MOUNT SHASTA AND THE PASS OF SISKIYOU.
APRIL 5, 1888. We started from San Francisco at 3.30 P. M., and crossed the ferry to Oakland, where we joined a party of tourists going to Oregon. As we followed the shore of the beautiful Bay of San Francisco, northward to San Pablo, and thence bending eastward toward Port Costa, we looked out over the brown water to the pretty islands, the boats, ships, and steamers, some incoming from Portland and other northern cities, and others outward bound for San Diego and intervening ports. We caught just a glimpse of the "Golden Gate," and saw the white walls of pretty villas and towns on the farther shore; realizing in one comprehensive view something of the magnitude and exceptional beauty of that finest of all harbors on the Pacific coast.
At Port Costa our train was conveyed on an immense ferry-boat across the Sacramento River, at its entrance into the Bay at Benicia, the naval station of San Francisco. Here the river mingles its thick brown waters with the clear tides of the ocean, after passing through Suisun Bay, a broad shallow, with a marshy bottom, where the thick copper-colored water idly laps upon a muddy beach.
Great beds of last year's rushes stand bristling and rustling in the breeze, stubbornly waiting for a new growth to supplant and crowd them into the slime below. As we advance up the valley of the Sacramento, it presents to our eyes a plain of verdure, broken now and then by a small pool, in which wild ducks are floating like so many lilies, as, at first sight, we thought they were. Great flocks of blackbirds rise from the fields of grain and sweep around like cloud shadows, softly floating down and fading from our sight, as they lose themselves again and again in the rich verdure.
Scenes shift as we go on, like the views in a vast panorama. The great, level valley stretches far out toward the east, as our route takes us farther from the river; and over it we see white sails gleaming against the sky, looking as if they were navigating the green fields which lie between, rather than the muddy waters of the Sacramento River beyond.
Now, the wheat fields give place to brown marsh lands, upon which many herds of cattle and horses are seen. I counted thirty horses in one small group, and soon passed another, at least four times as large. Droves of black pigs are seen at intervals, wallowing and fattening in grass as high as their shoulders. There are no signs of feeding or care for them, any more than for the cattle and horses.
We arrive at Suisun at six o'clock P. M. It seems a smart little town, but sits upon a dead level of marsh land, and must be a sufferer from occasional inundations of the Sacramento Valley. Soon after leaving Suisun, we find the grain fields are being ploughed; buttercups are seen, and cultivation is going on everywhere about us. But few trees are grown here. As I look about upon either side of our way, I can see but three groups; these are all eucalyptus trees, which cluster about and shade the farmhouses.
Following the grain fields, comes another ranch, devoted mainly to cattle and sheep. The different herds and flocks are divided by rail fences. Ranch follows ranch upon all sides, each with its generous group of farm-buildings, all painted white, and shaded by tall eucalyptus trees. They stand at regular distances from each other, and are very picturesque in the prevailing greenness of this portion of the valley.
Next comes the town of Elmira, which I note as a "goaty place," from the fact that these are the first goats I have seen in Northern California. A white church spire rises above the group of eucalyptus trees, and an immense windmill stares us in the face as we pass it, like a rising sun in a child's picture book. Elmira is as yet a town of but small importance.
Again a long stretch of distance, a low level of vivid green, with groups of homesteads, ranches enclosed by rail fences, wherein horses, cows, and black pigs roam at will, make up this by no means unpleasing section of the panorama, and then another change of scene. A vineyard, with grape-leaves as large as the palm of my hand, showing the Sacramento Valley to be the banner section, as far as warmth and early vegetation is concerned, of northern California.
Four teams of six horses each are next seen, breaking the sods of a large area for grain. A team upon each of the four sides has enclosed a large green space by a wide strip of broken ground, and upon this space of many acres are corralled by the rich brown earth a beautiful herd of forty or fifty cows, red, black, white, and speckled, all feeding upon the rank green grass as if intent upon saving it from the ploughshare. West of us is a long line of hills, which rise higher above the level of the valley as they extend northward, and terminate in the geyser region, or rather merge into the mountains about the geysers, dividing this from Napa and other small valleys round about it. In every other direction the valley meets the level horizon without a single elevation to break the perfect line, fertile and beautiful.
We reach Dixon just as the sun appears to rest for an instant upon a mountain level, and then to drop below it in a flood of its own golden light. Dixon is a pretty place of low frame houses, with a sprinkling of enterprising brick blocks, enough to give this valley town a tone of smartness. We stop but a few minutes for a passing train and then pass on. Again are repeated the broad fields of wheat and barley, the detached groups of white farmhouses, some large and tasteful, the beautiful herds of speckled cattle, the ebony pigs and animated horses galloping over the wide spaces, – and all included in one grand comprehensive view as I turn my eyes over the broad reaches of the valley.
Now come the umber tints of the broken ground, the sear stubble of last year's grain fields, half-eaten ricks of dry grass, and the green bronze hues of the sprouting barley fields, all in quick and pleasing succession. No prairie, in what was once our West, ever equalled in thrift and loveliness the beautiful valleys of California.
Passing on between another great herd of speckled cattle upon one side, and a multitude of horses, mingled with calves of all ages, from six months to two years, upon the other, we next arrive at a decided change in the scenes about us.
We reached Davisville after crossing a stream of considerable size flowing toward the Sacramento River. The town is small; one village church in the midst of a few small houses is all it can boast of architecture; it sits in the midst of a large tract of the valley given to the cultivation of fruit. Large vineyards, interspersed with orchards of various fruits, all pink and white with bloom, brighten and gladden us like a rosy dawn in the silver twilight of the morning.
After leaving the vineyards and orchard lands of Davisville, the mountains which had bounded our vision on the west disappeared, and the low level everywhere began to grow marshy. Buttercups covered large areas like a "cloth of gold," and shallow pools of water grew in size reflecting the soft hues of the twilight, while the small tufts and patches of green which dotted their surfaces looked like jewels in their brilliant setting. We arrived at the city of Sacramento in the evening, and consequently saw but little of its surroundings. We had passed over ninety-two miles of our journey to Oregon by daylight. During the following night we travelled one hundred and seventy-two miles farther, and reached the head of the lower Sacramento Valley at the town of Redding early on the morning of April 6th.
I saw glimpses of our northward journey all through the night. We passed over level spaces and made occasional stops at towns along our route, but I could see nothing of the aspect of the country.
We left the green levels behind us at Redding, and entered upon a region of rugged and uncultivated nature. I looked from my window, and for a moment imagined myself travelling among the hills of New Hampshire, so like to them was the scene about us. We soon came once more to the Sacramento River. Not the brown, muddy Sacramento of the previous day, but a river whose water is white and pure as crystal, tinted like Niagara, a full, swift stream, and feathered from quill to tip like the full, fluff plume of an ostrich.
We began to ascend its wild and romantic cañon at about six in the morning, and the beautiful river for more than three hours presented to our delighted admiration such a series of lovely scenes as it is seldom one's good fortune to behold.
They followed so close, each complete in itself, alike and yet so distinctly different, it was hard to distinguish one as more delightfully charming than another. With but two or three exceptions, where for a few rods the river took a level sweep around some projecting spur of the hills, or obstructing boulder in its course, it was a swift succession of sparkling rapids and foamy white cascades, from the point where we entered its ravine at Middle Creek to where our road turned from it to ascend the Big Bend, which trails its winding way up a height of 530 feet to the station of McLoud.
I thought, when we entered the cañon of the Sacramento in the early morning, that I would make a note of every lovely scene presented in our progress, and so continue my journal of our journey as I began it on leaving San Francisco. For the first half hour there seemed to be lacking a bit of color, perhaps an autumn tint, to perfect the loveliness of the wild beauty of the scenery, and I pictured the Pocahontas of my imagination, with her painted bow and quiver, and her wampum-fringed garments of many hues, standing airily poised upon this jutting point, or with moccasined feet leaping over the white cascade from yonder green but moss-grown pine, which bridged the rushing stream.
It was not long, however, before I came to feel and know that this is no sylvan brook to pose and "laugh for our delight," but rather that the wonderful skill and energy of man had opened our way amid these wild and sublime solitudes of Nature, and disclosed to our gaze one of her great throbbing arteries, the fountain of whose bounding and exhaustless flow was in the mighty heart of Shasta; that this bounding and resistless flow was for the blessing of the happy sunlit valleys which surround his feet, causing them to bring forth bud and bloom and verdure and abundant fruitage.
At 8.30 in the morning we passed the Lower Soda Springs. There is one large hotel and several cottages for the convenience of those who come for the benefit to be derived from drinking the waters. A few rods farther on, and I caught a distant flitting sight of Shasta, and I clapped my hands and called out, "Shasta! Shasta!" that all might share in my delight. The town of Dunmuir stands upon a small flat area, and has several quite extensive brick repair shops belonging to the California and Oregon Railroad, with a dozen or perhaps more small dwellings clustered about, a grocery, a hotel, and the "Star" printing-office, – quite a good show for a mountain town 2271 feet above the level of San Francisco, remote from all centres of enterprise, connected only with the outside world by the railroad and an old discontinued stage route.
Still the cascades swept down in dancing curves and showers of white foam, and still we toiled on, close upon the way whence they came.
At Dunmuir we exchanged our engine for two that were both larger and better equipped for the labor which was before them. Our road is cut into the sides of banks and hills and mountains, all the way, as close to the edge of the stream as it is possible to go, and sometimes overhanging it upon bridge and trestle.
I turned for a backward look and saw the river tumbling and racing down a direct course of two or three hundred rods, between tall dark firs and pines, a narrow strip of the blue sky above, and the water white and full of life-like motion below, flashing and sparkling in the yellow sunlight, which darted down in flecks. and streamers through the solemn shadows of the trees. It was a scene of beauty, wild and fascinating, which it will long be a delight to us to recall; so satisfying to our anticipations of what this journey would reveal to us that we both at once exclaimed, "Now I wish that G. and M. and P. were with us to share and enjoy this wonderful and delightful journey."
We came immediately after to where the river seemed to pause in its wild course, at the foot of a great moss-covered boulder, from behind which it swept in one strong, graceful curve, its color bright as liquid emerald. Rounding the corresponding curve along the bank, we came full upon Mossbrae Falls.
Unnumbered small streams of ice-cold water, from the frozen caverns of Mount Shasta, burst at once from cushions of deep green moss, the growth of ages, which lay piled upon the top of a high precipice overhanging a lovely pool below. They came tumbling and foaming down its moss-grown side with sylvan glee and frantic leaps; now white as snow, and when the sunlight caught and seemed to hold it in a golden net, it flashed and shone as iridescent as the bow of heaven. Some shot down in gauzy veils, and some, like miniature Niagaras, poured down their little volumes to the pool and rose in bubbling haste to join the stream below.
The music of all these sparkling rills was like the chiming of distant bells. Why were they not sweet songs of joy? A wild rejoicing of the long imprisoned waters for their advent to the light of day, the soft airs of heaven, the freshness and beauty of earth, the strength of the resistless river, and the boundless life of the mighty ocean, – a lovelier scene can hardly be imagined. Were I an artist, I would never again touch paint to canvas until I could stand by Mossbrae Falls. Another bend of the river, and we cross it upon a fine arched bridge of stone, when our porter points to a high cliff of stone and gravel on our right, and gravely tells us, there lies our way.
The river winds about so abruptly here, forming two right angles between its rocky walls, in the distance of not more than a hundred feet, that I saw no way of egress from the labyrinth in which we seemed to be. Cliffs to the right and left, and high walls in front of and behind us, seemed to shut us completely in from outward space. Still the river kept us company, and where that went, thence we had come, and whence that came, there we must find our way.
We had passed through many spurs of the mountains, which had barred our progress, by tunnels; some short, and some quite long; always to be welcomed from their darkness by the glad surprise of the river, which seemed to flow the swifter for our coming. We crossed and recrossed it eighteen times upon picturesque bridges and trestles, some arched, some of stone, and some of timbers, rustic and airy, as the places might require. We were near to its icy sources and its volume of water was sensibly diminished, but the picturesqueness was a constantly increasing characteristic from the moment when we entered the mountain cañon until we were obliged to turn from its ever-varying and fascinating course.
Looking up the ravine as we left the river upon our left, we caught glimpses of the wild rocky places where the water springs to light from hidden fountains; we realized that we were peeping into the primeval solitudes of nature. Yet not a solitude, but the wild and lovely haunt of all wild creatures which roam and rejoice in the crags and fastnesses of these lofty pyramids of Nature; haunts, like Caledonia's,
"Stern and wild,
Fit nurse for a poetic child."
Making a sharp turn in our course, we entered among the pine forests and began our ascent to McLoud. Still we were following the course of the river, but upon a rising track and with its current. We were going toward the south, but soon made another complete tack to the north, and again ran parallel with and against the flow of the river, having "boxed" both it and the compass, in passing over the Big Bend of the railway. Looking down upon our track, we saw the river far below where we had crossed and recrossed it so many times in its sinuous course, and, upon a terrace intervening between it and our present position, the long stretch of rail parallel to it and us, which marked the passage of our first ascent. Making our third tack upon the mountain, we took a southeasterly course and came upon a level area, at an altitude of 3400 feet, called Strawberry Valley. Here was the town or station of McLoud. Strawberry Valley is a cleared area of many acres – taking its name from the abundance of wild strawberries which in their season are found there. McLoud is a lumbermen's settlement, as the great quantities of sawed lumber and wood attest. There were fifteen or twenty small, box-like houses, shanties, and huts, the abodes of lumbermen. None were in camp, however, as for some reason business seemed suspended and the camp deserted. From Strawberry Valley we still ascended, catching now and then a sight of great Shasta, which was so fleeting and phantom-like that we could hardly restrain our impatience until we should come in full view of its regal majesty.
Crossing a very high and fragile-looking trestle, which bridged a deep gulch between two heights, we came to a point where a momentary view of Shasta's southern side was presented to our unobstructed sight. Upon our left was a long range of snowy mountains rising 9000 feet above the sea, known as Scott Mountains. Farther back toward the southwest were the strangely beautiful Castle Rocks. We saw these upon our left when we passed the Lower Soda Springs; at the same time we got our first sight of Mount Shasta, and the greater wonder eclipsed the lesser.
Castle Rocks are a weird and fantastic combination of peaks, turrets, pinnacles, and towers, whose black and jagged surfaces assume all sorts of fantastic shapes, and give play to fancies of the wildest imaginings. There is little chance for wonder that the Indians peopled these inaccessible fastnesses with mountain sprites and dire hobgoblins.
Across the airy trestle, and up the farther height, we came upon a broad and fertile plateau, over which we sped between lofty pines and firs, intently watching for every glimpse that came to us of the great White Shasta. Here we came to Acme, a little town upon the top of the mountain up which we had been winding our way for more than an hour. We found at Acme several large sawmills in active operation, many very good board houses, and immense quantities of lumber of all descriptions piled promiscuously about on every side, awaiting shipment to southern ports for the building up of future cities.
Passing on and out from the town of the lumbermen, we arrived at Sissons, at 10.30 A. M., and left our train for breakfast at the station. Sissons is the town, the hotel, and the station 1 from which the ascent of Shasta is made.
And here Mount Shasta stood in solemn majesty before us, not more than twelve miles distant. But not the Shasta I had longed so much to see. This was Mount Shasta with broad shoulders, like great white wings extending far out upon either side. It looks high and massive and grand, but not the Mount Shasta before whose sublime majesty I had expected to bow down in reverence, tremulous with awe and admiration.
At the left of the hotel, and apparently quite near to it, rises Muir Mountain, or Black Butte, as the natives call it, 6500 feet above the sea-level, and 3000 feet above Strawberry Valley. It is a reddish-brown volcanic mountain, very peaked and extremely interesting in its appearance. It rises immediately from the level of the valley, and looks, as it really is, of much more recent birth than other mountains round about it. It is said that "Shasta was cold and dead many an age before the fires in Muir Mountain were kindled." It is to all appearances utterly naked, not a sign of vegetable growth exists upon it, from base to topmost peak.
Castle Mountains, a continuation of Castle Rocks, are to the west of Sissons and in full view, a long, high chain of snowy peaks and pinnacles. Near them rises the lofty triple summit of Trinity Mountain.
The situation of Sissons is peculiarly interesting to us for its affording us, in the hour which we spent after breakfast in walking up and down the wide and long plank walk before the hotel, an opportunity of observing its grand and magnificent mountain scenery, – gigantic Shasta in front of us, and Muir, Scott, Castle, and Trinity standing so near behind us.
As we left Sissons we had Mount Shasta on our right and all the time in full view. We marked with wonder and admiration its variety of shapes, as revealed by our progress. When just south of it, the mountain stands like a massive pyramid with a sharp spur upon its left; a little beyond, and it is winged, as we saw it at Sissons; then with clustered peaks; soon the peaks are seen in line, and the summit is a perfect level, cutting the blue sky like a mighty crystal wedge.
We arrive at Edgewood, situated in Shasta Valley, seventeen miles from Sissons and four hundred feet lower, where are a few two-story frame buildings and a small church. Fields are cleared and cultivated, but the land is very stony. Where the stones lie undisturbed in a natural state, the ground is literally covered with them. They are all small, none of them more than a foot in diameter, and most of them very much smaller. They lie entirely free upon the surface of the soil, which is good, and look as if they had fallen in a recent shower, as hail-stones lie thick and loose after a sudden storm. The space covered by these stones is circumscribed, neither far nor wide; they are volcanic, and some one said they had lain where we saw them ever since the Black Butte burst asunder the bonds of Earth and arose to take his place among her mighty giants.
Next appeared beside our route an old-fashioned one-story cottage, unpainted, save by storm and wind, with shed, barn, and cow yards, just like those we often see nestled snugly among the hills of Vermont and New Hampshire. Two or three acres of cultivated land about it, with all of Shasta Valley for pasturage, make a homestead in this far northwest which reminds us forcibly of the rural homes among our New England hills. Still farther on in the valley we came to a place on our way where Mount Shasta, the Shasta of our imagination, that which we have all the while been hoping to see, stood full before us. Its awful height, its immaculate whiteness, its strength and immeasurable magnitude, and the broad, far stretch of its massive base, – all impressed me with a power equalled only by the awful presence of El Capitan.
That Mount Shasta is sublime and majestic, far above all others that I have seen in California, I feel and know. What may be the power of the lofty mountains of this far northwest to supplant Shasta as the mightiest of all, I cannot tell. I wish I could express how it appears to me. It looks so pure, so free, so silent, – so of the world and yet so far above it. The shadows lying upon the nearer mountains and hills are very beautiful, but all things pale and sink in the contemplation of incomparable Mount Shasta.
Still descending gradually, we left the fertile slopes and pasture lands of Shasta Valley and came to a large, full river, the second in size in California. Klamath River flows down from Klamath Lakes, and takes in its course the waters of three other rivers, which bear the names of the mountains from whence they flow, Shasta, Scott, and Trinity.
We crossed the Klamath near the town of Hornbook, and crossing also the narrow Klamath valley at right angles, we could see but little of it until we began our ascent upon the northern side. I then looked down the long stretch of the river vale and saw the broad Klamath flowing placidly down between the green sides of the valley, which almost seemed the river's banks, so near they approached it upon either side. So great was the contrast between the Klamath, broad and beautiful as it was, and the wild and exciting dash of the Sacramento, that it seemed like giving milk for wine, and I could not "enthuse" over it after drinking so freely of the wine of admiration from the streams which flow from the vaulted caverns that underlie the icy domes of Mount Shasta.
The ascent of Siskiyou Mountain lay before us. We toiled slowly up the steep grade, our engines panting like living creatures under the strain of our heavy train. We still could see Mount Shasta's towering height, the snowy pinnacles of Castle Mountains, and the shining spires of Trinity, while east of us and high above loomed the strange volcanic pillar known as Pilot Rock. It stands like an immense granite tower, 6000 feet in height, upon the boundary line between California and Oregon; and it looks down from either side of the Cascade Range upon wondrous scenes of mountains, vales, and rivers. Its prominence made it one of the most valuable watch-towers during our Indian wars in the early settlement of Oregon and California. Coles is the last town upon our route in California.
The fir-trees of Oregon have been seen mingled with the pines all along the Shasta region. At Coles they became quite conspicuous. They are tall and stately trees, not spreading in their growth, but compact and shapely, with bark the color of that of the Scotch pine. The grade is still more steep and our progress is more labored as we slowly move up between deep cuts of gravel and flinty stone. We are following in the same rough pathway which General Fremont marked through this wild country of trackless forests before the days of civil engineering. It is very interesting to think of him and his toilsome marches over these wild mountains and through these great hidden valleys, while we are reposing comfortably in our palace cars and taking our "ease in our own hired houses." This journey so full of peril to him, which he travelled in weakness and with fear of hostile Indian, so little time ago, is to-day for us filled with delight, security, and comfort.
For a novelty, we reached a point not long after lunch where the way, though wild, was uninteresting; at least there was nothing to excite our wonder or admiration. I observed a well-travelled highway, leading somewhere, – I did, however, "wonder" where it led. We are never in all this broad land beyond the region of some sign of civilization. The highway, I am told, was the old stage road to Oregon before the completion of the railroad over the Siskiyou mountains.
This Oregon and California Railroad is a continued surprise to us. Such feats of engineering as have been accomplished are really marvellous. The old stage road over Siskiyou measured the distance of ten miles. The railroad makes the passage of the mountain, connecting the termini of the two roads, by a series of tacks and zigzags which measure eighteen miles in its ascent and descent of steep mountain grades. Again and for the last time we see gigantic Shasta. It towers far above all intervening objects, an immense billow of white in the southern sky.
