had abundance of meat for the winter's need. But the cruel spirit of that glacier grew angry with me, I know not why, and drove the ice mountain down towards the sea and spoiled my salmon stream. A year or two more and it will be blotted out entirely. I have done my best. I have prayed to my gods. Last spring I sacrificed two of my slaves, members of my household, my best slaves, a strong man and his wife, to the spirit of that glacier to make the ice mountain stop; but it comes on, and now I want you to pray to your God, the God of the white man, to see if He will make the glacier stop!"

I wish I could describe the pathetic earnestness of this old Indian, the simplicity with which he told of the sacrifice of his slaves and the eager look with which he awaited my answer. When I exclaimed in horror at his deed of blood he was astonished; he could not understand.

"Why, they were my slaves," he said, "and the man suggested it himself. He was glad to go to death to help his chief."

A few years after this our missionary at Hoonah had the pleasure of baptizing this old chief into the Christian faith. He had put away his slaves and his plural wives, had surrendered the implements of his old superstition, and as a child embraced the new gospel of peace and love. He could not get rid of his superstition about the glacier, however, and about eight years afterwards, visiting at Wrangell, he told me as an item of news which he expected would greatly please me that, doubtless as a result of my prayers, Taylor Glacier was receding again and the salmon beginning to come into that stream.

At intervals during this eventful day I went to the face of the glacier and even climbed the disintegrating hill that was riding on the glacier's ploughshare, in an effort to see the bold wanderers; but the jagged ice peaks of the high glacial rapids blocked my vision, and the rain driving passionately in horizontal sheets shut out the mountains and the upper plateau of ice. I could see that it was snowing on the glacier, and imagined the weariness and peril of dog and man exposed to the storm in that dangerous region. I could only hope that Muir had not ventured to face the wind on the glacier, but had contented himself with tracing its eastern side, and was somewhere in the woods bordering it, beside a big fire, studying storm and glacier in comparative safety.

When the shadows of evening were added to those of the storm I had my men gather materials for a big bonfire, and kindle it well out on the flat, where it could be seen from mountain and glacier. I placed dry clothing and blankets in the fly tent facing the camp-fire, and got ready the best supper at my command: clam chowder, fried porpoise, bacon and beans, "savory meat" made of mountain kid with potatoes, onions, rice and curry, camp biscuit and coffee, with dessert of wild strawberries and condensed milk.

It grew pitch-dark before seven, and it was after ten when the dear wanderers staggered into camp out of the dripping forest. Stickeen did not bounce in ahead with a bark, as was his custom, but crept silently to his piece of blanket and curled down, too tired to shake himself. Billy and I laid hands on Muir without a word, and in a trice he was stripped of his wet garments, rubbed dry, clothed in dry underwear, wrapped in a blanket and set down on a bed of spruce twigs with a plate of hot chowder before him. When the chowder disappeared the other hot dishes followed in quick succession, without a question asked or a word uttered. Lot kept the fire blazing just right, Joe kept the victuals hot and baked fresh bread, while Billy and I waited on Muir.

Not till he came to the coffee and strawberries did Muir break the silence. "Yon's a brave doggie," he said. Stickeen, who could not yet be induced to eat, responded by a glance of one eye and a feeble pounding of the blanket with his heavy tail.

Then Muir began to talk, and little by little, between sips of coffee, the story of the day was unfolded. Soon memories crowded for utterance and I listened till midnight, entranced by a succession of vivid descriptions the like of which I have never heard before or since. The fierce music and grandeur of the storm, the expanse of ice with its bewildering crevasses, its mysterious contortions, its solemn voices were made to live before me.

