And I, too, was as good an Indian as I knew how to be, for I scolded them all roundly and then sat down at the first possible opportunity and wrote to the agent.
And the agent? He is a very wise and kindly man, facing one of the biggest problems in our country. He gave them back their ration-tickets and wiped the slate clean, to the eternal credit of a Government that has not often to the Indian tempered justice with mercy.
OFF FOR CASCADE PASS
How many secrets the mountains hold! They have forgotten things we shall never know. And they are cruel, savagely cruel. What they want, they take. They reach out a thousand clutching hands. They attack with avalanche, starvation, loneliness, precipice. They lure on with green valleys and high flowering meadows where mountain-sheep move sedately, with sunlit peaks and hidden lakes, with silence for tired ears and peace for weary souls. And then—they kill.
Because man is a fighting animal, he obeys their call, his wit against their wisdom of the ages, his strength against their solidity, his courage against their cunning. And too often he loses.
I am afraid of the mountains. I have always the feeling that they are lying in wait. At night, their very silence is ominous. The crack of ice as a bit of slow-moving glacier is dislodged, lightning, and the roar of thunder somewhere below where I lie—these are the artillery of the range, and from them I am safe. I am too small for their heavy guns. But a shelving trail on the verge of a chasm, a slip on an ice-field, a rolling stone under a horse's foot—these are the weapons I fear above the timber-line.
Even below there is danger—swamps and rushing rivers, but above all the forest. In mountain valleys it grows thick on the bodies of dead forests beneath. It crowds. There is barely room for a tent. And all through the night the trees protest. They creak and groan and sigh, and sometimes they burn. In a cul-de-sac, with only frowning cliffs about, the forest becomes ominous, a thing of dreadful beauty. On nights when, through the crevices of the green roof, there are stars hung in the sky, the weight lifts. But there are other nights when the trees close in like ranks of hostile men and take the spirit prisoner.
The peace of the wilderness is not peace. It is waiting.
On the Glacier Park trip, there had been one subject which came up for discussion night after night round the camp-fire. It resolved itself, briefly, into this: Should we or should we not get out in time to go over to the State of Washington and there perform the thrilling feat which Bob, the Optimist, had in mind?
This was nothing more nor less than the organization of a second pack-outfit and the crossing of the Cascade Mountains on horseback by a virgin route. The Head, Bob, and Joe had many discussions about it. I do not recall that my advice was ever asked. It is generally taken for granted in these wilderness-trips of ours that I will be there, ready to get a story when the opportunity presents itself.
Owing to the speed with which the North Fork of the Flathead River descends from the Canadian border to civilization, we had made very good time. And, at last, the decision was made to try this new adventure.
"It will be a bully story," said the Optimist, "and you can be dead sure of this: it's never been done before."
So, at last, it was determined, and we set out on that wonderful harebrain excursion of which the very memory gives me a thrill. Yet, now that I know it can be done, I may try it again some day. It paid for itself over and over in scenery, in health, and in thrills. But there were several times when it seemed to me impossible that we could all get over the range alive.
We took through thirty-one horses and nineteen people. When we got out, our horses had had nothing to eat, not a blade of grass or a handful of grain, for thirty-six hours, and they had had very little for five days.
On the last morning, the Head gave his horse for breakfast one rain-soaked biscuit, an apple, two lumps of sugar, and a raw egg. The other horses had nothing.
We dropped three pack-horses over cliffs in two days, but got them again, cut and bruised, and we took out our outfit complete, after two weeks of the most arduous going I have ever known anything about. When the news that we had got over the pass penetrated to the settlements, a pack-outfit started over Cascade Pass in our footsteps to take supplies to a miner. They killed three horses on that same trail, and I believe gave it up in the end.
Doubtless, by next year, a passable trail will have been built up to Doubtful Lake and another one up that eight-hundred-foot mountain-wall above the lake, where, when one reaches the top, there is but room to look down again on the other side. Perhaps, too, there will be a trail down the Agnes Creek Valley, so that parties can get through easily. When that is done,—and it is promised by the Forest Supervisor,—one of the most magnificent horseback trips in the country will be opened for the first time to the traveler.
Most emphatically, the trip across the Cascades at Doubtful Lake and Cascade Pass is not a trip for a woman in the present condition of things, although any woman who can ride can cross Cloudy Pass and get down Agnes Creek way. But perhaps before this is published, the Chelan National Forest will have been made a National Park. It ought to be. It is superb. There is no other word for it. And it ought not to be called a forest, because it seems to have everything but trees. Rocks and rivers and glaciers—more in one county than in all Switzerland, they claim—and granite peaks and hair-raising precipices and lakes filled with ice in midsummer. But not many trees, until, at Cascade Pass, one reaches the boundaries of the Washington National Forest and begins to descend the Pacific slope.
The personnel of our party was slightly changed. Of the original one, there remained the Head, the Big, the Middle, and the Little Boy, Joe, Bob, and myself. To these we added at the beginning six persons besides our guides and packers. Two of them did not cross the pass, however—the Forest Pathologist from Washington, who travels all over the country watching for tree-diseases and tree-epidemics and who left us after a few days, and the Supervisor of Chelan Forest, who had but just come from Oregon and was making his first trip over his new territory.
We were fortunate, indeed, in having four forest-men with us, men whose lives are spent in the big timber, who know the every mood and tense of the wilderness. For besides these two, the Pathologist and the Forest Supervisor, there was "Silent Lawrie" Lindsley, naturalist, photographer, and lover of all that is wild, a young man who has spent years wandering through the mountains around Chelan, camera and gun at hand, the gun never raised against the wild creatures, but used to shoot away tree-branches that interfere with pictures, or, more frequently, to trim a tree into such outlines as fit it into the photograph.
And then there was the Man Who Went Ahead. For forty years this man, Mr. Hilligoss, has lived in the forest. Hardly a big timber-deal in the Northwest but was passed by him. Hardly a tree in that vast wilderness but he knew it. He knew everything about the forest but fear—fear and fatigue. And, with an axe and a gun, he went ahead, clearing trail, blazing trees, and marking the detours to camp-sites by an arrow made of bark and thrust through a slash in a tree.
Hour after hour we would struggle on, seeing everywhere evidences of his skill on the trail, to find, just as endurance had reached its limit, the arrow that meant camp and rest.
And—there was Dan Devore and his dog, Whiskers. Dan Devore was our chief guide and outfitter, a soft voiced, bearded, big souled man, neither very large nor very young. All soul and courage was Dan Devore, and one of the proud moments of my life was when it was all over and he told me I had done well. I wanted most awfully to have Dan Devore think I had done well.
He was sitting on a stone at the time, I remember, and Whiskers, his old Airedale, had his head on Dan's knee. All of his thirteen years, Whiskers had wandered through the mountains with Dan Devore, always within call. To see Dan was to see Whiskers; to see Whiskers was to see Dan.
He slept on Dan's tarp bed at night, and in the daytime led our long and winding procession. Indomitable spirit that he was, he traveled three miles to our one, saved us from the furious onslaughts of many a marmot and mountain-squirrel, and, in the absence of fresh meat, ate his salt pork and scraps with the zest of a hungry traveler.
Then there were Mr. and Mrs. Fred. I call them Mr. and Mrs. Fred, because, like Joe, that was a part of their name. I will be frank about Mrs. Fred. I was worried about her before I knew her. I was accustomed to roughing it; but how about another woman? Would she be putting up her hair in curlers every night, and whimpering when, as sometimes happens, the slow gait of her horse became intolerable? Little did I know Mrs. Fred. She was a natural wanderer, a follower of the trail, a fine and sound and sporting traveling companion. And I like to think that she is typical of the women of that Western country which bred her, feminine to the core, but strong and sweet still.
Both the Freds were great additions. Was it not after Mr. Fred that we trailed on that famous game-hunt of ours, of which a spirited account is coming later? Was it not Mr. Fred who, night after night, took the junior Rineharts away from an anxious mother into the depths of the forest or the bleakness of mountain-slopes, there to lie, armed to the teeth, and wait for the first bears to start out for breakfast?
Now you have us, I think, except the men of the outfit, and they deserve space I cannot give them. They were a splendid lot, and it was by their incessant labor that we got over.
Try to see us, then, filing along through deep valleys, climbing cliffs, stumbling, struggling, not talking much, a long line of horses and riders. First, far ahead, Mr. Hilligoss. Then the riders, led by "Silent Lawrie," with me just behind him, because of photographs. Then, at the head of the pack-horses, Dan Devore. Then the long line of pack-ponies, sturdy and willing, and piled high with our food, our bedding, and our tents. And here, there, and everywhere, Joe, with the moving-picture camera.
We were determined, this time, to have no repetition of the Glacier Park fiasco, where Bill, our cook, had deserted us at a bad time—although it is always a bad time when the cook leaves. So now we had two cooks. Much as I love the mountains and the woods, the purple of evening valleys, the faint pink of sunrise on snow-covered peaks, the most really thrilling sight of a camping-trip is two cooks bending over an iron grating above a fire, one frying trout and the other turning flapjacks.