One more broad curve and we have attained the summit of Siskiyou. I see the two powerful engines belching great clouds of smoke and marching sturdily upward, subduing height and distance with their determined strokes. I look backward and mark the line of our road as it lies plainly visible in every part below us. The whole side of the mountain is terraced by five long lines of track, doubling back and forth and winding upward to its top.
We crossed a very high trestle over a deep and dark gulf, and soon entered a tunnel under the peak of Siskiyou Mount, 3300 feet long. From the darkness of the mountain, which was so still and solemn as to oppress us, we slowly came into the light of the outer world, glad to be disentombed. We stopped at Siskiyou at an elevation of 4135 feet. The fir-trees all about the station are very tall; many of them have been blasted by fire, and lumbermen have done their part to add to the extravagant waste of these stately forests. The town consists of a small station, a freight-house, one small dwelling, and a woodpile. There is also another frame building which may be mansion or workshop. All are new and well painted. Evidently the town belongs to the railroad corporation.
From Siskiyou, we begin our winding descent on the northern side of the mountain. We pass between a heavy growth of the Oregon firs, tall, light, and graceful in their tapering height, straight as an Indian arrow but seared and blackened by forest fires. We double on our track, and looking southward far down in the deep valley we behold the very road upon which we came before we began our zigzag ascent of the mountain.
We turn northward again, and now see another winding road, far down upon the opposite side of Siskiyou. It weaves back and forth, lower and lower, – each terrace cut by a deep wood-grown gulch, which reaches from the top of the mountain straight down to its base, in the beautiful valley below.
Every terrace has its airy, web-like trestle, one below another, spanning the fearful gulch beneath. These structures look strangely frail and insecure, as we realize that over them all our train must pass before we reach the great basin-like valley which lies so far below us. We proceeded more slowly in our descent, as the danger of accidents is greater than in the ascent.
The valley of Rogue River lies below us like a great amphitheatre of woodland, vale, and river. The view of it from the top of the mountain was extremely beautiful. High mountains rose all around it, lifting their varying shapes against the sky; many of them are white with snow; some peaked and pinnacled, and some like castle walls, with domes and turrets. Within these lay the softer lines of foot-hills, which enclosed the valley like the ornate rim of the deep and lovely basin. Our point of observation was on a level with the snow line on the mountains opposite, which are a part of the great Cascade range of Oregon.
As we descended, now east then west, over trestles and through tunnels, the great basin of the valley became broken into hills and depressions, forming an undulating surface over all the area, which had looked as level and soft as a shaven lawn; and the tall pine and fir trees, which had looked to us like bristling blades of grass, began to assume their proper stature, rising two and three hundred feet above the soil which nourished them.
Coming nearer to the level of the valley, our train halted at a water tank. We have a sense of relief that the fearful tension upon our nerves is almost over for the day, and a feeling of thankfulness and grateful appreciation toward our two faithful engines comes into my heart, which I almost long in some occult way to convey to them. They have proved so responsive to command, so worthy of trust and confidence, that they almost seem to be sentient creatures. I take a real pleasure in seeing them filled to overflowing with the pure sweet water which flows so musically down in little rills and miniature cascades from the mountain spring above us.
A little below the fountain comes a wide area of several acres, where the waste stones and gravel of the excavated ledges and tunnels on the road above have been dumped by the laborers into an ugly gulch. On this area is Chinatown. The tents of the Chinamen, without whom these feats of engineering would never have been realized, stand close and thick, like the wigwams of an Indian village. Behind them, on the edge of their acres, overlooking the ravine, are all the various implements of their labor, save the broken and dismantled ones, of all descriptions, which lie heaped in indiscriminate confusion at the bottom of the ravine.
We left the rugged heights of the mountains behind us, and came down into the lovely fertile valley of Rogue River, among green pastures and cultivated fields and budding trees. Soon appear cosy homes in the midst of gardens and blooming orchards of peaches, apricots, and cherries. Cows are feeding on the green hill-slopes, and live oaks are standing thick about us; but all are destitute of foliage save that of the "accursed mistletoe," which hangs in heavy clusters so thick upon the leafless boughs that at a first glance they seem to be clothed in their natural foliage. Poor trees, I never see them thus without a feeling of sad and regretful sympathy; for the mistletoe is but a deadly vampire, and the tree it fastens upon is doomed to slow decay.
Upon the eastern side of the valley flows Ashland Creek, a tributary of Rogue River. Although some distance from our train, we know its course by the pretty homesteads upon its banks. They stand all along the stream, among fields of grain, some green and others newly sown. In every instance there was a large peach orchard near by, a solid mass of deep rich bloom. Ashland is a pretty town in a fine farming district. The fertile uplands across the river reach far up on the green foot-hills, with grazing lands beyond extending to their wooded top.
Farm follows farm, bearing unmistakable evidence of the thrift and prosperity of their owners, until we arrive at Medford. It is the second town at which we have stopped in Oregon, and here we dine at the station. There is a small brick church surrounded by a neat and pretty village, all new and evidently the railroad centre of Rogue River valley.
As we leave Medford behind us in the early twilight, we pass a wood-crowned eminence close upon our right, and look out upon a broad open space. The wooded hill which we had passed seemed the northern terminus of the line of white hills which had hemmed in the valley on the east, and passing through the break made by the river in their continuity, we could look back of them toward the high mountains of the lower Cascades.
We saw Mount Pitt; it rose, a perfect pyramid in form and immaculate as a white drift, 9000 feet in height. About one third of its height from the base was covered by a growth of evergreens, so scattered, however, that they only thinly veiled the snowy surfaces beneath them. The rest of the mountain had not a blot or shadow to mar its whiteness.
Exactly east of us, and much nearer, stood a bare, truncated mountain much resembling Round Mountain in Mexico. Upon its top there must be a beautiful table-land, doubtless the feeding ground of the vast herds of wild mountain sheep which once abounded here.
Immediately beyond this, and still nearer to us, rises Table Rock. This is indeed a "Round Table" about which the spirits of earth and air might hold high revels. It rises gradually in a circular form for several hundred feet, from which height there shoots up a solid perpendicular wall of dark gray stone for many hundred feet more, without a visible break or seam in any part of it. There are portions of it which are grooved like gigantic fluted columns, adding much to the harmonious symmetry of the massive mountain table. It is quite destitute of trees or verdure of any kind and about half a mile in diameter.
The river broadens beyond Table Rock into a mirror-like lake, which beautifully reflects the mountains and the skies above them; then it contracts, and flows in a deep still current along the base of a high, thickly wooded range of hills, which grow more dense and sombre as the twilight deepens. The valley narrows rapidly. Hills meet hills upon either side, all darkly covered with the tall firs of Oregon, and parted only by the swiftly flowing river and the narrow ledge upon which our train glides on into the darkness of the night.
This is Grant's Pass, a fascinating place in the deep twilight. What must it be in the clear light of day? Our fancies can well imagine the playful shadows and the flecks of sunlight which darken and illumine the beautiful river, whose rapid flow through the narrow pass breaks into lovely cascades white as the icy fountains whence they came. Through Grant's Pass we passed over, during the night of the 6th, about two hundred miles of our journey.
April 7. We awoke in the valley of the Willamette River. It is a fertile grain-bearing region, much resembling the Sacramento valley, and is fast changing from pasturage to wheat cultivation. There are still widely scattered flocks of sheep and herds of cattle, but they are not frequent enough to give one the idea of large numbers.
Mount Hood appears distinct and rosy in the morning light. To the southeast, in a long dark mountain chain of the Cascade Range, is another fine pyramidal mountain, rising high above its fellows. Its great height indicates that it is covered with snow, although it now looks dark and frowning as it towers over lesser heights, all white in the morning sunlight. Doubtless it is Mount Jefferson, so situated as not to give us a direct reflection of the sun.
Mount Hood is white as marble; and high above the clouds and massive; but it fails to give me that impression of entire completeness, that breadth and height of sublimity and awful majesty, which seems to be incorporate in Mount Shasta, going out from it to the beholder with an abundant sense of satisfaction. When I took my last look at Mount Shasta, I felt like "Simeon"; I had seen its glory, and felt the fulness of its majesty.
We passed through the city of Salem, stopping but a few minutes, and went down the valley until we came to the falls of the river at Oregon City. The "Fall" of the full stream over the heaped and ledgy rocks, which here form a precipice of perhaps twenty feet, is a very pretty feature in the somewhat monotonous flow of the river. These Falls are situated about fifteen miles above Portland, and Oregon City came very near to being the most important city of this northwestern State. Some trivial interest turned the tide of settlement to the site of Portland, resulting in the founding and building up of a great and beautiful city there.
MOUNT HOOD, MOUNT TACOMA, AND PUGET SOUND.
WE arrived at Portland at ten o'clock this morning, and obtained good accommodations at the Esmond House, thanks to our kind friend, Mr. Cofran of San Francisco, who bespoke for us every care and attention while we remained there, until April 13th. Portland is a pretty city upon the Willamette River, about twelve miles from its confluence with the Columbia River. It stands upon a narrow strip of level area on the west bank of the Willamette, along which it extends for several miles, reaching back upon the slopes of the "Heights" behind the city. These are two very high precipitous bluffs called "The Heights," from the tops of which a wide extent of the surrounding country can be seen, to the east and north, embracing that region of the State traversed by the picturesque Cascade range of mountains.
By the courtesy of our friend Mr. Edwin M. Arthur, a banker of Portland, we were afforded the rare pleasure of several drives with him, behind a spirited pair of sorrel horses, to the summits of the lower and the upper Heights.
On both occasions the air was delightfully clear and warm, and balmy with the odors of the sweet firs of Oregon. Wild flowers were blooming all along our way. Dandelions as large as dinner plates, fresh and shining in the dew, sent up thick clusters of yellow blossoms, and multitudes of the lovely wild currant shrubs stood upon all sides literally shrouded in robes of pink bloom, shading from the most delicate rose tints to the deepest hues. Little boys came out from the narrow footpaths leading into the recesses of the hills, their hands filled with great bunches of wild trillium, or wake-robin, – a far prettier name for the lovely wildlings. It looked very strange to recognize these flowers growing wild upon the "Heights," and in full blossom on the 12th of April, when we knew that in our sunny garden in Massachusetts the green foliage had hardly broken the soil above them.
An abrupt turn in the steep ascent turned our eyes away from every attraction in our immediate neighborhood to the great white mountains in the distance. Thenceforth, to the summit of the Height, we could behold nothing but the stately mountains of Oregon.
Arriving there, such a scene of transcendent beauty and grandeur, such a rare combination of city and country, rivers and valleys, hills and woodlands, and towering mountains, reaching far from the south across the east to the mountains of Washington Territory on the north, we may never behold again.
Almost beneath us lay the beautiful city of Portland, with the broad Willamette, spanned by airy bridges, and dotted with ships and boats of all descriptions, at her feet. Across the river, upon the fine rolling upland were the lovely groves and white villas of East Portland; and beyond, but a few miles distant, flows the noble Columbia, at this part of its course nearly parallel with the Willamette. East of the Columbia is a broken chain of blue-wooded hills, many of them frosted with snow, beyond which rise the great earth-born giants, Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, and Mounts Tacoma and Jefferson. These last two are so far away that we can only see their white summits gleaming distinct and sharp above the intervening mountains against the sky.
Mount Hood is magnificent in his serene grandeur, his sharp angular top shining like lustrous pearl in the level sunbeams. As the shadows deepen toward his broad, tree-covered base, the light takes a rosy hue, shading down in deeper tints to a solemn purple among the misty mazes of the foot-hills below.
St. Helens rises on our left, graceful and peerless in her beauty as a stately bride. Her white mantle of spotless purity falls over her head and drapes gracefully down her sides like a soft-flowing raiment of white wool.
Mount Adams rises from behind a grizzly mountain ridge, a double-headed giant, broad and massive as if he bore the "eternal years of God" upon his forehead; cleft from the crown of his head down deep into his heart, he rises stern and implacable to Time and the elements.
Tacoma, from its distance, is a suggestion rather than an assertion of height, and Mount Jefferson rises above a distant chain of mountains almost as pointed as an arrow head, and white as alabaster. The three mountains which have thus far stood in preeminent grandeur before us, are Mount Shasta, Mount Hood, and St. Helens. "There is a glory of the Sun, and a glory of the Moon, and another glory of the Stars."
As we descended from the Heights down the rough zigzag road, but little better than the old trail which it once was, we had a fine bird's-eye view of the city below us. Its broad and well-paved streets, with their long lines of shade and ornamental trees and shrubs, just bursting into leaf and blossom; its many handsome and often palatial residences, with their richly shaven lawns and hedges and rare shrubs; its ornate and costly churches; its large, numerous, and tasteful public buildings; its great business blocks and crowded wharves; its busy vehicles and street cars running in every direction, – all impress us forcibly with an appreciation of the rapid growth, the wealth and importance of this "Queen City" of our great "Northwest."
To-morrow morning we shall leave Oregon behind us, as we go northward on our journey to Tacoma in Washington Territory. It is a lovely State, and very desirable for residence. Were I called upon tonight to choose the location of my "five acre lot" on this Pacific coast, I should decide, without any hesitation, upon one of the many pleasant spots about the city of Portland. The winters here are mild and delightful, the seasons have the same diversity as in New England, with less extremes of either heat or cold. The country is very fertile, the surface undulating, the rivers large and navigable, and the people refined, cultivated, and very hospitable.
April 13. We left Portland late on the morning of the 13th, taking the railway train for Tacoma, Washington Territory. There was a heavy fog over the river and the surrounding country, entirely hiding the mountains from our view. It soon began to dissipate, and gradually one after another of the cloud-like peaks and domes of the mountains came from the mists and filled our gaze for the time to the exclusion of everything else. I saw the Willamette flowing mirror-like along our way, between green banks and lovely hill-slopes, with broad expanses of pasturages and low shrubby marsh lands intervening, and noted the graceful beauty of the blossoming wild currants.
We reached the Columbia River at about two o'clock. It is a very broad, deep, and majestic river, moving on between its wild and wooded banks with a stately motion, not swift and broken, but mighty, forceful, and irresistible. Our train crossed the Columbia upon a large transportation ferry-boat, and we arrived at Kalama. This is a small town, having considerable traffic in lumber, vast quantities of which lay all about ready for exportation. For nearly our whole route to Tacoma some of the great mountains were in view. At one time, for a long distance, the five majestic mountains, Jefferson, Hood, Adams, St. Helens, and Tacoma, stood distinct and white as marble, piercing the heavens with their lofty tops, – such a procession of mountain grandeur it is seldom the good fortune of a traveller to behold. The day was exceptionally clear, the atmosphere more like the balmy breath of June than of April, and wild roses, wake-robins, Oregon lilies, and the creamy-white wild callas were blooming abundantly, upon all our way from Portland to the city of Tacoma. From Kalama to Little Falls we followed the course of the Cowlitz, and in this portion of our journey we had our best views of Adams and St. Helens. They stood exactly east of us, from forty to fifty miles away, with no elevations of sufficient height to break the apparent level of the intervening country. The Cowlitz River is a fine stream of clear, ice-cold water, flowing rapidly down its frequently rocky bed from its sources among the foot-hills of Mount Rainier or Tacoma and St. Helens. Kalama stands near to its junction with the Columbia River. We followed the Cowlitz northward through many romantic scenes of woodland beauty, to the town of Little Falls, where the white and emerald water flows rapidly over a steep incline in its course, forming a succession of lovely cascades and miniature misty falls.
At Tenino we diverged from our northern course which led onward to Olympia, the capital of Washington Territory, and taking a northeasterly direction to Tacoma we crossed a very beautiful tract of country called Yelm Prairie. This is a fine broad upland prairie, many miles in extent, and ornamented throughout its length and breadth by the beautiful and symmetrical Norway spruce, with here and there tall groups of the native firs and pines. The soil is shallow, but the turf was green and smooth as a shaven lawn, and starred by great patches of wild strawberry blossoms. From Yelm Prairie we had a splendid view of Mount Tacoma. It looks larger and higher from this place of observation than it does from the city of Tacoma. Like Shasta, it presented various shapes as we journeyed across the prairie, and we could individualize its great shoulders, peaks, and fields of ice, which all go to make up the perfect symmetry of its grand dome as seen from Tacoma.
As we approached the city we observed large tracts of stump land, where the lumbermen had cut, and then devastated by fire, the stately trees and forest lands. It looks very wasteful to our Eastern eyes to see such lavish waste of these noble forests as met our observation upon all sides in our journey from San Francisco to Tacoma. Time will rectify this extravagance, no doubt.
A pleasant apartment was given to us at "The Tacoma," one which afforded us an outlook upon Puget Sound, at Commencement Bay, into which just before our window flowed the Puyallup River. Across the bay was a fine forest of pines and firs, upon a point of high land jutting into the Sound, appropriated by government to the Puyallup Indians. This is called the "Indian Reservation," and is occupied by the Puyallups, a remnant of the old Modocs who gave the early settlers of this country so much trouble by their resistance to the encroachments of the whites upon what they deemed their rightful heritage. About fifty miles to the southeast stands "Mount Tacoma," or, as it is known elsewhere in the territory, Mount Rainier.
April 15. Mount Rainier, or Tacoma, has shone fitfully upon our sight since we arrived here on the evening of the 13th. Clouds often obscure its top and frequently hide the whole mountain. It seems to be not more than five miles away, but we are assured its distance is fifty miles. Last night the sunset light upon the great mountain was very lovely. It shone and glistened like silver, then changed to a rosy hue which brightened into a rich rose red upon its icy shoulders, thence fell in darker but duller tints down among the shadowy foot-hills and valleys. The Tacomians boast that Mount Tacoma has fifteen distinct glaciers upon its summit and sides. C. thinks it is the grandest mountain we have yet seen. It does not so impress me. It is a magnificent object to look upon, different from the others, yet not wholly unlike St. Helens. There is no falling away in its proportions in any part. It is sustained throughout its entire height and breadth – a grand and majestic work of nature. The people here claim it is the highest of all the mountains of the Cascade ranges. It may be so. There is so little difference between it and Shasta, there may well be a question in the mind of an observer as to which of the two mountains belong the extra two feet which mark the difference in their height.
At six o'clock P. M. the sun is shining clear, the tide is stealing in upon the flats of Commencement Bay, and the clouds are lifting and gracefully floating away from the towering head of Tacoma; which, for a full hour after the town below it is wrapped in the shades of twilight, will shine down serenely upon us steeped in the mellow glow of the sunset.
April 17. Tacoma is situated upon the west shore of the bay, upon a high bluff which rises still higher to the top of a long level area, where are many fine villa residences and several fine churches. The Anna Wright Seminary for girls stands well up the steep slope with its various dependent structures, all large and fine-looking buildings. The seminary is in a highly prosperous condition, and numbers among its pupils young ladies from all parts of our northwestern States and Territories. Near by is another fine educational institution for boys, also well patronized. Pacific Avenue, lower down the slope, is a very imposing, long street, with fine warehouses and mercantile buildings upon both sides, including four well appointed banks and various other public buildings. Farther north, where the shore dips to the Sound, is the old village of Tacoma, now united with the Young Tacoma by a broad avenue where are many fine residences. At Old Tacoma is the little church, the first that was built by the pioneers of the city, which boasts of possessing the oldest bell tower in the country, if not the world. The small church was built with one corner abutting upon a noble silver fir-tree, one of the oldest and stateliest of its kind. This was cut off about seventy feet from the ground, and at this height was suspended a bell, to be rung by a rope depending from it to the ground. Ivy climbs and covers its gray bark with its beautiful green verdure, and gives it a very picturesque and pleasing effect. A little farther on upon the shore are the shipping wharves of the city, and near to them are very large lumber mills and grain elevators. The harbor is deep and wide, and from the broad, extended piers ships depart daily for all southern ports upon our own coast, and frequent shipments of lumber are taken to China, Japan, the Sandwich Islands, and South America.
The population of Tacoma numbers over twenty thousand. The three rival cities of our North Pacific coast are Portland, Tacoma, and Seattle. Each one claims preeminence. Portland is the oldest. Tacoma and Seattle are more enthusiastic and progressive. The leading business men of Tacoma are, as a rule, young men, ambitious and full of "public spirit." The strong and determined will to do, and overcome obstacles in the way of progress – which animated our forefathers upon the eastern shores of our continent – seems to pervade and fill the atmosphere of Tacoma. At no other city on the Pacific coast were we more impressed with the intelligent and intellectual appearance of its young men. There were at least seventy-five, perhaps more of them, who frequented the dining hall during our stay in the city, who are engaged in active business there. There was an atmosphere of frankness and respectability about those energetic young business men whom we saw, that quite won our confidence and respect. The scenery about Tacoma is diversified and charming. The waters of Puget Sound, with its winding shores and beautiful islands, the peerless Mount Tacoma – ever grand yet ever lovely, whether we behold it in the golden light of the morning, the solemn pearly whiteness of the noontide, or the roseate hues of the sunset, – afford a rare combination of loveliness and grandeur.
April 19. At no place in our western tour have we been more hospitably entertained, or found a more cordial reception as tourists, than at the city of Tacoma. "The Tacoma" is an exceptionally delightful and home-like house, large and complete in all its appointments; in many respects luxurious in the comforts it affords its guests. Its table service is most irreproachable, its cuisine excellent, and its proprietor and manager a thorough gentleman in every respect. Our hearty thanks are due to Mr. W. D. Tyler for much kindness and courtesy during our two visits to the city of Tacoma.
