The portage to Roger Newell Falls was not a hard one
and we made it easily in two loads. Then the river work began again,
more toilsome and difficult than ever. The water poured down in a mad,
white fury to meet us. For several miles the stream, dropping down an
incline that rose abruptly into the hills, was separated into two and
frequently three channels. These were blocked by boulders and
rock-ribbed bars, which made it necessary for us to work almost
continuously in the icy water. Whenever bars occurred, we lifted or
dragged the loaded canoe over them by main strength. When there was
enough water on a bar to partly float the canoe over it, Gilbert would
force it the remainder of the way alone, while Judge Malone and I hauled
on the line; but oftener the united efforts of the Judge and Gilbert,
one at each end of the canoe, were needed, while I manipulated the rope
alone. Out in the main channel there was water aplenty, but it was too
big and too rough for us to breast, and we were forced to keep to the
shallower inshore water.
In thus hauling the canoe over rocks its bottom was
of course harshly used. Indeed, we marveled that cedar and canvas could
withstand the abuse to which this frail craft was continuously subjected
for several days.
The only relief from this almost constant strife with
the rapids was on rare occasions when the main channel ran close to
shore and the rapids were too swift and treacherous to risk putting the
canoe into them. Whenever this occurred, portages became necessary, and
afforded welcome interludes between long intervals of wading.
Saturday proved a particularly trying day. The
weather was raw, the water icy. Drenching wet, with teeth chattering we
made camp that night on a slight elevation on the north side of the
river. At Disaster Camp, as we called it, a narrow margin of land, of
significant proportions, occurred between river and hills. Here, before
our Saturday camp, lay a beautiful amphitheatre, the first substantial
opening of the valley not claimed by the river, with which we met.
Here, also, the river was again confined to a single channel, and
thenceforward so continued.
Our campsite on this occasion was a most beautiful
and romantic one. A brook fell in sparkling cascades from the summit of
a hill on the opposite side of the amphitheatre. Above us the turbulent
river disappeared among rolling forested hills, which closed in upon it
to hide it in the seclusion of their unknown and mysterious recesses.
In the far distance bald, bleak, weather-beaten peaks rose above the
dark green of the lower hills. The forest around us was carpeted with
thick gray caribou moss.
When we pitched our tent and made things snug for the
night, we converted our tarpaulin into a lean-to shelter opening before
a roaring fire, the tarpaulin protecting us from a raw and penetrating
wind, which blew down the valley. What a comfort a good campfire is at
the end of a hard day’s work! How it lulls one into forgetfulness of
the hardships of the trail! How it soothes, and banishes
discouragement! The evening hour at the campfire offers ample
recompense for all the toil and disappointments of the day. Here there
is time to chat with one’s comrades, or to contemplate in silence while
the darkening shadows of night steal in upon the wilderness.
“This river,” remarked the Judge as he lighted his
pipe and stretched his long limbs comfortably by the fire after we had
eaten our supper, “is like bad woman. How beautiful and charming it was
at first, smiling at us and deceiving us, until it had us fast its coils
and wedded up to it. Then it shows its wicked heart.”
“Yes, I suppose some women is that way,” said
Gilbert. “They gets a fellow married to ’em, and then they makes
traveling lively and rough for him and spends all he earns. The river
has sure made us pay up well for knowing her.”
“It sure has,” agreed the judge. “It’s like one of
the old turnpikes, where you pay a toll to travel. And it has made us
pay toll pretty nearly every day, and heavy toll, too. I’m thankful
we’ve escaped a levy to-day.”
“Here’s a bag of potatoes we didn’t dry out enough,
and they’ve gone sour,” Gilbert presently announced, as he looked
through the provision bags and distributed them around the fire to dry.
“That’s to-day’s toll!” said the Judge. “Pitch ’em
into the river and let the river have ‘em if they’re no good.”
Then he produced his tin whistle, and struck up “The
Campbells are Coming.”
“What a honeymoon trip this would be for a young
couple,” the Judge finally remarked, laying aside his whistle after
several renditions of “The Campbells are Coming,” and some
soul-searching attempts at other tunes.
“Twould be a hard one now,” Gilbert volunteered.
“They wouldn’t have much time to make love.”
Oh,” said the Judge, “the bridegroom could track the
canoe, and the bride could pick daisies by the way, and they could make
love between times.”
“Daisies don’t grow in this country,” said Gilbert
seriously, “and one couldn’t track the canoe alone.”
On Sunday we held divine service. The Judge and I each read aloud a
lesson from the scriptures, followed by some hymns in which Gilbert led,
and a reading by the Judge from Thomas a Kempis. We were all fond of
this inimitable classic—who can fail to be—and sometimes of an evening
when we had retired to the tent the Judge would call for my little copy,
and read aloud to us by candlelight.
No Relief From Wading