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ASTORIA; OR, ANECDOTES OF AN ENTERPRISE BEYOND THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS

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Baffled in his attempts to traverse this mountain chain, Mr. Hunt
skirted along it to the southwest, keeping it on the right; and
still in hopes of finding an opening. At an early hour one day,
he encamped in a narrow valley on the banks of a beautifully
clear but rushy pool; surrounded by thickets bearing abundance of
wild cherries, currants, and yellow and purple gooseberries.

While the afternoon's meal was in preparation, Mr. Hunt and Mr.
M'Kenzie ascended to the summit of the nearest hill, from whence,
aided by the purity and transparency of the evening atmosphere,
they commanded a vast prospect on all sides. Below them extended
a plain, dotted with innumerable herds of buffalo. Some were
lying among the herbage, others roaming in their unbounded
pastures, while many were engaged in fierce contests like those
already described, their low bellowings reaching the ear like the
hoarse murmurs of the surf on a distant shore.

Far off in the west they descried a range of lofty mountains
printing the clear horizon, some of them evidently capped with
snow. These they supposed to be the Bighorn Mountains, so called
from the animal of that name, with which they abound. They are a
spur of the great Rocky chain. The hill from whence Mr. Hunt had
this prospect was, according to his computation, about two
hundred and fifty miles from the Arickara village.

On returning to the camp, Mr. Hunt found some uneasiness
prevailing among the Canadian voyageurs. In straying among the
thickets they had beheld tracks of grizzly bears in every
direction, doubtless attracted thither by the fruit. To their
dismay, they now found that they had encamped in one of the
favorite resorts of this dreaded animal. The idea marred all the
comfort of the encampment. As night closed, the surrounding
thickets were peopled with terrors; insomuch that, according to
Mr. Hunt, they could not help starting at every little breeze
that stirred the bushes.

The grizzly bear is the only really formidable quadruped of our
continent. He is the favorite theme of the hunters of the far
West, who describe him as equal in size to a common cow and of
prodigious strength. He makes battle if assailed, and often, if
pressed by hunger, is the assailant. If wounded, he becomes
furious and will pursue the hunter. His speed exceeds that of a
man but is inferior to that of a horse. In attacking he rears
himself on his hind legs, and springs the length of his body. Woe
to horse or rider that comes within the sweep of his terrific
claws, which are sometimes nine inches in length, and tear
everything before them.

At the time we are treating of, the grizzly bear was still
frequent on the Missouri and in the lower country, but, like some
of the broken tribes of the prairie, he has gradually fallen back
before his enemies, and is now chiefly to be found in the upland
regions, in rugged fastnesses like those of the Black Hills and
the Rocky Mountains. Here he lurks in caverns, or holes which he
has digged in the sides of hills, or under the roots and trunks
of fallen trees. Like the common bear, he is fond of fruits, and
mast, and roots, the latter of which he will dig up with his
foreclaws. He is carnivorous also, and will even attack and
conquer the lordly buffalo, dragging his huge carcass to the
neighborhood of his den, that he may prey upon it at his leisure.

The hunters, both white and red men, consider this the most
heroic game. They prefer to hunt him on horseback, and will
venture so near as sometimes to singe his hair with the flash of
the rifle. The hunter of the grizzly bear, however, must be an
experienced hand, and know where to aim at a vital part; for of
all quadrupeds, he is the most difficult to be killed. He will
receive repeated wounds without flinching, and rarely is a shot
mortal unless through the head or heart.

That the dangers apprehended from the grizzly bear, at this night
encampment, were not imaginary, was proved on the following
morning. Among the hired men of the party was one William
Cannon, who had been a soldier at one of the frontier posts, and
entered into the employ of Mr. Hunt at Mackinaw. He was an
inexperienced hunter and a poor shot, for which he was much
bantered by his more adroit comrades. Piqued at their raillery,
he had been practicing ever since he had joined the expedition,
but without success. In the course of the present afternoon, he
went forth by himself to take a lesson in venerie and, to his
great delight, had the good fortune to kill a buffalo. As he was
a considerable distance from the camp, he cut out the tongue and
some of the choice bits, made them into a parcel, and slinging
them on his shoulders by a strap passed round his forehead, as
the voyageurs carry packages of goods, set out all glorious for
the camp, anticipating a triumph over his brother hunters. In
passing through a narrow ravine, he heard a noise behind him, and
looking round beheld, to his dismay, a grizzly bear in full
pursuit, apparently attracted by the scent of the meat. Cannon
had heard so much of the invulnerability of this tremendous
animal, that he never attempted to fire, but, slipping the strap
from his forehead, let go the buffalo meat and ran for his life.
The bear did not stop to regale himself with the game, but kept
on after the hunter. He had nearly overtaken him when Cannon
reached a tree, and, throwing down his rifle scrambled up it. The
next instant Bruin was at the foot of the tree; but, as this
species of bear does not climb, he contented himself with turning
the chase into a blockade. Night came on. In the darkness Cannon
could not perceive whether or not the enemy maintained his
station; but his fears pictured him rigorously mounting guard. He
passed the night, therefore, in the tree, a prey to dismal
fancies. In the morning the bear was gone. Cannon warily
descended the tree, gathered up his gun, and made the best of his
way back to the camp, without venturing to look after his buffalo
meat.

While on this theme we will add another anecdote of an adventure
with a grizzly bear, told of John Day, the Kentucky hunter, but
which happened at a different period of the expedition. Day was
hunting in company with one of the clerks of the company, a
lively youngster, who was a great favorite with the veteran, but
whose vivacity he had continually to keep in check. They were in
search of deer, when suddenly a huge grizzly bear emerged from a
thicket about thirty yards distant, rearing himself upon his hind
legs with a terrific growl, and displaying a hideous array of
teeth and claws. The rifle of the young man was leveled in an
instant, but John Day's iron hand was as quickly upon his arm.
"Be quiet, boy! be quiet!" exclaimed the hunter between his
clenched teeth, and without turning his eyes from the bear. They
remained motionless. The monster regarded them for a time, then,
lowering himself on his fore paws, slowly withdrew. He had not
gone many paces, before he again returned, reared himself on his
hind legs, and repeated his menace. Day's hand was still on the
arm of his young companion; he again pressed it hard, and kept
repeating between his teeth, "Quiet, boy! - keep quiet! - keep
quiet!" -though the latter had not made a move since his first
prohibition. The bear again lowered himself on all fours,
retreated some twenty yards further, and again turned, reared,
showed his teeth, and growled. This third menace was too much for
the game spirit of John Day. "By Jove!" exclaimed he, "I can
stand this no longer," and in an instant a ball from his rifle
whizzed into his foe. The wound was not mortal; but, luckily, it
dismayed instead of enraged the animal, and he retreated into the
thicket.

Day's companion reproached him for not practicing the caution
which he enjoined upon others. "Why, boy," replied the veteran,
"caution is caution, but one must not put up with too much, even
from a bear. Would you have me suffer myself to be bullied all
day by a varmint?"

CHAPTER XXVII.

Indian Trail.- Rough Mountain Travelling.- Sufferings From Hunger
and Thirst- Powder River.- Game in Abundance.-A Hunter's
Paradise.- Mountain Peak Seen at a Great Distance.- One of the
Bighorn Chain.- Rocky Mountains.- Extent.- Appearance.- Height.-
The Great American Desert.- Various Characteristics of the
Mountains.- Indian Superstitions Concerning Them.- Land of
Souls.- Towns of the Free and Generous Spirits- Happy Hunting
Grounds.

FOR the two following days, the travellers pursued a westerly
course for thirty-four miles along a ridge of country dividing
the tributary waters of the Missouri and the Yellowstone. As
landmarks they guided themselves by the summits of the far
distant mountains, which they supposed to belong to the Bighorn
chain. They were gradually rising into a higher temperature, for
the weather was cold for the season, with a sharp frost in the
night, and ice of an eighth of an inch in thickness.

On the twenty-second of August, early in the day, they came upon
the trail of a numerous band. Rose and the other hunters examined
the foot-prints with great attention, and determined it to be the
trail of a party of Crows, returning from an annual trading visit
to the Mandans. As this trail afforded more commodious
travelling, they immediately struck into it, and followed it for
two days. It led them over rough hills, and through broken
gullies, during which time they suffered great fatigue from the
ruggedness of the country. The weather, too, which had recently
been frosty, was now oppressively warm, and there was a great
scarcity of water, insomuch that a valuable dog belonging to Mr.
M'Kenzie died of thirst.

At one time they had twenty-five miles of painful travel, without
a drop of water, until they arrived at a small running stream.
Here they eagerly slaked their thirst; but, this being allayed,
the calls of hunger became equally importunate. Ever since they
had got among these barren and arid hills where there was a
deficiency of grass, they had met with no buffaloes; those
animals keeping in the grassy meadows near the streams. They were
obliged, therefore, to have recourse to their corn meal, which
they reserved for such emergencies. Some, however, were lucky
enough to kill a wolf, which they cooked for supper, and
pronounced excellent food.

The next morning they resumed their wayfaring, hungry and jaded,
and had a dogged march of eighteen miles among the same kind of
hills. At length they emerged upon a stream of clear water, one
of the forks of Powder River, and to their great joy beheld once
more wide grassy meadows, stocked with herds of buffalo. For
several days they kept along the banks of the river, ascending it
about eighteen miles. It was a hunter's paradise; the buffaloes
were in such abundance that they were enabled to kill as many as
they pleased, and to jerk a sufficient supply of meat for several
days' journeying. Here, then, they reveled and reposed after
their hungry and weary travel, hunting and feasting, and
reclining upon the grass. Their quiet, however, was a little
marred by coming upon traces of Indians, who, they concluded,
must be Crows: they were therefore obliged to keep a more
vigilant watch than ever upon their horses. For several days they
had been directing their march towards the lofty mountain
descried by Mr. Hunt and Mr. M'Kenzie on the 17th of August, the
height of which rendered it a landmark over a vast extent of
country. At first it had appeared to them solitary and detached;
but as they advanced towards it, it proved to be the principal
summit of a chain of mountains. Day by day it varied in form, or
rather its lower peaks, and the summits of others of the chain
emerged above the clear horizon, and finally the inferior line of
hills which connected most of them rose to view. So far, however,
are objects discernible in the pure atmosphere of these elevated
plains, that, from the place where they first descried the main
mountain, they had to travel a hundred and fifty miles before
they reached its base. Here they encamped on the 30th of August,
having come nearly four hundred miles since leaving the Arickara
village.

The mountain which now towered above them was one of the Bighorn
chain, bordered by a river, of the same name, and extending for a
long distance rather east of north and west of south. It was a
part of the great system of granite mountains which forms one of
the most important and striking features of North America,
stretching parallel to the coast of the Pacific from the Isthmus
of Panama almost to the Arctic Ocean; and presenting a
corresponding chain to that of the Andes in the southern
hemisphere. This vast range has acquired, from its rugged and
broken character and its summits of naked granite, the
appellation of the Rocky Mountains, a name by no means
distinctive, as all elevated ranges are rocky. Among the early
explorers it was known as the range of Chippewyan Mountains, and
this Indian name is the one it is likely to retain in poetic
usage. Rising from the midst of vast plains and prairies,
traversing several degrees of latitude, dividing the waters of
the Atlantic and the Pacific, and seeming to bind with diverging
ridges the level regions on its flanks, it has been figuratively
termed the backbone of the northern continent.