We went on board the steamer Olympian this morning at eight o'clock, bound for Victoria, B. C. The morning was somewhat misty, but before an hour had passed the sun shone out, and all was bright as a summer day. We steamed down the bay between the Indian Reservation and the city shore, past the large sawmills, which manufacture vast quantities of lumber for our own Pacific, and many foreign ports; past old Tacoma, which sat upon the low shore beyond, dingy and neglected like a gray old Indian squaw, at the feet of the beautiful and ambitious young Tacoma upon the bluffs above; and rounding the point of the Indian Woodlands, passed on, between it and a large green island as yet untouched by civilization, toward the enterprising city of Seattle.
We were in a quiet and contemplative frame of mind, amiable and satisfied with ourselves and our surroundings. There was nothing in the line of lofty grandeur to call forth expressions of amazement or admiration, and a state of assurance that everything was well with us had settled in our minds, when we received information that our baggage was all left behind upon the wharf at Tacoma. We were on board the fast going steamer Olympian, no other craft could overtake her, if it tried ever so hard; we concluded to make the best of a stupid blunder and go on our way to Victoria without it, trusting the assurance given us that it would be forwarded the next day. We passed the head of the beautiful island on our left, then another smaller but no less wild and romantic one, and rounding a sharp headland on our right, entered into the fine deep harbor of Seattle.
As we steamed up to the pier, we saw a crowd of white men, Indians, and Chinamen awaiting our arrival. We remained there but fifteen minutes, and made our observations of the town and its harbor from the deck of the steamer. Seattle gave us the impression of a large and thrifty town or city rising quickly from the abrupt shore to a high ridge, which appeared to slope gently inland on the other side. The harbor is almost circular. Across the broad entrance the distant Olympian range of mountains stood straight as a massive and gigantic wall; the many miles of foreground, beyond the water, were foreshortened to a long dark strip on which it seemed to stand. South of the city, Mount Tacoma rose lofty and white, looking, as she really is, as much a part of the scenery about Seattle as of Tacoma. The people of Seattle refuse to call it by any name but Mount Rainier. The situation of the town is very commanding; its wharfage almost unlimited, affording most excellent facilities for commercial enterprise. There are large and substantial business blocks of stone and brick, schools, hospitals, fine public buildings, and private residences, giving evidences of taste, wealth, and enterprise. The natural scenery surrounding Seattle is exceptionally attractive, the people public-spirited and ambitious, and the natural advantages of position and climatic conditions of situation are all conducive to the rapid growth of a great and prosperous city.
We passed out of the harbor of Seattle, leaving a broad white wake behind, leading back like a marble paved street to the city; so quiet are the waters that the track was unbroken by neither sign nor ripple of a counter current. We rounded another projecting point, passed to the westward of another green, fir-covered island, and came into a broad expanse of the Sound. The sea was waveless, there was just a wrinkled surface, which quivered and gently undulated in response to the throbbing, onward motion of the great wheels, which churned the water into hissing, crystal foam, and trailed it behind our ship like a broad white banner on the sea. The color of the water was the darkest marine blue, with occasional spots of lighter tint, a reflection of the thin white clouds which were floating above it.
West of us extended the rarely beautiful Olympian Range of mountains. The shore and country lying between the Sound and the mountains was a mere narrow strip to our eyes, just a strong dividing line between them, though really many miles in breadth, embracing within it Hood's Channel, a broad inlet of the sea, which divides the "Great Peninsula" from the region of the Olympian Range.
East of us the shore rose abruptly, with tall firs covering its whole extent, and fringing the blue horizon with their dark spires. Bending round toward the north in the far distance, the shore seemed to clasp us upon all sides, with its dark bluish border of evergreens, like a low wall separating the blue of the sky above from the intense deep blue of the sea below. Above this wall, exactly to the north of us, stood Mount Baker, pure as the whitest drift of snow, shadowless and spotless from peak to base, separated from the sea by its foothills, a long blue mound just one shade brighter than the water and one shade darker than the sky. There was an entire absence of every suggestion of color, save the four distinct and pure shades of blue; the marble whiteness of high pyramidal Mount Baker was the only visible object to break the perfect monochrome. As we steamed on toward Port Townsend, the enchantment of the scene remained unbroken; and soon the loftier peaks of the Cascade Range began to rise above the blue wall of firs, until we reached a part of our voyage where the entire Cascade Range, from Mount Baker on the north to Tacoma on the south, stood in one long and grand procession of white-capped summits. I counted fifty-three; those near to Mount Tacoma were more dimly seen, but still definitely white.
Upon our left, toward the Pacific coast, extended the fine Olympian Range; in it I counted twenty-two white summits, which were especially prominent among the many more less conspicuous ones. These are massive, clear-cut heights, with sides like the faces of a diamond, some white, with great depths of level snow, and others blue and shining like flint, too perpendicular to admit either snow or ice to cover them. The Olympian Mountains, though not as high as many we have seen, impress us with a sense of elegance and stateliness which belong peculiarly to themselves.
Port Townsend is a port of entrance on our coast near the military post, Fort Townsend, which commands the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Across the strait, and but twenty-six miles away, is the city of Victoria, B. C. Port Townsend is not a large town, but is gradually increasing in importance. It is the centre of traffic for many miles upon our northwestern coast; lumber, iron-piping, and various other articles of merchandise, being the freight taken upon our boat for distribution at ports farther north. As a port of entry it stands among the foremost in our country, in the number of seagoing crafts which are obliged to call there and report to government officials, in passing between northern and southern ports of the Pacific coast.
We called at the post-office, the dry-goods stores, and its one bookstore. The postmaster was not blessed with the spirit of accommodation, but by perseverance on our part we were able to accomplish our legitimate business there, and proceeded to the bookstore to purchase something to instruct us on our voyage to Alaska. The clerk in attendance politely regretted his inability to serve us. He had nothing in stock to answer to our demands; he "had everything we asked for last year, but they were all sold to tourists, and the stock had not been replenished." "The stock" was so slender that it would not stand upright upon his shelves, which gave us an impression that the social atmosphere of Port Townsend had in it but a slight admixture of that tonic which improves the taste and appetite for reading and general cultivation.
We next ventured to ascend a much inclined plank walk rising not very gradually above the roofs of tall buildings on main street below, to the high bluff above them. We found there the dwelling-houses, the churches, halls, etc., of the town. I think the cliff must be nearly two hundred feet above the Sound. There was a pretty village of cosy cottage homes, with neat flower gardens in front and lace curtains within, and with small and large dogs lying lazily upon the doorsteps. There were four small churches, all within a stone's-throw of each other, which led us to infer that the small town of about fifteen hundred people was not destitute of its full complement of choir disagreements, its stings of village gossip, and various other annoying jealousies, common to a small community, wherein too many spires are pointing heavenward to the joys of the future rather than to the every-day duties of the present life. We were introduced to Judge Swan, who has lived at Port Townsend for thirty years. He is a man of influence in the town, and much versed in the native lore of the Northwest, as well as in various scientific matters relating to this portion of our country.
We left the deep waters of Port Townsend, and after we had passed the light-house, which stands out into the channel upon a long, level reach of sandy beach, we steamed rapidly into the current of the strait where it sets into the Sound. The sea was changed; though not disagreeably rough, the gentle ripple had given place to distinct waves and currents.
Mount Baker and its long trailing line of lesser heights gradually faded from our sight; but the cold steel-blue Olympians kept even pace with us, and seemed neither to recede nor change their relative positions with each other. When we arrived at Victoria, there they stood exactly opposite to its picturesque and island-locked harbor.
At six o'clock in the evening we are pleasantly established in a commodious room, at the Driard House, where we shall await the arrival of the steamship George W. Elder, upon which we are to resume our travels to Alaska.
VICTORIA AND NANAIMO, B. C., TO FORT TONGAS, ALASKA.
APRIL 19. The day was dark and rainy, and we spent it mostly in our room. I made one excursion to a bookstore and purchased Lieut. Schwatka's "Alaska," and a small guide-book to the Chinook language. This last we studied in the dim light of the day, and were much amused as well as complimented by finding that the Indians throughout the entire Northwest give the name of "Boston" to all white inhabitants of the United States, as well as to the whole country itself. In fact, "Boston" has more significance to these native Alaskans than any other word in their or the English language. To them it stands for intelligence, incomprehensible power, and destiny. Mr. Holden with a party of tourists, who came to Victoria with us, took their drives about the city in spite of the rain, and after dinner went on board the return boat for Tacoma.
We experienced no sense of loneliness, however, at being left behind; for the people of British Columbia are very like our people though as yet not of us, a mistake which time will rectify.
April 21. The sun rose brilliant, and we went out early in the morning to look about the city. We called at a shoe-store and bought rubber boots. The proprietor served us, and recognizing us as tourists, began to talk about "the States." We smiled assent to all he had to say, and I am quite sure we were especially amiable in our expressions, for he remarked, "I like the States and I like the people; I have seen two or three very nice gentlemen who came from the States. In fact I should not feel so very bad if they were annexed some time." After much search among dry-goods stores we succeeded in finding some long wool gaiters; observing that they were black we bought them, remembering the good service they might possibly do us in case of shipwreck. At Hibbins' bookstore we furnished ourselves, in addition to our work on Alaska, with a volume of Whittier's poems and another of Lowell's. Thus equipped we considered ourselves equal to a voyage around the world, as far as our literary needs were considered. Next we arranged for a drive. From the stand in the street we chose a large barouche, not especially for its size, but because it was the cleanest, nicest, looking vehicle at hand, and the driver possessed an air of intelligence. The carriage was large enough to do convoy duty for the "Great Mogul," but we knew we should have to pay for our state drive a fixed sum, and why not have all we were to pay for.
Our driver proved to be a man from Boston, and finding we too were from Massachusetts, he at once felt called upon to vindicate himself for abandoning that "Hub of the Universe," by showing us all that was worth the seeing in the city of his adoption. His employer advised him to show us all he could of the country, "for," said he, "if they are going to Alaska, they will see nothing but snow and ice, until they get back again." We found the city of Victoria to be neat and thrifty-looking, growing substantially if not rapidly, with a good though small harbor. The Chinese wholly occupy several streets, which are clean and well ordered; the buildings are many of them large wholesale establishments, the proprietors importing directly from China and Japan. Schoolhouses are not as numerous and prominent as in the new cities of the United States.
There is a large tract of land just outside the city proper, though within its limits, which is owned by the city, and held for a park. It is finely situated upon the shore of the Sound, having a pleasant outlook across it to our grand Olympians, and containing a fine natural growth of fir-trees with groups of other varieties. It contains a broad parade ground and a pretty elevation upon which stands a flagstaff, which C. says "had we kept to our slogan of '54° 40' or fight' as we ought, would now be proudly floating the 'Stars and Stripes' of the United States."
After dinner we repacked our trunks to have all things in readiness for a sudden departure on shipboard for Alaska. We had been told by a gruff official that the Elder had been telegraphed, and would probably be in port Sunday morning; that she seldom remained in port more than an hour or two, and sometimes she did not even come into the upper harbor at all, thus saving time and port dues. We were informed by our landlord, however, that at whatever time the ship came in on Sunday, she could not leave port without her clearance papers on Monday morning. But he was not an official, and upon which should we rely?
A full-blooded Englishman here is just as jealous of Americans as it is possible for him to be; and he cannot see what American women want to go wandering all over the world for. There is great danger of the English women contracting the fever of travel by so much touring about on the part of the Americans, "who," he maintains, "have no domesticity about them as our English wives have." Perhaps the Englishman in question rather enjoyed the wholesome potion of worry and uncertainty which he knew he had given us. In the evening a lady called upon us. She had been to Alaska and seen the wonderful scenery, etc., but her chief recollection of her trip seemed to be that she was not permitted to wade into the water and catch a twenty-four pound salmon – which she was sure she could have done, lifting him out by the gills, if the captain only would have allowed her to go on shore. Others did it, and why should not her ambition have been satisfied as well as theirs. We wrote home letters and retired hopeful for the arrival of the Steamer in the morning.
April 22. Morning came fair, and promising a fine day. We listened for the boom of the Elder's gun, but heard it not. We breakfasted and questioned our landlord of the probabilities, etc. He could tell us nothing satisfactory. There had been some disturbances among the steamship companies, some ill-feeling about fisheries, smuggling opium, etc., of late, which might operate to carry the Elder by without a call. At all events it was well to be in readiness, etc. We dressed ourselves for the voyage, having all things else packed snugly away in our satchels and trunks, and sat down in our room to await a call for the Steamer. It occurred to us that, through the kindness of Mr. Valentine, of Wells, Fargo & Co. in San Francisco, who had been of great assistance to us in our tour of California, we had introductory credentials to Mr. A. A. Green of the same company in Victoria. In our uncertainty about the arrival of the Elder, we decided to dispatch a note to him. In less than an hour after, we received a call from Mr. Green, who brought to us an invitation to lunch, from Mrs. Green. The invitation was pressed with so much cordiality that, in spite of the inappropriateness of our costumes, we accepted and went. Mrs. Green is an extremely interesting English lady. She has six lovely children, and with them all we had our most delightful experience in Victoria. It was now Sunday evening, and no token had we yet received of the George W. Elder. What if the ship should fulfil all the forebodings which the gruff officials had implanted in our minds, and we, in consequence, be really left behind to lament our disappointment? We sat down before our blazing fire, the only bright thing about us, mental, physical, or material, and began to write more letters to the dear friends at home. But what could we write to them? Such an atmosphere of doubt and uncertainty enveloped us that we actually had no foundation to build another letter upon. Consequently we began to scribble nonsense, just to amuse ourselves and help to restore our minds to their usual sanguine condition. The George W. Elder had become a kind of phantom ship, which yet might materialize on the morrow.
April 23. In an early walk before breakfast we learned of the arrival, outside the harbor, of the G. W. Elder. Hastening back to our hotel, we ate our breakfasts, and took a carriage for her moorings two or three miles below the city. There had been no opportunity for us to provide ourselves with tickets, for as the season of excursions had not arrived, no provision for a sale of tickets had been made. We went on board carrying a letter to Captain Hunter from Mr. Luther L. Holden, of Raymond's excursion company, which by his kind courtesy was so happily expressed in our behalf that it at once bespoke for us the respectful and unremitting care of Captain Hunter, who cordially welcomed us to all the comforts and enjoyment throughout our voyage that his kingdom, the good ship Elder, could bestow. To-day we are the only ladies on board the ship. Not even a stewardess goes upon this trip.
At 10.30 A. M. the Steamer lifted her gang-plank, slipped her hawser, and gently gliding from her moorings at the pier, swung her prow slowly out into the clear water and proceeded on her way. She had come to Victoria from San Francisco, calling upon her way at Portland, Oregon, one hundred miles up the Columbia River, and was now going south to Port Townsend and Seattle before steaming northward to Alaska.
We found the two state-rooms opening into the grand saloon unoccupied. They were freshly upholstered and refurnished in a tasteful and even luxurious style. We at once took possession, depositing our wraps and satchels and arranging generally for a three weeks' voyage.
We arrived at Port Townsend at two o'clock P. M., and our ship was made secure to the pier. She began immediately to discharge freight from San Francisco, and take on freight for more northern ports. The crew labored with great expedition, with others upon the wharf, to store in the capacious hold of the Elder immense quantities of lumber, lime, iron tubing, and empty cans for the salmon canneries. A large sailing-ship, The Mexico, had followed in the track of the Elder all the way from San Francisco, calling at many ports and shipping at every opportunity from her hold to the Elder's, endless boxes of canned fruits and cabbages, and vegetables of all kinds; groceries of every description had before been shipped at San Francisco. We could not help wondering where such quantities of bulk found storage. Toward night I asked a deck-boy if we were going to stay in port all night. He replied, "No, marm; I rather think she will, though she may start at ten o'clock." This illustrates the definiteness of any information obtained from the ship's crew, and shows at the same time how little they know of the intentions of the officers. "Theirs, not to question, but to do."
Some time in the night I was aware that our ship was in motion. The moon was shining brightly upon the water and I recognized our bearings. We were on our way to Seattle, almost a day's voyage from Victoria, and steaming away from Alaska. What matters it, I thought; we are afloat, and shall be for three weeks to come; the more we see of this beautiful Puget Sound, its lovely bays and shores, its enterprising ports and newly-fledged towns and cities, the better shall we learn to appreciate these rich and wonderful parts of our great country.
April 24. We arrived at Seattle at seven A. M., and after breakfast went on shore. We called at the "Occidental," a fine large hotel, well furnished as a modern house in every respect, but evidently not large enough for its patronage, as evidenced by an equally capacious brick annex in process of construction.
We went into a large book and stationery store, where we found a great variety of stationery of all grades, all kinds of gold and stylographic pens, and bric-a-brac of endless variety. No bookstore in the old city of Boston makes a larger or finer-looking display of all kinds of literature than does this in the young city of Seattle. There are here many indications that Seattle is yet to be the great city of our Northwest; and in time, it is possible, no city upon our entire Pacific coast will excel it in commercial importance. Its destiny is foreshadowed by its matchless harbor, its nearness to Eastern countries, and more than all by the enterprise and far-sightedness of its people. They build for the future.
At 3 P. M. we were back again at our moorings at Port Townsend, where we took on board two immense iron boilers for northern canneries and great quantities of sheet tin. We left port in the night, passed Victoria, and were really northward bound for Alaska.
April 25. We awoke at Nanaimo at the booming of our ship's gun, early in the morning. Nanaimo is a British coaling port, situated on the east coast of Vancouver's Island, about eighty miles by sea above Victoria, with which it has recently been connected by rail, which lessens the distance to forty miles. It is a very picturesque town, whose importance is due to the extensive coal mines which are almost in its very centre. The shaft is 650 feet deep, and the tunnel extending from the bottom reaches far out under the waters of the harbor. We watched the operation of raising the coal in small cars suspended in the shaft, and saw the black masses brought to the light of day, which had lain hidden in the secret places of the earth beneath the waters of the Gulf of Georgia for ages, too many for our knowledge of such formations to number. The coal looked like mineralized leaf mould. It is a good fuel and seems to be a medium between the bituminous coal of Nova Scotia and the anthracite of Pennsylvania. The inhabitants of the town are all more or less interested in the mines, either as laborers or agents. The owners of the mines are English capitalists who live in England. The profits of the mining operations all go to them. The poor miners get barely enough recompense to keep themselves and families from the ills of abject poverty. The merchants, grocers, etc., in the town seem almost to share the same condition.
We lingered at the shaft and saw the descent and ascent of the miners to and from their labors. They went down a decent clean-faced set of men, but came up hideous with grime and labor. They all appeared cheerful and happy; but those who came up from the pit leaped and hurried along their homeward way, some bearing no fancied resemblance to fiends escaped from purgatory.
We went among the homes of the miners. The houses were poor and small, but many of them had a flower-bed in front, where were blooming nearly all of the common varieties which bloom in our own gardens in June or even later. Some of them had been in flower for more than two months, we were told. All fruit-trees, except the apple, were in blossom, the currants were past, and the fruit was well formed. One lady insisted upon giving us a large clump of daisies, which we admired, and for which I bought a tin basin. It grew and sent up more than twenty lovely blossoms on our voyage.
It began to rain. It rains so easily here that the sun will be shining one instant and the next will bring down a dash of rain which will drench you through, if you have not taken the precaution to provide yourself with waterproof and rubbers.
We opened another gate and took shelter under a broad piazza., where lay a large brown spaniel. The dog gave us assurances of welcome by a lazy blink of his eyes, and a half-mind to wag his tail, and we leaned against the house to await the passing of the shower. The door was soon opened by a tall, pleasant-looking lady, who invited us into her parlor. She was a native of Australia, who came with her father to Nanaimo eight years before, and now longs to return to her native land. We took the shortest way to our ship after the rain subsided, but again were overtaken by a smart dash of a shower, against which our garments were proof.
The ship was still storing coal, which is delivered in her hold for $7.00 per ton. It requires three hundred tons to accomplish a round trip, and Captain Hunter told us the ship's daily expenses were $800, – a sufficient reason, I suppose, why we should pay $100 for our passage, making good the adage, "Those who ride in pomp must pay for it."
We spent the afternoon in watching the construction of a deep-water pier and timing the divers, which were floating like ducks, which they much resemble, all about the harbor.
Mrs. Dr. Willard from Chicago is on board. She took passage at Port Townsend for Juneau, where her son, Rev. Mr. Willard, is a missionary. She has been so retired and quiet since she came on board that we have as yet hardly formed her acquaintance, although we are glad to know that we have a female fellow-passenger.
April 26. Still at Nanaimo waiting for a pilot. We have learned that a pilot is necessary throughout our voyage. There are but two or three good ones on this coast, and delays of a day or more often occur while awaiting a return pilot. We went to bed last night and were lulled to sleep by the combined harmony of falling coal and amateur thrummings upon the piano. The full moon shone brightly at midnight, but the morning is dark and rainy.
With four or five others, we have our meals at Captain Hunter's table. A gentleman sits opposite to us who was one of the six adventurous explorers who went with Professor Hayden into the region of the Yellowstone, previous to the exploration made by Professor Hayden and his company under government patronage. The first exploration was made in 1864, long before the Yosemite Valley became known to tourists. Mr. Hammond told us they were ninety days wandering about that hitherto unvisited tract of country without meeting a human creature; not an Indian was sighted in all that time. They experienced no hair-breadth escapes, and the most serious misfortune they had was the complete saturation of their sacks of flour, which was occasioned by the slipping of the mule, which carried it, into a large stream. Mr. Hammond had made four previous voyages to Alaska, and was extremely kind throughout our passage to Sitka, in calling our attention to many wonderful and interesting sights and natural features of the islands and coast which might otherwise have escaped our notice.