Our trail led us through one of the few remaining unknown portions of the United States. It cannot long remain unknown. It is too superb, too wonderful. And it has mineral in it, silver and copper and probably coal. The Middle Boy, who is by way of being a chemist and has systematically blown himself up with home-made explosives for years—the Middle Boy found at least a dozen silver mines of fabulous value, although the men in the party insisted that his specimens were iron pyrites and other unromantic minerals.
LAKE CHELAN TO LYMAN LAKE
Now, as to where we were—those long days of fording rivers and beating our way through jungle or of dizzy climbs up to the snow, those short nights, so cold that six blankets hardly kept us warm, while our tired horses wandered far, searching for such bits of grass as grew among the shale.
In the north-central part of the State of Washington, Nature has done a curious thing. She has built a great lake in the eastern shoulders of the Cascade Mountains. Lake Chelan, more than fifty miles long and averaging a mile and a half in width, is ten hundred and seventy-five feet above sea-level, while its bottom is four hundred feet below the level of the ocean. It is almost completely surrounded by granite walls and peaks which reach more than a mile and a half into the air.
The region back from the lake is practically unknown. A small part of it has never been touched by the Geological Survey, and, in one or two instances, we were able to check up errors on our maps. Thus, a lake shown on our map as belonging at the head of McAllister Creek really belongs at the head of Rainbow Creek, while McAllister Lake is not shown at all. Mr. Coulter, a forester who was with us for a time, last year discovered three lakes at the head of Rainbow Creek which have never been mapped, and, so far as could be learned, had never been seen by a white man before. Yet Lake Chelan itself is well known in the Northwest. It is easily reached, its gateway being the famous Wenatchee Valley, celebrated for its apples.
It was from Chelan that we were to make our start. Long before we arrived, Dan Devore and the packers were getting the outfit ready.
Yet the first glimpse of Chelan was not attractive. We had motored half a day through that curious, semi-arid country, which, when irrigated, proves the greatest of all soils in the world for fruit-raising. The August sun had baked the soil into yellow dust which covered everything. Arid hillsides without a leaf of green but dotted thickly with gray sagebrush, eroded valleys, rocks and gullies—all shone a dusty yellow in the heat. The dust penetrated everything. Wherever water could be utilized were orchards, little trees planted in geometrical rows and only waiting the touch of irrigation to make their owners wealthy beyond dreams.
The lower end of Lake Chelan was surrounded by these bleak hillsides, desert without the great spaces of the desert. Yet unquestionably, in a few years from now, these bleak hillsides will be orchard land. Only the lower part, however, is bleak—only an end, indeed. There is nothing more beautiful and impressive than the upper part of that strangely deep and quiet lake lying at the foot of its enormous cliffs.
By devious stages we reached the head of Lake Chelan, and there for four days the outfitting went on. Horses were being brought in, saddles fitted; provisions in great cases were arriving. To outfit a party of our size for two weeks means labor and generous outlay. And we were going to be comfortable. We were willing to travel hard and sleep hard. But we meant to have plenty of food. I think we may claim the unique distinction of being the only people who ever had grapefruit regularly for breakfast on the top of that portion of the Cascade Range.
While we waited, we learned something about the country. It is volcanic ash, disintegrated basalt, this great fruit-country to the right of the range. And three things, apparently, are responsible for its marvelous fruit-growing properties. First, the soil itself, which needs only water to prove marvelously fertile; second, the length of the growing-season, which around Lake Chelan is one hundred and ninety-two days in the year. And this just south of the Canadian border! There is a third reason, too: the valleys are sheltered from frost. Even if a frost comes,—and I believe it is almost unknown,—the high mountains surrounding these valleys protect the blossoms so that the frost has evaporated before the sun strikes the trees. There is no such thing known as a killing frost.
But it is irrigation on a virgin and fertile soil that is primarily responsible. They run the water to the orchards in conduits, and then dig little trenches, running parallel among the trees. Then they turn it on, and the tree-roots are bathed, soaked. And out of the desert spring such trees of laden fruit that each branch must be supported by wires!
So we ate such apples as I had never dreamed of, and waited. Joe got his films together. The boys practiced shooting. I rested and sharpened lead-pencils. Bob had found a way to fold his soft hat into what he fondly called the "Jennings do," which means a plait in the crown to shed the rain, and which turned an amiable ensemble into something savage and extremely flat on top. The Head played croquet.
And then into our complacency came, one night, a bit of tragedy.
A man staggered into the little hotel at the head of the lake, carrying another man on his back. He had carried him for forty hours, lowering him down, bit by bit, from that mountain highland where he had been hurt—forty hours of superhuman effort and heart-breaking going, over cliffs and through wilderness.
The injured man was a sheep-herder. He had cut his leg with his wood-axe, and blood-poisoning had set in. I do not know the rest of that story. The sheep-herder was taken to a hospital the next day, traveling a very long way. But whether he traveled still farther, to the land of the Great Shepherd, I do not know. Only this I do know: that this Western country I love is full of such stories, and of such men as the hero of this one.
At last we were ready. Some of the horses were sent by boat the day before, for this strange lake has little or no shore-line. Granite mountains slope stark and sheer to the water's edge, and drop from there to frightful depths below. There are, at the upper end, no roads, no trails or paths that border it. So the horses and all of us went by boat to the mouth of Railroad Creek,—so called, I suppose, because the nearest railroad is more than forty miles away,—up which led the trail to the great unknown. All around and above us were the cliffs, towering seven thousand feet over the lake. And beyond those cliffs lay adventure.
For it was adventure. Even Dan Devore, experienced mountaineer and guide that he was, had only been to Cascade Pass once, and that was sixteen years before. He had never been across the divide. "Silent Lawrie" Lindsley, the naturalist, had been only part-way down the Agnes Creek Valley, which we intended to follow. Only in a general way had we any itinerary at all.
Now a National Forest is a happy hunting-ground. Whereas in the National Parks game is faithfully preserved, hunting is permitted in the forests. To this end, we took with us a complete arsenal. The naturalist carried a Colt's revolver; the Big Boy had a twelve-gauge hammerless, called a "howitzer." We had two twenty-four-gauge shotguns in case we met an elephant or anything similarly large and heavy, and the Little Boy proudly carried, strapped to his saddle, a twenty-two high-power rifle, shooting a steel-jacketed, soft-nose bullet, an express-rifle of high velocity and great alarm to mothers. In addition to this, we had a Savage repeater and two Winchester thirties, and the Forest Supervisor carried his own Winchester thirty-eight. We were entirely prepared to meet the whole German army.
It is rather sad to relate that, with all this preparation, we killed nothing whatever. Although it is not true that, on the day we encountered a large bear, and the three junior members of the family were allowed to turn the artillery loose on him, at the end of the firing the bear pulled out a flag and waved it, thinking it was the Fourth of July.
As we started, that August midday, for the long, dusty ride up the Railroad Creek Trail, I am sure that the three junior Rineharts had nothing less in mind than two or three bearskins apiece for school bedrooms. They deserved better luck than they had. Night after night, sitting in the comparative safety of the camp-fire, I have seen my three sons, the Big, the Middle, and the Little Boy, starting off, armed to the teeth with deadly weapons, to sleep out under the stars and catch the first unwary bear on his way to breakfast in the morning.
Morning after morning, I have sat breakfastless and shaken until the weary procession of young America toiled into camp, hungry and bearless, but, thank Heaven, whole of skin save where mosquitoes and black flies had taken their toll of them. They would trudge five miles, sleep three hours, hunt, walk five miles back, and then ride all day.
* * * * *
The first day was the least pleasant. We were still in the Railroad Creek Valley; the trail was dusty; packs slipped on the sweating horses and had to be replaced. The bucking horse of the outfit had, as usual, been given the eggs, and, burying his head between his fore legs, threw off about a million dollars' worth before he had been on the trail an hour.
On that first part of the trip, we had three dogs with us—Chubb and Doc, as well as Whiskers. They ran in the dust with their tongues out, and lay panting under bushes at each stop. Here and there we found the track of sheep driven into the mountain to graze. For a hundred or two hundred feet in width, it was eaten completely clean, for sheep have a way of tearing up even the roots of the grass so that nothing green lives behind them. They carry blight into a country like this.
Then, at last, we found the first arrow of the journey, and turned off the trail to camp.
On that first evening, the arrow landed us in a great spruce grove where the trees averaged a hundred and twenty-five feet in height. Below, the ground was cleared and level and covered with fine moss. The great gray trunks rose to Gothic arches of green. It was a churchly place. And running through it were little streams living with trout.
And in this saintly spot, quiet and peaceful, its only noise the babbling of little rivers, dwelt billions on billions of mosquitoes that were for the first time learning the delights of the human frame as food.