The Rocky Mountains do not present a range of uniform elevation,
but rather groups and occasionally detached peaks. Though some of
these rise to the region of perpetual snows, and are upwards of
eleven thousand feet in real altitude, yet their height from
their immediate basis is not so great as might be imagined, as
they swell up from elevated plains, several thousand feet above
the level of the ocean. These plains are often of a desolate
sterility; mere sandy wastes, formed of the detritus of the
granite heights, destitute of trees and herbage, scorched by the
ardent and reflected rays of the summer's sun, and in winter
swept by chilling blasts from the snow-clad mountains. Such is a
great part of that vast region extending north and south along
the mountains, several hundred miles in width, which has not
improperly been termed the Great American Desert. It is a region
that almost discourages all hope of cultivation, and can only be
traversed with safety by keeping near the streams which intersect
it. Extensive plains likewise occur among the higher regions of
the mountains, of considerable fertility. Indeed, these lofty
plats of table-land seem to form a peculiar feature in the
American continents. Some occur among the Cordilleras of the
Andes, where cities, and towns, and cultivated farms are to be
seen eight thousand feet above the level of the sea.

The Rocky Mountains, as we have already observed, occur sometimes
singly or in groups, and occasionally in collateral ridges.
Between these are deep valleys, with small streams winding
through them, which find their way into the lower plains,
augmenting as they proceed, and ultimately discharging themselves
into those vast rivers, which traverse the prairies like great
arteries, and drain the continent.

While the granitic summits of the Rocky Mountains are bleak and
bare, many of the inferior ridges are scantily clothed with
scrubbed pines, oaks, cedar, and furze. Various parts of the
mountains also bear traces of volcanic action. Some of the
interior valleys are strewed with scoria and broken stones,
evidently of volcanic origin; the surrounding rocks bear the like
character, and vestiges of extinguished craters are to be seen on
the elevated heights.

We have already noticed the superstitious feelings with which the
Indians regard the Black Hills; but this immense range of
mountains, which divides all that they know of the world, and
gives birth to such mighty rivers, is still more an object of awe
and veneration. They call it "the crest of the world," and think
that Wacondah, or the master of life, as they designate the
Supreme Being, has his residence among these aerial heights. The
tribes on the eastern prairies call them the mountains of the
setting sun. Some of them place the "happy hunting-grounds,"
their ideal paradise, among the recesses of these mountains; but
say that they are invisible to living men. Here also is the "Land
of Souls," in which are the "towns of the free and generous
spirits," where those who have pleased the master of life while
living, enjoy after death all manner of delights.

Wonders are told of these mountains by the distant tribes, whose
warriors or hunters have ever wandered in their neighborhood. It
is thought by some that, after death, they will have to travel to
these mountains and ascend one of their highest and most rugged
peaks, among rocks and snows and tumbling torrents. After many
moons of painful toil they will reach the summit, from whence
they will have a view over the land of souls. There they will see
the happy hunting-grounds, with the souls of the brave and good
living in tents in green meadows, by bright running streams, or
hunting the herds of buffalo, and elk, and deer, which have been
slain on earth. There, too, they will see the villages or towns
of the free and generous spirits brightening in the midst of
delicious prairies. If they have acquitted themselves well while
living, they will be permitted to descend and enjoy this happy
country; if otherwise they will but be tantalized with this
prospect of it, and then hurled back from the mountain to wander
about the sandy plains, and endure the eternal pangs of
unsatisfied thirst and hunger.

CHAPTER XXVIII.

Region of the Crow Indians- Scouts on the Lookout- Visit From a
Crew of Hard Riders.- A Crow Camp.- Presents to the Crow Chief.-
Bargaining.-Crow Bullies.-Rose Among His Indian Friends.-Parting
With the Crows.- Perplexities Among the Mountains.- More of the
Crows.- Equestrian Children.- Search After Stragglers.

THE travellers had now arrived in the vicinity of the mountain
regions infested by the Crow Indians. These restless marauders,
as has already been observed, are apt to be continually on the
prowl about the skirts of the mountains; and even when encamped
in some deep and secluded glen, they keep scouts upon the cliffs
and promontories, who, unseen themselves, can discern every
living thing that moves over the subjacent plains and valleys. It
was not to be expected that our travellers could pass unseen
through a region thus vigilantly sentineled; accordingly, in the
edge of the evening, not long after they had encamped at the foot
of the Bighorn Sierra, a couple of wild-looking beings, scantily
clad in skins, but well armed, and mounted on horses as wild-
looking as themselves, were seen approaching with great caution
from among the rocks. They might have been mistaken for two of
the evil spirits of the mountains so formidable in Indian fable.

Rose was immediately sent out to hold a parley with them, and
invite them to the camp. They proved to be two scouts from the
same band that had been tracked for some days past, and which was
now encamped at some distance in the folds of the mountain. They
were easily prevailed upon to come to the camp, where they were
well received, and, after remaining there until late in the
evening, departed to make a report of all they had seen and
experienced to their companions.

The following day had scarce dawned, when a troop of these wild
mountain scamperers came galloping with whoops and yells into the
camp, bringing an invitation from their chief for the white men
to visit him. The tents were accordingly struck, the horses
laden, and the party were soon on the march. The Crow horsemen,
as they escorted them, appeared to take pride in showing off
their equestrian skill and hardihood; careering at full speed on
their half-savage steeds, and dashing among rocks and crags, and
up and down the most rugged and dangerous places with perfect
ease and unconcern.

A ride of sixteen miles brought them, in the afternoon, in sight
of the Crow camp. It was composed of leathern tents, pitched in a
meadow on the border of a small clear stream at the foot of the
mountain. A great number of horses were grazing in the vicinity,
many of them doubtless captured in marauding excursions,

The Crow chieftain came forth to meet his guests with great
professions of friendship, and conducted them to his tents,
pointing out, by the way, a convenient place where they might fix
their camp. No sooner had they done so, than Mr. Hunt opened some
of the packages and made the chief a present of a scarlet blanket
and a quantity of powder and ball; he gave him also some knives,
trinkets, and tobacco to be distributed among his warriors, with
all which the grim potentate seemed, for the time, well pleased.
As the Crows, however, were reputed to be perfidious in the
extreme, and as errant freebooters as the bird after which they
were so worthily named; and as their general feelings towards the
whites were known to be by no means friendly, the intercourse
with them was conducted with great circumspection.

The following day was passed in trading with the Crows for
buffalo robes and skins, and in bartering galled and jaded horses
for others that were in good condition. Some of the men, also,
purchased horses on their own account, so that the number now
amounted to one hundred and twenty-one, most of them sound and
active, and fit for mountain service.

Their wants being supplied, they ceased all further traffic, much
to the dissatisfaction of the Crows, who became extremely urgent
to continue the trade, and, finding their importunities of no
avail, assumed an insolent and menacing tone. All this was
attributed by Mr. Hunt and his associates to the perfidious
instigations of Rose the interpreter, whom they suspected of the
desire to foment ill-will between them and the savages, for the
promotion of his nefarious plans. M'Lellan, with his usual
tranchant mode of dealing out justice, resolved to shoot the
desperado on the spot in case of any outbreak. Nothing of the
kind, however, occurred. The Crows were probably daunted by the
resolute, though quiet demeanor of the white men, and the
constant vigilance and armed preparations which they maintained;
and Rose, if he really still harbored his knavish designs, must
have perceived that they were suspected, and, if attempted to be
carried into effect, might bring ruin on his own head.

The next morning, bright and early, Mr. Hunt proposed to resume
his journeying. He took a ceremonious leave of the Crow
chieftain, and his vagabond warriors, and according to previous
arrangements, consigned to their cherishing friendship and
fraternal adoption, their worthy confederate Rose; who, having
figured among the water pirates of the Mississippi, was well
fitted to rise to distinction among the land pirates of the Rocky
Mountains.

It is proper to add, that the ruffian was well received among the
tribe, and appeared to be perfectly satisfied with the compromise
he had made; feeling much more at his ease among savages than
among white men. It is outcasts from justice, and heartless
desperadoes of this kind who sow the seeds of enmity and
bitterness among the unfortunate tribes of the frontier. There is
no enemy so implacable against a country or a community as one of
its own people who has rendered himself an alien by his crimes.

Right glad to be delivered from this treacherous companion, Mr.
Hunt pursued his course along the skirts of the mountain, in a
southern direction, seeking for some practicable defile by which
he might pass through it; none such presented, however, in the
course of fifteen miles, and he encamped on a small stream, still
on the outskirts. The green meadows which border these mountain
streams are generally well stocked with game, and the hunters
killed several fat elks, which supplied the camp with fresh meat.
In the evening the travellers were surprised by an unwelcome
visit from several Crows belonging to a different band from that
which they recently left, and who said their camp was among the
mountains. The consciousness of being environed by such dangerous
neighbors, and of being still within the range of Rose and his
fellow ruffians, obliged the party to be continually on the
alert, and to maintain weary vigils throughout the night, lest
they should be robbed of their horses.

On the third of September, finding that the mountain still
stretched onwards, presenting a continued barrier, they
endeavored to force a passage to the westward, but soon became
entangled among rocks and precipices which set all their efforts
at defiance. The mountain seemed, for the most part, rugged,
bare, and sterile; yet here and there it was clothed with pines,
and with shrubs and flowering plants, some of which were in
bloom. In tolling among these weary places, their thirst became
excessive, for no water was to be met with. Numbers of the men
wandered off into rocky dells and ravines in hopes of finding
some brook or fountain; some of whom lost their way and did not
rejoin the main party.

After a day of painful and fruitless scrambling, Mr. Hunt gave up
the attempt to penetrate in this direction, and, returning to the
little stream on the skirts of the mountain, pitched his tents
within six miles of his encampment of the preceding night. He now
ordered that signals should be made for the stragglers in quest
of water; but the night passed away without their return.

The next morning, to their surprise, Rose made his appearance at
the camp, accompanied by some of his Crow associates. His
unwelcome visit revived their suspicions; but he announced
himself as a messenger of good-will from the chief, who, finding
they had taken the wrong road, had sent Rose and his companions
to guide them to a nearer and better one across the mountain.

Having no choice, being themselves utterly at fault, they set out
under this questionable escort. They had not gone far before they
fell in with the whole party of Crows, who, they now found, were
going the same road with themselves. The two cavalcades of white
and red men, therefore, pushed on together, and presented a wild
and picturesque spectacle, as, equipped with various weapons and
in various garbs, with trains of pack-horses, they wound in long
lines through the rugged defiles, and up and down the crags and
steeps of the mountain.

The travellers had again an opportunity to see and admire the
equestrian habitudes and address of this hard-riding tribe. They
were all mounted, man, woman, and child, for the Crows have
horses in abundance, so that no one goes on foot. The children
are perfect imps on horseback. Among them was one so young that
he could not yet speak. He was tied on a colt of two years old,
but managed the reins as if by instinct, and plied the whip with
true Indian prodigality. Mr. Hunt inquired the age of this infant
jockey, and was answered that "he had seen two winters."

This is almost realizing the fable of the centaurs; nor can we
wonder at the equestrian adroitness of these savages, who are
thus in a manner cradled in the saddle, and become in infancy
almost identified with the animal they bestride.