One minute of sunshine and the next of shower is what we are told to expect in this latitude at this season. Toward night we had a shower of hailstones. The clouds and the water were wild, and both swirled and danced in response to the strong gusts of wind which accompanied the shower. The squall subsided as quickly as it came, and the sun shone out brightly, the waters settled into their customary calm as if neither clouds, winds, nor hailstones had ever disturbed it.
The old porter of the Elder, one of the quaintest specimens of a jolly old Englishman, a regular "old King Cole," came in to light our lamps. I asked him how soon the ship would leave Nanaimo. He gave a ready reply, "At half past ten ma'm." Then with a sidelong glance at me from his queer little eyes, he added, "I don' know, ma'm, that may be twelve at noon tomorrow, ma'm." The information was so definite that we concluded the pilot had not arrived, and went to bed.
April 27. When we awoke this morning we found the ship as motionless as the wharf to which she was moored. The pilot had not come, and although all things were ready, in fact had been waiting for more than thirty-six hours for a start, we were compelled by regulations to await his coming.
We fare remarkably well upon shipboard. At breakfast, lunch, and dinner, there is a profuse variety of well-cooked food; never a table yet without six or more kinds of meat.
At 1.15 P. M. the G. W. Elder cast its hawsers and we departed from Nanaimo, after a delay at her wharves of sixty hours. We went out of the harbor in a delicious flood of sunshine, and under a cloudless sky. The scenes of quiet beauty which had in a measure compensated us for so long detention on our voyage were left behind. Should we return to our moorings to-morrow, they would never look the same to us, so much depends upon the conditions under which one sees the snow-capped mountains which rise all along these western shores. The play of lights and shadows upon their lofty sides and summits is so capricious, that they seem constantly to be changing in their aspect as we voyage by them. The same is true of the water, whether it is bluer than the sky above, or cold and steely gray, or black as ebony with a fitful purplish gleam flashing out from its dark depths.
The Coast Mountains rose high and beautiful beyond the lower heights and steep bold shores upon our right. They were all more or less snow-clad. The atmosphere was clear, and the mountains were clean-cut and shone like crystals, shading from dark blue to pearl and white. They were of all shapes, but the peaked forms prevailed upon the continental shore, while those upon Vancouver were more wedge and dome-shaped; not so high or thickly covered with snow, as the stately Olympian Mountains, which they somewhat resemble.
The Coast Mountains were exceedingly fascinating. Sometimes their snowy sides would be soft and fluffy as a fleecy cloud, then they would shoot up in obelisks and sharp spires, white as marble; sometimes notched and jagged like the teeth of a worn-out saw, then pointed, triangular, and regular as a pyramid. This succession of islands, wooded shores, and unbroken procession of snowy mountains continued upon our right and left as we passed through the Gulf of Georgia until we came to the narrow passage, Johnstone Strait, which leads on to Queen Charlotte Sound. This strait is literally crowded full of islands, and the ship's way winds between them and Vancouver's Island for many miles. Long, narrow, and intricate, it is safe only to experienced navigators and pilots. We arrived at Seymour Narrows, the entrance to Johnston, at seven o'clock in the evening. The tide was ebb, and the passage all the more difficult. We watched our progress for an hour, upon the deck. The water heaps and swirls in swift currents and whirlpools which look black and threatening. Sometimes the fury of the tides proves too much for the safety of the vessel in their cruel grasp. Several large ships have been overcome by these whirlpools and dashed to destruction upon the hidden rocks beneath them. It is only at the entrance of this strait, however, where the passage is so perilous. Our ship made the passage without any marvellous incident to record, but hardly a loud word was spoken upon deck by passengers or crew until we were safely through it. Captain Hunter told us that he "hardly dared to breathe throughout the passage."
This was the first time an iron steamer had plied these waters, and the George W. Elder with her freight drew seventeen feet of water. No ship of over nine feet draught had ever ventured here before.
We retired and slept as soundly as if "sailing on a sea of balm."
April 28. We entered Queen Charlotte Sound some time in the night. The ship is rolling from side to side upon the heavy swell of the ocean. Still the mountains lead on in their continuous march. First the brown heaving sea, then the dark low reaches of shrubby islands; next the hills, three successive lines rising one above another, lapping and interlocking their deep gloomy bases, and beyond and high above them all, the ever varying but never broken line of mountains, grim and hoary in the gray morning light.
It rained during the night, and dark November-like clouds hung over the mountains, casting a purplish gloom about their lofty peaks, which was weird but fascinating. White mists rose from the dark recesses among the hills, and swept gracefully upward toward their summits. We were several hours crossing Queen Charlotte Sound, our ship bowing graciously this side and that, all the while. Upon our left was the broad Pacific, nothing but one wide expanse of ocean between us and the continent of Asia. In spite of the rolling of the ship, everybody came to the breakfast-table and ate heartily. Soon after we passed from Queen Charlotte into FitzHugh Sound, a much more sheltered, narrow channel. The islands are so near upon both sides that we can easily admire and study them. Every one is planted upon a firm perpendicular wall, which rises but little above the surface of the water at its flow. How deep they extend into the depths below, we cannot know, except in those bays which have been sounded. We are told that these passes are many of them measureless to the plummet, but such numbers as fall between two and three thousand feet are given for the depths of some which have been sounded. The water undulates gently, as soon as we come within the shelter of the outward lying islands, and our ship moves on with a steady and stately motion.
We had Calvert Island upon our left, and soon came in sight of our first waterfall. We were all delighted, and watched intently its rapid pulsing flow, as it leaped wildly down from steep to steep, all broken into foam, from the white mountain top, three thousand feet above, to the sea below. The small islands are numerous on the right, and a large coast peninsula sets down among them, abrupt and high, projecting its sharp headlands into the channel quite near to us, and then receding, narrow, dark inlets reach back into the continent among fir-covered hills; while beyond and high above all is the ever white serrated line of the lofty Coast Mountains, always the same mighty barrier of our western shore.
The waters broaden between Calvert and Hunter's Islands, and we saw a large whale oceanward, floating like a great black log, sinking beneath the surface and appearing at intervals, until lost to sight by distance.
As we passed into the channel between Hunter's Island and the continent, a mighty mountain ridge stretched its huge length beside the shore, ribbed, like a gigantic mastodon, by sharp ledges of gray rock, which extended at regular distances from the line of its high humped back far down its sides, marked by unbroken drifts of snow.
The mountains now come nearer to the sea, and the small, low islands have given place to mountain peaks, which stand upon the water above their submerged foundations, and bristle like sentinels in front of the loftier range upon the shore. Many of the trees are blasted and broken, but between their stark trunks the ground is thickly set with a young growth from ten to fifteen feet in height. The decayed trees are neither large nor tall, but straight as an arrow. The soil is shallow, the trees attain a certain growth or age, then die and fall to the ground, their places being constantly supplied by a new growth which in its turn follows them. The ground is so strewn with the fallen trunks, crossed and piled upon each other, that it is almost an impossible thing to traverse it. Halfway up the dark side of a mound-like height – whose grizzly level top no doubt enfolds a crater lake – there shone out a gleam from a waterfall, leaping down a high precipice; its course below was lost behind the thick forests about it.
The gulls are numerous and very social. A stick of floating driftwood has fifteen white gulls sitting upon it. They look much like a great string of pearls, a necklace for some sea monster, perhaps.
We often see the pretty little quaker birds, Mother Carey's chickens, fluttering along in flocks. There are several sportsmen on shipboard who try to shoot the flying gulls, wild loons, and ducks, all of which are very abundant here. I hope they will spare their ammunition upon Mother Carey's chickens, in deference to the old superstition, if nothing else will prevail against such wanton sport.
Far up on the side of another dark mountain are two white waterfalls, leaping hundreds of feet from one steep to another, down the green mountain wall; now hiding and then flashing out; sometimes like broad white ribbons, when they flow over the smooth surface of black rock, and then curving in and out around obstructing boulders, they bound along in beautiful cascades until they lose themselves in the blue waters of the sea.
Now from the solemn quiet of the shore a bark canoe shoots out upon the waters. It glides along under the shadow of the firs, almost like a painted boat on canvas. In the canoe sit two Indian fishers, as silent and motionless as the dark trees above them.
The day thus far has been a cloudy one, white clouds have settled into the passes of the mountains and a blue misty haze is over all.
Now an immense mound-like hill – we should call it a mountain in New England – rises from the sea, wooded from base to top with a large, thick forest growth. From a little scooped-out level on the shore at its base there rolls up a column of blue smoke. We try in vain to get a glimpse of the Indian hut from whence it comes, but it is too snugly hidden among a thick growth of small cedar-trees.
Far back, towering higher than any we have before seen, stands a ghostly giant of the skies. Nearer are domes and pyramids, peaks and roofs so joined and complicated in their arrangement that no human architect could decipher their angles or imitate their combinations. These are all completely and densely covered with stately evergreen forests, grizzled with frost and snow.
It seemed to us at first that some of these mountains should have definite names; but now we realize their name is Legion; as well might we count the stones in the foundations of these shores, as to number the mountain heights which stand above them.
We pass between a succession of small islands and note each one as if we had never seen its like before. They are alike in many respects, yet each has its peculiar charm and some distinguishing characteristic.
Now is repeated the last or previous scene with a lesser elevation. Domes, peaks, and gabled roofs, heaped and crowded, yet each one individually distinct upon its own portion of a level base. Every one uniformly green from top to bottom, except a pyramid which stands upon the edge of the shore. This is an immense mass of volcanic rock and granite boulders welded together, looking firm and hard as adamant. It is of much more recent origin than the surrounding heights, and resembles Muir Mountain near Shasta in its color and general aspect.
At 11.30 A. M. we approached a narrow passage where the shores upon our right and left seemed continuous, and mountains greeted mountains in friendly grasp before us. Every color of the shore departed as we made the passage at the head of Hunter's Island at a sharp angle, and looked westward across a more open sea toward Bardswell group of islands. The water was a pearl-gray color, and beyond it was the misty purpling blue and white of mountains piled on mountains in wild, enchanting beauty.
Again the shores approach so near that we might measure every stone and inlet of the sea, among their mossy fissures.
Here come a multitude of small, rocky islets. One resembles an enormous turtle; the scales are black stone regularly creased and wrinkled, and polished by the friction of the waves. Upon another stands a great bald eagle, emblem of our country, yet these are British waters. His white head shines like a ball of snow above his dark gray plumage. He stands almost as erect as a man, motionless and fearless, not more than twenty rods away, while our ship passes by and leaves him undisturbed.
The rocky edge of the shore is notched by small regular recesses, just wide enough to afford safe moorings for Indian canoes, as if they were purposely designed by their Great Architect for the convenience of the dwellers in these solitary haunts of nature.
At 12.45 we went upon deck to look at the Indian village Bella Bella, which is a Hudson's Bay trading post. It is situated upon a cleared space of a few acres on a small, rounded bend of the shore, and contains about seventy-five frame houses and a few fish-houses. There are some very neat English-looking cottages with a few small gardens in front, otherwise there are no signs of cultivation. A little distance beyond the village, so close however as to seem a part of it, is a burial-place, where are English graves noted by small marble tablets, and among them are the graves of Indians who probably had been christianized by the missionaries stationed there.
Across the Lama Passage, upon the continent opposite, is the old Indian burial-place; a wild and romantic spot, close upon the edge of the water. Great boulders of fantastic shapes stand all about, draped with loose, thick mosses, so highly colored and mixed with various tints of green as to challenge an artist's cunning to reproduce their harmonious combinations. The trees are tall and sombre, and stand as nature planted them, where others of their kind have stood and fallen and decayed in the ages gone before.
The chiefs and mighty warriors of the tribes are cremated after death, and their ashes are placed in rude boxes and then preserved in larger box-like receptacles. Sometimes these are elevated upon posts planted firmly in the ground, but oftener they are placed upon the ground, and always near the houses where the chiefs have lived. Rude painted figures and Indian hieroglyphics embellish the sides of these receptacles and serve as epitaphs. The poor and despised of the tribe, or those who practise witchcraft, are thrown into the sea to be food for fishes, or left upon the land to be devoured by wild beasts and birds. They are not considered worthy to be burned.
The dead bodies of the Shamans, sorcerers or medicine men, who really are the controlling spirits of the tribes, are placed within the box-like tombs and elevated ten or fifteen feet above the ground upon posts. These funeral boxes on the shore of Lama Passage were doubtless the repositories of the dead sorcerers of the Bella Bella tribes.
By the aid of our field-glass we could distinguish the grotesque outlines of various hideous combinations of brutes and human beings, eagles, crows, beasts, and frogs, which were rudely drawn in red and yellow paints upon the sides of these burial boxes.
Upon one was the strange figure of a creature with the head of a frog and the legs of an Indian. Another was curiously crossed with red and yellow, and a totem board was nailed to one side, upon which were many different signs and images, all significant of bravery and superior power to an Indian's understanding, but of course they were Greek to ours.
Captain Hunter had no business at this British port, other than to receive permission to pass, which required but a few minutes, – and we went on our way between the wild shores overhung by mountains, some blue and wood-covered, and some very grizzly with forests of dead trees entirely divested of all verdure and often of their bark. These dead forests stand like useless legions of condemned creatures waiting for the welcome blast of wind which shall overthrow and lay them down to their decay.
Now we pass by lovely inlets of the sea which reach far away among the passes of the green-walled mountains, and call to mind the shining ways leading up to the "Palace Beautiful," which Bunyan pictures in his "Pilgrim's Progress."
The northern portion of Bardswell group is low, and the winds from the ocean have free course over the poor little gale-swept isles. The trees are all small, of a pale yellowish green hue and much broken by winds and decay. Some of the smallest islands have scarcely a tint of green upon them excepting that of the thick mosses which cover the stones. They bristle all over with dead, branchless and barkless trees, white and shining like quills upon a porcupine. Small islets, desolate as the salt spray can make them, are fenced all around by lines of driftwood heaped upon them by the waves. They look like index fingers emphasizing the general air of desolate wildness of this approach to Millbank Sound, which we enter at 2.15 P. M.
The islands shoreward are more and more rocky and sterile, and now they are gray and hard indeed. The ocean beats upon their rocky shores and dashes its spray high over their pale and devastated forests. The ship rolls from side to side in the heavy swells, and we suspend our observations until our advent into calmer waters.
We entered Finlayson's Channel, and again the scenes were completely changed. The deep broad channel flows like a noble river between mountainous hills, densely timbered to their tops from the line of rock at the water's edge. The fir-trees are green and vigorous, covering the hills uniformly, except where broad surfaces of black slate, perpendicular for fifty or a hundred feet, are draped with many-tinted mosses and embossed with small shapely evergreen trees which find rootage in their hidden fissures, and from which they bend over the dizzy steep below. Close behind the hills rise the high green mountains, and back of these, far higher still, shine out the snow-crowned peaks of the inland mountains. From these massive green domes there flow down lovely waterfalls. Some shoot downward in a course almost as straight as that of an arrow from its bow. Others curve in and out, hiding and disclosing themselves like flashes of sunshine among the heavy shadows of the trees. Now there falls a large stream over a rock parapet upon the very top of a mountain, where there is probably a reservoir for the melting snows of greater heights beyond. It comes foaming and leaping throughout its whole course, straight down the mountain side, in beautiful cascades, and rushes with a wild abandon, as if in haste to hide its buoyant life within the solemn cloisters of the sea. Now is seen a multitude of little streams which streak the mountain sides like silver. All else in Nature seems hushed, and listening to the dreamy, wave-like lullaby which comes from the "Voices of the Waterfall."
The skies are still leaden, and occasional light showers dimple the placid water, which flows like a broad river between these mountain shores. The clouds trail their filmy folds and almost hide the white cascades from our sight. The fascination of this northern scenery, whether it be in sunshine or in shadow, is so absorbing that we try to see it all, and during the day there is but little upon sea or shore that escapes our observation. But there are so many novel and wonderful scenes so like, and yet so unlike, that I can hardly help repeating similar impressions. I try to note, for the pleasure of those who cannot see and enjoy with us, all that is marvellous in this inland voyage to Alaska.
Upon our right the mountains part, and a dark and romantic fiord sets up between them. Far down its glassy way there stands a lovely little island with a small islet upon either side, all dressed in green. They seem to rest upon the dark water of the fiord, as birds fold their wings and float upon the sea. At the entrance are two massive mountain pillars, which continue in high columnar walls upon both sides, far up the fiord. These fluted walls, in the clear perspective, diminish in height, approach each other and meet, embracing the lovely islands and deepening the shadows about them, until the waters are black as ebony. What looked like a mountain pillar resolved itself into a perfect pyramid as we advanced upon it. Its sides are so thickly set with firs that no shaven hedge ever presented a more unbroken surface to an observing eye than did that majestic, natural pyramid. It was a marvel of elegance and stately grandeur. As we passed by it we took a backward look at its wondrous beauty, and we beheld it a perfect dome in shape, with no sign of line or angle which had before been as sharply defined as are those of the Pyramids of Egypt. This we called the Cathedral Mountain, and by that name we shall always keep it in memory.
It is now four o'clock P. M., when we enter a narrow passage along the shore of Princess Royal Island.
Nine o'clock P. M. Since we came into the upper half of Finlayson's Channel, which is known as Graham and Fraser's Reaches, we have been treated to a more wonderful exhibition of mountain grandeur and beautiful cascades and waterfalls than any which have preceded them. How can I describe these sights, and still have words for the greater wonders which may follow them! Happily our powers of appreciation are capable of infinite expansion, and we have been able to meet the demands of every new occasion with increased enjoyment; but words have their limitations in my vocabulary. Only this can I say: multiply and add threefold to all I have said of the former, and you may have some idea of these last. They have been more gloriously lovely than anything our imaginations had ever conceived. Some of them have swept down from heights of 3000 feet and more to the waters of the sea, but a few rods distant from our ship's keel. The resonance of their fall has drowned all sounds belonging to our ship, and filled the spaces about us with their musical chimes and responding echoes. Some we called mountain torrents; and some have spread their waters and fallen from dizzy heights and lesser precipices in successive sheets of gauze-like beauty. One, far toward a white mountain top, seemed to divide and double itself backward, like the graceful loopings of a broad ribbon, then it united again and dropped in soft cascades until it reached the last steep descent, where it expanded into a broad silvery veil and swept gracefully down, losing its whiteness in the deep blue of the channel below. This we called "the bridal veil." At another place the stream flowed out from some mountain lake not far inland. We could look back under the shadows of the trees drooping over it and see the smooth mountain water, clear as the crystals from whence it came, moving silently toward the ledgy shore. In an instant it broke into a feathery foam as it dashed over the uneven surface of the ledge in many lovely cascades, which lost themselves and their boisterous glee in the depths and silences of the sea.
Again we saw far up toward the top of a high mountain a fine large cascade, promising a torrent in its descent, which was not seen again until we had passed around a spur of the same mountain, when there came the full cascade from under a perfect arch of intermingling cedars, and with one bound it too leaped into the sea.
Were I to number all the waterfalls and all the lofty mountains which have so delighted our eyes, my journal would be filled with repetitions to the ears of one whose eyes have never seen them. But in our memories they remain;
"A thing of beauty is a joy forever."
FROM DIXON'S ENTRANCE TO JUNEAU.
APRIL 29. The morning was dark and rainy. The shore of the continent was some miles distant, but through the mist of the falling rain we could witness the constant march of the white-capped peaks of the mountains. Nothing was visible oceanward but the wide spaces of the sea. Our ship was strangely steady in her motion, and for nearly an hour we glided on through the gray mist before we came again among the islands.
We were approaching Fort Tongas, having made the passage of Grenville Channel during the night. I strained my eyes to see Mount McNiel, near to Fort Simpson, in British Columbia, which we passed in the early dawn. At eight o'clock A. M. we stopped before Fort Tongas, the southernmost white settlement in Alaska. We were now in Alaskan waters opposite to Dixon's Entrance, at which place, Captain Hunter told us, we were but ten days distant from Japan. There was no especial business to detain us here, merely an official recognition, as we had come through British waters to our own again.
Fort Tongas is upon a peninsula of the continent, and has about a dozen small houses, including the long low government building, from which floats "the stars and stripes." Business accomplished, we took a turn oceanward to avoid the small rocky islands alongshore, and our steamer was once more rolling and ploughing her way through the heavy seas which beat in at Dixon's Entrance from the Pacific Ocean. The rain still poured down upon our deck, and there was nothing but the wide, wide sea to look upon. I took the time to write up my journal from the sketchy notes of the previous day. Everybody seemed to recognize that it was the Sabbath, by a universal expression of drowsiness.
At noon we arrived at Tongas Narrows, and, through a short passage from the open sea between pretty islands and the shore, we came to Tongas Fish Canneries, where we remained several hours, taking and delivering freight of various kinds. Here there is a large board structure where the work of canning, during the salmon season, is carried on quite extensively. There are several small dwelling-houses and camps about it, for the use of the laborers. One small board cottage, picturesquely situated upon a little knoll, in part actually overhangs the water. The study of foliage around it is delightfully charming. There are small green fir-trees intermixed with low shrubs, some bright and some dry and withered; but not a leaf or dry twig of any kind seems superfluous, not one could be spared from the lovely grouping of the whole. The lichens, upon the stones and an old decaying stump, with their soft harmonious tints, are so many added graces.