There was no getting away from them. Open our mouths and we inhaled them. They hung in dense clouds about us and fought over the best locations. They held loud and noisy conversations about us, and got in our ears and up our nostrils and into our coffee. They went trout-fishing with us and put up the tents with us; dined with us and on us. But they let us alone at night.
It is a curious thing about the mountain mosquito as I know him. He is a lazy insect. He retires at sundown and does not begin to get in any active work until eight o'clock the following morning. He keeps union hours.
Something of this we had anticipated, and I had ordered mosquito-netting, to be worn as veils. When it was unrolled, it proved to be a brilliant scarlet, a scarlet which faded in hot weather on to necks and faces and turned us suddenly red and hideous.
Although it was late in the afternoon when we reached that first camp, Camp Romany, two or three of us caught more than a hundred trout before sundown. We should have done better had it not been necessary to stop and scratch every thirty seconds.
That night, the Woodsman built a great bonfire. We huddled about it, glad of its warmth, for although the days were hot, the nights, with the wind from the snow-covered peaks overhead, were very cold. The tall, unbranching gray spruce-trunks rose round it like the pillars of a colonnade. The forester blew up his air bed. In front of the supper-fire, the shadowy figures of the cooks moved back and forward. From a near-by glacier came an occasional crack, followed by a roar which told of ice dropping into cavernous depths below. The Little Boy cleaned his gun and dreamed of mighty exploits.
We rested all the next day at Camp Romany—rested and fished, while three of the more adventurous spirits climbed a near-by mountain. Late in the afternoon they rode in, bringing in their midst Joe, who had, at the risk of his life, slid a distance which varied in the reports from one hundred yards to a mile and a half down a snow-field, and had hung fastened on the brink of eternity until he was rescued.
Very white was Joe that evening, white and bruised. It was twenty-four hours before he began to regret that the camera had not been turned on him at the time.
Not until we left Camp Romany did we feel that we were really off for the trip. And yet that first day out from Romany was not agreeable going. The trail was poor, although there came a time when we looked back on it as superlative. The sun was hot, and there was no shade. Years ago, prospectors hunting for minerals had started forest-fires to level the ridges. The result was the burning-over of perhaps a hundred square miles of magnificent forest. The second growth which has come up is scrubby, a wilderness of young trees and chaparral, through which progress was difficult and uninteresting.
Up the bottom of the great glacier-basin toward the mountain at its head, we made our slow and painful way. More dust, more mosquitoes. Even the beauty of the snow-capped peaks overhead could not atone for the ugliness of that destroyed region. Yet, although it was not lovely, it was vastly impressive. Literally, hundreds of waterfalls cascaded down the mountain wall from hidden lakes and glaciers above, and towering before us was the mountain wall which we were to climb later that day.
We had seen no human creature since leaving the lake, but as we halted for luncheon by a steep little river, we suddenly found that we were not alone. Standing beside the trail was an Italian bandit with a knife two feet long in his hands.
Ha! Come adventure! Come romance! Come rifles and pistols and all the arsenal, including the Little Boy, with pure joy writ large over him! A bandit, armed to the teeth!
But this is a disappointing world. He was the cook from a mine—strange, the way we met cooks, floating around loose in a world that seems to be growing gradually cookless. And he carried with him his knife and his bread-pan, which was, even then, hanging to a branch of a tree.
We fed him, and he offered to sing. The Optimist nudged me.
"Now, listen," he said; "these fellows can sing. Be quiet, everybody!"
The bandit twisted up his mustachios, smiled beatifically, and took up a position in the trail, feet apart, eyes upturned.
And then—he stopped.
"I start a leetle high," he said; "I start again."
So he started again, and the woods receded from around us, and the rushing of the river died away, and nothing was heard in that lonely valley but the most hideous sounds that ever broke a primeval silence into rags and tatters.
When, at last, he stopped, we got on our horses and rode on, a bitter and disillusioned party of adventurers whose first bubble of enthusiasm had been pricked.
It was four o'clock when we began the ascent of the switchback at the top of the valley. Up and up we went, dismounting here and there, going slowly but eagerly. For, once over the wall, we were beyond the reach of civilization. So strange a thing is the human mind! We who were for most of the year most civilized, most dependent on our kind and the comforts it has wrought out of a primitive world, now we were savagely resentful of it. We wanted neither men nor houses. Stirring in us had commenced that primeval call that comes to all now and then, the longing to be alone with Mother Earth, savage, tender, calm old Mother Earth.
And yet we were still in touch with the world. For even here man had intruded. Hanging to the cliff were the few buildings of a small mine which sends out its ore by pack-pony. I had already begun to feel the aloofness of the quiet places, so it was rather disconcerting to have a miner with a patch over one eye come to the doorway of one of the buildings and remark that he had read some of my political articles and agreed with them most thoroughly.
That was a long day. We traveled from early morning until long after late sundown. Up the switchback to a green plateau we went, meeting our first ice there, and here again that miracle of the mountains, meadow flowers and snow side by side.
Far behind us strung the pack-outfit, plodding doggedly along. From the rim we could look back down that fire-swept valley toward Heart Lake and the camp we had left. But there was little time for looking back. Somewhere ahead was a brawling river descending in great leaps from Lyman Lake, which lay in a basin above and beyond. Our camp, that night, was to be on the shore of Lyman Lake, at the foot of Lyman Glacier. And we had still far to go.
Mr. Hilligoss met us on the trail. He had found a camp-site by the lake and had seen a bear and a deer. There were wild ducks also.
Now and then there are scenes in the mountains that defy the written word. The view from Cloudy Pass is one; the outlook from Cascade Pass is another. But for sheer loveliness there are few things that surpass Lyman Lake at sunset, its great glacier turned to pink, the towering granite cliffs which surround it dark purple below, bright rose at the summits. And lying there, still with the stillness of the ages, the quiet lake.
There was, as a matter of fact, nothing to disturb its quiet. Not a fish, so far as we could discover, lived in its opalescent water, cloudy as is all glacial water. It is only good to look at, is Lyman Lake, and there are no people to look at it.
Set in its encircling, snow-covered mountains, it lies fifty-five hundred feet above sea-level. We had come up in two days from eleven hundred feet, a considerable climb. That night, for the first time, we saw the northern lights—at first, one band like a cold finger set across the sky, then others, shooting ribbons of cold fire, now bright, now dim, covering the northern horizon and throwing into silhouette the peaks over our heads.
CLOUDY PASS AND THE AGNES CREEK VALLEY
I think I have said that one of the purposes of our expedition was to hunt. We were to spend a day or two at Lyman Lake, and the sportsmen were busy by the camp-fire that evening, getting rifles and shotguns in order and preparing fishing-tackle.
At dawn the next morning, which was at four o'clock, one of the packers roused the Big Boy with the information that there were wild ducks on the lake. He was wakened with extreme difficulty, put on his bedroom slippers, picked up his shotgun, and, still in his sleeping-garments, walked some ten feet from the mouth of his tent. There he yawned, discharged both barrels of his gun in the general direction of the ducks, yawned again, and went back to bed.
I myself went on a hunting-excursion on the second day at Lyman Lake. Now, theoretically, I am a mighty hunter. I have always expected to shoot something worth while and be photographed with my foot on it, and a "bearer"—whatever that may be—holding my gun in the background. So when Mr. Fred proposed an early start and a search along the side of Chiwawa Mountain for anything from sheep to goats, including a grizzly if possible, my imagination was roused. So jealous were we that the first game should be ours that the party was kept a profound secret. Mr. Fred and Mrs. Fred, the Head, and I planned it ourselves.
We would rise early, and, armed to the teeth, would stalk the skulking bear to his den.
Rising early is also a theory of mine. I approve of it. But I do not consider it rising early to get up at three o'clock in the morning. Three o'clock in the morning is late at night. The moon was still up. It was frightfully cold. My shoes were damp and refused to go on. I could not find any hairpins. And I recalled a number of stories of the extreme disagreeableness of bears when not shot in a vital spot.
With all our hurry, it was four o'clock when we were ready to start. No sun was in sight, but already a faint rose-colored tint was on the tops of the mountains. Whiskers raised a sleepy head and looked at us from Dan's bed. We tiptoed through the camp and started.
We climbed. Then we climbed some more. Then we kept on climbing. Mr. Fred led the way. He had the energy of a high-powered car and the hopefulness of a pacifist. From ledge to ledge he scrambled, turning now and then to wave an encouraging hand. It was not long before I ceased to have strength to wave back. Hours went on. Five hundred feet, one thousand feet, fifteen hundred feet above the lake. I confided to the Head, between gasps, that I was dying. We had seen no living thing; we continued to see no living thing. Two thousand feet, twenty-five hundred feet. There was not enough air in the world to fill my collapsed lungs.
