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trate the frozen interior, as pull a heavily-laden sleigh over
they could not pull more than their own weight on the soft yielding snow. At that time no reliable information was available regarding the nature of the winter trail to Klondike, nor has there been any obtained since. Had the expeditions sent out last year been able to penetrate as far as Marsh Lake, the much greater distance beyond could have been accomplished with barely an effort.
From Marsh Lake southward the moist breezes of the coast make their influence distinctly felt, and snow falls almost continuously between the months of October and February, accumulating to vast depths all along this part of the route. It is one thing to
glassy ice, but it is a totally different matter to pull even half the same weight over the same trail when covered with several feet of snow. How strange it is that beyond Marsh Lake there is absolutely no snowfall during the winter season; the air is hard and dry, never containing sufficient moisture to allow of such an occurrence as a snowstorm.
I have gathered much knowledge of the country by hard experience, and yet I say that had we been compelled to take to our sleighs, on Tagish Lake for instance, we should never have been able to reach Lake Labarge, not to mention the many hundreds of miles beyond.
THE SILVER GREYS.
Lake Labarge had evidently been frozen for some time before our arrival, as the ice on its surface was several feet deep. Very little snow lay on the surrounding country: instead, a thin white film of frost barely concealed the rocky ground underneath, and in the shade of gigantic forests of pine - trees, the natural mossy ground peculiar to that country appeared in all its sombre beauty. We commenced our long sleigh journey in the morning; the heavy sleigh glided along with great smoothness, and Mac and Stewart pulled their loads with evident ease. Dave was harnessed to the third sleigh, and pulled 250 lb. without a
VOL. CLXV.—NO, MIV.
growl. We made fully twentyfour miles on the first day, and as we erected our tent that evening we calculated on arriving at Dawson within a fortnight. The scenery here was similar to what we had passed, but the trees were larger and denser, and the birches became more evident among their hardier neighbours. Animal life was also more abundant in this district, and various tracks covered the frosty surface of the lake. It was at this camp that I succeeded in shooting two very fine silvergrey foxes.
Our camp was pitched well among the trees, and about fifty yards from the margin of the lake, we always liked
to get under the shelter of the rifle rang out. Again I timber. Stewart as usual had fired, again, and again. In cut a deep hole in the ice, so all I fired six shots, and then as to get water for cooking I walked leisurely down topurposes, and was now busily wards the water - hole to estiengaged in his culinary opera- mate the damage. I was tions. Dave lay curled up be- greatly surprised and delighted side the stove, and Mac was to find that, instead of coyotes, reclining on the pile of blankets, I had killed two magnificent smoking the pipe of peace. I specimens of the silver-grey took my rifle and went outside fox. If I had been careful I to have a look round for a few might have got more, but I minutes before supper. My had fired almost at random, attention was at once arrested never thinking they were other by the appearance of several than Alaskan wolves. They forms against the white sur- had evidently scented the water face of the lake, beside our from afar and come to drink, water-hole. "Coyotes again," I for one of them lay with his said with annoyance, preparing head well into the hole. Stewto scatter them. I expected art skinned them that night, there would be a dozen or more and their beautiful furs went to swell our growing hoard of curiosities.
lurking around. I pulled the trigger, the sharp report of
ARRIVAL AT BIG SALMON RIVER.
The trail now became gradually better, yet it took us two days of very hard work to reach Big Salmon river. As we neared this tributary of the Yukon we commenced to notice fresh moccasin tracks on the hoary surface of the ice; and, looking closer, we could distinguish the almost obliterated trail of sleigh runners where they had at times cut deeply into the trail. "We're coming near some one now," I remarked, as we steadily "forged" ahead, never stopping or once looking back. Neither Mac nor Stewart made any reply: they closely followed and covered the tracks made by myself and the dog, as we led the van with our lighter
sleigh, at a pace exceeding five miles an hour.
While yet a long way off the Salmon river junction I could trace the smoke of stoves and campfires rising lazily into the clear air; and, as we drew nearer, several tents came into view. They were half hidden among the timber, and had we not observed the smoke of their fires, we should probably never have noticed them. We pulled ahead until we were exactly opposite the encampment, and then halted.
"Does not seem to be any one about," I said. "Mebbe it is an Indian camp," guessed Stewart. "Nae fear," replied Mac; "whaur wid they get tents like that?" and Mac's reasoning was correct, for the tents appeared to be exceptionally fine and of the most modern manufacture.
"I'll go over and investigate," said I, after waiting a few moments; and over I went. There were four camps in all, one of them much larger than the others. I went to it first. "Holloa within," I shouted, as I came close. "Come in, don't knock," replied a deep bass voice from the interior, and, obeying the invitation, I entered. A powerfully built man of middle height and military appearance sat beside a section of a huge tree fixed in the centre of the tent-the sawn surface evidently doing duty as a table, for it was littered over with maps and charts. "Well, my boy, where have you come from? asked the occupant, rising, and, by force of habit, motioning me
to sit down-which I did on the ground, as there was no other seat. "I've come from
Tagish," I said, "and have been trying to catch up with Major Walsh for several days. Can you tell me when he passed this camp?" "He has not yet passed," was the gruff answer: "I'm Major Walsh; what news from Tagish? "I have a letter for you from Captain Strickland," I said, fishing it out from my pocket and handing it to him.