The mountain defiles were exceedingly rough and broken, and the
travelling painful to the burdened horses. The party, therefore,
proceeded but slowly, and were gradually left behind by the band
of Crows, who had taken the lead. It is more than probable that
Mr. Hunt loitered in his course, to get rid of such doubtful
fellow-travellers. Certain it is that he felt a sensation of
relief as he saw the whole crew, the renegade Rose and all,
disappear among the windings of the mountain, and heard the last
yelp of the savages die away in the distance.

When they were fairly out of sight, and out of hearing, he
encamped on the head waters of the little stream of the preceding
day, having come about sixteen miles. Here he remained all the
succeeding day, as well to give time for the Crows to get in the
advance, as for the stragglers, who had wandered away in quest of
water two days previously, to rejoin the camp. Indeed,
considerable uneasiness began to be felt concerning these men,
lest they should become utterly bewildered in the defiles of the
mountains, or should fall into the hands of some marauding band
of savages. Some of the most experienced hunters were sent in
search of them; others, in the meantime, employed themselves in
hunting. The narrow valley in which they encamped being watered
by a running stream, yielded fresh pasturage, and though in the
heart of the Bighorn Mountains, was well stocked with buffalo.
Several of these were killed, as also a grizzly bear. In the
evening, to the satisfaction of all parties, the stragglers made
their appearance, and provisions being in abundance, there was
hearty good cheer in the camp.

CHAPTER XXIX

Mountain Glens.- Wandering Band of Savages- Anecdotes of Shoshon-
ies and Flatheads.- Root Diggers- Their Solitary Lurking Habits.-
Gnomes of the Mountains.- Wind River.- Scarcity of Food.-Alter-
ation of Route.-The Pilot Knobs or Tetons.- Branch of the
Colorado. - Hunting Camp.

RESUMING their course on the following morning, Mr. Hunt and his
companions continued on westward through a rugged region of hills
and rocks, but diversified in many places by grassy little glens,
with springs of water, bright sparkling brooks, clumps of pine
trees, and a profusion of flowering plants, which were in bloom,
although the weather was frosty. These beautiful and verdant
recesses, running through and softening the rugged mountains,
were cheering and refreshing to the wayworn travellers.

In the course of the morning, as they were entangled in a defile,
they beheld a small band of savages, as wild-looking as the
surrounding scenery, who reconnoitred them warily from the rocks
before they ventured to advance. Some of them were mounted on
horses rudely caparisoned with bridles or halters of buffalo
hide, one end trailing after them on the ground. They proved to
be a mixed party of Flatheads and Shoshonies , or Snakes; and as
these tribes will be frequently mentioned in the course of this
work, we shall give a few introductory particulars concerning
them.

The Flatheads in question are not to be confounded with those of
the name who dwell about the lower waters of the Columbia;
neither do they flatten their heads, as the others do. They
inhabit the banks of a river on the west side of the mountains,
and are described as simple, honest, and hospitable. Like all
people of similar character, whether civilized or savage, they
are prone to be imposed upon; and are especially maltreated by
the ruthless Blackfeet, who harass them in their villages, steal
their horses by night, or openly carry them off in the face of
day, without provoking pursuit or retaliation.

The Shoshonies are a branch of the once powerful and prosperous
tribe of the Snakes, who possessed a glorious hunting country
about the upper forks of the Missouri, abounding in beaver and
buffalo. Their hunting ground was occasionally invaded by the
Blackfeet, but the Snakes battled bravely for their domains, and
a long and bloody feud existed, with variable success. At length
the Hudson's Bay Company, extending their trade into the
interior, had dealings with the Blackfeet, who were nearest to
them, and supplied them with fire-arms. The Snakes, who
occasionally traded with the Spaniards, endeavored, but in vain,
to obtain similar weapons; the Spanish traders wisely refused to
arm them so formidably. The Blackfeet had now a vast advantage,
and soon dispossessed the poor Snakes of their favorite hunting
grounds, their land of plenty, and drove them from place to
place, until they were fain to take refuge in the wildest and
most desolate recesses of the Rocky Mountains. Even here they are
subject to occasional visits from their implacable foes, as long
as they have horses, or any other property to tempt the
plunderer. Thus by degrees the Snakes have become a scattered,
broken-spirited, impoverished people; keeping about lonely rivers
and mountain streams, and subsisting chiefly upon fish. Such of
them as still possess horses, and occasionally figure as hunters,
are called Shoshonies; but there is another class, the most
abject and forlorn, who are called Shuckers, or more commonly
Diggers and Root Eaters. These are a shy, secret, solitary race,
who keep in the most retired parts of the mountains, lurking like
gnomes in caverns and clefts of the rocks, and subsisting in a
great measure on the roots of the earth. Sometimes, in passing
through a solitary mountain valley, the traveller comes perchance
upon the bleeding carcass of a deer or buffalo that has just been
slain. He looks round in vain for the hunter; the whole landscape
is lifeless and deserted: at length he perceives a thread of
smoke, curling up from among the crags and cliffs, and scrambling
to the place, finds some forlorn and skulking brood of Diggers,
terrified at being discovered.

The Shoshonies, however, who, as has been observed, have still
"horse to ride and weapon to wear," are somewhat bolder in their
spirit, and more open and wide in their wanderings. In the
autumn, when salmon disappear from the rivers, and hunger begins
to pinch, they even venture down into their ancient hunting
grounds, to make a foray among the buffaloes. In this perilous
enterprise they are occasionally joined by the Flatheads, the
persecutions of the Blackfeet having produced a close alliance
and cooperation between these luckless and maltreated tribes.
Still, notwithstanding their united force, every step they take
within the debatable ground is taken in fear and trembling, and
with the utmost precaution: and an Indian trader assures us that
he has seen at least five hundred of them, armed and equipped for
action, and keeping watch upon the hill tops, while about fifty
were hunting in the prairie. Their excursions are brief and
hurried; as soon as they have collected and jerked sufficient
buffalo meat for winter provisions, they pack their horses,
abandon the dangerous hunting grounds, and hasten back to the
mountains, happy if they have not the terrible Blackfeet rattling
after them.

Such a confederate band of Shoshonies and Flatheads was the one
met by our travellers. It was bound on a visit to the Arrapahoes,
a tribe inhabiting the banks of the Nebraska. They were armed to
the best of their scanty means, and some of the Shoshonies had
bucklers of buffalo hide, adorned with feathers and leathern
fringes, and which have a charmed virtue in their eyes, from
having been prepared, with mystic ceremonies, by their conjurers.

In company with this wandering band our travellers proceeded all
day. In the evening they encamped near to each other in a defile
of the mountains, on the borders of a stream running north, and
falling into Bighorn River. In the vicinity of the camp, they
found gooseberries, strawberries, and currants in great
abundance. The defile bore traces of having been a thoroughfare
for countless herds of buffaloes, though not one was to be seen.
The hunters succeeded in killing an elk and several black-tailed
deer.

They were now in the bosom of the second Bighorn ridge, with
another lofty and snow-crowned mountain full in view to the west.
Fifteen miles of western course brought them, on the following
day, down into an intervening plain, well stocked with buffalo.
Here the Snakes and Flatheads joined with the white hunters in a
successful hunt, that soon filled the camp with provisions.

On the morning of the 9th of September, the travellers parted
company with their Indian friends, and continued on their course
to the west. A march of thirty miles brought them, in the
evening, to the banks of a rapid and beautifully clear stream
about a hundred yards wide. It is the north fork or branch of the
Bighorn River, but bears its peculiar name of the Wind River,
from being subject in the winter season to a continued blast
which sweeps its banks and prevents the snow from lying on them.
This blast is said to be caused by a narrow gap or funnel in the
mountains, through which the river forces its way between
perpendicular precipices, resembling cut rocks.

This river gives its name to a whole range of mountains
consisting of three parallel chains, eighty miles in length, and
about twenty or twenty-five broad. One of its peaks is probably
fifteen thousand feet above the level of the sea, being one of
the highest of the Rocky Sierra. These mountains give rise, not
merely to the Wind or Bighorn River, but to several branches of
the Yellowstone and the Missouri on the east, and of the Columbia
and Colorado on the west; thus dividing the sources of these
mighty streams.

For five succeeding days, Mr. Hunt and his party continued up the
course of the Wind River, to the distance of about eighty miles,
crossing and recrossing it, according to its windings, and the
nature of its banks; sometimes passing through valleys, at other
times scrambling over rocks and hills. The country in general was
destitute of trees, but they passed through groves of wormwood,
eight and ten feet in height, which they used occasionally for
fuel, and they met with large quantities of wild flax.

The mountains were destitute of game; they came in sight of two
grizzly bears, but could not get near enough for a shot;
provisions, therefore, began to be scanty. They saw large flights
of the kind of thrush commonly called the robin, and many smaller
birds of migratory species; but the hills in general appeared
lonely and with few signs of animal life. On the evening of the
14th September, they encamped on the forks of the Wind or Bighorn
River. The largest of these forks came from the range of Wind
River Mountains.

The hunters who served as guides to the party in this part of
their route, had assured Mr. Hunt that, by following up Wind
River, and crossing a single mountain ridge, he would come upon
the head waters of the Columbia. This scarcity of game, however,
which already had been felt to a pinching degree, and which
threatened them with famine among the sterile heights which lay
before them, admonished them to change their course. It was
determined, therefore, to make for a stream, which they were
informed passed the neighboring mountains, to the south of west,
on the grassy banks of which it was probable they would meet with
buffalo. Accordingly, about three o'clock on the following day,
meeting with a beaten Indian road which led in the proper
direction, they struck into it, turning their backs upon Wind
River.

In the course of the day, they came to a height that commanded an
almost boundless prospect. Here one of the guides paused, and,
after considering the vast landscape attentively, pointed to
three mountain peaks glistening with snow, which rose, he said,
above a fork of Columbia River. They were hailed by the
travellers with that joy with which a beacon on a seashore is
hailed by mariners after a long and dangerous voyage.

It is true there was many a weary league to be traversed before
they should reach these landmarks, for, allowing for their
evident height and the extreme transparency of the atmosphere,
they could not be much less than a hundred miles distant. Even
after reaching them, there would yet remain hundreds of miles of
their journey to be accomplished. All these matters were
forgotten in the joy at seeing the first landmarks of the
Columbia, that river which formed the bourne of the expedition.
These remarkable peaks were known as the Tetons; as guiding
points for many days, to Mr. Hunt, he gave them the names of the
Pilot Knobs.

The travellers continued their course to the south of west for
about forty miles, through a region so elevated that patches of
snow lay on the highest summits and on the northern declivities.
At length they came to the desired stream, the object of their
search, the waters of which flowed to the west. It was, in fact,
a branch of the Colorado, which falls into the Gulf of
California, and had received from the hunters the name of Spanish
River, from information given by the Indians that Spaniards
resided upon its lower waters.

The aspect of this river and its vicinity was cheering to the
wayworn and hungry travellers. Its banks were green, and there
were grassy valleys running from it various directions, into the
heart of the rugged mountains, with herds of buffalo quietly
grazing. The hunters sallied forth with keen alacrity, and soon
returned laden with provisions.

In this part of the mountains Mr. Hunt met with three different
kinds of gooseberries. The common purple, on a low and very
thorny bush; a yellow kind, of an excellent flavor, growing on a
stock free from thorns; and a deep purple, of the size and taste
of our winter grape, with a thorny stalk. There were also three
kinds of currants, one very large and well tasted, of a purple
color, and growing on a bush eight or nine feet high. Another of
a yellow color, and of the size and taste of the large red
currant, the bush four or five feet high; and the third a
beautiful scarlet, resembling the strawberry in sweetness, though
rather insipid, and growing on a low bush.