Once Mr. Fred found a track, and scurried off in a new direction. Still no result. The sun was up by that time, and I judged that it was about noon. It was only six-thirty.
A sort of desperation took possession of us all. We would keep up with Mr. Fred or die trying. And then, suddenly, we were on the very roof of the world, on the top of Cloudy Pass. All the kingdoms of the earth lay stretched out around us, and all the kingdoms of the earth were empty.
Now, the usual way to climb Cloudy Pass is to take a good businesslike horse and sit on his back. Then, by devious and circuitous routes, with frequent rests, the horse takes you up. When there is a place the horse cannot manage, you get off and hold his tail, and he pulls you. Even at that, it is a long business and a painful one. But it is better—oh, far, far better!—than the way we had taken.
Have you ever reached a point where you fix your starting eyes on a shrub or a rock ten feet ahead and struggle for it? And, having achieved it, fix on another five feet farther on, and almost fail to get it? Because, if you have not, you know nothing of this agony of tearing lungs and hammering heart and throbbing muscles that is the mountain-climber's price for achievement.
And then, after all, while resting on the top of the world with our feet hanging over, discussing dilated hearts, because I knew mine would never go back to normal, to see a ptarmigan, and have Mr. Fred miss it because he wanted to shoot its head neatly off!
Strange birds, those ptarmigan. Quite fearless of man, because they know him not or his evil works, on alarm they have the faculty of almost instantly obliterating themselves. I have seen a mother bird and her babies, on an alarm, so hide themselves on a bare mountain-side that not so much as a bit of feather could be seen. But unless frightened, they will wander almost under the hunter's feet.
I dare say they do not know how very delicious they are, especially after a diet of salt meat.
As we sat panting on Cloudy Pass, the sun rose over the cliff of the great granite bowl. The peaks turned from red to yellow. It was absolutely silent. No trees rustled in the morning air. There were no trees. Only, here and there, a few stunted evergreens, two or three feet high, had rooted on the rock and clung there, gnarled and twisted from their winter struggles.
Ears that had grown tired of the noises of cities grew rested. But our ears were more rested than our bodies.
I have always believed that it is easier to go downhill than to go up. This is not true. I say it with the deepest earnestness. After the first five hundred feet of descent, progress down became agonizing. The something that had gone wrong with my knees became terribly wrong; they showed a tendency to bend backward; they shook and quivered.
The last mile of that four-mile descent was one of the most dreadful experiences of my life. A broken thing, I crept into camp and tendered mute apologies to Budweiser, my horse, called familiarly "Buddy." (Although he was not the sort of horse one really became familiar with.)
The remainder of that day, Mrs. Fred and I lay under a mosquito-canopy, played solitaire, and rested our aching bodies. The Forest Supervisor climbed Lyman Glacier. The Head and the Little Boy made the circuit of the lake, and had to be roped across the rushing river which is its outlet. And the horses rested for the real hardship of the trip, which was about to commence.
One thing should be a part of the equipment of every one who intends to camp in the mountains near the snow-fields. This is a mosquito-tent. Ours was brought by that experienced woodsman and mountaineer, Mr. Hilligoss, and was made with a light-muslin top three feet long by the width of double-width muslin. To this was sewed sides of cheese-cloth, with double seams and reinforced corners. At the bottom it had an extra piece of netting two feet wide, to prevent the insects from crawling under.
Erecting such a shelter is very simple. Four stakes, five feet high, were driven into the ground and the mosquito-canopy simply hung over them.
We had no face-masks, except the red netting, but, for such a trip, a mask is simple to make and occasionally most acceptable. The best one I know—and it, too, is the Woodsman's invention—consists of a four-inch band of wire netting; above it, whipped on, a foot of light muslin to be tied round the hat, and, below, a border of cheese-cloth two feet deep, with a rubber band. Such a mask does not stick to the face. Through the wire netting, it is possible to shoot with accuracy. The rubber band round the neck allows it to be lifted with ease.
I do not wish to give the impression that there were mosquitoes everywhere. But when there were mosquitoes, there was nothing clandestine about it.
The next day we crossed Cloudy Pass and started down the Agnes Creek Valley. It was to be a forced march of twenty-five miles over a trail which no one was sure existed. There had, at one time, been a trail, but avalanches have a way, in these mountain valleys, of destroying all landmarks, and rock-slides come down from the great cliffs, fill creek-beds, and form swamps. Whether we could get down at all or not was a question. To the eternal credit of our guides, we made it. For the upper five miles below Cloudy Pass it was touch and go. Even with the sharp hatchet of the Woodsman ahead, with his blazes on the trees where the trail had been obliterated, it was the hardest kind of going.
Here were ditches that the horses leaped; here were rushing streams where they could hardly keep their footing. Again, a long mile or two of swamp and almost impenetrable jungle, where only the Woodsman's axe-marks gave us courage to go on. We were mired at times, and again there were long stretches over rock-slides, where the horses scrambled like cats.
But with every mile there came a sense of exhilaration. We were making progress.
There was little or no life to be seen. The Woodsman, going ahead of us, encountered a brown bear reaching up for a cluster of salmon-berries. He ambled away, quite unconcerned, and happily ignorant of that desperate trio of junior Rineharts, bearing down on him with almost the entire contents of the best gun shop in Spokane.
It should have been a great place for bears, that Agnes Creek Valley. There were ripe huckleberries, service-berries, salmon-and manzanita-berries. There were plenty of places where, if I had been a bear, I should have been entirely happy—caves and great rocks, and good, cold water. And I believe they were there. But thirty-one horses and a sort of family tendency to see if there is an echo anywhere about, and such loud inquiries as, "Are you all right, mother?" and "Who the dickens has any matches?"—these things are fatal to seeing wild life.
Indeed, the next time I am overcome by one of my mad desires to see a bear, I shall go to the zoo.
It was fifteen years, I believe, since Dan Devore had seen the Agnes Creek Valley. From the condition of the trail, I am inclined to think that Dan was the last man who had ever used it. And such a wonderland as it is! Such marvels of flowers as we descended, such wild tiger-lilies and columbines and Mariposa lilies! What berries and queen's-cup and chalice-cup and bird's-bill! There was trillium, too, although it was not in bloom, and devil's-club, a plant which stings and sets up a painful swelling. There were yew trees, those trees which the Indians use for making their bows, wild white rhododendron and spirea, cottonwood, white pine, hemlock, Douglas spruce, and white fir. Everywhere there was mountain-ash, the berries beloved of bears. And high up on the mountain there was always heather, beautiful to look at but slippery, uncertain footing for horse and man.
Twenty-five miles, broken with canter and trot, is not more than I have frequently taken on a brisk sunny morning at home. But twenty-five miles at a slow walk, now in a creek-bed, now on the edge of a cliff, is a different matter. The last five miles of the Agnes Creek trip were a long despair. We found and located new muscles that the anatomists have overlooked.—A really first-class anatomist ought never to make a chart without first climbing a high mountain and riding all day on the creature alluded to in this song of Bob's, which gained a certain popularity among the male members of the party.
"A sailor's life is bold and free. He lives upon the bright blue sea. He has to work like h——, of course, But he doesn't have to ride on a darned old horse."
It was dark when we reached our camp-ground at the foot of the valley. A hundred feet below, in a gorge, ran the Stehekin River, a noisy and turbulent stream full of trout. We groped through the darkness for our tents that night and fell into bed more dead than alive. But at three o'clock the next morning, the junior Rineharts, following Mr. Fred, were off for bear, reappearing at ten, after breakfast was over, with an excited story of having seen one very close but having unaccountably missed it.
There was no water for the horses at camp that night, and none for them in the morning. There was no way to get them down to the river, and the poor animals were almost desperate with thirst. They were having little enough to eat even then, at the beginning of the trip, and it was hard to see them without water, too.
CANON FISHING AND A TELEGRAM
It was eleven o'clock the next morning before I led Buddy—I had abandoned "Budweiser" in view of the drought—into a mountain stream and let him drink. He would have rolled in it, too, but I was on his back and I fiercely restrained him.
The next day was a comparatively short trip. There was a trapper's cabin at the fork of Bridge Creek in the Stehekin River. There we were to spend the night before starting on our way to Cascade Pass. As it turned out, we spent two days there. There was a little grass for the horses, and we learned of a canon, some five or six miles off our trail, which was reported as full of fish.
The most ardent of us went there the next day—Mr. Hilligoss, Weaver, and "Silent Lawrie" and the Freds and Bob and the Big Boy and the Little Boy and Joe. And, without expecting it, we happened on adventure.
Have you ever climbed down a canon with rocky sides, a straight and precipitous five hundred feet, clinging with your finger nails to any bit of green that grows from the cliff, and to footholds made by an axe, and carrying a fly-book and a trout-rod which is an infinitely precious trout-rod? Also, a share of the midday lunch and twenty pounds more weight than you ought to have by the beauty-scale? Because, unless you have, you will never understand that trip.
