river soon became so rough and the water so swift and strong that
further poling was out of the question, and we were compelled to resort
to tracking—that is, hauling the canoes up the rapid with ropes.
a river has sufficient water along its shore, and reasonably good banks
upon which to walk, tracking is not unduly hard, and good progress can
be made. Under such conditions one man usually remains in the
canoe to steer it, while one or more tow, or “track” it with a line.
the Beaver offered no such conditions. Its bank was a tumbled
mass of smooth boulders, and in walking upon these one was compelled to
step from boulder to boulder, and keep a sharp lookout for the footing,
for a misstep might mean a broken leg or other painful
injury. Walking upon the boulders, indeed, was hard enough
without the weight of a tracking line upon the shoulders.
make the work of tracking still more arduous and difficult, boulders
were scattered so thickly in the water near shore that more often than
not it was found necessary for all hands to walk waist-deep in the icy
water that the canoe might pass outside the obstructions.
often the water of the channel, beyond the line of boulders scattered
through the shallower water near shore, was so swift and strong that a
canoe could not be hauled through it, or could not live in
it. This compelled the steersman to wade with the canoe,
guiding it in and out among the near-shore boulders and lifting it over
shallows where necessary. Even here the water was swift—so
swift and deep, indeed, that it was often extremely difficult to keep
the first mile or so of tracking, Gilbert, who acted as steersman of
our canoe, remained in the canoe to guide it while Malone and I tracked
it. But this quickly became impractical. Gilbert
quickly pushed one end of his pole securely to the bow and holding the
other end guided the bow of the canoe while Malone and I
tracked. Judge Malone’s long legs carried him over the
boulders, particularly where wading was necessary, faster than my
shorter legs would carry me, and he good-naturedly insisted upon doing
more than his share of the work.
we advanced the character of the river grew steadily worse.
Presently it became necessary to work constantly in the icy water,
which was at times so swift that we could scarcely breast it.
The boulders in the river bottom were often polished to a glassy
smoothness and so slippery they caused a great deal of floundering
in the water and slipping and sliding over boulders, is exceedingly
hard on footwear, and on Monday night the deerskin moccasins worn by
the boys were in shreds. Happily Judge Malone and I had
provided ourselves with two pairs each of oil-tanned moccasins, or
shoepacs, in addition to those we wore. I had given Gilbert a
pair before leaving the post, and now re-shod Murdock and Henry in like
smaller canoe, in charge of Murdock and Henry, was not so good a white
water canoe as ours, and twice on Tuesday it was swamped in heavy
rapids with the loss of an aluminium kettle, a small tea pail, and a
frying pan, belonging to the outfit; and a pair sealskin boots and a
jacket, belonging to Henry.
during the day the tracking line upon which Judge Malone and I were
hauling parted, and our larger canoe partly filled with water, and for
a moment was in imminent danger of being wrecked. Gilbert
clung to the pole lashed to the bow, by which we were guiding it,
however, and drew the canoe against the rocks and to safety, thus
preventing loss and serious damage.
a result of these experiences, I gave strict orders that in future all
outfit should be lashed to the canoes. This is a very simple
precaution that one should always take when canoeing in rapids, no
matter how unnecessary it may seem. I was once wrecked in the
far interior of Labrador, and, through failure to lash outfit, lost my
axes, guns, and other equipment necessary to the safety and comfort of
the wilderness traveler, together with nearly all of my
provisions. Snow covered the ground at the time, and ice was
forming . I shall never forget the twenty days of
improvising, privation, and needless hardship this carelessness
entailed upon me before I finally reached a trading post and shelter,
on the coast. It taught me a very wholesome lesson.
Though lashing the outfit to the canoe does not always prevent loss, as
we shall see presently, it generally does.
Lifting the loaded canoe over the
Chapter XIX: March To Your Front
Like A Soldier