On the 17th they continued down the course of the river, making
fifteen miles to the southwest. The river abounded with geese and
ducks, and there were signs of its being inhabited by beaver and
otters: indeed they were now approaching regions where these
animals, the great objects of the fur trade, are said to abound.
They encamped for the night opposite the end of a mountain in the
west, which was probably the last chain of the Rocky Mountains.
On the following morning they abandoned the main course of the
Spanish River, and taking a northwest direction for eight miles,
came upon one of its little tributaries, issuing out of the bosom
of the mountains, and running through green meadows, yielding
pasturage to herds of buffalo. As these were probably the last of
that animal they would meet with, they encamped on the grassy
banks of the river, determined to spend several days in hunting,
so as to be able to jerk sufficient meat to supply them until
they should reach the waters of the Columbia, where they trusted
to find fish enough for their support. A little repose, too, was
necessary for both men and horses, after their rugged and
incessant marching; having in the course of the last seventeen
days traversed two hundred and sixty miles of rough, and in many
parts sterile, mountain country.

CHAPTER XXX.

A Plentiful Hunting Camp.-Shoshonie Hunters - Hoback's River -
Mad River- Encampment Near the Pilot Knobs.- A Consultation. -
Preparations for a Perilous Voyage.

FIVE days were passed by Mr. Hunt and his companions in the fresh
meadows watered by the bright little mountain stream. The hunters
made great havoc among the buffaloes, and brought in quantities
of meat; the voyageurs busied themselves about the fires,
roasting and stewing for present purposes, or drying provisions
for the journey; the pack-horses, eased of their burdens, rolled
on the grass, or grazed at large about the ample pasture; those
of the party who had no call upon their services, indulged in the
luxury of perfect relaxation, and the camp presented a picture of
rude feasting and revelry, of mingled bustle and repose,
characteristic of a halt in a fine hunting country. In the course
of one of their excursions, some of the men came in sight of a
small party of Indians, who instantly fled in great apparent
consternation. They immediately retreated to camp with the
intelligence: upon which Mr. Hunt and four others flung
themselves upon their horses, and sallied forth to reconnoitre.
After riding for about eight miles, they came upon a wild
mountain scene. A lonely green valley stretched before them,
surrounded by rugged heights. A herd of buffalo were careering
madly through it, with a troop of savage horsemen in full chase,
plying them with their bows and arrows. The appearance of Mr.
Hunt and his companions put an abrupt end to the hunt; the
buffalo scuttled off in one direction, while the Indians plied
their lashes and galloped off in another, as fast as their steeds
could carry them. Mr. Hunt gave chase; there was a sharp scamper,
though of short continuance. Two young Indians, who were
indifferently mounted, were soon overtaken. They were terribly
frightened, and evidently gave themselves up for lost. By degrees
their fears were allayed by kind treatment; but they continued to
regard the strangers with a mixture of awe and wonder, for it was
the first time in their lives they had ever seen a white man.

They belonged to a party of Snakes who had come across the
mountains on their autumnal hunting excursion to provide buffalo
meat for the winter. Being persuaded of the peaceful intentions
of Mr. Hunt and his companions, they willingly conducted them to
their camp. It was pitched in a narrow valley on the margin of a
stream. The tents were of dressed skins, some of them
fantastically painted; with horses grazing about them. The
approach of the party caused a transient alarm in the camp, for
these poor Indians were ever on the look-out for cruel foes. No
sooner, however, did they recognize the garb and complexion of
their visitors, than their apprehensions were changed into Joy;
for some of them had dealt with white men, and knew them to be
friendly, and to abound with articles of singular value. They
welcomed them, therefore, to their tents, set food before them;
and entertained them to the best of their power.

They had been successful in their hunt, and their camp was full
of jerked buffalo meat, all of the choicest kind, and extremely
fat. Mr. Hunt purchased enough of them, in addition to what had
been killed and cured by his own hunters, to load all the horses
excepting those reserved for the partners and the wife of Pierre
Dorion. He found, also, a few beaver skins in their camp, for
which he paid liberally, as an inducement to them to hunt for
more; informing them that some of his party intended to live
among the mountains, and trade with the native hunters for their
peltries. The poor Snakes soon comprehended the advantages thus
held out to them, and promised to exert themselves to procure a
quantity of beaver skins for future traffic. Being now well
supplied with provisions, Mr. Hunt broke up his encampment on the
24th of September, and continued on to the west. A march of
fifteen miles, over a mountain ridge, brought them to a stream
about fifty feet in width, which Hoback, one of their guides, who
had trapped about the neighborhood when in the service of Mr.
Henry, recognized for one of the head waters of the Columbia. The
travellers hailed it with delight, as the first stream they had
encountered tending toward their point of destination. They kept
along it for two days, during which, from the contribution of
many rills and brooks, it gradually swelled into a small river.
As it meandered among rocks and precipices, they were frequently
obliged to ford it, and such was its rapidity that the men were
often in danger of being swept away. Sometimes the banks advanced
so close upon the river that they were obliged to scramble up and
down their rugged promontories, or to skirt along their bases
where there was scarce a foothold. Their horses had dangerous
falls in some of these passes. One of them rolled, with his load,
nearly two hundred feet down hill into the river, but without
receiving any injury. At length they emerged from these
stupendous defiles, and continued for several miles along the
bank of Hoback's River, through one of the stern mountain
valleys. Here it was joined by a river of greater magnitude and
swifter current, and their united waters swept off through the
valley in one impetuous stream, which, from its rapidity and
turbulence, had received the name of the Mad River. At the
confluence of these streams the travellers encamped. An important
point in their arduous journey had been attained; a few miles
from their camp rose the three vast snowy peaks called the
Tetons, or the Pilot Knobs , the great landmarks of the Columbia,
by which they had shaped their course through this mountain
wilderness. By their feet flowed the rapid current of Mad River,
a stream ample enough to admit of the navigation of canoes, and
down which they might possibly be able to steer their course to
the main body of the Columbia. The Canadian voyageurs rejoiced at
the idea of once more launching themselves upon their favorite
element; of exchanging their horses for canoes, and of gliding
down the bosoms of rivers, instead of scrambling over the backs
of mountains. Others of the party, also, inexperienced in this
kind of travelling, considered their toils and troubles as
drawing to a close. They had conquered the chief difficulties of
this great rocky barrier, and now flattered themselves with the
hope of an easy downward course for the rest of their journey.
Little did they dream of the hardships and perils by land and
water, which were yet to be encountered in the frightful
wilderness that intervened between them and the shores of the
Pacific!

CHAPTER XXXI.

A Consultation Whether to Proceed by Land or Water- Preparations
for Boat-Building.- An Exploring Party.- A Party of Trappers
Detached.- Two Snake Visitors.- Their Report Concerning the
River. - Confirmed by the Exploring Party. - Mad River
Abandoned.- Arrival at Henry's Fort.- Detachment of Robinson,
Hoback, and Rezner to Trap.- Mr. Miller Resolves to Accompany
Them.- Their Departure.

0N the banks of Mad River Mr. Hunt held a consultation with the
other partners as to their future movements. The wild and
impetuous current of the river rendered him doubtful whether it
might not abound with impediments lower down, sufficient to
render the navigation of it slow and perilous, if not
impracticable. The hunters who had acted as guides knew nothing
of the character of the river below; what rocks, and shoals, and
rapids might obstruct it, or through what mountains and deserts
it might pass. Should they then abandon their horses, cast
themselves loose in fragile barks upon this wild, doubtful, and
unknown river; or should they continue their more toilsome and
tedious, but perhaps more certain wayfaring by land?

The vote, as might have been expected, was almost unanimous for
embarkation; for when men are in difficulties every change seems
to be for the better. The difficulty now was to find timber of
sufficient size for the construction of canoes, the trees in
these high mountain regions being chiefly a scrubbed growth of
pines and cedars, aspens, haws, and service-berries, and a small
kind of cotton-tree, with a leaf resembling that of the willow.
There was a species of large fir, but so full of knots as to
endanger the axe in hewing it. After searching for some time, a
growth of timber, of sufficient size, was found lower down the
river, whereupon the encampment was moved to the vicinity.

The men were now set to work to fell trees, and the mountains
echoed to the unwonted sound of their axes. While preparations
were thus going on for a voyage down the river, Mr. Hunt, who
still entertained doubts of its practicability, despatched an
exploring party, consisting of John Reed, the clerk, John Day,
the hunter, and Pierre Dorion, the interpreter, with orders to
proceed several days' march along the stream, and notice its
course and character.

After their departure, Mr. Hunt turned his thoughts to another
object of importance. He had now arrived at the head waters of
the Columbia, which were among the main points embraced by the
enterprise of Mr. Astor. These upper streams were reputed to
abound in beaver, and had as yet been unmolested by the white
trapper. The numerous signs of beaver met with during the recent
search for timber gave evidence that the neighborhood was a good
"trapping ground." Here, then, it was proper to begin to cast
loose those leashes of hardy trappers, that are detached from
trading parties, in the very heart of the wilderness. The men
detached in the present instance were Alexander Carson, Louis St.
Michel, Pierre Detaye, and Pierre Delaunay. Trappers generally go
in pairs, that they may assist, protect, and comfort each other
in their lonely and perilous occupations. Thus Carson and St.
Michel formed one couple, and Detaye and Delaunay another. They
were fitted out with traps, arms, ammunition, horses, and every
other requisite, and were to trap upon the upper part of Mad
River, and upon the neighboring streams of the mountains. This
would probably occupy them for some months; and, when they should
have collected a sufficient quantity of peltries, they were to
pack them upon their horses and make the best of their way to the
mouth of Columbia River, or to any intermediate post which might
be established by the company. They took leave of their comrades
and started off on their several courses with stout hearts and
cheerful countenances; though these lonely cruisings into a wild
and hostile wilderness seem to the uninitiated equivalent to
being cast adrift in the ship's yawl in the midst of the ocean.

Of the perils that attend the lonely trapper, the reader will
have sufficient proof, when he comes, in the after part of this
work, to learn the hard fortunes of these poor fellows in the
course of their wild peregrinations.

The trappers had not long departed, when two Snake Indians
wandered into the camp. When they perceived that the strangers
were fabricating canoes, they shook their heads and gave them to
understand that the river was not navigable. Their information,
however, was scoffed at by some of the party, who were
obstinately bent on embarkation, but was confirmed by the
exploring party, who returned after several days' absence. They
had kept along the river with great difficulty for two days, and
found it a narrow, crooked, turbulent stream, confined in a rocky
channel, with many rapids, and occasionally overhung with
precipices. From the summit of one of these they had caught a
bird's-eye view of its boisterous career for a great distance
through the heart of the mountain, with impending rocks and
cliffs. Satisfied from this view that it was useless to follow
its course, either by land or water, they had given up all
further investigation.

These concurring reports determined Mr. Hunt to abandon Mad
River, and seek some more navigable stream. This determination
was concurred in by all his associates excepting Mr. Miller, who
had become impatient of the fatigue of land travel, and was for
immediate embarkation at all hazards. This gentleman had been in
a gloomy and irritated state of mind for some time past, being
troubled with a bodily malady that rendered travelling on
horseback extremely irksome to him, and being, moreover,
discontented with having a smaller share in the expedition than
his comrades. His unreasonable objections to a further march by
land were overruled, and the party prepared to decamp.