When Muir described his marooning on the narrow island of ice surrounded by fathomless crevasses, with a knife-edged sliver curving deeply "like the cable of a suspension bridge" diagonally across it as the only means of escape, I shuddered at his peril. I held my breath as he told of the terrible risks he ran as he cut his steps down the wall of ice to the bridge's end, knocked off the sharp edge of the sliver, hitched across inch by inch and climbed the still more difficult ascent on the other side. But when he told of Stickeen's cries of despair at being left on the other side of the crevasse, of his heroic determination at last to do or die, of his careful progress across the sliver as he braced himself against the gusts and dug his little claws into the ice, and of his passionate revulsion to the heights of exultation when, intoxicated by his escape, he became a living whirlwind of joy, flashing about in mad gyrations, shouting and screaming "Saved! saved!" my tears streamed down my face. Before the close of the story Stickeen arose, stepped slowly across to Muir and crouched down with his head on Muir's foot, gazing into his face and murmuring soft canine words of adoration to his god.

Not until 1897, seventeen years after the event, did Muir give to the public his story of Stickeen. How many times he had written and rewritten it I know not. He told me at the time of its first publication that he had been thinking of the story all of these years and jotting down paragraphs and sentences as they occurred to him. He was never satisfied with a sentence until it balanced well. He had the keenest sense of melody, as well as of harmony, in his sentence structure, and this great dog-story of his is a remarkable instance of the growth to perfection of the great production of a great master.

The wonderful power of endurance of this man, whom Theodore Roosevelt has well called a "perfectly natural man," is instanced by the fact that, although he was gone about seventeen hours on this day of his adventure with Stickeen, with only a bite of bread to eat, and never rested a minute of that time, but was battling with the storm all day and often racing at full speed across the glacier, yet he got up at daylight the next morning, breakfasted with me and was gone all day again, with Stickeen at his heels, climbing a high mountain to get a view of the snow fountains and upper reaches of the glacier; and when he returned after nightfall he worked for two or three hours at his notes and sketches.

The latter part of this voyage was hurried. Muir had a wife waiting for him at home and he had promised to stay in Alaska only one month. He had dallied so long with his icy loves, the glaciers, that we were obliged to make all haste to Sitka, where he expected to take the return steamer. To miss that would condemn him to Alaska and absence from his wife for another month. Through a continually pouring rain we sailed by the then deserted town of Hoonah, ascended with the rising tide a long, narrow, shallow inlet, dragged our canoe a hundred yards over a little hill and then descended with the receding tide another long, narrow passage down to Chatham Strait; and so on to the mouth of Peril Strait which divided Baranof from Chichagof Island.

On the other side of Chatham Strait, opposite the mouth of Peril, we visited again Angoon, the village of the Hootz-noos. From this town the painted and drunken warriors had come the winter before and attacked the Stickeens, killing old Tow-a-att, Moses and another of our Christian Indians. The trouble was not settled yet, and although the two tribes had exchanged some pledges and promised to fight no more, I feared a fresh outbreak, and so thought it wise to pay another visit to the Hootz-noos. As we approached Angoon, however, I heard the war-drums beating with their peculiar cadence, "tum-tum"—a beat off—"tum-tum, tum-tum." As we came up to the beach I saw what was seemingly the whole tribe dancing their war-dances, arrayed in their war-paint with their fantastic war-gear on. So earnestly engaged were they in their dance that they at first paid no attention whatever to me. My heart sank into my boots. "They are going back to Wrangell to attack the Stickeens," I thought, "and there will be another bloody war."

Driving our canoe ashore, we hurried up to the head chief of the Hootz-noos, who was alternately haranguing his people and directing the dances.

"Anatlask," I called, "what does this mean? You are going on the warpath. Tell me what you are about. Are you going back to Stickeen?"

He looked at me vacantly a little while, and then a grin spread from ear to ear. It was the same chief in whose house I had seen the idiot boy a year before.

"Come with me," he said.

He led us into his house and across the room to where in state, surrounded by all kinds of chieftain's gear, Chilcat blankets, totemic carvings and paintings, chieftain's hats and cunningly woven baskets, there lay the body of a stalwart young man wrapped in a button-embroidered blanket. The chief silently removed the blanket from the face of the dead. The skull was completely crushed on one side as by a heavy blow. Then the story came out.

