route back was more direct than the one taken on our outward journey,
and eliminated the necessity of crossing two of the ridges.
Once we started some wild geese, several times Poppy flushed grouse,
among them young broods now large enough to fly into the
trees. Fresh caribou tracks were seen, and I suggested to the
Judge that he could probably shoot a caribou with little difficulty.
wouldn’t shoot an animal unless we needed its meat,” said he, “and if I
were to kill a caribou now we could only use a little of the meat and
the balance would be wasted,”
my already high respect and affection for the Judge was enhanced, for
if there is any man who deserves the contempt of the true sportsman it
is the man who kills only for the sake of killing, or to secure a
trophy in order that he may boast of his prowess as a hunter—which he
usually is not.
traveling carried us to our cache the following day, and an hour later
we were on our way down the river making vastly better progress than in
days later, after making the portage around Roger Newell falls a new
disaster befell us. We were lowering the loaded canoe,
attached to the tracking line, through the swift rapids directly below
the Charles Riley River when the line parted. Instantly the
canoe was running wild in the rapids, and beyond all hope of
rescue. A moment later it crashed into a boulder and doubled
the rock upon which the canoe fastened was close inshore, and our
outfit was securely lashed. Nevertheless many things were
lost before we could salvage them, and the canoe was a total
wreck. Indeed it had broken completely in two, and presently
the forward end was swept away in the rapid.
spread our wet things upon the rocks to dry, pitched our tent, built a
campfire and resolved ourselves into council. We suddenly
found ourselves in a most uncomfortable situation, but indulgence in
vain regrets could avail nothing. “It’s the fortune of war,”
said the Judge with his usual good-natured acceptance of the disastrous
happenings that had accompanied us.
wreck had occurred fifty miles from Grand Lake, as the river runs, but
in the overland march now necessitated it was possible to cut off the
wide bends of the lower river, and thus eliminate several miles of the
distance. This would involve, however, two crossings of the
river before reaching Grand Lake.
a little old abandoned boat at the head of the lake,” said
Gilbert. “I don’t know if she’ll float, but maybe we can
patch her up good enough to take us down to the Nascaupee River, about
twelve miles. I have a canoe cached there. If the
boat has gone to pieces, we’ll have to get across the little lake
somehow, and when we gets down to the Nascaupee cross that
too. The canoe’s on the other side. When we gets to
the canoe, we’ll be all right.”
night was frosty, as nearly every night had been during the stay in the
interior—frosty enough to freeze our tea pail—and morning came clear
and beautiful. We were astir early. Packs were made
up including tent, ax, blankets and provisions for the journey, a cache
was made of our remaining outfit, covered with a tarpaulin, and we were
ready for our start.
order to cut off the bends below, it was necessary that we cross from
the south side to the north side of the river at the first opportunity,
and in order to do this we turned back to a point a little way below
the Charles Riley River, where the Beaver widened and was shallower,
and for a short distance ran with a comparatively steady
current. Here we removed our trousers that the water might
have less surface to act upon, and therefore exert less force upon our
legs. Utilizing our tracking line as a lifeline, with the
Judge ahead, Gilbert in the center and myself in the rear, we began at
once what proved a really perilous fording. The current,
which had appeared insignificant from the shore, developed great
strength as we advanced, and we quickly learned that if we would retain
our balance we must not lift our feet or lose constant contact with the
bottom, but slide them forward, a few inches at a time, first one and
then the other, among the smooth boulders of the river bed.
The line, by keeping it taut, served to steady us, but had a
man fallen it could not have saved him from being swept into
the heavy white rapids directly below, where the river narrowed and the
water was deep, we knew, for even here it reached our waists and at
times came nearly to our armpits. Thirty minutes were
consumed in the passage from bank to bank, and when it was finally
accomplished in safety we felt that one of the chief obstacles to our
journey was behind us.
began the hardest drill of our lives, over ridges, across swamps,
through thick tangles of underbrush and wide areas of fallen
trees. Once the Judge narrowly escaped fracturing his leg,
which he caught between two fallen trees. He made no
complaint, but I observed him rubbing it when we halted to boil the
kettle, and upon examination discovered that a lump as large as a goose
egg had formed upon his shin. I bandaged it, and though it
must have caused him much pain, the Judge would consent to no delay on
his account, and we pushed on immediately, traveling, when conditions
would permit, at a half trot.
flies were awful. They hung about our heads in clouds—every
species of poisonous fly that the country produces. There
were midgets, black flies, mosquito stouts, and other varieties too
numerous to mention; and they succeeded, somehow, in penetrating our
nets and crawling beneath our clothes to deal out torture.
Our faces and necks suffered chiefly, but my chest was also covered
with a mass of body welts as a result of the attacks of flies during
everything has an end, and at noon on the day following our departure
from the scene of the wreck we emerged from the forest below Porcupine
Hill, and again the Beaver River, where it runs broad and beautiful,
lay before us.
Possibly the canoe wrecked on the
return journey. Gilbert Blake (L), Judge Malone.
Severed gunwale visible at Gilbert’s right shoulder (©Canadian Heritage Information Network).
The Hardest Bit Of
Traveling I Ever Done