Robinson, Hoback, and Rezner, the three hunters who had hitherto
served as guides among the mountains, now stepped forward, and
advised Mr. Hunt to make for the post established during the
preceding year by Mr. Henry, of the Missouri Fur Company. They
had been with Mr. Henry, and, as far as they could judge by the
neighboring landmarks, his post could not be very far off. They
presumed there could be but one intervening ridge of mountains,
which might be passed without any great difficulty. Henry's post,
or fort, was on an upper branch of the Columbia, down which they
made no doubt it would be easy to navigate in canoes.

The two Snake Indians being questioned in the matter, showed a
perfect knowledge of the situation of the post, and offered, with
great alacrity, to guide them to the place. Their offer was
accepted, greatly to the displeasure of Mr. Miller, who seemed
obstinately bent upon braving the perils of Mad River.

The weather for a few days past had been stormy, with rain and
sleet. The Rocky Mountains are subject to tempestuous winds from
the west; these sometimes come in flaws or currents, making a
path through the forests many yards in width, and whirling off
trunks and branches to a great distance. The present storm
subsided on the third of October, leaving all the surrounding
heights covered with snow; for while rain had fallen in the
valley, it had snowed on the hill tops.

On the 4th, they broke up their encampment, and crossed the
river, the water coming up to the girths of their horses. After
travelling four miles, they encamped at the foot of the mountain,
the last, as they hoped, which they should have to traverse. Four
days more took them across it, and over several plains, watered
by beautiful little streams, tributaries of Mad River. Near one
of their encampments there was a hot spring continually emitting
a cloud of vapor. These elevated plains, which give a peculiar
character to the mountains, are frequented by large gangs of
antelopes, fleet as the wind.

On the evening of the 8th of October, after a cold wintry day,
with gusts of westerly wind and flurries of snow, they arrived at
the sought-for post of Mr. Henry. Here he had fixed himself,
after being compelled by the hostilities of the Blackfeet, to
abandon the upper waters of the Missouri. The post, however, was
deserted, for Mr. Henry had left it in the course of the
preceding spring, and, as it afterwards appeared, had fallen in
with Mr. Lisa, at the Arickara village on the Missouri, some time
after the separation of Mr. Hunt and his party.

The weary travellers gladly took possession of the deserted log
huts which had formed the post, and which stood on the bank of a
stream upwards of a hundred yards wide, on which they intended to
embark. There being plenty of suitable timber in the
neighborhood, Mr. Hunt immediately proceeded to construct canoes.
As he would have to leave his horses and their accoutrements
here, he determined to make this a trading post, where the
trappers and hunters, to be distributed about the country, might
repair; and where the traders might touch on their way through
the mountains to and from the establishment at the mouth of the
Columbia. He informed the two Snake Indians of this
determination, and engaged them to remain in that neighborhood
and take care of the horses until the white men should return,
promising them ample rewards for their fidelity. It may seem a
desperate chance to trust to the faith and honesty of two such
vagabonds; but, as the horses would have, at all events, to be
abandoned, and would otherwise become the property of the first
vagrant horde that should encounter them, it was one chance in
favor of their being regained.

At this place another detachment of hunters prepared to separate
from the party for the purpose of trapping beaver. Three of these
had already been in this neighborhood, being the veteran Robinson
and his companions, Hoback and Rezner, who had accompanied
Mr.Henry across the mountains, and who had been picked up by Mr.
Hunt on the Missouri, on their way home to Kentucky. According to
agreement they were fitted out with horses, traps, ammunition,
and everything requisite for their undertaking, and were to bring
in all the peltries they should collect, either to this trading
post, or to the establishment at the mouth of Columbia River.
Another hunter, of the name of Cass, was associated with them in
their enterprise. It is in this way that small knots of trappers
and hunters are distributed about the wilderness by the fur
companies, and like cranes and bitterns, haunt its solitary
streams. Robinson, the Kentuckian, the veteran of the "bloody
ground," who, as has already been noted, had been scalped by the
Indians in his younger days, was the leader of this little band.
When they were about to depart , Mr. Miller called the partners
together and threw up his share in the company, declaring his
intention of joining the party of trappers.

This resolution struck every one with astonishment, Mr. Miller
being a man of education and of cultivated habits, and little
fitted for the rude life of a hunter. Besides, the precarious and
slender profits arising from such a life were beneath the
prospects of one who held a share in the general enterprise. Mr.
Hunt was especially concerned and mortified at his determination,
as it was through his advice and influence he had entered into
the concern. He endeavored, therefore, to dissuade him from this
sudden resolution; representing its rashness, and the hardships
and perils to which it would expose him. He earnestly advised
him, however he might feel dissatisfied with the enterprise,
still to continue on in company until they should reach the mouth
of Columbia River. There they would meet the expedition that was
to come by sea; when, should he still feel disposed to relinquish
the undertaking, Mr. Hunt pledged himself to furnish him a
passage home in one of the vessels belonging to the company.

To all this Miller replied abruptly, that it was useless to argue
with him, as his mind was made up. They might furnish him, or
not, as they pleased, with the necessary supplies, but he was
determined to part company here, and set off with the trappers.
So saying, he flung out of their presence without vouchsafing any
further conversation.

Much as this wayward conduct gave them anxiety, the partners saw
it was in vain to remonstrate. Every attention was paid to fit
him out for his headstrong undertaking. He was provided with four
horses, and all the articles he required. The two Snakes
undertook to conduct him and his companions to an encampment of
their tribe, lower down among the mountains, from whom they would
receive information as to the trapping grounds. After thus
guiding them, the Snakes were to return to Fort Henry, as the new
trading post was called, and take charge of the horses which the
party would leave there, of which, after all the hunters were
supplied, there remained seventy-seven. These matters being all
arranged, Mr. Miller set out with his companions, under guidance
of the two Snakes, on the 10th of October; and much did it grieve
the friends of that gentleman to see him thus wantonly casting
himself loose upon savage life. How he and his comrades fared in
the wilderness, and how the Snakes acquitted themselves of their
trust respecting the horses, will hereafter appear in the course
of these rambling anecdotes.

CHAPTER XXXII.

Scanty Fare.- A Mendicant Snake.- Embarkation on Henry River- Joy
of the Voyageurs.-Arrival at Snake River.- Rapids and Breakers. -
Beginning of Misfortunes.- Snake Encampments.- Parley With a
Savage.- A Second Disaster. - Loss of a Boatman.- The Caldron
Linn.

WHILE the canoes were in preparation, the hunters ranged about
the neighborhood, but with little success. Tracks of buffaloes
were to be seen in all directions, but none of a fresh date.
There were some elk, but extremely wild; two only were killed.
Antelopes were likewise seen, but too shy and fleet to be
approached. A few beavers were taken every night, and salmon
trout of a small size, so that the camp had principally to
subsist upon dried buffalo meat.

On the 14th, a poor, half-naked Snake Indian, one of that forlorn
caste called the Shuckers, or Diggers, made his appearance at the
camp. He came from some lurking-place among the rocks and cliffs,
and presented a picture of that famishing wretchedness to which
these lonely fugitives among the mountains are sometimes reduced.
Having received wherewithal to allay his hunger, he disappeared,
but in the course of a day or two returned to the camp, bringing
with him his son, a miserable boy, still more naked and forlorn
than himself. Food was given to both; they skulked about the camp
like hungry hounds, seeking what they might devour, and having
gathered up the feet and entrails of some beavers that were lying
about, slunk off with them to their den among the rocks.

By the 18th of October, fifteen canoes were completed, and on the
following day the party embarked with their effects; leaving
their horses grazing about the banks, and trusting to the honesty
of the two Snakes, and some special turn of good luck for their
future recovery.

The current bore them along at a rapid rate; the light spirits of
the Canadian voyageurs, which had occasionally flagged upon land,
rose to their accustomed buoyancy on finding themselves again
upon the water. They wielded their paddles with their wonted
dexterity, and for the first time made the mountains echo with
their favorite boat songs.

In the course of the day the little squadron arrived at the
confluence of Henry and Mad Rivers, which, thus united, swelled
into a beautiful stream of a light pea-green color, navigable for
boats of any size, and which, from the place of junction, took
the name of Snake River, a stream doomed to be the scene of much
disaster to the travellers. The banks were here and there fringed
with willow thickets and small cotton-wood trees. The weather was
cold, and it snowed all day, and great flocks of ducks and geese,
sporting in the water or streaming through the air, gave token
that winter was at hand; yet the hearts of the travellers were
light, and, as they glided down the little river, they flattered
themselves with the hope of soon reaching the Columbia. After
making thirty miles in a southerly direction, they encamped for
the night in a neighborhood which required some little vigilance,
as there were recent traces of grizzly bears among the thickets.

On the following day the river increased in width and beauty;
flowing parallel to a range of mountains on the left, which at
times were finely reflected in its light green waters. The three
snowy summits of the Pilot Knobs or Tetons were still seen
towering in the distance. After pursuing a swift but placid
course for twenty miles, the current began to foam and brawl, and
assume the wild and broken character common to the streams west
of the Rocky Mountains. In fact the rivers which flow from those
mountains to the Pacific are essentially different from those
which traverse the prairies on their eastern declivities. The
latter, though sometimes boisterous, are generally free from
obstructions, and easily navigated; but the rivers to the west of
the mountains descend more steeply and impetuously, and are
continually liable to cascades and rapids. The latter abounded in
the part of the river which the travellers were now descending.
Two of the canoes filled among the breakers; the crews were
saved, but much of the lading was lost or damaged, and one of the
canoes drifted down the stream and was broken among the rocks.

On the following day, October 21st, they made but a short
distance when they came to a dangerous strait, where the river
was compressed for nearly half a mile between perpendicular
rocks, reducing it to the width of twenty yards, and increasing
its violence. Here they were obliged to pass the canoes down
cautiously by a line from the impending banks. This consumed a
great part of a day; and after they had reembarked they were soon
again impeded by rapids, when they had to unload their canoes and
carry them and their cargoes for some distance by land. It is at
these places, called "portages," that the Canadian voyageur
exhibits his most valuable qualities; carrying heavy burdens, and
toiling to and fro, on land and in the water, over rocks and
precipices, among brakes and brambles, not only without a murmur,
but with the greatest cheerfulness and alacrity, joking and
laughing and singing scraps of old French ditties.

The spirits of the party, however, which had been elated on first
varying their journeying from land to water, had now lost some of
their buoyancy. Everything ahead was wrapped in uncertainty. They
knew nothing of the river on which they were floating. It had
never been navigated by a white man, nor could they meet with an
Indian to give them any information concerning it. It kept on its
course through a vast wilderness of silent and apparently
uninhabited mountains, without a savage wigwam upon its banks, or
bark upon its waters. The difficulties and perils they had
already passed made them apprehend others before them, that might
effectually bar their progress. As they glided onward, however,
they regained heart and hope. The current continued to be strong;
but it was steady, and though they met with frequent rapids, none
of them were bad. Mountains were constantly to be seen in
different directions, but sometimes the swift river glided
through prairies, and was bordered by small cotton-wood trees and
willows. These prairies at certain seasons are ranged by
migratory herds of the wide-wandering buffalo, the tracks of
which, though not of recent date, were frequently to be seen.
Here, too, were to be found the prickly pear or Indian fig, a
plant which loves a more southern climate. On the land were large
flights of magpies and American robins; whole fleets of ducks and
geese navigated the river, or flew off in long streaming files at
the approach of the canoes; while the frequent establishments of
the painstaking and quiet-loving beaver showed that the solitude
of these waters was rarely disturbed, even by the all-pervading
savage.