"From Captain Strickland! Get your mates inside immediately. My men went off hunting this morning, but I expect them back every moment. cannot allow you to leave without having dinner. How did you leave the captain? Then I gave him Captain Strickland's verbal message, which seemed to amuse him greatly, for he laughed heartily. I left him occupied in reading the letter, and turned to go to fetch my companions, but that was necessary, as these two worthies had come over to investigate matters for themselves, and now walked in unceremoniously, with Dave at their heels, and comfortably arranged themselves before the stove, without a word.
"That's right, my boys, make yourselves at home," said the kindly Major, looking up from the despatches, and smiling broadly at the frosty appearance of my two aides-de-camp.
"The Major asks us to remain and have dinner," I intimated aside; "do you care to stay?" "Care to stay! What a question!" and Mac and Stewart looked reproach
fully at me. The idea of their refusing dinner. Not likely!
We did stay, and for the third time were hospitably entertained by the Canadian Police. The Major was an excellent host, and regaled us with many delightful stories of his experiences among the Indians.
The loss of two boat-loads of provisions had seriously crippled his resources, and, instead of continuing his march to Dawson at this time, the Major had decided to remain at Big. Salmon till spring and then proceed, when fresh supplies and new boats had been sent him from Bennett.
We left Major Walsh late in the afternoon and continued our long trail northwards. The surface improved as we proceeded, and we got over the frozen river in record time. Nothing could be heard but the hiss of the sleigh runners as they slipped over the ice, leaving barely a trail behind. Soon the stars came out, and still we kept on: I had no difficulty in following the river, even in the darkness. The wooded banks on each side were reflected on
the glittering face of the ice by the pale light from the stars, and the shadows from each side, reaching almost to the middle of the river, left between a trail of comparative clearness which could easily be followed. It was late in the evening when we pitched our camp, and, as we lay down in our blankets that night, we had the satisfaction of knowing that we were fifteen miles north of Big Salmon.
The next day we passed the Daly river, a fairly large tributary which rises at the foot of the southern slope of the Kelly mountains, and joins the Yukon about twenty miles from the Salmon river. The trail winds greatly from this point, and we could seldom see a stretch of even half a mile ahead. We moved onward from early morn till night was far advanced. The country here was very densely timbered, and the huge mountains still formed the background. In the daytime their sharp outlines, clearly defined against the sky, gave an appearance of grandeur to the scenery such as cannot be surpassed in any country in the world.
FIGHTING THE ELEMENTS.
I need not continue to detail our every day's journeying. The ice-bound river led us on through unvarying scenery for many days, relieved now and then by the beautiful valleys of the tributaries that joined the Yukon at different parts of the route. Three days after leaving the Daly we passed the conflu
ence of the Pelly. At this point the overland trail, via the Chilcoot mountains, joins the Yukon, after traversing 300 miles of generally undulating country.
The blown ice was in some places about 20 feet high, but we crashed over it resolutely, although the sharp ice cut through our hide moc
casins, causing us the greatest pain. I knew that we had to keep going at our very best speed if we hoped to reach Dawson at all. The cold became more intense every day, and when nearing Sixty-Mile river we experienced 40° below zero for a short time. Our tent in the evening looked like an ice-cave, the frost, penetrating the canvas, covered the inside walls with a white coating over half an inch thick. The ice on the river was about 10 feet in depth, and it would have taken an hour's digging to reach the water, so we contented ourselves with using the ice itself for cooking purposes: our difficulty was to get it melted, as unless the stove was at a white heat it took several hours to get into liquid form. We travelled at the rate of twenty-five miles a day, sometimes more, but seldom less. Ten days after leaving Major Walsh's encampment, the frozen waters of the broad Stewart river opened out before us. The mountains were not nearly so high as those we had passed, and the country generally had a flatter aspect; the huge ranges had disappeared, and in their place smaller mountains, forming many watersheds, bounded our view.
The last hundred miles was the worst of all; the trail at the best was rough and jagged, and coated with a white frost that stuck to the iron runners like glue. Almost every other mile barriers of blown ice stretched across our path; gradually these obstacles became more and more frequent, until at length we were plunging through deep layers of
thin shelving ice at every step. At one point, where a small unnamed river enters the Yukon about seventy miles from Dawson, the piled ice reached a height of over 50 feet. We struggled on. Slower and slower became our progress as we neared the El Dorado of the North, and if our destination had been much more distant, I am afraid we would have given out altogether. Mac's fingers were severely frozen, and Stewart's nose had a marblelike appearance that did not at all please him. We wrapped some of our furs round Dave, and he thanked us in a practical manner by pulling at his sleigh with fresh zeal. Dave evidently suffered least of us all, and positively seemed to enjoy the severity of the weather. When we had journeyed for half an hour after striking tent in the morning, not a part of our faces could be seen; our breath froze as it issued from our lips, and dropped in long icicles from our chins; our cheeks were covered and our eyelashes fringed with the powdery frost that filled the atmosphere. It was extremely painful to open our mouths, as the effort cracked the icy film on our cheeks, causing a sharp stinging sensation. We moved persistently forward in grim silence. From morn till night I led my little cavalcade over that terrible icy trail without a word being spoken. Not until we had kindled our evening fire and thawed our frozen features did any of us dare to talk, and then Mac and Stewart cursed the country in unison