hope was that the Beaver in taking the wide swing which I have
mentioned, and therefore following a longer route to the plateau than
that of the Susan would rise to the higher altitude much less
abruptly. Steep rapids occasionally around which we would
probably be compelled to portage, were in any case to be
expected. Rapids were of course inevitable in rising to the
elevation of the plateau. But we hoped that between the
rapids the current would not be found so swift so as to preclude the
pole or track, the canoes, and that we should have the relief now and
again of an easy stretch of water that could be paddled.
we reached the rapid Judge Malone had foretold. It was short, and we
pushed through it without difficulty with our paddles. But
just beyond more foam met us, followed by a little longer rapid, and
beyond that a great deal of foam promised still heavier
water. The promise was fulfilled, and almost immediately we
reached the first rapid necessitating a portage.
river here splits into several channels, none of which are very
deep. The judge and I each carried a load around the rapid to
a point where the river again reunited into a single stream, while
Gilbert poled our canoe, thus lightened, through the rapid.
Murdock and Henry, with their canoe, followed the example.
sand in the river bottom had now given way to boulders, and the shores
too were strewn with big, round, smooth-polished boulders very
difficult to walk upon. High hills were now crowding close in
upon the river—so close that during the spring floods the river
occupies the entire space between the hills.
mile above this rapid we stopped to camp. We had traveled
sixteen miles with little effort, and were well pleased with our first
we found the only timber of sufficient size to be of commercial value
that we encountered in the whole course of our journey.
Whether there is enough of it, however, to pay for the establishment of
a logging camp I cannot say, as we made no attempt at cruising about to
investigate the quantity. Some very good tracts occur along
the lower Grand River valley and at points along the south side of
Hamilton Inlet, notably along the Kenemish River. There is
also good timber near the mouths of rivers emptying into Sandwich Bay,
south of Hamilton Inlet. Several lumbermen of large
experience have at various times opened logging and lumbering
operations at all these points, but none has been able to make a paying
operation of his venture. Some, if not all, met with
considerable losses before finally admitting defeat. One big
steam saw mill in Hamilton Inlet, gradually falling to decay, stands an
eloquent monument to the failure of Labrador as a profitable lumbering
all of the timber in reach of tidewater has been taken up in claims,
but no one is now making any real attempt to cut and market the lumber,
and the claims are apparently held for speculative purposes
only. Indeed speculators have marked off on the map, and
taken up in the government office in St. John’s, Newfoundland, claims
of lumber tracts far inland where no lumber cruiser and no surveyor has
ever been, and of which the claimants know nothing. These
claims, generally speaking, have no more marketable timber on them than
the streets of New York.
is quite unlikely that the timber we saw on the Beaver River would be
worth the cutting. The expense of logging and marketing it
would be much greater than the expense attached to the Hamilton Inlet
operations, and in addition to that it is doubtful that sufficient
timber would be found here to employ a logging camp through the season.
making was a routine of everyday life to our trapper voyageurs, and it
had also become, in our travels, more or less of a routine to Judge
Malone and myself. In a well-organized party of experienced
campers, each man is assigned a duty, and when a halt is called to make
camp he turns his attention to the performance of that duty with the
precision of a soldier. This eliminates confusion and
disorder. When we stopped at the place chosen for our night
camp, Henry and Murdock turned at once to pitch their tent, Malone and
I to pitch ours, while Gilbert devoted himself to the fire and the
preparation of supper. Thus in fifteen minutes our tents were
up, good beds of spruce boughs laid—spruce beds make better beds than
balsam because more springy—duffle stored in the tents, and we were
ready for supper.
was a pleasant camp, and we were in excellent spirits when we settled
ourselves around the campfire directly after supper for our evening
smoke. A little way above us was a rapid, but it gave us no
concern. We were confident it would prove only an interlude
between good stretches of paddling water. Our day’s work had
not worried us in the least. Neither had flies been
troublesome. We had been compelled to don but once, and then
only for a short time, the head nets with which we were provided as a
protection from their attacks.
Tracking on the lower Beaver.
L to R: Judge Malone, Gilbert Blake, Murdock McLean, Henry Blake
Next: Chapter XVI: Trail Companions