Mollie Adams Diary of her Journey in the Canadian Rockies, August 9, 1908

Henry House Camp.

Sunday, Aug. 9.

               Waked up to hear thunder and rain on the tent – small and vary local showers.  M. and I presently rose up in our bags and sat looking at each other.  We thought we heard a voice!  It sounded like a man calling from a distance, with his voice pitched high to make it carry far.  We heard it three times, and not hearing anyone come running out from the other tent, M. put on her (my) shoes and crawled out under the bug net with the field glasses.  Presently I heard her call to W. and ask him if he heard someone shouting – and a scornful voice “naw – it’s only a coyote.”  So we tried to go to sleep again, feeling rather small, but it did not sound like the coyotes I heard in New Mexico, and M. had never heard one before.  After breakfast W. and U. went off on a chopping bout up to the canyon and M. and I got busy in the kitchen where we are not allowed on pain of death when the professor is there.  We made a bannock first; could not remember how much flour to start with, and it turned out rather thin and meagre.  M. said it looked just like me.  Cake came next, and codfish balls sandwiched in between.  The cake had to be a simple fruit cake, as we failed to find the spice, and was made with graham flour.  Currants, apricots, prunes and figs all went into it, also bacon fat the size of an egg, and sugar; and the result was very good, inspite of the fact that it fell to pieces when we took it out of the pan, and had to be pieced together like a Chinese puzzle.  We cached the codfish balls, all made up ready to fry, in a tree; took the reflector down to the river and gave it a little polish, as we suspected it’s complexion had suffered during our efforts.  Then had lunch and had just got everything cleared up when W. and U. came back.  They had found an easier way around a windfall than they had hoped for, and said we could move to the head of the canyon tomorrow.  A much cooler day than yesterday, and strong wind keeping the flies away.  The horses spent the day away up back of the camp somewhere, all came running down in a procession for a drink in the middle of the day, and stood sleeping for a while by the river before they ambled back again.  They usually arrange themselves carefully in groups sardine fashion, then as all their tails wave regularly to and fro without stopping, each one gets the flies brushed off his nose free of charge.  Nibs and Bugler have struck up a great friendship with Dandy since he has been promoted to be a saddle horse, which seems a snobbish thing for them to do, but the three of them can be found together as thick as thieves now.  I made a special effort and dressed for supper by turning my necktie wrong side out.

Maligne Gorge, Moore Family Fonds,

Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies (V439 / PS - 64)

Henry House Camp.

Monday, Aug. 10.