Just before the door of this rural cot, and almost hidden by the thick foliage, stands a totem pole, the first we have seen; but not a real carved totem pole, such as we hope to see farther north. This one was highly decorated with painted representations of frogs and other animals. By the aid of a good glass, we saw the frogs distinctly, but the rest were too much hidden by the trees for us to discern them clearly. There is a pretty lake behind the settlement, fed by mountain torrents, which I saw hanging like white streamers all along the mountain sides. One, like a broad web of white silk, hung limp and apparently motionless a thousand feet above the lake. Here the salmon swarm to deposit their spawn in fresh water, and here the Indian fishers slay them by thousands for the cannery. They gather in such great multitudes at these fresh-water outlets to the sea, and crowd so thickly upon each other, that the fishers take them out in baskets used as scoops. It is raining, and we cannot go on shore. A few of the gentlemen have gone, but the majority remain on deck.
Dr. Sheldon Jackson, U. S. School Commissioner in Alaska, came on board at Tongas Cannery, bringing with him thirty-seven bright Indian boys. They are from a settlement near Tongas, made by those natives who emigrated a few years ago from Metlahkatlah, B. C., to Alaska, under the patronage of Dr. Duncan. We have already on shipboard one hundred and fifty Chinamen, about sixty cabin passengers, miners, adventurers, etc., besides Mrs. Willard and ourselves. Fort Tongas contributed to our number a custom officer, to make sure we carry nothing contraband between our own and British ports. Another boat comes laden with two veritable old totem poles, which are covered with a green mould and show evidence of great age, but yet their grotesque carvings are well defined, and legibly inform us of brave chieftains who bore the proud titles of "The Crow," "The Bear," "The Whale," etc. These old totem poles are being taken to the Museum of ancient Indian relics at Sitka, by Dr. Sheldon Jackson, for preservation. The days of totem poles are over; for as the Alaskans advance in civilization, the old-time customs of their tribes are abandoned. A pretty steam launch, "The Astoria," is plying back and forth between our steamer and the shore. It is probably the government launch stationed at Fort Tongas, which flits about among these wild little islands to maintain in the sight and minds of the Alaskans a sense of the omnipresence of our great government, which is necessary for the safety of the white people among them.
The Metlahkatlah boys are the sons of those Indians who came into southeastern Alaska from Metlahkatlah, B. C, where they were rapidly learning the arts and customs of civilization under the direction of Dr. Duncan. They lived in comfortable houses, cultivated the soil, and dressed like ordinary citizens. They had good schools, where their children were all taught to read and write, the elements of arithmetic, and such other branches of education as would be beneficial to them in their condition. They were also taught vocal and instrumental music, and some of the boys were good performers upon the piano and various stringed instruments. They had industrial schools, wherein the various trades were taught to the boys, and sewing, housekeeping, etc., to the girls. They believe in Dr. Duncan implicitly, and no doubt their faith in his authority had much to do with their advancement toward a civilized life. The authority of Dr. Duncan in church affairs was somewhat superseded by the sending to them of a bishop to take charge of their religious instruction, at which the Indians revolted, preferring the authority of Dr. Duncan over them in all things. They were in such a state of insubordination, that, fearing to witness a loss of all his labors among them, he favored their desire to emigrate to Alaska, and determined to go with them. The natives began to take down their houses and transport them with their other possessions across Dixon's Entrance in their canoes to Alaska, when an injunction was placed upon the removal of their houses by the English authorities, upon which they deserted their homes, and all departed from British Columbia. No sooner had they established themselves upon our soil, than they proceeded to hoist the American flag and declare themselves citizens of the United States. They are proud of the honor, and are trying to maintain their dignity in the new rôle they have taken. Already they have a neat and flourishing village; they cultivate the land about them and earn for themselves a good subsistence, clothing themselves like ordinary citizens of the country of their adoption.
They keep the Sabbath scrupulously. The Metlahkatlah boys gave us a concert on the deck of the Elder, and after singing various hymns with good effect, Dr. Jackson asked if they could favor us with some songs. One of them, the son of the Metlahkatlah chief, replied, "No, sir; we only sing sacred music."
They had an organized band of musicians among them, but as the instruments upon which they were accustomed to perform belonged to their school, Dr. Jackson borrowed several pieces for the voyage at Fort Wrangell, to be returned on our homeward passage.
When the totem poles were landed at Sitka there was no means of conveying them to the Museum. Dr. Jackson arranged to load them upon some old wheels to which was attached a long rope, and calling upon his mission boys to join the Metlahkatlahs – numbering in all one hundred and seven – he ordered them to form a procession upon the rope, and the band to strike up its music. The boys entered into the spirit of the occasion with a will, and the old totems made a sort of triumphal entrance into Sitka, and were taken to the Museum and placed in position, where they will probably long remain a spectacle for the curious and a memorial of the ancient customs of the native Alaskans.
Past four o'clock P. M. It is raining fast, and still our ship lies off shore. We have left a squad of Chinamen here to work in the cannery, and have sent on shore a large amount of freight for the carrying on of their business – empty cans, sheets of tin, lumber, and provisions. We were about to leave Tongas Cannery, and the finest sight of all had not been seen. Upon a mountain, 3500 feet high, not three miles distant from us, was a cataract indeed. We were loaned, by Mr. Hammond, a remarkably fine glass, the use of which contributed in a large measure to our appreciation and enjoyment of the wondrous sights of our voyage. By the aid of this glass the cataract was brought so near to our observation that distance seemed literally to be annihilated.
It appeared to leap from a huge ledge, quite near to the summit of the mountain, over which hung an enormous bank of snow. Straight as the course of an arrow it rushed down the mountain side; its width uniform, and about fifty feet, until it came near to the bottom, when it widened to a hundred, it might be more, and in one broad sheet was lost to our sight in the vale below. The lake which received it was hidden by the intervening surface. It is but one of the thousand beautiful sights which are to be seen in this "Wonderland of America."
April 30. We arrived at Loring, on Revilla Gigedo Island, last night, and cast anchor. The captain had on board freight for the Salmon Cannery and Chinamen for its operation.
Loring is not so picturesquely situated as Tongas, but it is by no means wanting in natural attractions. It has its high, green, and snow-tipped mountains, its lovely inland lakes, and its little fleet of islets off-shore, any one of which would be a marvel of beauty in our eastern waters.
The boom of the ship's gun last night was a signal which brought out several canoes from the shore to greet us. In one, occupied by an Indian and his boy, lay a large salmon weighing fifty pounds, for which he demanded one dollar and fifty cents. Our steward said "too much," and the Indian sat motionless and waited for his price. Our last look from the deck at night discovered him still loitering and waiting; the salmon, a noble specimen of his kind, was in the boat. A gentleman returning from the shore presented me with an eagle's claw, freshly cut from the "fierce gray bird," which I shall carry home as a remembrance of Loring. As I walked on the deck early this morning, I listened to the sounds which came from the mountains and the sea. Far up in the dense gloom of the forest I heard the shrill scream of an eagle. Along the shore a flock of crows or ravens came cawing from their roosting places for their morning meal of offal from the fishing-boats. A meagre-looking dog was before them, satisfying his hunger upon the fare they sought. With a rush and vigorous flapping of their wings, the crows drove the dog skulking to a house near by, and then leisurely enjoyed their feast. Upon the other side of the ship the gulls were lazily flapping by, with keen eyes on the lookout for stray crumbs of waste from the ship's cook, who was busily pounding and beating in preparation for our breakfast.
Floating cosily along in pairs and squadrons were divers and wild ducks, and an occasional quack from the latter told that they too were in search of a morning meal. At half-past six in the morning we weighed anchor and left Loring behind us.
Soon after breakfast we saw an Indian burial-place upon the island shore. There were small boxlike houses, painted white, and about as large as the winter cover to our fountain, and one was surmounted by a cross. These, unlike those of Bella Bella, stood upon the ground, and contained the smaller boxes or funeral urns in which were deposited the ashes of their dead chiefs and braves.
While we were looking at the graves, a large blue heron flew over from shore to shore, his long legs stretched out below him as if he walked the air. A great bald-eagle started out from the forest on our left and flapped his broad, dark wings over our heads, toward the opposite shore. His plumage looked black as a raven's. A gentleman near by us remarked "he would measure nine feet from tip to tip."
For the first time since we left Nanaimo, we saw this morning a level bit of country. After we left Loring we came to a tract of level area of nearly a hundred acres at the base of the hills, which for a novelty were farther inland. It was covered with a growth of small cedars. As we looked out over it we mistook these trees for a rank growth of Alaskan reeds. Vegetation here is so full of surprises that we may well be pardoned for the mistake.
It was the only glimpse of land which might be cleared and cultivated to any extent, provided the soil is sufficient to support vegetation, which we have seen. The fir and cedar trees seem almost like parasites upon the rocks from which they rise. We have seen them nearly a foot in diameter growing on the top of rocks ten or twelve feet high, and not over three or four feet square at the top.
Dr. Jackson found quite a large tree growing on the top of one of the totem poles which he brought on board at Tongas. The pole was fifteen feet long and about two feet in diameter. Trees and all vegetation here must draw much of their nourishment from the moisture of the atmosphere and the decayed mosses which seem always saturated with water.
At a little past nine A. M. we again cast our anchor at another salmon cannery in Yaas Bay. This is a new enterprise, and we have brought large quantities of lumber and other necessary things for its successful operation. Yaas Bay is another recess into the mountain coast of Revilla Gigedo, north of Loring. This island is a large and extremely mountainous tract of our coast country, between two river-like arms of the sea, which extend upon either side for more than a hundred and fifty miles in a northeasterly direction, flowing into each other at the northeastern extremity of the island.
Revilla Gigedo is entirely covered by mountains, and its coast is penetrated by numerous bays and small inlets which reach back among the mountains and receive the overflow of the numberless small lakes, the reservoirs of the melting snows. The entire coast is bound by a band of rock masonry, which in the regularity of its formation is truly wonderful; more especially in the perfect adjustment of this rock border to the innumerable recesses which are constantly occurring; every angle, ever so small an indentation of the shore, being hemmed in by its unvarying border of rock masonry, not more than a few inches above high-water mark.
We found Yaas Bay to be the most charming and romantic place we have yet seen. It is not large but inexpressibly lovely. The mosses grow thick and soft above the rocks, glowing with every tint of green and gold and umber. Out of it spring the cedar-trees, not large, but lithe and straight as Nature can produce. Their foliage has a peculiar feathery appearance, and its color is very bright. They stand so close upon the shallow soil that the eye cannot penetrate more than two or three feet within their gloomy shades. The mountains rise immediately from the shore line, with no inch of margin or foothold for man or beast, with an ascent so steep that it looks to be perpendicular.
The trees are so uniform that the faces of the mountains from shore to snow-line present the aspect of a shaven lawn.
In some places these mountain walls are perpendicular to the water for one and two hundred feet. These broad, smooth surfaces are painted with mosses of lovely hues; and every crevice is a foothold for miniature cedars which shoot up and spread their feathery plumes against the dark gray rock. Nothing is raw or bare to the eye. Nature paints and drapes everything with such a soft and quiet harmony.
To add to the completeness of the romantic beauty of Yaas Bay, a large Indian canoe came out to us from the shore and remained stationary beside our ship for some time. An old Indian woman carried the laboring oar, another younger woman in the middle of the canoe held her papoose, wrapped in blankets, on her lap, with two little Indian children beside her. In the prow sat a fat young Indian girl, oar in hand, with which she gently and not ungracefully moved the water. Just behind her was a round-faced Indian boy, whose oar was idle. His eyes were more to him just then than his hands could be, he was so eager to see all and everything about our ship. I took the field-glass for a closer look at them, when the old Indian with a vigorous stroke turned the canoe away, and they glided out of range of our glass. She cast a backward look at us as if she feared an evil eye had marked them all.
The timber line in this latitude is about 2700 feet. It is curious to notice how exactly that limit is preserved. The great snow peaks and spires and domes stand sheer against the blue sky in their immaculate whiteness, and look down upon the crowding hosts which clamber and cling to their rocky sides, seeming to say to them, "Thus far and no farther shalt thou come." It is no feeble, scattered growth that aspires to reach that icy barrier, but tall and stately trees lead bravely up the heights, their sharp spines bristling and fringing the white robes of the mighty giants above them.
Some of these mountain tops are bare, black stone which stand out from the drifts of snow in grotesque shapes resembling beasts, and birds, and heads of awful gnomes and demons.
We saw four great towering columns of black stone in a continuous line, like the fingers of a hand pointing upward, at a height of 4000 feet, against the sky. Their tops were heaped with cushions of snow. Their sides were so near to perpendicular that the snow lay in thin patches upon them, and ridges of the black rock stood out like ebony in strange, weird forms in bas-relief.
Our ship was steaming up the strait of Revilla Gigedo still farther into the continent, to Burroughs' Bay, one hundred and twenty miles off from the usual course of tourists to Alaska. We were approaching our destination for the day, and the sun had set upon the dark waters of the strait and the mountains along the shores. Still we lingered upon deck, hoping to catch a gleam of the sunset upon the far inland mountains, whose lofty summits were visible to us through the broken columns of the lesser heights along the shores. Nearly all had retired from their posts of observation as the twilight settled deeper, and the shades grew black upon the silent waters. The mountains were more and more lofty as we advanced farther into the continent, and we began to feel a disappointment, when we saw the night coming down upon us, that we were not to see them in the light of the setting sun.
At length we caught a gleam of brightness along the farther and upper edge of a distant peak. The sunset was upon its opposite side, and our position would not favor us. We too retired to the warmth of the saloon, for the evening began to grow chilly. It had long been sunset to us, but I kept watchful eyes upon the mountain tops. The ship's course was often changing, and a happy turn around a headland brought us where the inland mountains were more plainly visible.
The topmost pinnacle of all, a lofty height, shone like a golden flame against the dark background of the skies. The less elevated peaks stood in gloomy contrast to the blazing beacon, which swept so high above that all who saw it were filled with admiration. And yet the rising and setting sun has illumined these heights and made them "beautiful as the gates of heaven" throughout the untold ages of the past.
Gradually peak after peak and dome after dome, and at last all the white mountain sides which inclined to the west, were aflame with the glory of the sunset. Then came in view a long range of mountains which shared and bathed in that golden flood so abundantly poured upon them. The scene lasted for more than half an hour, the course of our ship seeming to be so ordered that we might behold it. It was eight o'clock in the evening when we passed around a projecting spur of a mountain, which seemed almost to bar our progress, and going through a narrow passage we entered Burroughs Bay.
This is the wildest and most arctic place which we have yet explored. The settlement contains nine small huts and shanties and a large new salmon cannery. The waters of the little bay are deep and dark, overshadowed upon all sides by what looks to be an unbroken wall of lofty mountains, green and solemn at their bases, but white with snow and ice upon their summits.
A broad but shallow stream enters the bay at its northern side, winding around the base of a mountain from a lake behind it; to all appearance from the deck of the ship, coming a full-grown river from beneath it. The passage through which we came is closed to view by the overlapping mountains; thus Burroughs Bay is a bit of the ocean secluded from the world beyond, a great black onyx set in green and silver. It is so deep that no anchor has ever touched its bottom, and so small that our ship was tethered at either end by rope hawsers to the trees upon its banks.
It is a wild and canny place, so remote from civilization that the Indians have been aggressive upon the whites, who have presumed to invade their fishing streams. They claim exclusive right to the fishery of all the rivers of Alaska; and when they dare they resist any encroachments made upon them. A posse of men was sent here last week by government officials to quell a disturbance, and to-night the chief offender of the Indians has been brought on board ship for trial in Sitka.
At eleven o'clock P. M. we saw a fine auroral exhibition. At times there were the merry-dancers; then beautiful iridescent arches, which spanned the north above the white domes of the mountains, and threw a long tunnel-shaped blazon of light upon the waters of the bay. When the long streamers shot up to the zenith their reflections were like shimmering paths of moonlight on the water.
Once a narrow curtain of quivering light waved its fluted folds across the north from west to east, and left no single ray behind it. The lights were out, and the display was soon over.
May 1. I arose at four o'clock this morning to see the sunlight on the summits of eleven high mountains which encircle this little bay. The waterfalls upon these heights have scarcely begun their flow, but their courses are marked by snow and ice until near the bottom, when the water trickles in little streams from beneath the frozen cascades above.
One great oblong mountain lifts its level back high above the timber line. From the thick cushion of snow that covers it I can see the white tracks of the watercourses all along; they are so numerous that they fringe the white mantle above, like silver cords.
The waters in these inlets and channels are very deep. At Tongas Narrows, which is not more than one fourth of a mile in width, the depth is 2700 feet; at Yaas Bay. it is 1200 feet; and these are the depths to be measured all along our way. Yosemite Valley has ceased to be the marvel that it was to us, when we consider what would be the elevation of some of these mountain peaks, from the bottom of these straits and bays.
I recognize that we are not voyaging here among islands only, but rather that we are exploring the vast mountain region of our great northwestern coast, by means of these marvellous natural roadsteads. They reach far into the remote silences and solitudes of its mountain fastnesses – discovering and ranking them among those other great wonders of our land, Niagara, Yosemite, and the Yellowstone.
We saw no bird fly over Burroughs Bay this morning, and heard no sound but the lonely yelp of an Indian dog upon the shore. I felt a sense of pity for those who seek their fortunes in that isolated spot. I heartily wished them success in their labor and offered an unspoken prayer for their safety. We left Burroughs Bay at half past six A. M. on our return toward Loring.
As we were in a wide expanse of the direct inland passage to Alaska, and past the entrance to Lorings Bay in Duke of Clarence Channel, a gentleman informed us that our ship was hailed by a fishing-boat. Immediately the ship slackened her speed. The captain was evidently satisfied that it was no call for succor, and the ship sprang to his bidding and regained her lost speed. The man in the boat rose from his oars and cried out lustily for "the Captain," with no response; then he cried for "the Mate" – and still no answer.
Our ship had ploughed ahead, and the man swung his arms frantically about and shouted as his boat fell back into the wake of the ship: "Throw a line! throw a line!" Red in the face, and still loudly shouting "throw a line," he dropped some way behind us, when a passenger remarked, "The man is insane," and we all expected to see him leap into the sea and perish before our eyes in a vain attempt to reach the ship. The captain relented, and the ship faltered as if weighing a doubt and at last stood quietly awaiting the approach of the boat. There was a boatman at the bow, and both men plied their oars with a will against time and tide, and soon came alongside the ship.
The man who had so frantically hailed and gesticulated sprang up the side of our ship like a cat, and took passage from Loring fisheries to Kasaan, while his companion, the Indian boatman, rowed away alone. Finding that he had been left behind, his determined spirit was equal to the mishap, and the fisherman "had his will."
Whenever we approach a settlement where we are to call and anchor, the ship fires a gun and blows a sonorous blast from the engine's whistle, and we always listen for the echoes. These vary greatly in different places. Some are harsh and crackling, as if the ship were exploding about us; others rattle back and forth from hill to mountain, like quick reports of musketry.
At Yaas Bay there was a startling echo from the mighty monarchs which surround it. They tossed the heavy sound back and forth with the force and resonance of the athletes that they are.
As we approached Kasaan we were told by Captain Hunter to look out for the echo, for he had loaded the gun with a double charge for our benefit.
Kasaan is an Indian village at the head of Kasaan Bay, an inlet into Prince of Wales Island which reaches quite halfway across it toward its western shore. It is these voyages inland which have given us an opportunity to know so much more of the general configuration of these coasts and mountains than we could possibly obtain in the ordinary tourist's voyage to Alaska. Prince of Wales Island, although mountainous, does not present to us such scenes of lofty grandeur as those nearer to the continent, and there is a difference in their shores. Although this island is walled about with the same firm masonry, yet there is a margin between it and the hills and mountains. Upon these level spaces the Indians cultivate potatoes, not only for their own use, but for markets on other islands and in northern towns. The Indians all along the coast of Alaska are Thlinkets, but those upon Prince of Wales take the special name of Hydah Indians. They are industrious and really ingenious people, not so low and brutal in their aspect as are those of our more eastern and southern territories. They are shrewd traders and inveterate smugglers. They look much like the Japanese and possess many of their characteristics. Those who have studied them, and know them best, assert that they are a different race of beings from those Indians who were found in the eastern portions of our country, and express no doubt of their descent from oriental ancestors.
We passed the house of the Hydah chief before we reached anchorage in Kassaan. It was about fifty by forty feet upon the ground, with the end toward the shore, in which was a door with two windows upon each side, under the gable of a low pitched roof. Before the door was a tall totem pole, carved with the symbols of his fame and dignity. There were various other smaller buildings scattered about irregularly, which gave an air of consequence to the whole place. The old chief is reported to be worth $12,000.
We came to anchor before the salmon salting works of the Baroness Baronoff. The larger Hydah village is hidden from us by a grove of tall fir-trees about half a mile distant. As we approached this little village of Kasaan the gun belched forth its double charge, and three deep rolling intonations slowly reverberated from mountain side to mountain side, like the heavy mutterings which follow the bolts in a terrific thunder-storm.2
We anchored at twelve M., and after lunch accepted an invitation from Captain Hunter to go on shore.
The whole place is owned by an Indian woman, whom they call the Baroness of Baronoff. She lives here with an Indian husband and her descendants, and rents the salting works to the man who took passage with us in mid ocean, some hours before. During the Russian rule in this northwest she was the wife of Baron Baronoff, and one of his children was among the group of natives who received us upon the rude piazza of her "palace." We wandered about among the log houses and board shanties, about a dozen in number, and went behind the salting works to see the small stream which there found entrance to the bay, and up which the salmon swarm in countless numbers at the spawning season. There we found an old Indian sitting before his door.