They had now come near two hundred and eighty miles since leaving
Fort Henry, yet without seeing a human being, or a human
habitation; a wild and desert solitude extended on either side of
the river, apparently almost destitute of animal life. At length,
on the 24th of October, they were gladdened by the sight of some
savage tents, and hastened to land and visit them, for they were
anxious to procure information to guide them on their route. On
their approach, however, the savages fled in consternation. They
proved to be a wandering band of Shoshonies. In their tents were
great quantities of small fish about two inches long, together
with roots and seeds, or grain, which they were drying for winter
provisions. They appeared to be destitute of tools of any kind,
yet there were bows and arrows very well made; the former were
formed of pine, cedar, or bone, strengthened by sinews, and the
latter of the wood of rosebushes, and other crooked plants, but
carefully straightened, and tipped with stone of a bottle-green
color.

There were also vessels of willow and grass, so closely wrought
as to hold water, and a seine neatly made with meshes, in the
ordinary manner, of the fibres of wild flax or nettle. The humble
effects of the poor savages remained unmolested by their
visitors, and a few small articles, with a knife or two, were
left in the camp, and were no doubt regarded as invaluable
prizes.

Shortly after leaving this deserted camp, and reembarking in the
canoes, the travellers met with three of the Snakes on a
triangular raft made of flags or reeds; such was their rude mode
of navigating the river. They were entirely naked excepting small
mantles of hare skins over their shoulders. The canoes approached
near enough to gain a full view of them, but they were not to be
brought to a parley.

All further progress for the day was barred by a fall in the
river of about thirty feet perpendicular; at the head of which
the party encamped for the night.

The next day was one of excessive toil and but little progress:
the river winding through a wild rocky country, and being
interrupted by frequent rapids, among which the canoes were in
great peril. On the succeeding day they again visited a camp of
wandering Snakes, but the inhabitants fled with terror at the
sight of a fleet of canoes, filled with white men, coming down
their solitary river.

As Mr. Hunt was extremely anxious to gain information concerning
his route, he endeavored by all kinds of friendly signs to entice
back the fugitives. At length one, who was on horseback, ventured
back with fear and trembling. He was better clad, and in better
condition, than most of his vagrant tribe that Mr. Hunt had yet
seen. The chief object of his return appeared to be to intercede
for a quantity of dried meat and salmon trout, which he had left
behind; on which, probably, he depended for his winter's
subsistence. The poor wretch approached with hesitation, the
alternate dread of famine and of white men operating upon his
mind. He made the most abject signs, imploring Mr. Hunt not to
carry off his food. The latter tried in every way to reassure
him, and offered him knives in exchange for his provisions; great
as was the temptation, the poor Snake could only prevail upon
himself to spare a part; keeping a feverish watch over the rest,
lest it should be taken away. It was in vain Mr. Hunt made
inquiries of him concerning his route, and the course of the
river. The Indian was too much frightened and bewildered to
comprehend him or to reply; he did nothing but alternately
commend himself to the protection of the Good Spirit, and
supplicate Mr. Hunt not to take away his fish and buffalo meat;
and in this state they left him, trembling about his treasures.

In the course of that and the next day they made nearly eight
miles; the river inclined to the south of west, and being clear
and beautiful, nearly half a mile in width, with many populous
communities of the beaver along its banks. The 28th of October,
however, was a day of disaster. The river again became rough and
impetuous, and was chafed and broken by numerous rapids. These
grew more and more dangerous, and the utmost skill was required
to steer among them. Mr. Crooks was seated in the second canoe of
the squadron, and had an old experienced Canadian for steersman,
named Antoine Clappine, one of the most valuable of the
voyageurs. The leading canoe had glided safely among the
turbulent and roaring surges, but in following it, Mr. Crooks
perceived that his canoe was bearing towards a rock. He called
out to the steersman, but his warning voice was either unheard or
unheeded. In the next moment they struck upon the rock. The canoe
was split and overturned. There were five persons on board. Mr.
Crooks and one of his companions were thrown amidst roaring
breakers and a whirling current, but succeeded, by strong
swimming, to reach the shore. Clappine and two others clung to
the shattered bark, and drifted with it to a rock. The wreck
struck the rock with one end, and swinging round, flung poor
Clappine off into the raging stream, which swept him away, and he
perished. His comrades succeeded in getting upon the rock, from
whence they were afterwards taken off.

This disastrous event brought the whole squadron to a halt, and
struck a chill into every bosom. Indeed they had arrived at a
terrific strait, that forbade all further progress in the canoes,
and dismayed the most experienced voyageur. The whole body of the
river was compressed into a space of less than thirty feet in
width, between two ledges of rocks, upwards of two hundred feet
high, and formed a whirling and tumultuous vortex, so frightfully
agitated as to receive the name of "The Caldron Linn." Beyond
this fearful abyss, the river kept raging and roaring on, until
lost to sight among impending precipices.

CHAPTER XXXIII.

Gloomy Council.-Exploring Parties- Discouraging Reports-
Disastrous Experiment.- Detachments in Quest of Succor.- Caches,
How Made. -Return of One of the Detachments- Unsuccessful.-
Further Disappointments- The Devil's Scuttle Hole

MR. HUNT and his companions encamped upon the borders of the
Caldron Linn, and held gloomy counsel as to their future course.
The recent wreck had dismayed even the voyageurs, and the fate of
their popular comrade, Clappine, one of the most adroit and
experienced of their fraternity, had struck sorrow to their
hearts, for with all their levity, these thoughtless beings have
great kindness towards each other.

The whole distance they had navigated since leaving Henry's Fort
was computed to be about three hundred and forty miles; strong
apprehensions were now entertained that the tremendous
impediments before them would oblige them to abandon their
canoes. It was determined to send exploring parties on each side
of the river to ascertain whether it was possible to navigate it
further. Accordingly, on the following morning, three men were
despatched along the south bank, while Mr. Hunt and three others
proceeded along the north. The two parties returned after a weary
scramble among swamps, rocks, and precipices, and with very
disheartening accounts. For nearly forty miles that they had
explored, the river foamed and roared along through a deep and
narrow channel, from twenty to thirty yards wide, which it had
worn, in the course of ages, through the heart of a barren, rocky
country. The precipices on each side were often two and three
hundred feet high, sometimes perpendicular, and sometimes
overhanging, so that it was impossible, excepting in one or two
places, to get down to the margin of the stream. This dreary
strait was rendered the more dangerous by frequent rapids, and
occasionally perpendicular falls from ten to forty feet in
height; so that it seemed almost hopeless to attempt to pass the
canoes down it. The party, however, who had explored the south
side of the river, had found a place, about six miles from the
camp, where they thought it possible the canoes might be carried
down the bank and launched upon the stream, and from whence they
might make their way with the aid of occasional portages. Four of
the best canoes were accordingly selected for the experiment, and
were transported to the place on the shoulders of sixteen of the
men. At the same time Mr. Reed, the clerk, and three men were
detached to explore the river still further down than the
previous scouting parties had been, and at the same time to look
out for Indians, from whom provisions might be obtained, and a
supply of horses, should it be found necessary to proceed by
land.

The party who had been sent with the canoes returned on the
following day, weary and dejected. One of the canoes had been
swept away with all the weapons and effects of four of the
voyageurs, in attempting to pass it down a rapid by means of a
line. The other three had stuck fast among the rocks, so that it
was impossible to move them; the men returned, therefore, in
despair, and declared the river unnavigable.

The situation of the unfortunate travellers was now gloomy in the
extreme. They were in the heart of an unknown wilderness,
untraversed as yet by a white man. They were at a loss what route
to take, and how far they were from the ultimate place of their
destination, nor could they meet in these uninhabited wilds with
any human being to give them information. The repeated accidents
to their canoes had reduced their stock of provisions to five
days' allowance, and there was now every appearance of soon
having famine added to their other sufferings.

This last circumstance rendered it more perilous to keep together
than to separate. Accordingly, after a little anxious but
bewildered counsel, it was determined that several small
detachments should start off in different directions, headed by
the several partners. Should any of them succeed in falling in
with friendly Indians, within a reasonable distance, and
obtaining a supply of provisions and horses, they were to return
to the aid of the main body: otherwise they were to shift for
themselves, and shape their course according to circumstances;
keeping the mouth of the Columbia River as the ultimate point of
their wayfaring. Accordingly, three several parties set off from
the camp at Caldron Linn, in opposite directions. Mr. M'Lellan,
with three men, kept down along the bank of the river. Mr.
Crooks, with five others, turned their steps up it; retracing by
land the weary course they had made by water, intending, should
they not find relief nearer at hand, to keep on until they should
reach Henry's Fort, where they hoped to find the horses they had
left there, and to return with them to the main body.

The third party, composed of five men, was headed by Mr.
M'Kenzie, who struck to the northward, across the desert plains,
in hopes of coming upon the main stream of the Columbia.

Having seen these three adventurous bands depart upon their
forlorn expeditions, Mr. Hunt turned his thoughts to provide for
the subsistence of the main body left to his charge, and to
prepare for their future march. There remained with him thirty-
one men, besides the squaw and two children of Pierre Dorion.
There was no game to be met with in the neighborhood; but beavers
were occasionally trapped about the river banks, which afforded a
scanty supply of food; in the meantime they comforted themselves
that some one or other of the foraging detachments would be
successful, and return with relief.

Mr. Hunt now set to work with all diligence, to prepare caches,
in which to deposit the baggage and merchandise, of which it
would be necessary to disburden themselves, preparatory to their
weary march by land: and here we shall give a brief description
of those contrivances, so noted in the wilderness.