The hootz, or big brown bear of that country, is as large and savage as the grizzly bear of the Rockies. At certain seasons he is, as the natives say, "quonsum-sollex" (always mad). The natives seldom attack these bears, confining their attention to the more timid and easily killed black bears. But this young man with a companion, hunting on Baranof Island across the Strait, found himself suddenly confronted by an enormous hootz. The young man rashly shot him with his musket, wounding him sufficiently to make him furious. The tremendous brute hurled his thousand pounds of ferocity at the hunter, and one little tap of that huge paw crushed his skull like an egg-shell. His companion brought his body home; and now the whole tribe had formally declared war on that bear, and all this dancing and painting and drumming was in preparation for a war party, composed of all the men, dogs and guns in the town. They were going on the warpath to get that bear. Greatly relieved, I gave them my blessing and sped them on their way.

We had been rowing all night before this incident, and all the next night we sailed up the tortuous Peril Strait, going upward with the flood, one man steering while the other slept, to the meeting place of the waters; then down with the receding tide through the islands, and so on to Sitka. Here we met a warm reception from the missionaries, and also from the captain and officers of the old man-of-war Jamestown, afterwards used as a school ship for the navy in the harbor of San Francisco.

Alaska at that time had no vestige of civil government, no means of punishing crime, no civil officers except the customs collectors, no magistrate or police,—everyone was a law to himself. The only sign of authority was this cumbersome sailing vessel with its marines and sailors. It could not move out of Sitka harbor without first sending by the monthly mail steamer to San Francisco for a tug to come and tow it through these intricate channels to the sea where the sails could be spread. Of course, it was not of much use to this vast territory. The officers of the Jamestown were supposed to be doing some surveying, but, lacking the means of travel, what they did amounted to very little.

They were interested at once in our account of the discovery of Glacier Bay and of the other unmapped bays and inlets that we had entered. At their request, from Muir's notes and our estimate of distances by our rate of sailing, and of directions from observations of our little compass, we drew a rough map of Glacier Bay. This was sent on to Washington by these officers and published by the Navy Department. For six or seven years it was the only sailing chart of Glacier Bay, and two or three steamers were wrecked, groping their way in these uncharted passages, before surveying vessels began to make accurate maps. So from its beginning has Uncle Sam neglected this greatest and richest of all his possessions.

Our little company separated at Sitka. Stickeen and our Indian crew were the first to leave, embarking for a return trip to Wrangell by canoe. Stickeen had stuck close to Muir, following him everywhere, crouching at his feet where he sat, sleeping in his room at night. When the time came for him to leave Muir explained the matter to him fully, talking to and reasoning with him as if he were human. Billy led him aboard the canoe by a dog-chain, and the last Muir saw of him he was standing on of the canoe, howling a sad farewell.

Muir sailed south on the monthly mail steamer; while I took passage on a trading steamer for another missionary trip among the northern tribes.

So ended my canoe voyages with John Muir. Their memory is fresh and sweet as ever. The flowing stream of years has not washed away nor dimmed the impressions of those great days we spent together. Nearly all of them were cold, wet and uncomfortable, if one were merely an animal, to be depressed or enlivened by physical conditions. But of these so-called "hardships" Muir made nothing, and I caught his spirit; therefore, the beauty, the glory, the wonder and the thrills of those weeks of exploration are with me yet and shall endure—a rustless, inexhaustible treasure.



He lived aloft, exultant, unafraid. All things were good to him. The mountain old Stretched gnarled hands to help him climb. The peak Waved blithe snow-banner greeting; and for him The rav'ning storm, aprowl for human life, Purred like the lion at his trainer's feet. The grizzly met him on the narrow ledge, Gave gruff "good morning"—and the right of way. The blue-veined glacier, cold of heart and pale, Warmed, at his gaze, to amethystine blush, And murmured deep, fond undertones of love.

He walked apart from men, yet loved his kind, And brought them treasures from his larger store. For them he delved in mines of richer gold. Earth's messenger he was to human hearts. The starry moss flower from its dizzy shelf, The ouzel, shaking forth its spray of song, The glacial runlet, tinkling its clear bell, The rose-of-morn, abloom on snowy heights— Each sent by him a jewel-word of cheer. Blind eyes he opened and deaf ears unstopped.

He lived aloft, apart. He talked with God In all the myriad tongues of God's sweet world; But still he came anear and talked with us, Interpreting for God to listn'ing men.



