We devoted ourselves at once to
preparations for departure. We required a chief voyageur, and
two assistants with a second canoe. Among the first to greet
me upon our arrival was Gilbert Blake, one of the four trappers who
rescued me in 1903. I explained to Gilbert our mission, and
without hesitation he expressed not only his willingness but his keen
desire to join us.
Gilbert was at once engaged as
chief voyageur. I felt that we were exceedingly fortunate in
securing his assistance, and subsequent events gave me no reason to
feel otherwise. He proved most loyal and valuable to our
expedition in the face of unexpected obstacles that we were called upon
to overcome, and uncomplainingly endured the misadventures and trying
experiences that befell us. Indeed all of those four men who
came to my rescue and found me helpless in the snow that November
morning in 1903 have since been my steadfast and loyal friends.
There was not at the moment another
capable man at Northwest River who was unemployed, or who was free to
join our expedition for a more or less indefinite period. Tom
Blake, however, another of my friends of former years, suggested that
his son Henry who was absent from home at the time but was expected
back in a day or so, would engage with us as one of those required to
man the second canoe. I had known Henry from a boy, and well
assured that he could be relied upon, accepted Tom’s
proposition. The delay was vexatious but unavoidable.
It may be of interest to mention in
passing that it was chiefly through Tom Blake’s assistance I was able
to recover Hubbard’s body from the wilderness in March, 1904.
I was determined that the body should be brought down from the Susan
River camp to Northwest River during the winter, that I might take it
to New York with me in the spring. My frozen feet had
developed gangrene, and I was unable to walk, and physically
incapacitated from taking part personally, in the proposed expedition
to the Susan River camp. Elson, the half-breed Indian,
declared that Hubbard’s body would rest as well in the Susan River
valley as in civilization, and he objected strongly to returning to the
wilderness for the purpose of rescuing it.
This was my position when Tom Blake
volunteered for the undertaking, and Duncan McLean, one of my rescuers,
volunteered to accompany him. Neither of them knew the
location of the camp, however, which was at this time buried deep
beneath the snow, and it was necessary that they have a
guide. I finally induced Elson to act in this
capacity. Tom had command of the party. Elson
proved an excellent guide, but because of superstition or through lack
of sympathy with the enterprise, Tom and Duncan were not assisted by
him in hauling the body over the long snow stretches, down the Susan
River and over Grand Lake. Tom, therefore, like Gilbert, felt
a special and sentimental interest in our expedition—an interest which
I had no doubt Henry, his son, would share.
We still needed one man, and Allan
Goudie, another of my rescue party, and Murdock McLean—a younger
brother of Duncan who was also Gilbert’s trapping partner on the winter
trails—fortunately arrived at the post at this time, Allen recommended
Murdock as “just the man for us”. Gilbert vouched for
Murdock’s abilities as a voyageur, and Murdock was at once enlisted
into our service.
It was not until Thursday evening,
two days after our arrival at the post, that Henry Blake reached home,
and without hesitation engaged with us, as his father promised me he
would. In the meantime all arrangements for our departure had
been completed. A second canoe had been secured. We
had brought with us a supply of desiccated vegetables—potatoes, onions
and carrots—condensed coffee, prunes, chocolate and minor food
incidentals. Gilbert had been detailed to purchase and pack
at the post store flour, baking powder, pork, tea, salt and sugar.
Limited time had prevented Judge
Malone and me from mixing “fly dope” at home, and we had therefore
purchased ready-prepared dope from an outfitter. I had some
doubts of the efficacy of this dope, and in order that we might not be
disappointed Gilbert compounded from lard and pine an additional supply.
We had in our outfit one balloon
silk tent, and Gilbert supplied a smaller cotton tent; and we were
supplied with a folding sheet iron tent stove, aluminum cooking
utensils—together as light and compact equipment as could be devised,
with everything enclosed in waterproofed-canvas bags. Gilbert
and the others declared it by far the most complete and compact outfit
they had ever seen. Certainly Judge Malone nor myself had
ever gone into the wilderness more completely or luxuriously equipped
or amply provisioned.
Malone was provided with a .30-30
rifle and a ten-inch barrel, single-shot, .32 caliber pistol; Gilbert
with a.303 high power repeating rifle; Murdock McLean, Henry Blake and
myself each had a shotgun.
Our instruments included a sextant,
an artificial horizon, two aneroid barometers, minimum registering
thermometers, compasses and two 3 x 5 folding Kodaks, together with a
quantity of film rolls individually sealed in tins.
To expedite our passage up Grand
Lake in case of heavy sea, Mr. Thevenet suggested that it would be well
to transport the bulk of our outfit to the head of the lake in a
rowboat. He very considerably offered one of the post boats
for the purpose, and secured William Montague, a native trapper, to
assist with the boat and fetch it back to the post.
We arrived at the post on Tuesday
evening. On Thursday evening all of our arrangements had been
completed, and our expedition was prepared to launch into the
wilderness on Friday morning.
Next: Chapter X: The Beaver Is A