He sat cross-legged upon a mat, wrapped in his blanket, and looked much like a rolling Dutch toy greatly magnified. His eyes were closed, and his broad, brown face was dull and heavy under his long and straight black hair. Altogether we thought him an unsightly specimen of his tribe. He told us he was blind, and that his name was Paul Jones. In answer to questions he informed us his blindness was the result of smallpox thirty-five years before. Unlike an Indian, he talked volubly and begged for money to buy tobacco, and asked if we would buy a mat of him. He rose slowly from his mat, exposing his naked limbs beneath his blanket as he did so; they told no tale of lack of nourishment. We declined to enter his cabin with him, but others went in. Through the open door we saw a bright fire of sticks crossed like cobs upon stones on the bare ground in the middle of the square inclosure. An idiotic child was crawling about the fire, and – the rest is all to be guessed at and not described. As the old man unrolled his bark mat, the child took the opportunity to crawl out of the open door and away as fast as its deformity would permit.
As we turned away, Dr. Jackson told us that Paul Jones lost his eyes to satisfy the revenge of some white sailors. He was a pilot in these waters and wrecked a trading boat purposely, that his people might share with him in its plunder. The sailors became suspicious of him, and finding he was about to repeat the crime, they seized him and burned out his eyes.
At the house of the baroness, among the group of natives, were six little children, as pretty and bright-looking as the average children in a laboring community, and as neatly clad. One little boy named Felix, who was grandson to the Baron Baronoff, was very pretty. The baroness that was, is an intelligent woman; under some circumstances she would compare very favorably with the working women on the remote farms in Vermont and New Hampshire. Her daughter, also the daughter of the Russian baron, had but little of the Indian in her looks. She was tall and slender, and her two little boys were very pretty children. The older, Felix, had soft auburn hair, and the younger had a straight Russian face.
We entered the lighter and returned to our ship in a gentle drizzle of rain, which comes down so easily and unexpectedly here, that we are getting quite accustomed to it.
At four o'clock P. M. we are off again toward Duke of Clarence Sound, whence we shall turn our course northward toward Fort Wrangell. Mountains line the coasts of islands upon both sides; some are near, and some, seen through the mists which settle about them, are like phantom shapes. All are wooded, not lofty enough to rise above the timber limit, but all are grizzled with the snow which lies thick upon their tops. Occasionally we saw white peaks far inland, and oftentimes were undecided whether they were clouds or snow-clad mountains, until a turn of the ship's course would bring them into better view, when we seldom failed to identify them all as links continuous in the grand chain of everlasting hills which binds these countless islands and peninsulas of the continent in one great brotherhood. "All are but parts of one stupendous whole."
May 2. I was aroused by the salute of our ship in the night, and found soon after that she was motionless at the pier at Fort Wrangell.
It was raining fast, and I failed to "rise upon the occasion," but lay in bed until past four o'clock. Fort Wrangell is the largest place we have seen since we left Nanaimo. The village is mostly occupied by the Stickeens. We are told there are nine white ladies at Wrangell and but a few more gentlemen. There is a government house very much resembling an old-time New England country tavern, with a square hip roof and broad piazza, and the national flag floating over it. The houses are all in a dilapidated condition, they never were painted, and most of them are built of logs. I observed that the chief's house, however, is an exception, and a few of the pickets about the burial places show signs of having once received a coat of red or yellow paint. In the most pretentious of their houses they build their fires upon stones on the ground in the centre of its single apartment. Above it is a square hole in the roof, for the escape of smoke, which is sometimes partially covered by boards, making a kind of boxlike excrescence for a chimney.
INDIAN GRAVES, FORT WRANGELL.
A fat old woman, wrapped in her blanket, sat upon the ground beside one of these squalid, dirty huts, and watched us quite as curiously as we did her.
Upon a sharp little knoll, standing out into the sea, were several very time-worn old structures, ten by fifteen feet in size, with roofs and vent-holes above. These contained the bodies of their departed shamams or medicine men, who are never burned or buried, but are placed to moulder in these tomb-like buildings. Every house of consequence had its totem pole before it.
We left Fort Wrangell at six A. M., taking a westward course, back to Clarence Channel. The day came on cold and rainy, with prospect of a more severe storm.
Our most direct course to Juneau, the next objective port of entry, lay northward through Wrangell Strait. This passage is a rough one, and often perilous in a storm. Captain Hunter chose a longer and a safer route, westward through Duke Clarence Channel, between Prince of Wales and Kuprianoff Islands; thence southwest to the Pacific Ocean, around the south side of Coronation Island, which latter is the southernmost of that singular mountainous archipelago, really a partially submerged portion of Koo Island.
After rounding Coronation Island our ship encountered the full force of the ocean swells, and she rolled and swayed about in a manner quite offensive to weak digestion. Many of our passengers developed a lack of appetite at lunch, and many retired, while they could do so creditably to their dignity, avoiding rather than combating the effect of the heavy seas. At twelve M. we were directly off Coronation Island.
A lovelier mountain I never saw. It rose from the sea like a high table-land; its surface shining with points and planes like a magnificent and gigantic block of crystal quartz. It seemed to float upon the glacier like green water. Its color at the base was a deep dark blue, which shaded above to lighter tints encased and tipped with snow and ice. I saw it through the mist of rain; what must be its appearance in the clear light of the sun, I may imagine, but never realize.
In turning our course northward into Christian Sound, our ship cut the waves at right angles, and resumed her usual steady motion, a relief to everybody on board. We sighted Cape Ommany, the southern extremity of Baronoff Island, where Lieutenant Schwatka informs us that it rains eight days in the week.
At six P. M. we are going northward off the east coast of Baronoff Island. The strong swells of the ocean are behind us, and our ship moves onward responsive to the powerful strokes of her propeller, which like the regular throbs of a great heart gives the only motion of which I am conscious.
At seven P. M. our course bends eastward between Koo Island to the south and Murder Cove on Admiralty Island to the north of us. Here we enter Prince Frederic Sound, where we have a fine open sea to navigate, with many isolated mountain isles, but none in the way of our progress. Halfway over the Sound, we began to see the white peaks of the continent showing ghostly against the still gray skies. They soon materialized into a long line of gigantic snowy mountains, blue and steely where the icy glaciers shone out among the great white drifts.
As we slowly swung to a northerly course, we watched the long procession of mountain following mountain, with their rivers of ice flowing down between them to the sea until the long twilight deepened into night. One glacier lay between several mountains whose angles opened to the sea. It looked like a vast frozen river of clear blue ice, not level like smoothly flowing water, but more like what the rapids of Niagara would be were they instantly congealed and suspended betwixt their shores, motionless forever.
May 3. We retired early last night, and being unusually wakeful, I listened to the labored action of the propeller, thinking I had never realized before how heavy were its strokes, when it suddenly stopped. The ship slackened speed, and then stood apparently motionless. Looking from my window, I perceived that we were moving with extreme caution in a wide, open space. I could hear the dash of the restless waves against the side of the ship, and saw sparkles of light all over the water, as if the stars had dropped from the heavens and were afloat around us. They shone with such steady lustre, that it could not be the phosphorescence of the water like what I had seen on the Atlantic. Everything about the ship was so very quiet, that, concluding we were under watchful care, I retired again to wait for developments. Two hours after, the propeller resumed its customary action, and we went on our way as if nothing unusual had happened. I thought of the story of the old clock, in the fable, and went to sleep.
At three o'clock in the morning the gun announced our approach to Juneau, and at four A. M. we arose to find our ship safely anchored at the pier. Mrs. Willard left the steamer at an early hour for her son's residence in Juneau. We felt a sense of loss at her departure, although her delicate state of health had prevented her from entering much into our spirit of enthusiasm as tourists.
It was raining hard, but the work of unloading stores of provision, lumber, and a great variety of other freight, went on with much expedition, assisted upon shore by a squad of Alaskans who possess a large capacity for manual labor.
At breakfast Captain Hunter told us he had to lay by two hours in an ice floe which came down from Takou River. My fallen stars were shining blocks of ice.
Juneau is the largest "city" we have seen north of Victoria. It is a mining town and stands upon the continent. The houses are all of wood, mostly one story high, and a few are thinly stained with paint. Treadwell's gold mine, which is very large and in full operation, is just across the channel upon Douglas Island. It is claimed to be the largest gold mine, and to be wrought with the largest stamping mill in the world.
The town contains over two thousand inhabitants. It is built upon the side of a hill, which rises between the shore and a high mountain immediately behind, from which it is only separated by a deep gulch, which is a natural reservoir for the snows of the mountain, probably affording a supply of fresh water to the town. There is but one street for travel, and that is but little better than a New England cart path. They have but one horse in the city, so that one road may be all they require for the passage of hand-barrows which the Indians propel with much speed, to and fro between our ship and the storehouses on shore. We saw the homes of the Indians on the shore, near to, but yet outside of the town. They were nearly all miserably squalid. One was situated a little distance up from the water, and was reached by a flight of rude stairs. There were Nottingham lace curtains at the windows. Evidently it was the house of the big Indian, though there was no totem pole to indicate his superior rank.
There were eight canvas-covered wigwams in the village. The covers were probably made of bark mats, but they looked like old sails hung over a long pole, the sides elevated a little, so as to give a perpendicular fall of three feet. The door was a slit in front, which was lapped back when open. The Indians, with the exception of those engaged in transferring freight from the ship to the storehouses, were all late risers, and with our glass we watched "the getting up" of the whole community. In the wigwams we could see all that was done.
The Indians ate their breakfasts from a rock, while sitting behind it on the ground. After they were satisfied, the dogs walked over the table and licked up everything that was left: a good economy – there was no need of cloth or brush, for after the dogs all things were ready for the next spread.
The dirty, fat squaws sat around upon the wet stones in the pouring rain, barefoot, unwashed and uncombed for a lifetime, and clad in rags and old blankets, which they hugged about their necks.
The men were much better-looking. They wore stout rubber boots, and were dressed much like our farm laborers when they start upon their morning duties.
We saw the return of a canoe with six Indians, men and women, from a hunting expedition on Douglas Island, where are many deer and other wild game. They were snugly packed in among the drift-wood which they had collected along their way.
At Juneau there is a shelving pebbly shore, which can hardly be called a beach, – a most unusual sight in these waters. The Indians all clambered from the canoe, the men protected by their rubber boots, but the women with bare feet and ankles, and hauled it upon the shore, far enough to enable them to unload the spoils of their expedition. Each one hurried to a hut with some bundle more precious perhaps than the rest, and then returned to work with a will. A squaw, whose face was black as soot and oil could paint it, pulled over a pile of blankets and took out her pappoose, which she carried to her wigwam.
The men and women worked together, throwing off the drift-wood and other loot gathered upon their way. The contents of the canoe consisted of the skins of various kinds of animals, baskets, three dead deer wrapped in their hides, old tinware, rags, and other cast-away rubbish of the miners, all of which are of use to the Indians.
Two of the party, an Indian and his squaw, were hideously painted with soot, to protect them from the sun, but some say they paint themselves from vanity, and others, from an inborn love of hideousness. Some of the women had white bones called labretts protruding from their lips. All looked loathsome and miserable. They stew and dry themselves in the smoke of their wigwams until they smell like bad bacon. If one comes into a room, you may know he has been there by the odor he leaves. Their villages abound with wolfish-looking dogs, small and yelping as if in a chronic state of hunger. We saw at Kasaan thirteen of them in one group hungrily watching the waves lapping upon the rocks, for waste bits of food which they might bring from the ship offshore.
A squaw came from her hut, elaborately dressed in a white embroidered blanket, made from the wool of the wild mountain sheep. She had every color of the rainbow elsewhere displayed in her costume. She carried an umbrella in one hand, a long cane or wand in the other, and took a position exactly in front of us, where she remained immovable for some time. She evidently thought our field-glass was a photographer's camera, and she was being "taken." Another old squaw, tall and lean, wrapped in a tan-colored blanket, with bare feet and legs, stalked back and forth under an old umbrella for more than an hour. She was a weird creature, and with her long cedar staff would have posed well for a Meg Merriles.
FLOATING ICE, TAKOU INLET.
There exists no sense of modesty or morality among these poor Alaskans. Missionaries tell us it is difficult to give them a proper idea of personal honor, there is such an element of moral depravity existing among the mining population.
As the ship was preparing to leave the dock, a little Indian girl was brought on board by Miss Mathews, a teacher in the mission school at Juneau. The child is an orphan and is being sent to Sitka to remove her from the influence of a depraved sister. A number of the official dignitaries of Juneau also came on board en route to attend court at Sitka.
We crossed the channel to the gold mines on Douglas Island at 10.30 A. M., where we remained until noon, when we started northward toward Pyramid Harbor at the head of Lynn Channel. We first steamed back upon our track toward Takou Inlet, and met many blocks of blue ice on our way, which came down from Takou Cañon, where there are large glaciers.
Rounding the southeastern point of Douglas Island, we came in sight of a long snow range of mountains upon Admiralty Island, which was on our left, where Snow Mountain sends its white summit far above the clouds. After entering Lynn Channel, we began to see small glaciers and great masses of ice in ravines and scooped-out hollows on the mountain sides, upon our right. Then Eagle Glacier came in view. This is an immense river of ice between the mountains, 1200 feet high, and looked, what it really is, a frozen cataract. If one can look upon the falls of Niagara and imagine them congealed and motionless, they can realize what we saw when we looked upon Eagle Glacier. We sighted twelve of these glaciers on our passage up Lynn Channel; the Eagle, Rainbow, and Davidson's being the three largest.
Davidson's Glacier is the largest of all, and is really a part of the great Muir Glacier on Glacier Bay – an arm of the ocean almost parallel to Lynn Channel farther to the west.
Davidson's Glacier comes down to the channel like an immense river of ice, two or three miles in width, and seamed and cut by huge chasms, the edges of which glisten and deepen into an intensely deep blue.
Rainbow Glacier hangs high upon the mountains two thousand feet above us. It rolls down from greater heights, and fills the great spaces between them with clear blue ice, the overflow of which drops with thundering crash and echo into the waters of Lynn Channel below. The ice is heaped in the middle of its flow, so that when it breaks it leaves a perfect arch, which, in a clear sunlight, flashes and scintillates with all the hues of a rainbow.
The mountains which stand upon both sides of Lynn Channel are lofty and beautiful. In gazing at them I find myself constantly, almost unconsciously, repeating, –
"Ye are the things that tower;
Whose smile makes glad,
Whose frown is terrible."
I can only add that they are most satisfyingly arctic in every respect.
We arrived at Chilkat on Pyramid Harbor at seven o'clock P. M. Here is located a large salmon canning establishment, which had not been operated for two or three years; it may be on account of the fierce and brutal nature of the Chilkat and Chilkoot tribes in its neighborhood. There are a dozen log huts, many of them roofless, scattered about on a level area of several acres, probably the debris of a dissipated glacier. It is a wild and desolate-looking place. One might as well be a veritable Robinson Crusoe as to come here to be a prey to mosquitoes and Indians, with the chance of an ignoble death from the latter.
We had not been anchored half an hour when there came to the ship, in a birch canoe, a delicate little lady, who was introduced as Mrs. White, the wife of Dr. F. F. White, the mission teacher at Haynes Post Office, about six miles distant across Pyramid Harbor. They saw the smoke from our steamer far down the channel, and walked four miles to the shore, just to get a sight of some sign of white civilization. They heard the ship's gun as they came to the shore, and saw and knew it was a steamer from California. Not having heard of the reopening of the cannery, they were not only delighted but surprised at the sight. They seized a canoe upon the shore, although a small and leaky one, and came over to our ship, where they found friends and old acquaintances. They remained with us until noon of the next day, which was the hour of our departure. In conversation with them we learned a great deal of the terrible labor and danger which these missionaries undergo in their efforts to civilize and christianize these benighted Alaskans.
May 4. One hundred and sixty tons of freight were taken from the ship at Chilkat. It consisted of every supply in the way of groceries, canned provisions, steam boilers, cans, and all kinds of stores and machinery needed for a campaign in the salmon season. There is no pier or wharf of any kind at Chilkat, and our anchor drew its chain ninety-five feet before it touched bottom, about an eighth of a mile off-shore. When the works were first opened at Chilkat, there was built a fine pier. The teredo is so abundant in these waters that the pier fell into the channel about six months after, a thorough wreck from the ravages of these little insects.
Captain Hunter took us with several others on shore in a lighter, and we explored the place pretty thoroughly. We went into a log hut with no roof above it, where there was an old squaw lying upon a heap of rubbish in one corner, under a kind of tent. She was groaning with rheumatism in her hands and limbs, and seemed really grateful for the words of sympathy from Captain Hunter. Beside her was a younger squaw, baking a fire cake of some gray material by the feeble flame of a few sticks upon the ground. Dirt and squalid poverty and suffering were all before us.
We went into another hut. The bare ground was the floor, and cracks between the logs wide enough to thrust our hands through were the windows. A rickety roof covered this mansion, for the Indian who lives in it is a carpenter, and he showed us his tools: an old adze, and a hatchet so rusty and worn, it may have been George Washington's for aught we know. He was very proud of the possession of these rare instruments of his trade. To them he probably owes the protection of a roof over his head; it may be also, his ability to maintain two squaws in his cabin. One, the old squaw, was braiding a basket in the corner, and wheezing at every cross of the bark strands. The other, a much younger Indian girl, was lazily lounging upon a heap of rags. A pot of fish-oil and a pile of dried fish occupied another corner.
A rank kind of grass grows here in summer; it was standing in patches three feet high all around us, resembling wild rye, but dry from exposure during the winter. We gathered a large bunch as a specimen of the vegetation in Chilkat.
The Elder weighed her anchor at twelve M. while we were at lunch, and we started on our return passage down Lynn Channel. We went upon the captain's deck for our last look upon the mountains and glaciers of this most arctic portion of our northern tour.
At Chilkat we were about 60° north latitude. The wind was chill, but not discomforting. The glaciers shone beautifully in the declining sun, and the mountains were as grand and satisfying as when we saw them the day before. They are the stupendous works of nature which never suffer loss by familiarity.
The clouds grew heavy above, although the atmosphere was clear around us. High up among the towering peaks of the mountains we could see a wild storm of snow and wind, driving furiously from peak to pinnacle, and shrouding them in cloud-like mists.
Not a single snowflake settled upon the blue unruffled water of the channel, and the air was several degrees warmer than when we started from Chilkat. We stood at our open windows and watched the scenes moving slowly by, with no need of extra protection on our heads or shoulders. Lieutenant Schwatka speaks of the scenery in Lynn Channel as among the greatest wonders of our wonderland.
At six o'clock P. M. we arrive at the entrance of Glacier Bay. Up the western shore leads the icy range of Mount St. Elias Alps. They resemble in configuration the Olympian Mountains in Washington Territory, but are much more icy, cold, and grand. The air grew misty, and the night came on dark and rainy.
The Indian boys from Metlahkatlah, under Dr. Jackson's care, came into the saloon and gave us a sacred concert. They sing remarkably well. One accompanied the rest upon the piano. Indians, at least these natives of the northwest, can learn to sing, as these Metlahkatlah boys have proved to us.
May 4. Our ship had never plied these waters before, and Captain Hunter told us frankly that he was fearful of the consequences of taking her into the icy waters of Glazier Bay, as, at the time, it was more than usually flooded with floating ice and small icebergs. At Juneau he had learned of the recent fall of an immense section of ice along the whole face of the Muir Glacier. It came down with terrific thunders, dashing itself into fragments as it struck the waters of the bay, and causing the rise of a gigantic wave to sweep along the shore to the almost entire destruction of an Indian encampment. One Indian only made his escape by clinging to the limbs and body of a cedar-tree, against which he was thrown by the force of the wave.
THE MUIR GLACIER.
We saw the blue waters flecked and fretted with myriad shapes of floating ice, of mingled white and emerald, – and the long line of icy mountains leading up the western shore, culminating now and then in loftier summits, among which Mounts Crillon and Fairweather towered preeminent. I quote from Frederick Schwatka's account of Alaskan scenery, the remark of a "venerable traveller," while looking north at the entrance to Glacier Bay. "You can take just what we see here, and put it down on Switzerland, and it will hide all there is of mountain scenery in Europe;" adding, "I have been all over the world, but you are now looking at a scene that has not its parallel elsewhere on the globe."
Professor Denman of San Francisco, who has given much attention to Alaskan glaciers, says: "Muir Glacier is a spectacle whose grandeur cannot be described – a vast frozen river of ice, ever slowly moving to the sea, and piling the enormous masses higher between the mountain banks, until their summit towers hundreds of feet in air. Where the point of the glacier pushes out into and overhangs the water, – vast fragments breaking apart every few moments of their own weight, and falling with thundering crash into the sea, to float away as enormous icebergs, – it affords a spectacle which can only be understood and appreciated by one who beholds it with his own eyes. From the summit of Muir Glacier no less than twenty-nine others are to be seen in various directions, all grinding and crowding their huge masses toward the sea; a sight which must certainly be one which few others can equal."
Mr. Edward Roberts writes in the "Overland Monthly": "I do not know how wide, nor how long, nor how deep Glacier Bay is. One does not think of figures and facts when sailing over its waters and enjoying the novel features. Flood Switzerland and sail up some of its cañnons toward Mont Blanc, and you will have then another Glacier Bay. But until the sea-waves wash the feet of that Swiss peak, and until one can sail past the glaciers of that country, there will never be found a companion bay to this of Alaska. Norway, with all its ruggedness, has nothing to equal it; and there is not a mountain in all the ranges of the Rockies which has the majestic gracefulness of Fairweather Peak, which looks down upon the bay."