It was a series of wild drops, of blood-curdling escapes, of slips and recoveries, of bruises and abrasions. But at last we made it, and there was the river!
I have still in mind a deep pool where the water, rushing at tremendous speed over a rocky ledge, fell perhaps fifteen feet. I had fixed my eyes on that pool early in the day, but it seemed impossible of access. To reach it it was necessary again to scale a part of the cliff, and, clinging to its face, to work one's way round along a ledge perhaps three inches wide. When I had once made it, with the aid of friendly hands and a leather belt, by which I was lowered, I knew one thing—knew it inevitably. I was there for life. Nothing would ever take me back over that ledge.
However, I was there, and there was no use wasting time. For there were fish there. Now and then they jumped. But they did not take the fly. The water seethed and boiled, and I stood still and fished, because a slip on that spray-covered ledge and I was gone, to be washed down to Lake Chelan, and lie below sea-level in the Cascade Mountains. Which might be a glorious sort of tomb, but it did not appeal to me.
I tried different flies with no result. At last, with a weighted line and a fish's eye, I got my first fish—the best of the day, and from that time on I forgot the danger.
Some day, armed with every enticement known to the fisherman, I am going back to that river. For there, under a log, lurks the wiliest trout I have ever encountered. In full view he stayed during the entire time of my sojourn. He came up to the fly, leaped over it, made faces at it. Then he would look up at me scornfully.
"Old tricks," he seemed to say. "Old stuff—not good enough." I dare say he is still there.
Late in the day, we got out of that canon. Got out at infinite peril and fatigue, climbed, struggled, stumbled, held on, pulled. I slipped once and had a bad knee for six weeks. Never once did I dare to look back and down. It was always up, and the top was always receding. And when we reached camp, the Head, who had been on an excursion of his own, refused to be thrilled, and spent the evening telling how he had been climbing over the top of the world on his hands and knees. In sheer scorn, we let him babble.
But my hat is off to him, after all, for he had ready for us, and swears to this day to its truth, the best fish-story of the trip.
Lying on the top of one of our packing-cases was a great bull-trout. Now a bull-trout has teeth, and held in a vise-like grip in the teeth of this one was a smaller trout. In the mouth of the small trout was a gray-and-black fly. The Head maintained that he had hooked the small fish and was about to draw it to shore when the bull-trout leaped out of the water, caught the small fish, and held on grimly. The Head thereupon had landed them both.
In proof of this, as I have said, he had the two fish on top of a packing-case. But it is not a difficult matter to place a small trout cross-wise in the jaws of a bull-trout, and to this day we are not quite certain.
There were tooth-marks on the little fish, but, as one of the guides said, he wouldn't put it past the Head to have made them himself.
That night we received a telegram. I remember it with great distinctness, because the man who brought it in charged fifteen dollars for delivering it. He came at midnight, and how he had reached us no one will ever know. The telegram notified us that a railroad strike was about to take place and that we should get out as soon as possible.
Early the next morning we held a conference. It was about as far back as it was to go ahead over the range. And before us still lay the Great Adventure of the pass.
We took a vote on it at last and the "ayes" carried. We would go ahead, making the best time we could. If the railroads had stopped when we got out, we would merely turn our pack-outfit toward the east and keep on moving. We had been all summer in the saddle by that time, and a matter of thirty-five hundred miles across the continent seemed a trifle.
Dan Devore brought us other news that morning, however. Cascade Pass was closed with snow. A miner who lived alone somewhere up the gorge had brought in the information. It was a serious moment. We could get to Doubtful Lake, but it was unlikely we could get any farther. The comparatively simple matter thus became a complicated one, for Doubtful Lake was not only a detour; it was almost inaccessible, especially for horses. But we hated to acknowledge defeat. So again we voted to go ahead.
That day, while the pack-outfit was being got ready, I had a long talk with the Forest Supervisor. He told me many things about our National Forests, things which are worth knowing and which every American, whose playgrounds the forests are, should know.
In the first place, the Forestry Department welcomes the camper. He is given his liberty, absolutely. He is allowed to hunt such game as is in season, and but two restrictions are placed on him. He shall leave his camp-ground clean, and he shall extinguish every spark of fire before he leaves. Beyond that, it is the policy of the Government to let campers alone. It is possible in a National Forest to secure a special permit to put up buildings for permanent camps. An act passed on the 4th of March, 1915, gives the camper a permit for a definite period, although until that time the Government could revoke the permit at will.
The rental is so small that it is practically negligible. All roads and trails are open to the public; no admission can be charged to a National Forest, and no concession will be sold. The whole idea of the National Forest as a playground is to administer it in the public interest. Good lots on Lake Chelan can be obtained for from five to twenty-five dollars a year, depending on their locality. It is the intention of the Government to pipe water to these allotments.
For the hunters, there is no protection for bear, cougar, coyotes, bobcats, and lynx. No license is required to hunt them. And to the persistent hunter who goes into the woods, not as we did, with an outfit the size of a cavalry regiment, there is game to be had in abundance. We saw goat-tracks in numbers at Cloudy Pass and the marks of Bruin everywhere.
The Chelan National Forest is well protected against fires. A fire-launch patrols the lake and lookouts are stationed all the time on Strong Mountain and Crow's Hill. They live there on the summits, where provisions and water must be carried up to them. These lookouts now have telephones, but until last summer they used the heliograph instead.
So now we prepared, having made our decision to go on. That night, if the trail was possible, we would camp at Doubtful Lake.
DOING THE IMPOSSIBLE
The first part of that adventurous day was quiet. We moved sedately along on an overgrown trail, mountain walls so close on each side that the valley lay in shadow. I rode next to Dan Devore that day, and on the trail he stopped his horse and showed me the place where Hughie McKeever was found.
Dan Devore and Hughie McKeever went out one November to go up to Horseshoe Basin. Dan left before the heaviest snows came, leaving McKeever alone. When McKeever had not appeared by February, Dan went in for him. His cabin was empty.
He had kept a diary up to the 24th of December, when it stopped abruptly. There were a few marten skins in the cabin, and his outfit. That was all. In some cottonwoods, not far from the camp, they found his hatchet and his bag hanging to a tree.
It looked for a time, as though the mystery of Hughie McKeever's disappearance would be one of the unsolved tragedies of the mountains. But a trapper, whose route took him along Thunder Creek that spring, noticed that his dog made a side trip each time, away from the trail. At last he investigated, and found the body of Hughie McKeever. He had probably been caught in a snow-slide, for his leg was broken below the knee. Unable to walk, he had put his snowshoes on his hands and, dragging the broken leg, had crawled six miles through the snow and ice of the mountain winter. When he was found, he was only a mile and a half from his cabin and safety.
There are many other tragedies of that valley. There was a man who went up Bridge Creek to see a claim he had located there. He was to be out four days. But in ten days he had not appeared, which was not surprising, for there was twenty-five feet of snow, and when the snow had frozen so that rescuers could travel over the crust, they went up after him. He was lying in one of the bunks of his cabin with a mattress over him, frozen to death.
So, Dan said, they covered him in the snow with a mattress, and went back in the spring to bury him.
Every winter, in those mountain valleys, men who cannot get their outfits out before the snow shoot their horses or cut their throats rather than let them freeze or starve to death. It is a grim country, the Cascade country. One man shot nine in this very valley last winter.
Our naturalist had been caught the winter before in the first snowstorm of the season. He was from daylight until eight o'clock at night making two miles of trail. He had to break it, foot by foot, for the horses.
As we rode up the gorge toward the pass, it was evident, from the amount of snow in the mountains, that stories had not been exaggerated. The packers looked dubious. Even if we could make the climb to Doubtful Lake, it seemed impossible that we could get farther. But the monotony of the long ride was broken that afternoon by our first sight, as a party, of a bear.
It came out on a ledge of the mountain, perhaps three hundred yards away, and proceeded, with great deliberation, to walk across a rock-slide. It paid no attention whatever to us and to the wild excitement which followed its discovery. Instantly, the three junior Rineharts were off their horses, and our artillery attack was being prepared. At the first shot, the pack-ponies went crazy. They lunged and jumped, and even Buddy showed signs of strain, leaping what I imagine to be some eleven feet in the air and coming back on four rigid knees. Followed such a peppering of that cliff as it had never had before. Little clouds of rock-dust rose above the bear, in front of him, behind him, and below him. He stopped, mildly astonished, and looked around. More noise, more bucking on the trail, more dust. The bear walked on a trifle faster.
It had been arranged that the first bear was to be left for the juniors. So the packers and the rest of the party watched and advised.
But, as I have related elsewhere in this narrative, there were no casualties. The bear, as far as I know, is living to-day, an honored member of his community, and still telling how he survived the great war. At last he disappeared into a cave, and we went on without so much as a single skin to decorate a college room.
We went on.