The friendship between John Muir and myself was of that fine sort which grows and deepens with absence almost as well as with companionship. Occasional letters passed from one to the other. When I felt like writing to Muir I obeyed the impulse without asking whether I "owed" him a letter, and he followed the same rule—or rather lack of rule. Sometimes answers to these letters came quickly; sometimes they were long delayed, so long that they were not answers at all. When I sent him "news of his mountains and glaciers" that contained items really novel to him his replies were immediate and enthusiastic. When he had found in his great outdoor museum some peculiar treasure he talked over his find with me by letter.

Muir's letters were never commonplace and sometimes they were long and rich. I preserved them all; and when, a few years ago, an Alaska steamboat sank to the bottom of the Yukon, carrying with it my library and all my literary possessions, the loss of these letters from my friend caused me more sorrow than the loss of almost any other of my many priceless treasures.

The summer of 1881, the year following that of our second canoe voyage, Muir went, as scientific and literary expert, with the U.S. revenue cutter Rogers, which was sent by the Government into the Arctic Ocean in search of the ill-fated De Long exploring party. His published articles written on the revenue cutter were of great interest; but in his more intimate letters to me there was a note of disappointment.

"There have been no mountains to climb," he wrote, "although I have had entrancing long-distance views of many. I have not had a chance to visit any glaciers. There were no trees in those arctic regions, and but few flowers. Of God's process of modeling the world I saw but little—nothing for days but that limitless, relentless ice-pack. I was confined within the narrow prison of the ship; I had no freedom, I went at the will of other men; not of my own. It was very different from those glorious canoe voyages with you in your beautiful, fruitful wilderness."

A very brief visit at Muir's home near Martinez, California, in the spring of 1883 found him at what he frankly said was very distasteful work—managing a large fruit ranch. He was doing the work well and making his orchards pay large dividends; but his heart was in the hills and woods. Eagerly he questioned me of my travels and of the "progress" of the glaciers and woods of Alaska. Beyond a few short mountain trips he had seen nothing for two years of his beloved wilds.

Passionately he voiced his discontent: "I am losing the precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news."

In 1888 the ten years' limit which I had set for service in Alaska expired. The educational necessities of my children and the feeling that was growing upon me like a smothering cloud that if I remained much longer among the Indians I would lose all power to talk or write good English, drove me from the Northwest to find a temporary home in Southern California.

I had not notified Muir of my coming, but suddenly appeared in his orchard at Martinez one day in early summer. It was cherry-picking time and he was out among his trees superintending a large force of workmen. He saw me as soon as I discovered him, and dropping the basket he was carrying came running to greet me with both hands outstretched.

"Ah! my friend," he cried, "I have been longing mightily for you. You have come to take me on a canoe trip to the countries beyond—to Lituya and Yakutat bays and Prince William Sound; have you not? My weariness of this hum-drum, work-a-day life has grown so heavy it is like to crush me. I'm ready to break away and go with you whenever you say."

"No," I replied, "I am leaving Alaska."

"Man, man!" protested Muir, "how can you do it? You'll never carry out such a notion as that in the world. Your heart will cry every day for the North like a lost child; and in your sleep the snow-banners of your white peaks will beckon to you.

"Why, look at me," he said, "and take warning. I'm a horrible example. I, who have breathed the mountain air—who have really lived a life of freedom—condemned to penal servitude with these miserable little bald-heads!" (holding up a bunch of cherries). "Boxing them up; putting them in prison! And for money! Man! I'm like to die of the shame of it.

"And then you're not safe a day in this sordid world of money-grubbing men. I came near dying a mean, civilized death, the other day. A Chinaman emptied a bucket of phosphorus over me and almost burned me up. How different that would have been from a nice white death in the crevasse of a glacier!

"Gin it were na for my bairnies I'd rin awa' frae a' this tribble an' hale ye back north wi' me."

So Muir would run on, now in English, now in broad Scotch; but through all his raillery there ran a note of longing for the wilderness. "I want to see what is going on," he said. "So many great events are happening, and I'm not there to see them. I'm learning nothing here that will do me any good."