Our ship encountered heavy seas during the night, and pitched and rolled about in the darkness in a manner quite distressful to timid voyagers. We remained quiet in our beds, trusting to be safely watched over and guarded from the dangerous rocks, which are, in these waters, the bête noir of navigators. The ship stopped once in the night for the passage of ice, and again for daylight and the tide at the entrance of Peril Strait. We made the passage in safety, and anchored in Sitka, May 5th.
SITKA, JUNEAU, AND DOUGLAS ISLAND.
MAY 5. We had upon the deck of the steamship two fine crafts from San Francisco to Sitka. One was a large steam launch for the use of naval officials in Alaskan seas. It was surprising to see how large these vessels were when launched upon the harbor at Sitka. They had seemed so small in comparison with the deck of the Elder, which was nearly three hundred feet long.
The tide was strong from the ocean, the pier at Sitka old and weak, consequently the Elder was anchored a little way offshore, and we were compelled to land from a lighter, or remain on shipboard until night.
We entered the small boat in a drenching rain, and proceeded to the principal store in town, kept by Rev. J. G. Brady, a government commissioner of Alaska, where we bought baskets made by Yakutat women under the snowy peaks of Mount St. Elias; eagle's wings and other curios. We made, by the courteous invitation of Mr. Brady, a delightful call upon Mrs. Brady, an agreeable and entertaining lady, who told us a great deal of the customs of the Sitka natives. There were Easter services at the Greek church. We went near it to examine its exterior, and seeing nothing peculiarly attractive about it, turned away, as strangers were not permitted to enter during the hours of services. There was a mixed company of Indians and Russians about the entrance; many of them had little children and babies – all neatly dressed, and some were quite pretty. We joined them, and walked respectfully forward into the church, and stood among them in the square, vacant area in front of the chancel.
The people were very devout in their aspect and earnestly attentive to the instructions of two fine-looking Russian Fathers, who were officiating at the altar.
We remained for some time, quietly observing the appointments of the church – moving forward to the rail before the chancel in order to do so, without look or word of disapproval from any one. In fact, we thought the benevolent faces of the priests had a pleasant gleam of approval, as if they quite understood us, and were willing to gratify our curiosity. We retired as quietly as we entered, and surprised various other tourists on the ship by having accomplished what none of them had been able to, although they had several times in the day attempted it.
At four P. M. the rain seemed to slacken, and we again embarked in the little lighter and went on shore to visit Dr. Jackson's Mission School. We had been kindly invited to be present at an exhibition of scholarship, earlier in the afternoon, but the violence of the storm prevented. We found the Mission in a very flourishing condition. There were one hundred and seven boys and sixty girls, all between the ages of ten and eighteen or nineteen years. The teachers are enthusiastic, able, and are doing effectual work; they are building for results, far better, perhaps, than they can now realize, in the great scheme for the emancipation of the Alaskans from barbarism and superstition.
Dr. Jackson accompanied us to Indian River. This is a full, rapid stream of mountain water, flowing from glacier-crowned summits behind Sitka into the cañon below, and thence into the harbor, making an island of the level area upon which Sitka stands. It is a wildly romantic stream, at some points overarched by birches and white and yellow cedars, and along its banks were alders and thick clumps of willows springing from the soft green moss which grows beneath them.
There are beautiful young Norway spruces and fine groves of primeval fir-trees growing all over the six hundred and forty acres appropriated by government to the Mission School.
The harbor of Sitka has deep water, but is dotted over with lovely small islands and rocky islets all covered with low green shrubs and trees. The water is moderately calm, and oftentimes reflects like a mirror the beautiful islands and mountains on the shores.
Across the harbor are great snowy mountains, behind which the sun sets, shedding over all such a golden light that in beholding it, one feels almost as if transported to enchanted realms.
We saw such a sunset shining over Sitka and its beautiful harbor as we returned from Indian River with Dr. Jackson!
We did not visit the "Palace" at Sitka. It was too stormy while we were there to undertake an excursion promising so little satisfaction. It is a large three-story wooden structure with a square roof, standing upon a little elevation by the shore, and very neglected. It looks more like an old warehouse than a palace, and is, I think, used for the purposes of storage, offices, etc.
The population of Sitka numbers eleven hundred people, one hundred of which are from the States, three hundred are Russians, and seven hundred are native Alaskans.
The Indian village stands on the shore upon one side of the town, and behind it is a burial-place. It is like other burial-grounds before described; one tomb, probably containing the ashes of a chieftain, has the carved image of an eagle perched with drooping wings upon a small pole rising from the middle of the roof.
Witchcraft and all the direful superstitions pertaining to it exist in a deplorable degree among the natives throughout Alaska. At every port where we called, throughout our voyage, we were told some fearful story of recent horror and torture connected with it.
Missionaries have labored in vain to eradicate the terrible superstition. Some of the more civilized profess to have renounced their belief in it, but facts are constantly occurring to give the lie to their professions. Among the company of Indian boys from Metlahkatlah which came on shipboard with Dr. Jackson, there was one fleeing from persecution as a wizard. He had undergone torture, but had made his escape, and his father had sent him to the Mission School at Sitka for safety.
May 6. We received calls from Dr. Jackson, Judge and Mrs. Brady, and Mrs. Baker this morning. They stood upon the pier and waved us a parting farewell, as our ship steamed out from Sitka and sailed away among the "Thousand Islands" of her harbor.
As we moved away from the pier, it would be difficult to imagine a more lovely scene of spring warmth and sunshine, betokening upon every side a general uprising of nature, after the long gloomy slumbers of an arctic winter. Tender leaves were springing to birth upon the graceful birches, and the willows were gay with yellow catkins. Grasses were growing upon the small bits of lawn before the low cottages, and pale green mosses were fresh and fluff with the growth of spring. Birds were beginning to sing upon the boughs which overhung the swift-flowing Indian River, and no sign of the visitation of winter frosts or ice or snow was visible anywhere, until we lifted our eyes from the low surroundings of sea and land to the ever-silent mountains, whose lofty peaks stood cold and stark against the blue skies, vying with the clouds in whiteness.
The symmetrical Mount Vestovia stood like a mighty pyramid just behind the city, its great silver firs and cedars forming a fine relief for the quaintness of the old Russian castle, the Greek church, and the low rambling architecture of the Russian regime, in this our "North Land," while its sharp, white crest shone with a constant light like a silver star, whose soft radiance seemed a benediction on the little city at her feet.
Behind Vestovia, and reaching far away toward the interior of Baronoff Island, rose a lofty serrated chain of mountains, ghostly and drear in their shrouds of everlasting snow. To the west, Mount Edgecomb stood like a bold strong buttress of the sky, while the beautiful blue waters of the harbor, with its lovely islands, seemed to be dancing on their sparkling way out into the far dim reaches of the broad Pacific Ocean, which opened its illimitable spaces before them.
At nine o'clock A. M. we began our homeward voyage from Sitka, and soon after we had a gentle reminder of the rolling influence of old ocean as we crossed a bit of open sea before entering upon the winding waters of Peril Strait.
Mount Edgecomb stood out boldly upon a small island on the ocean side. It is a fine high mountain, with a small bowl-shaped dome upon its top. The surface round about it slopes gradually to the shore, presenting more the semblance of a habitable country than any other which we have seen in Alaska or its islands.
The scenery along Peril Strait is very picturesque, but it does not partake of that lofty grandeur which characterizes Lynn Channel. The fascination of the passage lies in its waters and rocky shores and islets. Not many miles from Sitka there is a difficult passage, where the water swirls and shoots in eddies and currents over hidden rocks. I watched the passage closely, for there, eight years before, our captain's ship was wrecked. For nearly three months he remained with his crew upon the little island near by, where is now a small settlement, which they began and named Eureka.
As our ship passed through this "Peril," slowly making her way from point to point, we observed the curves in the wake which followed. They left the impress of a distinct and compact letter S upon the surface.
We saw immense flocks of black ducks with white wings, and large sea gulls flying along the shores. Upon a brown sea-weedy rock, which rose a few feet above low tide, we counted thirty black cormorants feeding upon mussels, and stretching up their long glossy necks to look at us as we passed by.
At five P. M. we cast our anchor at the pier at Killisnoo. This is an Indian village upon the west shore of Admiralty Island, where is an establishment for the manufacture of oil from herrings, which swarm into the shelter of a little bay near by to escape the ravages of the whales which pursue them from the ocean.
The wife of one of the gentlemen who conduct the business here, told us that she once counted twelve whales spouting at one time, just outside the bay within which the poor herrings were being caught in seines. The gentleman said he caught twenty-seven hundred barrels at one "catch." Had the poor fish remained at sea, their chances of safety would have been greater.
Captain Hunter invited us to go on shore and call upon Saginaw Jake. At many of these villages our government gives a commission to the one most worthy, to act as keeper of the peace between his people and the white settlers among them.
Those who hold these commissions are very proud of their honorable and responsible positions, and as a rule are faithful servants of the government. They receive with their appointment a large silver star or badge of office, which they display upon all occasions.
Saginaw Jake's house was a board structure one story high. An immense bald eagle with outstretched wings, carved from wood and painted black and white, surmounted his door. Upon the other end, beneath the gable of the roof, was the shield of the United States, over which was the name of his tribe, and a legend upon either side of which he is very proud.
|By the Governor's commission||Shield, U.S.A.||Prominent in song and story,|
|And the Company's permission,||I've attained the top of glory;|
|I am made the great Tyhee||As Saginaw I'm known to fame,|
|Of this entire illahee.||Jake is my common name.|
Over all a small roof projected for the protection of the legend. In the house, Saginaw Jake, who is a short, laughing Indian, and quite lame in his gait, drew out his treasures from some old trunks, and exhibited them to us. To see his delight at our expressions of admiration at every fresh exhibition, was very amusing.
There were two full suits of dark blue uniform, gold lace, buttons, epaulets, and all the etceteras of a military commander's full-dress uniform. These Jake wears upon all important occasions; he was sorry he did not know we were going to honor him with a call, for he should have put them on. His blankets were a marvel of savage embroidery, with devices requiring an adept in Indian lore to interpret.
Jake's wife pointed to a "Sunday cake" upon the table. It was a marvelous specimen of culinary skill. The glazing was of a grayish pink color, upon which were traced in red outlines, figures of Indians running around a central knob, the import of which I could not guess. The cake was for their supper. Jake's wife had been at the Mission in Sitka, where she had learned to cook. Leaving Saginaw Jake happy over a pair of eye-glasses which C. gave him, we made a call upon the white ladies of the place.
We met three ladies, two of them the wives of the proprietors of the oil works, and the third the teacher of the government school, all very intelligent and agreeable people. They returned our call with their husbands, and spent a pleasant hour with us upon shipboard. At nine P. M. we were again pursuing our return voyage to Juneau.
May 7. We awoke this morning at Juneau, where our ship exchanged mails, etc. It was cloudy, but dry. At seven o'clock we were ready to walk on shore, which was well, for before eight it began to rain, and we returned in a drenching shower. Juneau has no decent street; we picked our way along the dirty pathway, across little streams which trickled down from the hill above and ran into the bay, along the gray stony beach. We went as far as the post-office, and bought baskets and curios made by Indians near Mount St. Elias, returning to the Elder in season for breakfast. We have several ladies on board going to Oregon and California.
At 10.30 we left Juneau and steamed across the channel once more to Douglas Island, where we visited the mines and crushing mills of the Treadwell Mining Company.
Up a trail of half a mile on the side of the mountain we came to an immense open pit, in which the miners were at work blasting out the ore, three hundred feet below the surface where we stood. From the bottom of the pit runs a tunnel which conducts the ore upon cars to the crushing-mills on the shore below. We went through the various departments of these mills and saw enough of their operations to give us some idea of their principles and results.
Through the kindness of Dr. Jackson we had received a call upon the ship from E. W. Weesner and wife, of Douglas Island, when we were here on May 3d. Again we had the pleasure of seeing them. Mr. Weesner is a member of the "Friends Society," and was sent to Alaska, accompanied by his family and another gentleman and lady, by Kansas "Friends," to establish a mission school on Douglas Island.
He is an enthusiastic and successful laborer in the mission work in which he and his co-laborers have engaged. The field is a broad one, the labor great, oftentimes attended with much danger, always with much self-sacrifice, and sometimes, we fear, with many privations. He hopes to be assisted in the establishment of such a home school on Douglas Island as Dr. Jackson has so successfully instituted and maintained by the contributions of its patrons and the aid of the United States government at Sitka. Upon our return to the East we shall try to do what we can ourselves, and to interest our friends in Mr. and Mrs. Weesner and the "Friends Mission Home School" in Alaska.
Three P. M. There is nothing to record in the progress of our voyage except that it is still raining. I find it has rained many days, but you must not suppose that we are dissatisfied with the weather. On the contrary, we congratulate ourselves that we have not seen a thick fog upon the sea or mountains since we started on our Alaskan voyage. The chances are that a month later tourists will experience many disappointments from the presence of obscuring fogs. Large cakes of ice, not large enough to be mentioned as icebergs, or numerous enough to threaten us with danger, are floating along our way. They are green as emerald, and often take fanciful forms, sometimes like flocks of white geese in the distance, or mammoth swans floating gracefully by upon the pulsing waves.
May 8. At ten o'clock last night our ship came to anchor a little way off the shore of Mitgoff Island to await daylight and a full tide, before entering Wrangell Strait, which is a difficult passage at best, and had never been navigated by so large a vessel as the G. W. Elder. It separates Mitgoff Island from the large eastern peninsula of Kuprianoff Island. On our upward voyage we avoided it by taking to the more open seas.
The sun shone bright at 5.30 this morning, and spread a kind of golden haze over the hoary hills and white mountains. There had been a snow-storm in the upper atmosphere, and the low green mountains alongshore looked as if covered with feathery hoar-frost.
Several of the crew went off in a boat to dig clams for breakfast upon the shallows near the shore.
On the previous day we sighted a low vessel far in our wake, and watched its progress by its trail of black smoke on the horizon, until we lost sight of it in the twilight. Now it came steadily up and passed us, as we were still awaiting the tides. The old tale of the hare and the tortoise, thought I, as it crept slowly on through the Narrows before us. The cabin boys were sweeping and dusting within and the deck boys scrubbing and polishing without, and I took the opportunity to brush and free our skirts and coats from the dust and mire of our excursion in the mines the previous day.
At eight o'clock we started for the Narrows. The shores approach quite near to each other in some places, and the rocks poke up their ugly heads all covered with sea-weeds and mosses, which fortunately indicate their whereabouts at high water to the watchful pilot.
We moved slowly, turning this way and that way to avoid the shoals indicated by buoys, or the grim and cruel rocks, some visible and some hidden we knew not where, but above which stood white signals of various designs to denote different degrees and stages of the dangerous passage.
At last we were safely through the most difficult part of the Strait, and Captain Hunter came around to see if we had been good sailors under the excitement of our morning voyage. We asked him if we were quite through the dangers of the Narrows. He answered us with a look of honest gratitude upon his face, "Yes, thank God, we are through with them," and added, "The ship is too large for these Narrows; I shall not go to Red Bay, although I have their mails on board. They may send them there by a smaller ship. The Elder draws fourteen feet without freight." The steward came to tell us there were great multitudes of white gulls upon the shallows near the shores, feeding upon clams and mussels. They rose and fluttered low, and settled again upon the brown weedy shore like a fall of great snowflakes in a drifting squall.
Farther on were numerous flocks of wild ducks and white-necked divers; then came multitudes of large black birds with bills as red as blood, doubtless another species of duck or diver.
Thousands and thousands of snipes in many flocks went winging their way low over the water around us, and flights of sable cormorants pass now and then along the coast. Eagles float in the air, high over all, and are so numerous among the high, timbered mountains that we can get sight of one or two, almost every time we turn our eyes above the sea and its surroundings. With our glass we can see their fierce bald heads and white-plumed necks, and tails, and almost measure the sweep of their broad, black wings.
We saw an Indian fishing camp upon the shore of Kuprianoff. Several Indian men were sitting upon some stones in the edge of the forest, as if they had just come out from their wigwam, which stood behind them under the shadows of the fir-trees. Drawn upon the shore in front of them, were several bark and log canoes, and about them lay scattered their various camp furnishings, piles of skins, etc. Red blankets and shirts were hanging over a pole near by, and strung upon another pole were a dozen or more of split salmon, drying in the sun and air. It was a real storybook scene, and came well up to our childhood imaginings of Indians in the wild woods.
At twelve o'clock P. M. we arrived at Fort Wrangell, where we went on shore. We crossed the long pier leading up to the town, for Wrangell, unlike most of the ports on this coast, has not a deep-water shore. It is situated upon an island of the same name, is a trading port, has a custom officer and a government school.
The natives were sitting about in groups upon the stones and ground. The women and children were neatly clad, and were very pretty and picturesque, with their rosy brunette complexions and red, blue, or yellow kerchiefs upon their heads. The Indian men and boys of Fort Wrangell did not impress us so favorably in comparison as at Juneau and Sitka. It may be that the men are many of them away mining, hunting, or fishing. We bought garnets, and carved silver bracelets, etc., and went to look at the totem poles and totems tombs. Most of the Indian houses are built of logs and are very old. A few aspire to frame-houses; evidently they are of the F. F.'s of the Stikeens, for their frame-houses are built behind some very ancient totems.
The first totem to which we came was an enormous whale, carved from a huge log of fir or pine, four feet in diameter. Its great grinning teeth were painted white, between his jaws and parted lips. It was supported behind with its great head resting upon the small house containing ancestral ashes. Close beside it stood another small house, in a somewhat better state of preservation, although the aperture for the reception of the boxes containing the ashes was open and the boxes within were broken and scattered about. Crouching upon this house was the figure of a wolf, about ten feet from tip to tip; his head and tail being extended in a line with his back, – an arrangement which was a necessity, since he was carved from another great log. His mouth is open, his tongue protruding, and his teeth gleaming with white paint. A green mould, which looked almost like a coat of paint, had covered his body.
Next we came to the totem poles. These we found standing before old dilapidated log houses, having no sign of present habitation. The crow, seal, jay, and bear were the leading figures carved upon them. Farther along the shore was the house of the Stikeen chief. It was a two-story mansion with bay windows and other modern ornamentations, but in an unfinished condition. The chief had boarded up his windows, and gone with his squaw and children to fishing and hunting grounds for the summer. The Indian is an aristocrat, in having a winter residence in town, which is too confining and restraining for his wild nature in the milder months of summer, when he resorts to the shores and woods, and remains there until the frosts and snows of winter drive him town-ward again.
In front of the Stikeen chief's house were two very elaborate totem poles. They were from forty to fifty feet in height, and four and a half in diameter. Large trees were selected, which from top to bottom were carved with images of eagles, crows, and bears, representing the honors and brave exploits of four or five generations. One was surmounted by an American tile hat carved of wood, to tell that the present chief considered himself a "Boston man." Doubtless he wore the star of a government official.
Before our return to the Elder we called at the house of Mrs. Young, a teacher in the mission and government school. The school was not in session, but the general appearance of the females at Fort Wrangell spoke volumes to us in favor of the success of the mission. It is through the Indian women of Alaska that their race is to be redeemed and elevated.
At two P. M. we steamed away from Fort Wrangell. As we went past the old Indian burial-place, which stands well out into the channel, we remarked many roof-like structures, surrounded with pickets and painted and ornamented with images of frogs, birds, and beasts. The captain told us something of the shrewdness of the old Stikeen chief.
The Stikeen River enters the sea about six miles above Wrangell. It is a large river and at certain seasons is frequented by vast quantities of salmon. The Stikeen Indians have always claimed an exclusive right to fish and navigate the river for thirty miles back to the line of boundary between Alaska and British Columbia.
After the English opened their gold mines beyond this boundary, they were obliged to navigate our portion of the Stikeen River in transport between them and their ports of British Columbia.
The old Stikeen chief established a toll on the river at the line of boundary, which he collected for years. The English traders and miners paid these tolls more from fear than in recognition of his rights to demand them. The chief is now a rich as well as a big Indian. He is also a most skilful smuggler, and thus far has defied detection. It is said he rigs his boats for a long voyage and goes to the continent of Asia, returning safely with a freight of opium and other merchandise. It is to be hoped that the custom officials at Wrangell are not in danger of that infliction of total blindness which affects "those who will not see," if the story of the Stikeen's voyages to China is a true one.
RETURN TO TACOMA.
TOURISTS who go early in the season to Alaska will find many curios to take home with them, such as Indian blankets, baskets, mats, carved bracelets, rings, and a variety of horn spoons. These last are carved very ingeniously from the horns of the wild mountain sheep and a species of snow-white chamois or goats, with small horns as black as ebony, which frequent the highest altitudes of the great snow mountains all through the region of our Northwest. Their spoons are used for ladles to dip the seal and fish oil from their woven buckets, in which it is stored for the winter. Some are made smooth and chased with uncouth hieroglyphics, emblems of tribal distinctions, etc. Others have traceries of lines and geometrical figures, outlines of simple flowers, etc., all stained red with a dye which they make from some particular root. The smaller black spoon, which we found at Chilkat, made from the horn of a mountain goat, is carved along the handle with the heads of animals with large eyes and upright ears, somewhat resembling a rabbit, with other strange devices.