What odds and ends of knowledge we picked up on those long days in the saddle! That if lightning strikes a pine even lightly, it kills, but that a fir will ordinarily survive; that mountain miles are measured air-line, so that twenty-five miles may really be forty, and that, even then, they are calculated on the level, so that one is credited with only the base of the triangle while he is laboriously climbing up its hypotenuse. I am personally acquainted with the hypotenuses of a good many mountains, and there is no use trying to pretend that they are bases. They are not.
Then we learned that the purpose of the National Forests is not to preserve timber but to conserve it. The idea is to sell and reseed. About twenty-five per cent of the timber we saw was yellow pine. But most of the timber we saw on the east side of the Cascades will be safe for some time. I wouldn't undertake to carry out, from most of that region, enough pine-needles to make a sofa-cushion. It is quite enough to get oneself out.
Up to now it had been hard going, but not impossible. Now we were to do the impossible.
It is a curious thing about mountains, but they have a hideous tendency to fall down. Whole cliff-faces, a mile or so high, are suddenly seized with a wandering disposition. Leaving the old folks at home and sliding down into the valleys, they come awful croppers and sustain about eleven million compound comminuted fractures.
These family breaks are known as rock-slides.
Now to travel twenty feet over a rock-slide is to twist an ankle, bruise a shin-bone, utterly discourage a horse, and sour the most amiable disposition.
There is no flat side to these wandering rocks. With the diabolical ingenuity that nature can show when she goes wrong, they lie edge up. Do you remember the little mermaid who wished to lose her tail and gain legs so she could follow the prince? And how her penalty was that every step was like walking on the edges of swords? That is a mountain rock-slide, but I do not recall that the little mermaid had to drag a frightened and slipping horse, which stepped on her now and then. Or wear riding-boots. Or stop every now and then to be photographed, and try to persuade her horse to stop also. Or keep looking up to see if another family jar threatened. Or look around to see if any of the party or the pack was rolling down over the spareribs of that ghastly skeleton. No; the little mermaid's problem was a simple and uncomplicated one.
We were climbing, too. Only one thing kept us going. The narrow valley twisted, and around each cliff-face we expected the end—either death or solid ground. But not so, or, at least, not for some hours. Riding-boots peeled like a sunburnt face; stones dislodged and rolled down; the sun beat down in early September fury, and still we went on.
Only three miles it was, but it was as bad a three miles as I have ever covered. Then—the naturalist turned and smiled.
"Now we are all right," he said. "We start to climb soon!"
Of all the mountain-climbing I have ever done the switchback up to Doubtful Lake is the worst. We were hours doing it. There were places when it seemed no horse could possibly make the climb. Back and forth, up and up, along that narrow rock-filled trail, which was lost here in a snow-bank, there in a jungle of evergreen that hung out from the mountain-side, we were obliged to go. There was no going back. We could not have turned a horse around, nor could we have reversed the pack-outfit without losing some of the horses.
As a matter of fact, we dropped two horses on that switchback. With infinite labor the packers got them back to the trail, rolling, tumbling, and roping them down to the ledge below, and there salvaging them. It was heart-breaking, nerve-racking work. Near the top was an ice-patch across a brawling waterfall. To slip on that ice-patch meant a drop of incredible distance. From broken places in the crust it was possible to see the stream below. Yet over the ice it was necessary to take ourselves and the pack.
"Absolutely no riding here," was the order, given in strained tones. For everybody's nerves were on edge.
Somehow or other, we got over. I can still see one little pack-pony wandering away from the others and traveling across that tiny ice-field on the very brink of death at the top of the precipice. The sun had softened the snow so that I fell flat into it. And there was a dreadful moment when I thought I was going to slide.
Even when I was safely over, my anxieties were just beginning. For the Head and the Juniors were not yet over. And there was no space to stop and see them come. It was necessary to move on up the switchback, that the next horse behind might scramble up. Buddy went gallantly on, leaping, slipping, his flanks heaving, his nostrils dilated. Then, at last, the familiar call,—
"Are you all right, mother?"
And I knew it was all right with them—so far.
Three thousand feet that switchback went straight up in the air. How many thousand feet we traveled back and forward, I do not know.
But these things have a way of getting over somehow. The last of the pack-horses was three hours behind us in reaching Doubtful Lake. The weary little beasts, cut, bruised, and by this time very hungry, looked dejected and forlorn. It was bitterly cold. Doubtful Lake was full of floating ice, and a chilling wind blew on us from the snow all about. A bear came out on the cliff-face across the valley. But no one attempted to shoot at him. We were too tired, too bruised and sore. We gave him no more than a passing glance.
It had been a tremendous experience, but a most alarming one. From the brink of that pocket on the mountain-top where we stood the earth fell away to vast distances beneath. The little river which empties Doubtful Lake slid greasily over a rock and disappeared without a sound into the void.
Until the pack-outfit arrived, we could have no food. We built a fire and huddled round it, and now and then one of us would go to the edge of the pit which lay below to listen. The summer evening was over and night had fallen before we heard the horses coming near the top of the cliff. We cheered them, as, one by one, they stumbled over the edge, dark figures of horses and men, the animals with their bulging packs. They had put up a gallant fight.
And we had no food for the horses. The few oats we had been able to carry were gone, and there was no grass on the little plateau. There was heather, deceptively green, but nothing else. And here, for the benefit of those who may follow us along the trail, let me say that oats should be carried, if two additional horses are required for the purpose—carried, and kept in reserve for the last hard days of the trip.
The two horses that had fallen were unpacked first. They were cut, and on their cuts the Head poured iodine. But that was all we could do for them. One little gray mare was trembling violently. She went over a cliff again the next day, but I am glad to say that we took her out finally, not much the worse except for a badly cut shoulder. The other horse, a sorrel, had only a day or two before slid five hundred feet down a snow-bank. He was still stiff from his previous accident, and if ever I saw a horse whose nerve was gone, I saw one there—a poor, tragic, shaken creature, trembling at a word.
That night, while we lay wrapped in blankets round the fire while the cooks prepared supper at another fire near by, the Optimist produced a bottle of claret. We drank it out of tin cups, the only wine of the journey, and not until long afterward did we know its history—that a very great man to whose faith the Northwest owes so much of its development had purchased it, twenty-five years before, for the visit to this country of Albert, King of the Belgians.
That claret, taken so casually from tin cups near the summit of the Cascades, had been a part of the store of that great dreamer and most abstemious of men, James J. Hill, laid in for the use of that other great dreamer and idealist, Albert, when he was his guest. While we ate, Weaver said suddenly,—
His keen ears had caught the sound of a bell. He got up.
"Either Johnny or Buck," he said, "starting back home!"
Then commenced again that heart-breaking task of rounding up the horses. That is a part of such an expedition. And, even at that, one escaped and was found the next morning high up the cliffside, in a basin.
It was too late to put up all the tents that night. Mrs. Fred and I slept in our clothes but under canvas, and the men lay out with their faces to the sky.
Toward dawn a thunder-storm came up. For we were on the crest of the Cascades now, where the rain-clouds empty themselves before traveling to the arid country to the east. Just over the mountain-wall above us lay the Pacific Slope.
The rain came down, and around the peaks overhead lightning flashed and flamed. No one moved except Joe, who sat up in his blankets, put his hat on, said, "Let 'er rain," and lay down to sleep again. Peanuts, the naturalist's horse, sought human companionship in the storm, and wandered into camp, where one of the young bear-hunters wakened to find him stepping across his prostrate and blanketed form.
Then all was still again, except for the solid beat of the rain on canvas and blanket, horse and man.
It cleared toward morning, and at dawn Dan was up and climbed the wall on foot. At breakfast, on his return, we held a conference. He reported that it was possible to reach the top—possible but difficult, and that what lay on the other side we should have to discover later on.
A night's sleep had made Joe all business again. On the previous day he had been too busy saving his camera and his life—camera first, of course—to try for pictures. But now he had a brilliant idea.
"Now see here," he said to me; "I've got a great idea. How's Buddy about water?"
"He's partial to it," I admitted, "for drinking, or for lying down and rolling in it, especially when I am on him. Why?"
"Well, it's like this," he observed: "I'm set up on the bank of the lake. See? And you ride him into the water and get him to scramble up on one of those ice-cakes. Do you get it? It'll be a whale of a picture."
"Joe," I said, in a stern voice, "did you ever try to make a horse go into an icy lake and climb on to an ice-cake? Because if you have, you can do it now. I can turn the camera all right. Anyhow," I added firmly, "I've been photographed enough. This film is going to look as if I'd crossed the Cascades alone. Some of you other people ought to have a chance."
But a moving-picture man after a picture is as determined as a cook who does not like the suburbs.
I rode Buddy to the brink of the lake, and there spoke to him in friendly tones. I observed that this lake was like other lakes, only colder, and that it ought to be mere play after the day before. I also selected a large ice-cake, which looked fairly solid, and pointed Buddy at it.