I spent the night with him, and we talked till long after midnight, sailing anew our voyages of enchantment. He had just completed his work of editing "Picturesque California" and gave me a set of the beautiful volumes.

Our paths did not converge again for nine years; but I was to have, after all, a few more Alaska days with John Muir. The itch of the wanderlust in my feet had become a wearisome, nervous ache, increasing with the years, and the call of the wild more imperative, until the fierce yearning for the North was at times more than I could bear.

The first of the great northward gold stampedes—that of 1897 to the Klondyke in Northwestern Canada on the borders of Alaska—afforded me the opportunity for which I was longing to return to the land of my heart. The latter part of August saw me on The Queen, the largest of that great fleet of passenger boats that were traversing the thousand miles of wonder and beauty between Seattle and Skagway. These steamboats were all laden with gold seekers and their goods. Seattle sprang into prominence and wealth, doubling her population in a few months. From every community in the United States, from all Canada and from many lands across the oceans came that strange mob of lawyers, doctors, clerks, merchants, farmers, mechanics, engineers, reporters, sharpers—all gold-struck—all mad with excitement—all rushing pell-mell into a thousand new and hard experiences.

As I stood on the upper deck of the vessel, watching the strange scene on the dock, who should come up the gang-plank but John Muir, wearing the same old gray ulster and Scotch cap! It was the last place in the world I would have looked for him. But he was not stampeding to the Klondyke. His being there at that time was really an accident. In company with two other eminent "tree-men" he had been spending the summer in the study of the forests of Canada and the three were "climaxing," as they said, in the forests of Alaska.

Five pleasurable days we had together on board The Queen. Muir was vastly amused by the motley crowd of excited men, their various outfits, their queer equipment, their ridiculous notions of camping and life in the wilderness. "A nest of ants," he called them, "taken to a strange country and stirred up with a stick."

As our steamboat touched at Port Townsend, Muir received a long telegram from a San Francisco newspaper, offering him a large sum if he would go over the mountains and down the Yukon to the Klondyke, and write them letters about conditions there. He brought the telegram to me, laughing heartily at the absurdity of anybody making him such a proposition.

"Do they think I'm daft," he asked, "like a' the lave o' thae puir bodies? When I go into that wild it will not be in a crowd like this or on such a sordid mission. Ah! my old friend, they'll be spoiling our grand Alaska."

He offered to secure for me the reporter's job tendered to him. I refused, urging my lack of training for such work and my more important and responsible position.

"Why, that same paper has a host of reporters on the way to the Klondyke now," I said. "There is ——" (naming a noted poet and author of the Coast). "He must be half-way down to Dawson by this time."

"—— doesn't count," replied Muir, "for the patent reason that everybody knows he can't tell the truth. The poor fellow is not to blame for it. He was just made that way. Everybody will read with delight his wonderful tales of the trail, but nobody will believe him. We all know him too well."

Muir contracted a hard cold the first night out from Seattle. The hot, close stateroom and a cold blast through the narrow window were the cause. A distressing cough racked his whole frame. When he refused to go to a physician who was on the boat I brought the doctor to him. After the usual examination the physician asked, "What do you generally do for a cold?"

"Oh," said Muir, "I shiver it away."

"Explain yourself," said the puzzled doctor.

"We-ll," drawled Muir, "two or three years ago I camped by the Muir Glacier for a week. I had caught just such a cold as this from the same cause—a stuffy stateroom. So I made me a little sled out of spruce boughs, put a blanket and some sea biscuit on it and set out up the glacier. I got into a labyrinth of crevasses and a driving snowstorm, and had to spend the night on the ice ten miles from land. I sat on the sled all night or thrashed about it, and had a dickens of a time; I shivered so hard I shook the sled to pieces. When morning came my cold was all gone. That is my prescription, Doctor. You are welcome to use it in your practice."

"Well," laughed the doctor, "if I had such patients as you in such a country as this I might try your heroic remedy, but I am afraid it would hardly serve in general practice."