A cache is a term common among traders and hunters, to designate
a hiding-place for provisions and effects. It is derived from the
French word "cacher", to conceal, and originated among the early
colonists of Canada and Louisiana; but the secret depository
which it designates was in use among the aboriginals long before
the intrusion of the white men. It is, in fact, the only mode
that migratory hordes have of preserving their valuables from
robbery, during their long absences from their villages or
accustomed haunts, on hunting expeditions, or during the
vicissitudes of war. The utmost skill and caution are required to
render these places of concealment invisible to the lynx eye of
an Indian. The first care is to seek out a proper situation,
which is generally some dry, low, bank of clay, on the margin of
a water-course. As soon as the precise spot is pitched upon,
blankets, saddle-cloths, and other coverings are spread over the
surrounding grass and bushes, to prevent foot-tracks, or any
other derangement; and as few hands as possible are employed. A
circle of about two feet in diameter is then nicely cut in the
sod, which is carefully removed, with the loose soil immediately
beneath it, and laid aside in a place where it will be safe from
anything that may change its appearance. The uncovered area is
then digged perpendicularly to the depth of about three feet, and
is then gradually widened so as to form a conical chamber six or
seven feet deep. The whole of the earth displaced by this
process, being of a different color from that an the surface, is
handed up in a vessel, and heaped into a skin or cloth, in which
it is conveyed to the stream and thrown into the midst of the
current, that it may be entirely carried off. Should the cache
not be formed in the vicinity of a stream, the earth thus thrown
up is carried to a distance, and scattered in such manner as not
to leave the minutest trace. The cave, being formed, is well
lined with dry grass, bark, sticks, and poles, and occasionally a
dried hide. The property intended to be hidden is then laid in,
after having been well aired: a hide is spread over it, and dried
grass, brush, and stones thrown in, and trampled down until the
pit is filled to the neck. The loose soil which had been put
aside is then brought and rammed down firmly, to prevent its
caving in, and is frequently sprinkled with water, to destroy the
scent, lest the wolves and bears should be attracted to the
place, and root up the concealed treasure. When the neck of the
cache is nearly level with the surrounding surface, the sod is
again fitted in with the utmost exactness, and any bushes,
stocks, or stones, that may have originally been about the spot,
are restored to their former places. The blankets and other
coverings are then removed from the surrounding herbage; all
tracks are obliterated; the grass is gently raised by the hand to
its natural position, and the minutest chip or straw is
scrupulously gleaned up and thrown into the stream. After all
this is done, the place is abandoned for the night, and, if all
be right next morning, is not visited again, until there be a
necessity for reopening the cache. Four men are sufficient, in
this way, to conceal the amount of three tons weight of
merchandise in the course of two days. Nine caches were required
to contain the goods and baggage which Mr. Hunt found it
necessary to leave at this place.

Three days had been thus employed since the departure of the
several detachments, when that of Mr. Crooks unexpectedly made
its appearance. A momentary joy was diffused through the camp,
for they supposed succor to be at hand. It was soon dispelled.
Mr. Crooks and his companions had been completely disheartened by
this retrograde march through a bleak and barren country; and had
found, computing from their progress and the accumulating
difficulties besetting every step, that it would be impossible to
reach Henry's Fort and return to the main body in the course of
the winter. They had determined, therefore, to rejoin their
comrades, and share their lot.

One avenue of hope was thus closed upon the anxious sojourners at
the Caldron Linn; their main expectation of relief was now from
the two parties under Reed and M'Lellan, which had proceeded down
the river; for, as to Mr. M'Kenzie's detachment, which had struck
across the plains, they thought it would have sufficient
difficulty in struggling forward through the trackless
wilderness. For five days they continued to support themselves by
trapping and fishing. Some fish of tolerable size were speared at
night by the light of cedar torches; others, that were very
small, were caught in nets with fine meshes. The product of their
fishing, however, was very scanty. Their trapping was also
precarious; and the tails and bellies of the beavers were dried
and put by for the journey.

At length two of the companions of Mr. Reed returned, and were
hailed with the most anxious eagerness. Their report served but
to increase the general despondency. They had followed Mr. Reed
for some distance below the point to which Mr. Hunt had explored,
but had met with no Indians from whom to obtain information and
relief. The river still presented the same furious aspect,
brawling and boiling along a narrow and rugged channel, between
rocks that rose like walls.

A lingering hope, which had been indulged by some of the party,
of proceeding by water, was now finally given up: the long and
terrific strait of the river set all further progress at
defiance, and in their disgust at the place, and their vexation
at the disasters sustained there, they gave it the indignant,
though not very decorous, appellation of the Devil's Scuttle
Hole.

CHAPTER XXXIV.

Determination of the Party to Proceed on Foot.- Dreary Deserts
Between Snake River and the Columbia.- Distribution of Effects
Preparatory to a March- Division of the Party.- Rugged March
Along the River.-Wild and Broken Scenery.- Shoshonies.- Alarm of
a Snake Encampment- Intercourse with the Snakes.- Horse Dealing.
- Value of a Tin Kettle.- Sufferings From Thirst- A Horse
Reclaimed. -Fortitude of an Indian Woman.- Scarcity of Food.-
Dog's Flesh a Dainty.-News of Mr. Crooks and His Party.-Painful
Travelling Among the Mountains.- Snow Storms.- A Dreary Mountain
Prospect. -A Bivouac During a Wintry Night.- Return to the River
Bank.

THE resolution of Mr. Hunt and his companions was now taken to
set out immediately on foot. As to the other detachments that had
in a manner gone forth to seek their fortunes, there was little
chance of their return; they would probably make their own way
through the wilderness. At any rate, to linger in the vague hope
of relief from them would be to run the risk of perishing with
hunger. Besides, the winter was rapidly advancing, and they had a
long journey to make through an unknown country, where all kinds
of perils might await them. They were yet, in fact, a thousand
miles from Astoria, but the distance was unknown to them at the
time: everything before and around them was vague and
conjectural, and wore an aspect calculated to inspire
despondency.

In abandoning the river, they would have to launch forth upon
vast trackless plains destitute of all means of subsistence,
where they might perish of hunger and thirst. A dreary desert of
sand and gravel extends from Snake River almost to the Columbia.
Here and there is a thin and scanty herbage, insufficient for the
pasturage of horse or buffalo. Indeed, these treeless wastes
between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific are even more
desolate and barren than the naked, upper prairies on the
Atlantic side; they present vast desert tracts that must ever
defy cultivation, and interpose dreary and thirsty wilds between
the habitations of man, in traversing which the wanderer will
often be in danger of perishing.

Seeing the hopeless character of these wastes, Mr. Hunt and his
companions determined to keep along the course of the river,
where they would always have water at hand, and would be able
occasionally to procure fish and beaver, and might perchance meet
with Indians, from whom they could obtain provisions.

They now made their final preparations for the march. All their
remaining stock of provisions consisted of forty pounds of Indian
corn, twenty pounds of grease, about five pounds of portable
soup, and a sufficient quantity of dried meat to allow each man a
pittance of five pounds and a quarter, to be reserved for
emergencies. This being properly distributed, they deposited all
their goods and superfluous articles in the caches, taking
nothing with them but what was indispensable to the journey. With
all their management, each man had to carry twenty pounds' weight
besides his own articles and equipments.

That they might have the better chance of procuring subsistence
in the scanty region they were to traverse, they divided their
party into two bands. Mr. Hunt, with eighteen men, besides Pierre
Dorion and his family, was to proceed down the north side of the
river, while Mr. Crooks, with eighteen men, kept along the south
side.

On the morning of the 9th of October, the two parties separated
and set forth on their several courses. Mr. Hunt and his
companions followed along the right bank of the river, which made
its way far below them, brawling at the foot of perpendicular
precipices of solid rock, two and three hundred feet high. For
twenty-eight miles that they travelled this day, they found it
impossible to get down to the margin of the stream. At the end of
this distance they encamped for the night at a place which
admitted a scrambling descent. It was with the greatest
difficulty, however, that they succeeded in getting up a kettle
of water from the river for the use of the camp. As some rain had
fallen in the afternoon, they passed the night under the shelter
of the rocks.

The next day they continued thirty-two miles to the northwest,
keeping along the river, which still ran in its deep-cut channel.
Here and there a shady beach or a narrow strip of soil, fringed
with dwarf willows, would extend for a little distance along the
foot of the cliffs, and sometimes a reach of still water would
intervene like a smooth mirror between the foaming rapids.

As through the preceding day, they journeyed on without finding,
except in one instance, any place where they could get down to
the river's edge, and they were fain to allay the thirst caused
by hard travelling, with the water collected in the hollow of the
rocks.

In the course of their march on the following morning, they fell
into a beaten horse path leading along the river, which showed
that they were in the neighborhood of some Indian village or
encampment. They had not proceeded far along it, when they met
with two Shoshonies, or Snakes. They approached with some
appearance of uneasiness, and accosting Mr. Hunt, held up a
knife, which by signs they let him know they had received from
some of the white men of the advance parties. It was with some
difficulties that Mr. Hunt prevailed upon one of the savages to
conduct him to the lodges of his people. Striking into a trail or
path which led up from the river, he guided them for some
distance in the prairie, until they came in sight of a number of
lodges made of straw, and shaped like hay-stacks. Their approach,
as on former occasions, caused the wildest affright among the
inhabitants. The women hid such of their children as were too
large to be carried, and too small to take care of themselves,
under straw, and, clasping their infants to their breasts, fled
across the prairie. The men awaited the approach of the
strangers, but evidently in great alarm.

Mr. Hunt entered the lodges, and, as he was looking about,
observed where the children were concealed; their black eyes
glistening like those of snakes, from beneath the straw. He
lifted up the covering to look at them; the poor little beings
were horribly frightened, and their fathers stood trembling, as
if a beast of prey were about to pounce upon their brood.

The friendly manner of Mr. Hunt soon dispelled these
apprehensions; he succeeded in purchasing some excellent dried
salmon, and a dog, an animal much esteemed as food by the
natives; and when he returned to the river one of the Indians
accompanied him. He now came to where the lodges were frequent
along the banks, and, after a day's journey of twenty-six miles
to the northwest, encamped in a populous neighborhood. Forty or
fifty of the natives soon visited the camp, conducting themselves
in a very amicable manner. They were well clad, and all had
buffalo robes, which they procured from some of the hunting
tribes in exchange for salmon. Their habitations were very
comfortable; each had its pile of wormwood at the door for fuel,
and within was abundance of salmon, some fresh, but the greater
part cured. When the white men visited the lodges, however, the
women and children hid themselves through fear. Among the
supplies obtained here were two dogs, on which our travellers
breakfasted, and found them to be very excellent, well-flavored,
and hearty food.

In the course of the three following days they made about sixty-
three miles, generally in a northwest direction. They met with
many of the natives in their straw-built cabins, who received
them without alarm. About their dwellings were immense quantities
of the heads and skins of salmon, the best part of which had been
cured, and hidden in the ground. The women were badly clad; the
children worse; their garments were buffalo robes, or the skins
of foxes, hares, and badgers, and sometimes the skins of ducks,
sewed together, with the plumage on. Most of the skins must have
been procured by traffic with other tribes, or in distant hunting
excursions, for the naked prairies in the neighborhood afforded
few animals, excepting horses, which were abundant. There were
signs of buffaloes having been there, but a long time before.

On the 15th of November they made twenty-eight miles along the
river, which was entirely free from rapids. The shores were lined
with dead salmon, which tainted the whole atmosphere. The natives
whom they met spoke of Mr. Reed's party having passed through
that neighborhood. In the course of the day Mr. Hunt saw a few
horses, but the owners of them took care to hurry them out of the
way. All the provisions they were able to procure were two dogs
and a salmon. On the following day they were still worse off,
having to subsist on parched corn and the remains of their dried
meat. The river this day had resumed its turbulent character,
forcing its way through a narrow channel between steep rocks and
down violent rapids. They made twenty miles over a rugged road,
gradually approaching a mountain in the northwest, covered with
snow, which had been in sight for three days past.

On the 17th they met with several Indians, one of whom had a
horse. Mr. Hunt was extremely desirous of obtaining it as a pack-
horse; for the men, worn down by fatigue and hunger, found the
loads of twenty pounds' weight which they had to carry, daily
growing heavier and more galling. The Indians, however, along
this river, were never willing to part with their horses, having
none to spare. The owner of the steed in question seemed proof
against all temptation; article after article of great value in
Indian eyes was offered and refused. The charms of an old tin-
kettle, however, were irresistible, and a bargain was concluded.

A great part of the following morning was consumed in lightening
the packages of the men and arranging the load for the horse. At
this encampment there was no wood for fuel, even the wormwood on
which they had frequently depended having disappeared. For the
two last days they had made thirty miles to the northwest.