               We started about 8 o’clock not knowing at all how far we should get – to the head of the Maligne gorge anyway.  The trail they had worked out up along the edge of the gorge was rather an effective one.  It went along the top of a high sharp ridge forming one side, sometimes climbing a precipitous bit which looked as you saw it ahead, like going up a ladder into nothing.  The other side for the first mile or so was a more gentle slope.  The upper part was very deep, 150 ft. in places, and very narrow, the sides almost touching sometimes, in one spot only held apart by some broken pieces which are wedged in.  It was just there that U. put his log across.  The span of his bridge was 15 or 20 ft., and it was at one of the deepest parts of the canyon.  The greater part of the water must be in underground channels above the gorge, for the volume of water is many times greater below than above, and at some places we could see it apparently gushing out from the sides.  We crossed not more than 100 yds. above the falls where the stream tumbles into the narrow crack, and there were a few harrowing moments when Muggins ran out into the water and stood on a boulder prepared to jump in and swim.  If he had, he would almost certainly have been swept over the falls, it was so swift.  Fortunately he hesitated, W. yelled at him, and U. came along, picked him up and carried him over.  The difficulty in getting down to the Ath again on the other side was not bad timber, but a series of rock bluffs.  W. went and had a look ahead while we took a few photos, and decided to risk it although it had not been explored.  And we had no trouble, although somewhat steep and slippery in spots.  On the flats along the Ath were trails everywhere, made by a bunch of horses running there.  In fly time they travel almost all day to get away from them.  But we poked along down the river, getting landed up in muskeg and sloughs a few times, until at about 1.30 P.M., we saw Swift’s place across the river – several low shacks and a fence looking to us like quite a town.  Out trail was half a mile from the river, however, and sloughs between, and we kept on down as no trail branched off to any probable landing.  When a mile of so below Swift’s, behold, another mansion and garden patch right in front of us.  Then we remembered having heard rumors [sic] of some half breeds named Moberly who lived not far from Swift and also ferried people across the river, and concluded this was their place.  W. went in while we waited outside the fence.  He came back reporting that no one was at home, no live stock around, and things looking as if shut up for some time.  A boat was tied up on the opposite shore of the river; a blaze on a tree not far from the house had written on it “This is the crossing.”  We decided to camp there – then 2 P.M. – and dumped the greater part of the stuff near the blazed tree.  It was not a nice place to camp at all – so dirty; lots of people have camped there, especially Indians and it was anything but attractive.  U. fired two rifle shots in case anyone was within hearing distance, and one of the boys was to go up opposite Swift’s and get in communication with him later in the afternoon.  M. and I had just sat down to lunch while the horses were being driven outside the fence to feed, when I heard the unmistakable sounds of boat and paddles bumping around being made ready to shove off.  And it was a real live, disreputable looking man.  We were beginning to feel as if our 13 horses had really hoodooed us and that we were never going to get across that river, and felt sure that Swift was probably away too.  At first we thought it was an Indian in the boat, but as he came nearer, decided it must be Swift.  The boat is of beautifully simple construction, and perfectly safe – two big dug-out canoes lashed together catamaran fashion, and each one of the canoes could carry a thousand pounds.  The general shape of the canoes was like a Maine dory.  Swift seemed to come across easily, paddling in the stern.  There is a sand bar in the middle of the river and he went up along the edge on his side quite a distance, crossed to the bar, coasted down to the lower end and up the other side of it, then came wobbling across to where we were.  W. met him and brought him up and introduced him properly, and he conversed as politely as if we had not been dressed in breeches, and partook of a slight amount of refreshment, including a modest taste from our whiskey flask.  He is rather tall but slouchy, with blue eyes and a several weeks’ stubble of gray beard, and we learned from him later that he is a native of Buffalo, N.Y., came west in ’74 and has prospected almost everywhere along the line from Denver, Colo., northwestward.  It is 13 years since he took up this land and settled here.  He thought he could put us across the river in two loads, so they piled on the first everything but the saddler, tents and ourselves.  U. helped him paddle across while W. got in the horses.  They put them in to swim from a point a little lower down, where there is only one channel perhaps 125 to 150 yds. wide.  We watched the act from our landing – saw the horses take to the water amid a perfect pandemonium of yells and sticks and stones thrown at them.  But before they had gone far, first Dandy, and then more and more of the others turned and swam back, and they all came ashore again.  The same thing happened the second time, but the third time Dandy’s manoeuvres did not succeed, not one would follow him back, but all went trailing across after Fox, who had led them in the water each time, so Dandy decided he would go too.  From where we were, they looked more like a string of ducks than anything else – thirteen little dark bobbing spots – just their heads above water – moving slowly across the broad, muddy river; Fox in the lead, then Nibs; Black Bess was the last, she swam slowly some distance behind the bunch.  Then when our turn came in the boat, a shower which had been hanging around, came up the river, and the wind was so strong that it blew us up stream, against that heavy current, and they had to paddle down to get around the sand bar.  Two of Swift’s children were waiting where we landed – funny little girls dressed in long blue denim dresses.  He wanted us to move on up and camp near his house, but as it was then after 5 o’clock, we thought best not.  W. said he would fetch in our saddle horses and M. and I could ride up and call (Swift had told W. that he would like us to go up just to “gas with the woman.”  “The woman” is a half breed.)  However, the horses, after their long cold swim, had gone out for exercise, and W. did not return.  U. went out to help him after half an hour or so, and Mr. Swift sat on, apparently pleased with our society.  It began to grow darkish and cold and was raining perceptibly when he finally said he would have to go.  He said there was a man from an outfit down the river waiting for him at the house, to get some potatoes, but he guessed he would just have to wait.  We heard afterwards that he had sent word to the man that he could go to ---- whenever he pleased ---- but that there were two white ladies crossing the river, and when he got them across he was going to stay and talk to them.  U. came back soon after Swift left, not having found either the horses or W.  It was a scrubby camp that night, but we all turned in shortly after supper.

Moberly Camp.

Tuesday, Aug. 11.

               We decided to move up and camp near Swift’s today, as his accounts of B.C. trails made us give up the idea of going in by way of the big bend of the Columbia to Donald, or any of the other ways in that direction, so we shall have to come back here on the way home, and can leave part of our grub in his store house.  When we arrived in sight of the shack there seemed to be a great many people running around, especially small boys, but really there was only one boy, younger than the two girls we had seen yesterday.  Perhaps he seemed so plenty because he was trying to express his joy at our coming.  They said that when the girls, Lottie and Ida, came back last night and told him they had seen two white women, he wept and wailed and reproached them bitterly for not sending for him to come and see the strange beings too.  They say that several years ago there were two white women who went up the other side of the river with Fred Stephens, but we are the first to come over on this side.  We camped in a little clearing among poplar trees a short distance from the shack, and had a constant stream of visitors except when we were out visiting ourselves.  Mrs. Swift came with the baby, eighteen months old, on her back, and the other three children were right there with their eyes glued to us, with only slight intermissions during the rest of the day.  And if we “gassed with the woman” Mr. Swift certainly did his share of “gassing” too, with anyone he could get hold of.  We were pleased, however, and found him very interesting.  After lunch we returned Mrs. S’s. call.  She had some very pretty work, silk embroidery on buckskin, in which of course we invested somewhat largely.  Her house, just one room, was next as could be, and we did not feel at all afraid to sit down on her chairs, of which there were two.  They made us a present of a pot of potatoes! A pitcher of milk!! And a dozen fresh eggs!!!  Just as supper time another outfit arrived from down the river, an Englishman going up to some newly discovered graphite somewhere toward Yellowhead Pass.  He came over to our camp after supper, evidently having just shaved for the occasion, with his two French Canadian packers.  His name is Lister, a nephew of Lord Lister, and he says he is always called “Listerine” out here.  Swift was also of the party, and the two little girls who tried to go home several times during the evening, but did not dare until they were escorted, because “the bull was on the trail.”  They stayed till 10.15, which seemed fearfully dissipated to us, 8.30 to 9 being our average bedtime lately.


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