Then I kicked him. He took a step and began to shake. Then he leaped six feet to one side and reared, still shaking. Then he turned round and headed for the camp.
By that I was determined on the picture. There is nothing like two wills set in opposite directions to determine a woman. Buddy and I again and again approached the lake, mostly sideways. But at last he went in, took twenty steps out, felt the cold on his poor empty belly, and—refused the ice-cake. We went out much faster than we went in, making the bank in a great bound and a very bad humor—two very bad humors.
OVER CASCADE PASS
To get out of the Doubtful Lake plateau to Cascade Pass it was necessary to climb eight hundred feet up a steep and very slippery cliffside. On the other side lay the pass, but on the level of the lake. It was here that we "went up a hill one day and then went down again" with a vengeance. And on this cliffside it was that the little gray mare went over again, falling straight on to a snow-bank, which saved her, and then rolling over and over shedding parts of our equipment, and landing far below dazed and almost senseless.
It was on the top of that wall above Doubtful Lake that I had the greatest fright of the trip.
That morning, as a special favor, the Little Boy had been allowed to go ahead with Mr. Hilligoss, who was to clear trail and cut footholds where they were necessary. When we were more than halfway to the top of the wall above the lake, two alternative routes to the top offered themselves, one to the right across a snow-field that hugged the edge of a cliff which dropped sheer five hundred feet to the water, another to the left over slippery heather which threatened a slide and a casualty at every step. The Woodsman had left no blazes, there being no tree to mark. Holding on by clutching to the heather with our hands, we debated. Finally, we chose the left-hand route as the one they had probably taken. But when we reached the top, the Woodsman and the Little Boy were not there. We hallooed, but there was no reply. And, suddenly, the terrible silence of the mountains seemed ominous. Had they ventured across the snow-bank and slipped?
I am not ashamed to say that, sitting on my horse on the top of that mountain-wall, I proceeded to have a noiseless attack of hysterics. There were too many chances of accident for any of the party to take the matter lightly. There we gathered on that little mountain meadow, not much bigger than a good-sized room, and waited. There was snow and ice and silence everywhere. Below, Doubtful Lake lay like a sapphire set in granite, and far beneath it lay the valley from which we had climbed the day before. But no one cared for scenery.
Then it was that "Silent Lawrie" turned his horse around and went back. Soon he hallooed, and, climbing back to us, reported that they had crossed the ice-bank. He had found the marks of the axe making footholds. And soon afterward there was another halloo from below, and the missing ones rode into sight. They were blithe and gay. They had crossed the ice-field and had seen a view which they urged we should not miss. But I had had enough view. All I wanted was the level earth. There could be nothing after that flat enough to suit me.
Sliding, stumbling, falling, leading our scrambling horses, we got down the wall on the other side. It was easier going, but slippery with heather and that green moss of the mountains, which looks so tempting but which gives neither foothold nor nourishment. Then, at last, the pass.
It was thirty-six hours since our horses had had anything to eat. We had had food and sleep, but during the entire night the poor animals had been searching those rocky mountain-sides for food and failing to find it. They stood in a dejected group, heads down, feet well braced to support their weary bodies.
But last summer was not a normal one. Unusually heavy snowfalls the winter before had been followed by a late, cold spring. The snow was only beginning to melt late in July, and by September, although almost gone from the pass itself, it still covered deep the trail on the east side.
So, some of those who read this may try the same great adventure hereafter and find it unnecessary to make the Doubtful Lake detour. I hope so. Because the pass is too wonderful not to be visited. Some day, when this magnificent region becomes a National Park, and there is something more than a dollar a mile to be spent on trails, a thousand dollars or so invested in trail-work will put this roof of the world within reach of any one who can sit a horse. And those who go there will be the better for the going. Petty things slip away in the silent high places. It is easy to believe in God there. And the stars and heaven seem very close.
One thing died there forever for me—my confidence in the man who writes the geography and who says that, representing the earth by an orange, the highest mountains are merely as the corrugations on its skin.
On Cascade Pass is the dividing-line between the Chelan and the Washington National Forests. For some reason we had confidently believed that reaching the pass would see the end of our difficulties. The only question that had ever arisen was whether we could get to the pass or not. And now we were there.
We were all perceptibly cheered; even the horses seemed to feel that the worst was over. Tame grouse scudded almost under our feet. They had never seen human beings, and therefore had no terror of them.
And here occurred one of the small disappointments that the Middle Boy will probably remember long after he has forgotten the altitude in feet of that pass and other unimportant matters. For he scared up some grouse, and this is the tragedy. The open season for grouse is September 1st in Chelan and September 15th across the line. And the birds would not cross the line. They were wise birds, and must have had a calendar about them, for, although we were vague as to the date, we knew it was not yet the 15th. So they sat or fluttered about, and looked most awfully good to eat. But they never went near the danger-zone or the enemy's trenches.
We lay about and rested, and the grouse laughed at us, and a great marmot, sentinel of his colony, sat on a near-by rock and whistled reports of what we were doing. Joe unlimbered the moving-picture camera, and the Head used the remainder of his small stock of iodine on the injured horses. The sun shone on the flowers and the snow, on the pail in which our cocoa was cooking, on the barrels of our unused guns and the buckles of the saddles. We watched the pack-horses coming down, tiny pin-point figures, oddly distorted by the great packs. And we rested for the descent.
I do not know why we thought that descent from Cascade Pass on the Pacific side was going to be easy. It was by far the most nerve-racking part of the trip. Yet we started off blithely enough. Perhaps Buddy knew that he was the first horse to make that desperate excursion. He developed a strange nervousness, and took to leaping off the trail in bad places, so that one moment I was a part of the procession and the next was likely to be six feet above the trail on a rocky ledge, with no apparent way to get down.
We had expected that there would be less snow on the western slope, but at the beginning of the trip we found snow everywhere. And whereas before the rock-slides had been wretchedly uncomfortable but at comparatively low altitudes, now we found ourselves climbing across slides which hugged the mountain thousands of feet above the valley.
Our nerves began to go, too, I think, on that last day. We were plainly frightened, not for ourselves but each for the other. There were many places where to dislodge a stone was to lose it as down a bottomless well. There was one frightful spot where it was necessary to go through a waterfall on a narrow ledge slippery with moss, where the water dropped straight, uncounted feet to the valley below.
The Little Boy paused blithely, his reins over his arm, and surveyed the scenery from the center of this death-trap.
"If anybody slipped here," he said, "he'd fall quite a distance." Then he kicked a stone to see it go.
"Quit that!" said the Head, in awful tones.
Midway of the descent, we estimated that we should lose at least ten horses. The pack was behind us, and there was no way to discover how they were faring. But as the ledges were never wide enough for a horse and the one leading him to move side by side, it seemed impossible that the pack-ponies with their wide burdens could edge their way along.
I had mounted Buddy again. I was too fatigued to walk farther, and, besides, I had fallen so often that I felt he was more sure-footed than I. Perhaps my narrowest escape on that trip was where a huge stone had slipped across the ledge we were following. Buddy, afraid to climb its slippery sides, undertook to leap it. There was one terrible moment when he failed to make a footing with his hind feet and we hung there over the gorge. After that, Dan Devore led him.
In spite of our difficulties, we got down to the timber-line rather quickly. But there trouble seemed to increase rather than diminish. Trees had fallen across the way, and dangerous detours on uncertain footing were necessary to get round them. The warm rains of the Pacific Slope had covered the mountain-sides with thick vegetation also. Our way, hardly less steep than on the day before, was overgrown with greenery that was often a trap for the unwary. And even when, at last, we were down beyond the imminent danger of breaking our necks at every step, there were more difficulties. The vegetation was rank, tremendously high. We worked our way through it, lost to each other and to the world. Wilderness snows had turned the small streams to roaring rivers and spread them over flats through which we floundered. So long was it since the trail had been used that it was often difficult to tell where it took off from the other side of the stream. And our horses were growing very weary. They had made the entire trip without grain and with such bits of pasture as they could pick up in the mountains. Now it was a long time since they had had even grass.
It will never be possible to know how many miles we covered in that Cascade Pass trip. As Mr. Hilligoss said, mountain miles were measured with a coonskin, and they threw in the tail. Often to make a mile's advance we traveled four on the mountain-side.
So when they tell me that it was a trifle of sixteen miles from the top of Cascade Pass to the camp-site we made that night, I know that it was nearer thirty. In point of difficulties, it was a thousand.
Yet the last part of the trip, had we not been too weary to enjoy it, was superbly beautiful. There was a fine rain falling. The undergrowth was less riotous and had taken on the form of giant ferns, ten feet high, which overhung the trail. Here were great cypress trees thirty-six feet in circumference—a forest of them. We rode through green aisles where even the death of the forest was covered by soft moss. Out of the green and moss-covered trunks of dead giants, new growth had sprung, new trees, hanging gardens of ferns.