On the 19th of November, Mr. Hunt was lucky enough to purchase
another horse for his own use, giving in exchange a tomahawk, a
knife, a fire steel, and some beads and gartering. In an evil
hour, however, he took the advice of the Indians to abandon the
river, and follow a road or trail leading into the prairies. He
soon had cause to regret the change. The road led across a dreary
waste, without verdure; and where there was neither fountain, nor
pool, nor running stream. The men now began to experience the
torments of thirst, aggravated by their diet of dried fish. The
thirst of the Canadian voyageurs became so insupportable as to
drive them to the most revolting means of allaying it. For
twenty-five miles did they toll on across this dismal desert, and
laid themselves down at night, parched and disconsolate, beside
their wormwood fires; looking forward to still greater sufferings
on the following day. Fortunately it began to rain in the night,
to their infinite relief; the water soon collected in puddles and
afforded them delicious draughts.

Refreshed in this manner, they resumed their wayfaring as soon as
the first streaks of dawn gave light enough for them to see their
path. The rain continued all day, so that they no longer suffered
from thirst, but hunger took its place, for after travelling
thirty-three miles they had nothing to sup on but a little
parched corn.

The next day brought them to the banks of a beautiful little
stream, running to the west, and fringed with groves of
cottonwood and willow. On its borders was an Indian camp, with a
great many horses grazing around it. The inhabitants, too,
appeared to be better clad than usual. The scene was altogether a
cheering one to the poor half-famished wanderers. They hastened
to their lodges, but on arriving at them met with a check that at
first dampened their cheerfulness. An Indian immediately laid
claim to the horse of Mr. Hunt, saying that it had been stolen
from him. There was no disproving a fact supported by numerous
bystanders, and which the horse stealing habits of the Indians
rendered but too probable; so Mr. Hunt relinquished his steed to
the claimant; not being able to retain him by a second purchase.

At this place they encamped for the night, and made a sumptuous
repast upon fish and a couple of dogs, procured from their Indian
neighbors. The next day they kept along the river, but came to a
halt after ten miles' march, on account of the rain. Here they
again got a supply of fish and dogs from the natives; and two of
the men were fortunate enough each to get a horse in exchange for
a buffalo robe. One of these men was Pierre Dorion, the half-
breed interpreter, to whose suffering family the horse was a
timely acquisition. And here we cannot but notice the wonderful
patience, perseverance, and hardihood of the Indian women, as
exemplified in the conduct of the poor squaw of the interpreter.
She was now far advanced in her pregnancy, and had two children
to take care of; one four, and the other two years of age. The
latter of course she had frequently to carry on her back, in
addition to the burden usually imposed upon the squaw, yet she
had borne all her hardships without a murmur, and throughout this
weary and painful journey had kept pace with the best of the
pedestrians. Indeed on various occasions in the course of this
enterprise, she displayed a force of character that won the
respect and applause of the white men.

Mr. Hunt endeavored to gather some information from these Indians
concerning the country and the course of the rivers. His
communications with them had to be by signs, and a few words
which he had learnt, and of course were extremely vague. All that
he could learn from them was that the great river, the Columbia,
was still far distant, but he could ascertain nothing as to the
route he ought to take to arrive at it. For the two following
days they continued westward upwards of forty miles along the
little stream, until they crossed it just before its junction
with Snake River, which they found still running to the north.
Before them was a wintry-looking mountain covered with snow on
all sides.

In three days more they made about seventy miles; fording two
small rivers, the waters of which were very cold. Provisions were
extremely scarce; their chief sustenance was portable soup; a
meagre diet for weary pedestrians.

On the 27th of November the river led them into the mountains
through a rocky defile where there was scarcely room to pass.
They were frequently obliged to unload the horses to get them by
the narrow places; and sometimes to wade through the water in
getting round rocks and butting cliffs. All their food this day
was a beaver which they had caught the night before; by evening,
the cravings of hunger were so sharp, and the prospect of any
supply among the mountains so faint, that they had to kill one of
the horses. "The men," says Mr. Hunt in his journal, "find the
meat very good, and, indeed, so should I, were it not for the
attachment I have to the animal."

Early the following day, after proceeding ten miles to the north,
they came to two lodges of Shoshonies, who seemed in nearly as
great extremity as themselves, having just killed two horses for
food. They had no other provisions excepting the seed of a weed
which they gather in great quantities, and pound fine. It
resembles hemp-seed. Mr. Hunt purchased a bag of it, and also
some small pieces of horse flesh, which he began to relish,
pronouncing them "fat and tender."

From these Indians he received information that several white men
had gone down the river, some one side, and a good many on the
other; these last he concluded to be Mr. Crooks and his party. He
was thus released from much anxiety about their safety,
especially as the Indians spoke about Mr. Crooks having one of
his dogs yet, which showed that he and his men had not been
reduced to extremity of hunger.

As Mr. Hunt feared that he might be several days in passing
through this mountain defile, and run the risk of famine, he
encamped in the neighborhood of the Indians, for the purpose of
bartering with them for a horse. The evening was expended in
ineffectual trials. He offered a gun, a buffalo robe, and various
other articles. The poor fellows had, probably, like himself, the
fear of starvation before their eyes. At length the women,
learning the object of his pressing solicitations and tempting
offers, set up such a terrible hue and cry that he was fairly
howled and scolded from the ground.

The next morning early, the Indians seemed very desirous to get
rid of their visitors, fearing, probably, for the safety of their
horses. In reply to Mr. Hunt's inquiries about the mountains,
they told him that he would have to sleep but three nights more
among them; and that six days' travelling would take him to the
falls of the Columbia; information in which he put no faith,
believing it was only given to induce him to set forward. These,
he was told, were the last Snakes he would meet with, and that he
would soon come to a nation called Sciatogas.

Forward then did he proceed on his tedious journey, which, at
every step, grew more painful. The road continued for two days
through narrow defiles, where they were repeatedly obliged to
unload the horses. Sometimes the river passed through such rocky
chasms and under such steep precipices that they had to leave it,
and make their way, with excessive labor, over immense hills,
almost impassable for horses. On some of these hills were a few
pine trees, and their summits were covered with snow. On the
second day of this scramble one of the hunters killed a black-
tailed deer, which afforded the half-starved travellers a
sumptuous repast. Their progress these two days was twenty-eight
miles, a little to the northward of east.

The month of December set in drearily, with rain in the valleys
and snow upon the hills. They had to climb a mountain with snow
to the midleg, which increased their painful toil. A small beaver
supplied them with a scanty meal, which they eked out with frozen
blackberries, haws, and choke-cherries, which they found in the
course of their scramble. Their journey this day, though
excessively fatiguing, was but thirteen miles; and all the next
day they had to remain encamped, not being able to see half a
mile ahead, on account of a snow-storm. Having nothing else to
eat, they were compelled to kill another of their horses. The
next day they resumed their march in snow and rain, but with all
their efforts could only get forward nine miles, having for a
part of the distance to unload the horses and carry the packs
themselves. On the succeeding morning they were obliged to leave
the river and scramble up the hills. From the summit of these,
they got a wide view of the surrounding country, and it was a
prospect almost sufficient to make them despair. In every
direction they beheld snowy mountains, partially sprinkled with
pines and other evergreens, and spreading a desert and toilsome
world around them. The wind howled over the bleak and wintry
landscape, and seemed to penetrate to the marrow of their bones.
They waded on through the snow, which at every step was more than
knee deep.

After tolling in this way all day, they had the mortification to
find that they were but four miles distant from the encampment of
the preceding night, such was the meandering of the river among
these dismal hills. Pinched with famine, exhausted with fatigue,
with evening approaching, and a wintry wild still lengthening as
they advanced, they began to look forward with sad forebodings to
the night's exposure upon this frightful waste. Fortunately they
succeeded in reaching a cluster of pines about sunset. Their axes
were immediately at work; they cut down trees, piled them in
great heaps, and soon had huge fires "to cheer their cold and
hungry hearts."

About three o'clock in the morning it again began to snow, and at
daybreak they found themselves, as it were, in a cloud, scarcely
being able to distinguish objects at the distance of a hundred
yards. Guarding themselves by the sound of running water, they
set out for the river, and by slipping and sliding contrived to
get down to its bank. One of the horses, missing his footing,
rolled down several hundred yards with his load, but sustained no
injury. The weather in the valley was less rigorous than on the
hills. The snow lay but ankle deep, and there was a quiet rain
now falling. After creeping along for six miles, they encamped on
the border of the river. Being utterly destitute of provisions,
they were again compelled to kill one of their horses to appease
their famishing hunger.

CHAPTER XXXV.

An Unexpected Meeting.-Navigation in a Skin Canoe.-Strange Fears
of Suffering Men.-Hardships of Mr. Crooks and His Comrades.-
Tidings of MLellan.- A Retrograde March.- A Willow Raft.- Extreme
Suffering of Some of the Party - Illness of Mr. Crooks.-
Impatience of Some of the Men.- Necessity of Leaving the Laggards
Behind.

THE wanderers had now accomplished four hundred and seventy-two
miles of their dreary journey since leaving the Caldron Linn; how
much further they had yet to travel, and what hardships to
encounter, no one knew.

On the morning of the 6th of December, they left their dismal
encampment, but had scarcely begun their march when, to their
surprise, they beheld a party of white men coming up along the
opposite bank of the river. As they drew nearer, they were
recognized for Mr. Crooks and his companions. When they came
opposite, and could make themselves heard across the murmuring of
the river, their first cry was for food; in fact, they were
almost starved. Mr. Hunt immediately returned to the camp, and
had a kind of canoe made out of the skin of the horse killed on
the preceding night. This was done after the Indian fashion, by
drawing up the edges of the skin with thongs, and keeping them
distended by sticks or thwart pieces. In this frail bark,
Sardepie, one of the Canadians, carried over a portion of the
flesh of the horse to the famishing party on the opposite side of
the river, and brought back with him Mr. Crooks and the Canadian,
Le Clerc. The forlorn and wasted looks and starving condition of
these two men struck dismay to the hearts of Mr. Hunt's
followers. They had been accustomed to each other's appearance,
and to the gradual operation of hunger and hardship upon their
frames, but the change in the looks of these men, since last they
parted, was a type of the famine and desolation of the land; and
they now began to indulge the horrible presentiment that they
would all starve together, or be reduced to the direful
alternative of casting lots!

When Mr. Crooks had appeased his hunger, he gave Mr. Hunt some
account of his wayfaring. On the side of the river along which he
had kept, he had met with but few Indians, and those were too
miserably poor to yield much assistance. For the first eighteen
days after leaving the Caldron Linn, he and his men had been
confined to half a meal in twenty-four hours; for three days
following, they had subsisted on a single beaver, a few wild
cherries, and the soles of old moccasins; and for the last six
days their only animal food had been the carcass of a dog. They
had been three days' journey further down the river than Mr.
Hunt, always keeping as near to its banks as possible, and
frequently climbing over sharp and rocky ridges that projected
into the stream. At length they had arrived to where the
mountains increased in height, and came closer to the river, with
perpendicular precipices, which rendered it impossible to keep
along the stream. The river here rushed with incredible velocity
through a defile not more than thirty yards wide, where cascades
and rapids succeeded each other almost without intermission. Even
had the opposite banks, therefore, been such as to permit a

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