The Chilkat people with the Hydahs are considered the highest types of all the many tribes of Alaska in intelligence, physical strength, and wealth. They are fierce and warlike, but all are industrious. The Hydahs excel in their stone carvings, but the Chilkats have no rivals in the manufacture of fine blankets for dancing or war, so that all blankets in Alaska, as a rule, are called "Chilkat blankets." These are made from the wool of the white goat. The pelts are washed and combed and used for bedding, but the combings are carefully made into rolls by the squaws, who sit upon the ground and form them into their proper shape, when they roll and stretch them upon their bared knees with the palms of their hands into a cord or yarn. This yarn they dye with various bright colors, made from roots, mosses, and barks of trees, and weave into their blankets. Some are white as snow, with highly colored figures and stripes interwoven throughout; and others are red, blue, and yellow, with the like ornamentations of other colors. One, a dancing-blanket, which we saw, was covered with figures made of a variety of white shells, embroidered upon a red ground; and still another was studded with white pearl buttons. Long narrow strips with fringes were to be tied below the knees, and fringes for the ankles accompanied this dancing-blanket. Some of these blankets are valued at a hundred dollars, and many tourists are found who are willing to become the fortunate purchasers of them. They are woven by suspending the warp from a carved upright frame, and the bright colors are woven in with a bone or ivory shuttle. It is a marvel how they are kept free from contact with the dirt which surrounds them, but we were told that the squaws kept them covered with a sheet resembling oiled silk, made from the dried intestines of the bear, and sewed together in strips. As the wealth of the natives in all the different tribes is reckoned by the number of blankets they possess, the Chilkats arc considered the richest of all Alaskans.
At Chilkat we picked up a pebble white as marble, and rounded and polished as if worn into symmetry by the waves of the ocean; yet there it lay among the rough stones upon the little beach almost a hundred miles beyond their abrading influence. A geologist of our party told us it was doubtless a glacier pebble, worn into its smooth and rounded form by the grinding flow of an ancient glacier, which once overhung the harbor. The area upon which we landed was the debris of a glacier, and we could see the track it left upon the bare mountain side to mark its preexistence as one of the many glaciers which are now upon both sides of Lynn Channel. I picked from among others, attracted by a bluish white color, another pebble, somewhat irregular in its form, in which were easily distinguished five distinct specks of free gold. I gave it to a mining engineer of our party, who said he should send some prospectors back into the mountains, following the old track of the glacier in search of a gold mine. We at once named the prospective mine, or perhaps the dim perspective mine, "The William Seward." May it some time come to light and give all the honor that gold can give to the name of the great statesman.
We brought from Chilkat the wand of a Shaman. The Indian who sold it to us remarked he was glad to part with it. "It had done much mischief." It was made of bone, about a foot in length, and sharply pointed at one end, while the other was carved to represent a grotesque human head.
At Juneau we found Indian coats and robes made of plucked eagles' skins sewed together, and dried eagles' skins with head, beak, talons, wings, and entire plumage of the noble birds, which, in the hands of a skilful taxidermist, can be finely mounted as mementos of Alaska. Dr. Jackson told us he had seen great flocks of these fierce birds, too numerous to be counted, flying over the mountains and the seas. One lady said she had seen thirty or forty sitting upon the boughs of a single tree.
The Hydah Indians excel in their stone carvings. We saw some beautiful dark stone vases, very antique and oriental in shapes, and finely ornamented with strange figures of birds, beasts, and fishes, combined with human heads and limbs in strange juxtaposition; which all have significance to these native artists. We brought home with us a rare stone pipe of exquisite finish and workmanship. Their vases are not confined to one model. The artists vary their conceptions of shape and ornamentation as if they wrought out at will symbols which embody their own wild and fantastic imaginings. The instruments used in all their work are extremely few, rude, and simple.
Beautiful silver rings and finely chased bracelets for the wrists or ankles are made from ten-cent pieces, quarters, halves, and whole silver dollars.
Most excellent basket work and table mats come to Sitka and Juneau from the Indians near Mount St. Elias. They are woven or braided from the inner bark of the roots of trees, which is very strong and flexible. They use various colored dyes, and weave into their work fanciful figures and ornamental stripes. Old glass bottles of whatever shape are avariciously seized upon and covered with a delicate network of woven fibre, striped with bright colors. These they sell to tourists for toilet stands, etc.
At Sitka we saw many specimens of work which the mission girls and boys had done under the training influence of the school, showing that the native Alaskans are susceptible of great advancement in every desirable way.
The women and girls do very fine needle-work; the boys make good carpenters. A pretty chamber set of white cedar was shown to us, complete in all its parts and in the modern style, which was made wholly by the Indian boys. At Judge Brady's house we were shown a small model of a kyack, or Indian war canoe. It was about two feet long, made of dried seal-skins, and manned completely by a crew of Indian images, all painted and arrayed in war paint and dress, with eagles' plumes and instruments of warfare. The toy would be a credit to any manufacturer among us. A small model in white cedar of an Indian canoe was given us by Dr. Jackson. It is not only perfect as a model, but it is also a marvel of neatness and precision in execution, which would be a credit to the most skilful workman among our own people.
We were told at Sitka that the lowest degree of cold marked by the mercury in the previous winter of 1887 and 1888 was 6° above zero. In truth, the climate is less severe anywhere upon the coast of Alaska as far west as Cross Sound than is that of New England, owing to the Japanese current, the "black stream," or Kuro-Siwo. This warm equatorial current in the Pacific affects and moderates the climate of the great Alexander Archipelago, as the Gulf Stream of the Atlantic Ocean does that of the British Isles.
There are but very few domestic animals in Alaska. At Sitka there was one mule, which did no labor, and two cows. The latter were owned by a lady who went to Nanaimo and purchased them the season before we saw them. She sold their milk for fifteen cents per quart, but did not find it profitable to keep them, as she was forced to send to southern ports for grain, etc., to feed them.
There are wild strawberries in abundance at Sitka, and the red-bear berry, a kind of coarse, wild raspberry, which we sometimes find in the woods of New England; but the summer is too short to perfect apples, peaches, etc.
The fuel is obtained by the natives, who go in their canoes and fell the trees, which grow so near the shore that they will fall into the water. These they float toward the desired point, where they cut them into fire-wood, which they convey upon their backs to those who purchase it.
At Juneau there was one horse, a poor creature, which picked its way along the stony roadway on the shore as if disheartened at its lonely existence. These were the only domestic animals, excepting dogs, which we saw in Alaska.
The houses are usually built of rough logs placed upright and close together, and then plastered with blue clay, all hollows and cracks being filled with it. They are then covered with boards, which overlap so as to shed rain and snow, which makes them warm and safe as a fortress of defence against attacks from disaffected natives or wild beasts.
Mr. Weesner, of the Friends' Mission at Douglas Island, told us they brought one hundred and fifty of these logs upon their backs from the forest, and with them built the outer walls of their schoolhouse. The labor of building is very arduous when it is considered that they have no means of transporting heavy burdens excepting upon their own backs.
At three o'clock P. M. we were making all the speed we could, for the sky was gray and the rain falling fast. An hour later the mountains upon the continent were wholly hidden from us, and the green mountain islands were dark and shadowy in the thick, shrouding rain. The wind came down in gusts at first, and then blew a steady gale from the southeast.
The sea tossed, and the waves rose high about us, crested with foam, which flew away like feathers upon the wind, as they broke and gave place to others. Far as I could see, there was nothing but the white waves of the ocean, tossing and rolling in great heaving swells, and flinging their spray like flakes of snow, under the brooding darkness of the sky.
The wind was right against us in our course, and actually howled about the ship and whistled in her rigging. The storm continued to increase for more than an hour; the wind held steady, and the ship rose and pitched with every swell, cutting the deep troughs between with unfaltering progress.
The scene was truly a sublime one. I watched the force of the storm upon the ocean until past ten o'clock, when I closed the curtain of our window and lay down awhile to await the developments of the night.
We peeped out occasionally at the sea. It grew somewhat calmer as we advanced more within the shelter of the islands, and the sky was less dark. We were making for Naha Bay, where was a safe harbor at Loring. A little before midnight the ship checked her speed, and I recognized the headlands of Naha Bay. Soon followed the report of her gun and its resounding echoes, and then the shrill whistle of her engine.
Signal lights appeared at the salmon cannery, and we moved on to our anchorage, where we hoped to remain until daylight. Just as we were dropping asleep with an assurance of safety until morning, we had a suspicion that the ship had resumed her voyage.
May 9. At five A. M. We have just passed through Tongas Narrows in safety and are now in Dixon's Entrance, having left Naha Bay at one A. M. The ship pursued her way through the storm and darkness, within the shelter of the islands, so quietly that it was only when she took on her usual speed in clearer waters that we were aroused from our sleep.
At the breakfast-table Captain Hunter looked anxious and weary with his night of watchfulness and labor. He remarked that he should call only at those ports where he was assured of the safety of his ship, as the storm was still severe.
Fortunately I have been able to keep my head erect and level. None of us have expressed fear, although we have learned that wrecks are all too frequent in these waters during a storm to make it a jest to navigate them.
Captain Hunter inspires every one with confidence. He is a Swede by birth, married to an English wife, and has been navigating along the Atlantic and Pacific coast for many years. His untiring watchfulness and honest expression of the responsibilities of his charge, coupled with his acknowledged reputation as a wise and skilful commander and navigator, give us all confidence in the safe completion, in good time, of our adventurous northern tour.
Nine A. M. The storm runs high; the wind is strong and loud, and the waves beat upon the rocky shores and leap and dash their foam higher than the tops of the trees. The ship rolls and pitches in the swells and troughs of the sea so that one can hardly cross the saloon in safety. The sea everywhere is white with crested waves, which seethe and toss in all directions.
The old porter, who has sailed the seas all his life, solemnly blinks his small eyes at me and answers, "Yes, ma'am, it is a fine chopping sea, and the wind is more than half a gale."
Very few gentlemen have been seen on deck to-day. I stand and watch the sea, braced with bent knees and clenched hands against a window in the saloon. The good ship rises and falls from side to side with the sea; at times, with the regularity of a pendulum, and then with a wild and lurching pace, she stumbles through the billows, and rises and moves stately on again with the ease and grace of a buoyant bird upon the stormy waves.
If my head swims a bit, my eyes fly to the firm-set mountains upon the shore, and I realize literally what it is to "Lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help."
10.30 A. M. The rain comes down in torrents. There is no sign of land in any direction, but water – water everywhere. The words of the old song, I heard in my childhood, come to my memory like a thing of yesterday:
"Cease, rude Boreas, blustering railer;
List, ye Landsmen, all to me;
Messmate, hear a brother sailor
Sing the dangers of the sea."
11 o'clock A. M. The waves run less high, and five minutes later the fierce squall seems to have spent its fury, the coast appears dark but distinct, and the clouds begin to break away above it. The wind is less boisterous and the waves are calmer, as we come within the shelter of Porcher Island.
3 P. M. We are in Grenville Strait, and the wildness and grandeur of the storm at sea is past. It continues to rain, but in frequent showers rather than a steady down-pour. The scenery upon shore, for the first time since we left Fort Wrangell, begins to assert its claim upon us. The mountains upon both sides stand up bold and beautiful, with mossy rocks and hard, bare summits, while thick evergreen trees cover their sides down to the water everywhere.
There is not the depth of snow upon them that we saw two weeks ago, but still enough to give us a succession of waterfalls. Some, like silver ribbons, can be traced from summit to base, and others large and leaping down from steep to steep, now in full relief against the dark mountain side, and then half hidden by a veil of green. Sometimes they come with a single bound into the sea, and sometimes they lose themselves at the foot of the mountains as if some cavern had opened for them a way beneath the shore.
For fifty miles this marvellous roadstead leads on between Pitt Island and the continent, presenting a most fascinating natural panorama of green mountain steeps and sterile rocky fastnesses, hung all along with glorious cascades and mountain torrents –
"Whose organ-thunders never fail
Behind the cataract's silver veil."
May 10. A lady who came on board with her sick husband at Sitka, and to whom we gave one of our staterooms on the return passage, awoke us at an early hour. The gentleman had little hope of surviving the voyage when he started, and at 10 A. M. he died.
We came into Queen Charlotte Sound, where we received the full force of the ocean swells, and for three hours there was nothing for us to do but to patiently suffer and endure. Nearly every one retired during the passage, but I braced myself and kept my eyes upon the sea and the mountains on the coast. The rain sometimes hid them from my sight, but I looked where I knew they were still standing behind the mist, and kept my head level with will-power, while I swayed with the rolling and the plunging of the ship.
The old porter said, "Yes, ma'am; it is a rough sea;" but with another turn of his queer little eyes, as if to dispel any fear I might indulge in, he added, "Not rough weather now, ma'am." We all survived the seas of Queen Charlotte, and when we reached Johnstone Strait, Vancouver's Island once more presented its broad and storm-worn shield between us and the vexed waves of the Pacific Ocean.
It is wonderful what recuperative capacities a seasick voyager manifests as soon as the obnoxious cause of the disease ceases to exist. Our lunch was spoiled, for we would not attempt the passage of the stairway, when so doubtful of our ability to cross the saloon. We knew we could never navigate it gracefully, however safely we might have done it.
At three o'clock P. M. we sighted the Anchon, the companion steamer for Alaska. The storm of the previous day had made it impossible for us to stop at Fort Tongas, to leave the custom deputy, who was on board from Sitka, and our ship signalled the Anchon to lay by and take him back to Tongas. It took half an hour for the Anchon to come, take on board our passenger, exchange mails, etc., and go again upon her way.
We felt a pity for the gay group of tourists on her deck, who would in less than an hour be seeking what solace they might find upon their beds in the stifled atmosphere of a state-room below the deck; for Queen Charlotte had not yet had time to compose her angry, storm-vexed billows into a state of ease and quietude. This day has been rather a sad one for all of us, and also uneventful save to the poor woman whose husband lies in his coffin upon the captain's deck above us. At midnight the stars shone bright.
May 11. We were glad to see the sun shining over the green islands and mountains on our left as we arose this morning, and were thankful for the light of its countenance once more.
We were again in the Bay of Georgia, and at seven o'clock called at Departure Bay and transferred Captain Frances, a naval officer who came with us from Sitka, to the government ship Thetis, which lay in the bay. The Thetis was on her way to Sitka to relieve the ship Pinta, which has been stationed in Alaskan waters for some time.
Departure Bay is a small but deep harbor upon Vancouver's Island a few miles above Nanaimo, and is a coaling port for all British ships navigating the Pacific Ocean. A fine large merchant steamer was standing at her pier about to start for Japan and China.
Wellington coal mines are in the vicinity of Departure Bay, and the town is the outgrowth of its extensive operation. It is rather larger and more attractive in appearance than Nanaimo. It may be an older settlement.
We reached Nanaimo at 8 A. M. and shall remain an indefinite time, as the captain has orders to lay in 1200 tons of coal for transportation to southern ports.
I read "The Angel of Patience" to poor Mrs. Overend this morning. I am afraid we shall feel the need of invoking the aid of the same good angel for ourselves before we get away from Nanaimo.
We went on shore and heard of the wreck of the Queen of the Pacific, somewhere near Monterey, in the late fearful storm which we encountered. We are the more thankful for our preservation from similar disaster among the shoals and narrows of the inland passage to Alaska.
The Queen of the Pacific was a companion ship to the G. W. Elder of the Pacific Steamship Company, between San Francisco and San Diego; the Elder having but temporarily been diverged from her usual route to the trading posts and fishing stations in Alaska.
We posted our letters at Nanaimo for friends at home. The post-office is a fine, large building built of hewn stone upon a steep bluff above the harbor, in the northern part of the town. Not far from it is an old block tower which was used by the first settlers as a place of refuge from the Indians. This stands upon a precipitous bluff upon the shore, at the mouth of the Nanaimo River, – a pretty little stream which comes dancing down from the high hills behind the town into a broad shallow below the tower. There is one good roadway leading toward Departure Bay, but there were few signs of any cultivation of the soil.
We found several pretty rustic bridges over the Nanaimo River, and the roadsides were bright with a variety of wild flowers, many more than we can hope to find in New England upon our waysides in the month of June.
The coaling of the ship goes on quite slowly, as the coal is all mined after an order has been received for its delivery. None is kept upon the surface, as it is of such a nature that it is injured by long exposure to the air. It is dumped upon the cars which stand beside the shaft, and brought to the ship and discharged, while another lot is being mined, and there are often intervals of waiting. The work goes on nearly through the night, and we get what sleep we can, with the rattling of coal down the hatches of the ship.
May 12. This day we spent upon shipboard waiting to resume our homeward voyage. The only incident to record is the strange fish which was landed upon the pier by some boys of the town. It was a star-fish, but possessed of the very unusual number of sixteen finger-like rays. The creature was of buffish color and was encased in a kind of embossed mail – a very strange specimen of its kind, and we have been unable to find an account of it in natural histories.
At five o'clock P. M. the coal is all stored in the hold of our ship (1400 tons), and we are ready to bid adieu to Nanaimo and its quiet and picturesque little harbor. The air is balmy, the skies cloudless, and the sun shines brightly upon sea and mountains, giving promise of a delightful sunset and a lingering twilight.
We passed out between the pretty islands and soon came past the outer lighthouses, into the broader waters of the Gulf of Georgia. The mountains reared their white serrated lines upon our left, and soon we saw the sharp high peak of Mount Baker in the south. The sun was shining full upon them, and they reflected its light with a cold and pearly lustre.
We saw the water of the Frazer River for many miles before we passed its entrance to the gulf. It seemed to preserve its continuity, its motion, and its deep dun color, flowing upon the sea as upon the land, a mighty rolling river.
As we approached Victoria the sunset light began to glow with a faint pink color upon the lofty summit of Mount Baker, and soon the whole line sweeping far up the gulf to the north was bathed in a deep roseate light, like that which travellers have described upon Mount Blanc.
The day passed, and we left the city of Victoria, the blue waters of the Gulf of Georgia, and the purple lights upon the distant mountains all behind, and went on in the gray twilight and the night.
May 13. (Sunday morning.) We arrived at Port Townsend early in the morning and prepared to leave the steamer, as we had here completed our voyage, preferring to return to Tacoma upon the local boat, thence by rail to Portland, rather than encounter the delays which we might experience on the bar at the mouth of the Columbia River.
We spent the day at the hotel near the Sound, quietly resting from our voyage, and repacking our trunks, which had been practically closed to us for three weeks.
May 14. We went on board The Star and took passage for Tacoma, making a short call at Seattle by the way.
The beautiful mountain, which is the pride and glory of Seattle and Tacoma, veiled itself in thick white clouds as we went down between the islands of the Sound, whose waters seemed alive and throbbing still with the impellent forces of our recent storm.
As we lost sight of the city of Seattle in the distance behind us and came near to the city of Tacoma, the mountain parted the heavy cloud and cast it away, standing before us free and peerless in its beauty. I took it as an omen, and henceforth shall know it only as "Mount Tacoma."
TACOMA, Tacoma! who bade thee arise
A. J. W.
TACOMA, May 14,1888.
HAPPY is the tourist who sees Alaska in its wild and grand simplicity. That it is destined to be a mine of wealth to our country, is conceded by all who have become acquainted with its vast resources. Its fisheries alone have already several times over repaid to our government the price of its purchase from Russia. Its mines of gold and other precious ores are inexhaustible; the mountains themselves are being "removed hence" from their foundations, and deposited as sands in the sea, in the process of yielding to man the gold which is found to pervade them. Immense forests of firs, pines, and cedars cover its vast areas, awaiting the enterprise of our people to be converted into material which shall supply the demands of a commercial fleet upon the broad Pacific such as never existed for our Atlantic shores. Cities will spring up all along our Alaskan coast, and the land which presents a primeval aspect to-day, will become worn and marked by traffic, and the attendant changes and embellishments which follow upon the footsteps of civilization, when the Alaska of to-day will cease to be.
Those "who have eyes to see, and see not," may prefer the Alaska of the future to that of the present. Let such defer their journey to our Northwest until the later day, if they choose; but to all who delight in the wild and rugged scenes of Nature, who love to listen to the sweet and solemn voices which break upon the silences of her solitudes, I would say, delay not too long your tour to Alaska. If the comforts and conventionalities of a palace hotel have been necessary to the enjoyments of travel, try now the primitive accommodations which necessarily attend an extended tour in this region, and I promise you the pleasure you will experience will counterbalance all inconveniences. Besides, you will surely desire to repeat the journey later, when, perhaps, the luxury afforded by the coming caravansary which will doubtless be erected in Sitka at no very remote day, will compensate for all past privations, and be the more appreciated by the contrast. I venture to predict, however, that the pleasure and satisfaction derived from the early tour will outlast all that can follow in the wake of a greater civilization.
A good field-glass is indispensable to a tourist's outfit, as are also rubber overshoes, waterproof wrap, and an umbrella. Clothing, such as is worn upon ordinary winter travel in New England, with an extra shawl, will be quite sufficient to meet all exposures of the climate, and enable one to spend most of the time upon deck if desirable.
In the preceding account of our tour in Alaska, I have inclined my ears to nature and simply "told the tale as it was told to me." Some who will go there may return with the impression that I have somewhat exaggerated in my descriptions of what we saw. Many will no doubt declare that "the half has not been told to them"; while an exceptional few will bring home with them little but the memory of the final score at euchre and the passing delight of the last flirtation, having seen or heard naught of the wonderful revelations of Nature. I can only refer these last to the response of the artist Turner. When a lady to whom he was exhibiting one of his rarely beautiful delineations of the setting sun, remarked to him, "I never saw a sunset look like that," he replied with a characteristic expletive: "Don't you wish you could, madam?"
1 All in one and beneath one broad roof.
KASAAN BAY, May 1, 1888.
We listened to the echo –
C. C. J.