Muir and I made the most of these few days together, and walked the decks till late each night, for he had much to tell me. He had at last written his story of Stickeen; and was working on books treating of the Big Trees, the National Parks and the glaciers of Alaska.

At Wrangell, as we went ashore, we were greeted by joyful exclamations from the little company of old Stickeen Indians we found on the dock. That sharp intaking of the breath which is the Thlinget's note of surprise and delight, and the words Nuknate Ankow ka Glate Ankow (Priest Chief and Ice Chief) passed along the line. Death had made many gaps in the old circle of friends, both white and native, but the welcome from those who remained warmed our hearts.

From Wrangell northward the steamboat followed the route of our canoe voyage of 1880 through Wrangell Narrows into Prince Frederick Sound, past Norris Glacier and Holkham Bay into Stevens Passage, past Taku Bay to Juneau and on to Lynn Canal—then on the track of our voyage of 1879 up to Haines and beyond fifteen miles to that new, chaotic camp in the woods called Skagway.

The two or three days which it took The Queen to discharge her load of passengers and cargo of their outfits were spent by Muir and his scientific companions in roaming the forests and mountains about Skagway and examining the flora of that region. They kept mostly off the trail of the struggling, straggling army of Cheechakoes (newcomers) who were blunderingly trying to get their goods and themselves across the rugged, jagged mountains on their way to the promised land of gold; but Muir found time to spend some hours with me in my camp under a hemlock, where he ate again of my cooking over a camp-fire.

"You are going on a strange journey this time, my friend," he admonished me. "I don't envy you. You'll have a hard time keeping your heart light and simple in the midst of this crowd of madmen. Instead of the music of the wind among the spruce-tops and the tinkling of the waterfalls, your ears will be filled with the oaths and groans of these poor, deluded, self-burdened men. Keep close to Nature's heart, yourself; and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean from the earth-stains of this sordid, gold-seeking crowd in God's pure air. It will help you in your efforts to bring to these men something better than gold. Don't lose your freedom and your love of the Earth as God made it."

In 1899 it was my good fortune to have one more Alaska day with John Muir at Skagway. After a year in the Klondyke I had spent the winter of 1898-99 in the Eastern States arousing the Christian public to the needs of this newly discovered Empire of the North; and was returning with other ministers to interior and western Alaska. The White Pass Railroad was completed only to the summit; and it was a laborious task, requiring a month of very hard work, to get our goods from Skagway over the thirty miles of mountains to Lake Bennett, where we could load them on our open boat for the voyage of two thousand miles down the Yukon.

While I was engaged in this task there came to Skagway the steamship George W. Elder, carrying one of the most remarkable companies of scientific men ever gathered together in one expedition. Mr. Harriman, the great railroad magnate, had chartered the steamer, and had invited as his guests many men of world reputation in various branches of natural science. Among them were John Burroughs, Drs. Merriam and Dahl of the Smithsonian Institute, and, not least, John Muir. Indeed he was called the Nestor of the expedition and his advice followed as that of no other.

The enticing proposition was made me by Muir, and backed by Mr. Harriman's personal invitation, that I should join this distinguished company, share Muir's stateroom and spend the summer cruising along the southern and western coasts of Alaska. However, the new mining camps were calling with a still more imperative voice, and I had to turn my back to the Coast and face the great, sun-bathed Interior. But what a joy and inspiration it would have been to climb Muir, Geicke and Taylor glaciers again with Muir, note the rapid progress God was making in His work of landscape gardening by means of these great tools, make at last our deferred visits to Lituya and Yakutat bays and the fine glaciers of Prince William's Sound, and renew my studies of this good world under my great Master.

A letter from Muir about his summer's cruise, written in November, 1899, reached me at Nome in June, 1900; for those of us who had reached that bleak, exposed northwestern coast and wintered there did not get any mail for six months. We were fifteen hundred miles from a post-office.

In his letter Muir wrote: "The voyage was a grand one, and I saw much that was new to me and packed full of interest and instruction. But, do you know, I longed to break away from the steamboat and its splendid company, get a dugout canoe and a crew of Indians, and, with you as my companion, poke into the nooks and crannies of the mountains and glaciers which we could not reach from the steamer. What great days we have had together, you and I!"