There had been much talk of Mineral Park. It was our objective point for camp that night, and I think I had gathered that it was to be a settlement. I expected nothing less than a post-office and perhaps some miners' cabins. When, at the end of that long, hard day, we reached Mineral Park at twilight and in a heavy rain, I was doomed to disappointment.
Mineral Park consists of a deserted shack in a clearing perhaps forty feet square, on the bank of a mountain stream. All around it is impenetrable forest. The mountains converge here so that the valley becomes a canon. So dense was the growth that we put up our tents on the trail itself.
In the little clearing round the empty shack, the horses were tied in the cold rain. It was impossible to let them loose, for we could never have found them again. Our hearts ached that night for the hungry creatures; the rain had brought a cold wind and they could not even move about to keep warm.
I was too tired to eat that night. I went to bed and lay in my tent, listening to the sound of the rain on the canvas. The camp-stove was set up in the trail, and the others gathered round it, eating in the rain. But, weary as I was, I did not sleep. For the first time, terror of the forest gripped me. It menaced; it threatened.
The roar of the river sounded like the rush of flame. I lay there and wondered what would happen if the forest took fire. For the gentle summer rain would do little good once a fire started. There would be no way out. The giant cliffs would offer no refuge. We could not even have reached them through the jungle had we tried. And forest-fires were common enough. We had ridden over too many burned areas not to realize that.
OUT TO CIVILIZATION
It was still raining in the morning. The skies were gray and sodden and the air was moist. We stood round the camp-fire and ate our fried ham, hot coffee, and biscuits. It was then that the Head, prompted by sympathy, fed his horse the rain-soaked biscuit, the apple, the two lumps of sugar, and the raw egg.
Yet, in spite of the weather, we were jubilant. The pack-train had come through without the loss of a single horse. Again the impossible had become possible. And that day was to see us out of the mountains and in peaceful green valleys, where the horses could eat their fill.
The sun came out as we started. Had it not been for the horses, we should have been entirely happy. But sympathy for them had become an obsession. We rode slowly to save them; we walked when we could. It was strange to go through that green wonderland and find not a leaf the horses could eat. It was all moss, ferns, and evergreens.
From the semi-arid lands east of the Cascades to the rank vegetation of the Pacific side was an extraordinary change. Trees grew to enormous sizes. In addition to the great cedars, there were hemlocks fifteen and eighteen feet in circumference. Only the strong trees survive in these valleys, and by that ruthless selection of nature weak young saplings die early. So we found cedar, hemlock, lodge-pole pine, white and Douglas fir, cottonwood, white pine, spruce, and alder of enormous size.
The brake ferns were the most common, often growing ten feet tall. We counted five varieties of ferns growing in profusion, among them brake ferns, sword-ferns, and maidenhair, most beautiful and luxuriant. The maidenhair fern grew in masses, covering dead trunks of trees and making solid walls of delicate green beside the trail.
"Silent Lawrie" knew them all. He knew every tiniest flower and plant that thrust its head above the leaf-mould. He saw them all, too. Peanuts, his horse, made his own way now, and the naturalist sat a trifle sideways in his saddle and showed me his discoveries.
I am no naturalist, so I rode behind him, notebook in hand, and I made a list something like this. If there are any errors they are not the naturalist's, but mine, because, although I have written a great deal on a horse's back, I am not proof against the accident of Whiskers stirring a yellow-jackets' nest on the trail, or of Buddy stumbling, weary beast that he was, over a root on the path.
This is my list: red-stemmed dogwood; bunchberries, in blossom on the higher reaches, in bloom below; service-berries, salmon-berries; skunk-cabbage, beloved by bears, and the roots of which the Indians roast and eat; above four thousand feet, white rhododendrons, and, above four thousand five hundred feet, heather; hellebore also in the high places; thimble-berries and red elderberries, tag-alder, red honeysuckle, long stretches of willows in the creek-bottoms; vining maples, too, and yew trees, the wood of which the Indians use for making bows.
Around Cloudy Pass we found the red monkey-flower. In different places there was the wild parsnip; the ginger-plant, with its heart-shaped leaf and blossom, buried in the leaf-mould, its crushed leaves redolent of ginger; masses of yellow violets, twinflowers, ox-eye daisies, and sweet-in-death, which is sold on the streets in the West as we sell sweet lavender. There were buttercups, purple asters, bluebells, goat's-beard, columbines, Mariposa lilies, bird's-bill, trillium, devil's-club, wild white heliotrope, brick-leaved spirea, wintergreen, everlasting.
And there are still others, where Buddy collided with the yellow-jacket, that I find I cannot read at all.
Something lifted for me that day as Buddy and I led off down that fat, green valley, with the pass farther and farther behind—a weight off my spirit, a deadly fear of accident, not to myself but to the Family, which had obsessed me for the last few days. But now I could twist in my saddle and see them all, ruddy and sound and happy, whistling as they rode. And I knew that it was all right. It had been good for them and good for me. It is always good to do a difficult thing. And no one has ever fought a mountain and won who is not the better for it. The mountains are not for the weak or the craven, or the feeble of mind or body.
We went on, to the distant tinkle of the bell on the lead-horse of the pack-train.
It was that day that "Silent Lawrie" spoke I remember, because he had said so little before, and because what he said was so well worth remembering.
"Why can't all this sort of thing be put into music?" he asked. "It is music. Think of it, the drama of it all!"
Then he went on, and this is what "Silent Lawrie" wants to have written. I pass it on to the world, and surely it can be done. It starts at dawn, with the dew, and the whistling of the packers as they go after the horses. Then come the bells of the horses as they come in, the smoke of the camp-fire, the first sunlight on the mountains, the saddling and packing. And all the time the packers are whistling.
Then the pack starts out on the trail, the bells of the leaders jingling, the rattle and crunch of buckles and saddle-leather, the click of the horses' feet against the rocks, the swish as they ford a singing stream. The wind is in the trees and birds are chirping. Then comes the long, hard day, the forest, the first sight of snow-covered peaks, the final effort, and camp.
After that, there is the thrush's evening song, the afterglow, the camp-fire, and the stars. And over all is the quiet of the night, and the faint bells of grazing horses, like the silver ringing of the bell at a mass.
I wish I could do it.
At noon that day in the Skagit Valley, we found our first civilization, a camp where a man was cutting cedar blocks for shingles. He looked absolutely astounded when our long procession drew in around his shanty. He meant only one thing to us; he meant oats. If he had oats, we were saved. If he had no oats, it meant again long hours of traveling with our hungry horses.
He had a bag of oats. But he was not inclined, at first, to dispose of them, and, as a matter of fact, he did not sell them to us at all. When we finally got them from him, it was only on our promise to send back more oats. Money was of no use to him there in the wilderness; but oats meant everything.
Thirty-one horses we drove into that little bit of a clearing under the cedar trees, perhaps a hundred feet by thirty. Such wild excitement as prevailed among the horses when the distribution of oats began, such plaintive whinnying and restless stirring! But I think they behaved much better than human beings would have under the same circumstances. And at last each was being fed—such a pathetically small amount, too, hardly more than a handful apiece, it seemed. In his eagerness, the Little Boy's horse breathed in some oats, and for a time it looked as though he would cough himself to death.
The wood-cutter's wife was there. We were the one excitement in her long months of isolation. I can still see her rather pathetic face as she showed me the lace she was making, the one hundred and one ways in which she tried to fill her lonely hours.
All through the world there are such women, shut away from their kind, staying loyally with the man they have chosen through days of aching isolation. That woman had children. She could not take them into the wilderness with her, so they were in a town, and she was here in the forest, making things for them and fretting about them and longing for them. There was something tragic in her face as she watched us mount to go on.
We were to reach Marblemont that day and there to leave our horses. After they had rested and recovered, Dan Devore was to take them back over the range again, while we went on to civilization and a railroad.
We promised the wood-cutter to send the oats back with the outfit; and when we sent them, we sent at the same time some magazines to that lonely wife and mother on the Skagit.
Late in the afternoon, we emerged from the forest. It was like coming from a darkened room into the light. One moment we were in the aisles of that great green cathedral, the next there was an open road and the sunlight and houses. We prodded the horses with our heels and raced down the road. Surprised inhabitants came out and stared. We waved to them; we loved them; we loved houses and dogs and cows and apple trees. But most of all we loved level places.
We were in time, too, for the railroad strike had not yet taken place.
As Bob got off his horse, he sang again that little ditty with which, during the most strenuous hours of the trip, we had become familiar:—
"Oh, a sailor's life is bold and free, He lives upon the bright blue sea: He has to work like h—, of course, But he doesn't have to ride on a darned old horse."
* * * * *
The poems on pages 140 and 188, were punctuated differently. This was retained.
On page 90, Dvorak is printed with a hacek over the r. The contraints of text preclude this from being used in this one instance.