This day at Skagway, in 1899, was the last of my Alaska days with John Muir, except as I bring them back and live them over in my thoughts. How often in my long voyages, by canoe or steamer, among the thousand islands of southeastern Alaska, the intricate channels of Prince William's Sound, the great rivers, and multitudinous lakes of the Interior, and the treeless, windswept coasts of Bering Sea and the Arctic Ocean; or in my tramps in the summer over the mountains and plains of Alaska, or in the winter with my dogs over the frozen wilderness fighting the great battle with the fierce cold or spellbound under the magic of the Aurora—how often have I longed for the presence of Muir to heighten my enjoyment by his higher ecstasy, or reveal to me what I was too dull to see or understand. I have had inspiring companions, and my life has been blessed by many friendships inestimably precious and rich; but for me the World has produced but one John Muir; and to no other man do I feel that I owe so much; for I was blind and he made me see!

Only once since 1899 did I meet him, and then but for an hour at his temporary home in Los Angeles in 1910. He was putting the finishing touches on his rich volume, "The Story of My Boyhood and Youth." I submitted for his review and correction the article which forms the first two chapters of this book. With that nice regard for absolute verity which always characterized him he pointed out two or three passages in which his recollection clashed with mine, and I at once made the changes he suggested.

Muir never grew old. After he was sixty years of age (as men count age) some of his most daring feats of mountain climbing and some of his longest journeys into the wilds were undertaken. When he was past seventy he was still tramping and camping in the forests and among the hills. When he was seventy-three he made long trips to South America and Africa, and to the very end he was exploring, studying, working and enjoying.

All his writings exult with the spirit of immortal youth. There is in his books an intimate companionship with the trees, the mountains, the flowers and the animals, that is altogether fine. Surely no such books of mountains and forests were ever written as his "Mountains of California," "My First Summer in the Sierra," "The Yosemite" and "Our National Parks." His brooks and trees are the abode of dryads and hamadryads—they live and talk.

And when he writes of the animals he has met in his rambles, without any attempt to put into their characters anything that does not belong to them, without "manufacturing his data," he somehow manages to do much more than introduce them to you; he makes you their intimate and admiring friends, as he was. His ouzel bobs you a cheery good morning and sprays you with its "ripple of song"; his Douglas squirrel scolds and swears at you with rough good-nature; and his big-horn gazes at you with frank and friendly eyes and challenges you to follow to its splendid heights, not as a hunter but as a companion. You love them all, as Muir did.

As an instance of this power in his writings, when I returned from the Klondyke in 1898 the story of Stickeen had been published in a magazine a few months before. I met in New York a daughter of the great Field family, who when a child had heard me tell of Muir's exploit in rescuing me from the mountain top, and who had shouted with delight when I told of our sliding down the mountain in the moraine gravel. She asked me eagerly if I was the Mr. Young mentioned in Muir's story. When I said that I was she called to her companions and introduced me as the Owner of Stickeen; and I was content to have as my claim to an earthly immortality my ownership of an immortalized dog.

I cannot think of John Muir as dead, or as much changed from the man with whom I canoed and camped. He was too much a part of nature—too natural—to be separated from his mountains, trees and glaciers. Somewhere, I am sure, he is making other explorations, solving other natural problems, using that brilliant, inventive genius to good effect; and some time again I shall hear him unfold anew, with still clearer insight and more eloquent words, fresh secrets of his "mountains of God."

The Thlingets have a Happy Hunting Ground in the Spirit Land for dogs as well as for men; and Muir used to contend that they were right—that the so-called lower animals have as much right to a Heaven as humans. I wonder if he has found a still more beautiful—a glorified—Stickeen; and if the little fellow still follows and frisks about him as in those old days. I like to think so; and when I too cross the Great Divide—and it can't be long now—I shall look eagerly for them both to be my companions in fresh adventures. In the meantime I am lonely for them and think of them often, and say, with The Harvester, "What a dog!—and what a MAN!!"


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Transcriber's note:

The punctuation and spelling from the original text have been faithfully preserved.


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