Mollie Adams Diary of her Journey in the Canadian Rockies, August 19, 1908

Robson Park Camp

Wednesday, Aug 19

               Off at 8.15 and had the usual 6 hrs. drive over a trail not too bad in spots, with five views of Robson Pk, behind us at first, but after a bend in the Fraser R., when it was supposed to be only 5 miles more to the Cache, we went on for hours, everything very monotonous – scenery, a straight, rather deep sided valley – trail, climbing up and down rocky bumps and through dark sided valley – trail, climbing up and down rocky bumps and through dark alder thicket mud holes – weather hot, sun blazing fiercely, M. and I stopping at every brook and drinking 4 rubber cups of water apiece each time. It has been clear and getting hotter ever since we left Swift’s, hardly a cloud in the sky at all. I think everyone was glad when the trail finally went around the last bend and into the big valley and we at last struck the town. M. and I were a little scared, too, thinking of the roughs and toughs of all descriptions landing in here from all directions. We first saw a few teepees, drying racks, etc., on the other side of the river – the half breed settlement. Then we came out in a clearing where there was a shack and two tents. Mr. Barra and Martin were there, and Mr. B. jumped up and took off his hat most politely as we filed in. A casual glance took in other men sitting at the tent doors, very villainous looking creatures, and a few squaws standing around. They seemed to expect us to pitch our tents right beside theirs, but W. led the way up to a little open flat behind the town where they said Indians usually camped when they came here. We thought we had struck the limit all right this time. We had been told by Swift that the man who kept the store here, Mr. Reading, was from Philadelphia – one for M. to chin with. The one who was spokesman as we passed through the town was a slouchy looking man with a red beard, we wondered if he was it, and before camp was fixed up, we found he was, for he came up and made us a present of an enormous trout caught that morning. We passed the time of day and found him a very mild individual. One of the other long haired, unshaven brigands stalked by presently and said gently, “good afternoon ladies,” so we decided that they were probably not as fierce as they looked, and that we no doubt looked just as tough to them as they did to us – our boys had not shaved for over a week and the fringe on their trouser legs is getting very long; and M. and I are certainly strange specimens of “white women” both as to complexion and costume. We have worn skirts ever since we crossed the Athabasca. After lunch M. went prowling out with her camera and came back with all the news and gossip. Of course she and Mr. Reading found they had lots of mutual acquaintances in Phila. And she invited him and his partner, Mr. Finch, to supper. The other two men are from Chicago, they are apparently out just for fun, or perhaps prospecting. The Indians are all away except a few squaws, hunting in the mountains for their winter supply of meat. The squaws have got in their winter supply of berries, and are drying them new. We saw a queer arrangement hung on the racks as we came by and couldn’t think what it was. There is a dug out canoe on the river, and Mr. Barra is camped on the other side, we had grouse for supper. W. got 5 on the road today, and we had one from yesterday. Our guests were so extra polite that they took off their hats when we sat down on the ground at the pack mantle to feed. But they are both very bald and the mosquitoes pitched in so unmercifully that they had to give up such frills pretty quickly. Mr. Reading says that as far as he knows we are the first white women to be here – Martin had said there was an Englishman and his wife went from Edmonton to Kamloops through here 5 years ago, with their two children carried as side packs on a pack horse. Mr. Barra had not mentioned the great news that we were on the road, so he said they had to look several times before they could believe their eyes when we “blew into camp.” Of course everyone turns out to see who it is when they hear an outfit coming.

A Slippery Spot on the Fraser, Moore Family Fonds,

Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies (V439 / PS - 54)

Tete Jaune Cache.

Thursday, Aug. 20.

               Laid over today to give the horses and ourselves a rest after the hard road we have been travelling so long – and we have to go straight back over it again. W. does not cease to wish for an air ship, and is occasionally heard to exclaim in the most heartfelt tone “oh Lord, I wish I were ten thousand miles from here!”

               Visitors dropped in during the morning, Mr. Reading and Mr. Finch. They took us for a gentle stroll to see the ruins of what may be the original Tete Jaune cache – two heaps of stones which might once have been chimneys and a slight ridge on the ground which might have been a banked up foundation of a shack – all overgrown with brush. And a little way off in the thick woods some cribwork of very old rotting logs enclosing a space perhaps 8 ft. square, a good deal larger than any cache an Indian would build nowadays, as if it might really be it. It was about a hundred years ago that the Yellowhead had his cache. We stopped on the way back where one of the prospector men was examining the sort of fishing lines they keep dangling in the river. The bull trout are not at all sporty and don’t rise to anything, the lines were baited with pieces of fish and a chicken gizzard, but there was nothing doing today. They say it is time for the salmon to be here, and while we were loafing around Mr. R’s shack we heard a splash which they thought might be one jumping. The salmon are said to arrive as regularly as hay fever on the 15th of Aug., but this year they did not come up to date. We were invited down there to supper tonight and the whole population of the town was invited down there to meet us – in other words the two Chicago prospector men. They had both had a shave for the occasion and ate supper with their hats off not being afflicted with baldness – bugs not quite so bad as last night anyway. The dining room was about 6 X 6 ft. – a little roof projecting at one end of the shack, and a real table made of split logs, and benches around it. Eight people squeezed in with a pinch, M. and I having the seats of honor on the longest bench, with our backs to the shack, and the two prospectors, Mr. Kaecks and Mr. Sommer opposite us. M. was very much dressed up. She had on a pair of new moccasins Mrs. Swift made, and was carrying a clean pocket handkerchief never used before, of a bright lilac color, which was anything but harmonious with the red bandanna she wears around her neck. We had fish, bacon, beans, potatoes, tea and cocoa, and peach tapioca for dessert; the viands, after the fry pans and cooking pots had been passed around, being placed upon the ground behind, where someone could make a long grab for them if needed. Muggins behaved like an angel, and even when the scraps on the plates were scraped on the ground prepatory to the second course, he did not offer to touch them until invited. Mr. Reading is prospecting too, as well as the others. He is going on a trip to the big bend of the Columbia with Johnny, one of the Indians across the river, as soon as they got back from their hunting trip. Johnny it appears, is quite a character – a “good Indian” who really works and whose word can be depended upon. He is going to try going by way of Cranberry Lake and the Canoe River; if they can’t take horses that way he will go across the Yellowhead Pass down to the Athabasca and up the Whirlpool to Ath Pass, and then if they can’t take horses down the Wood River, he will take a pack on his back and hoof it from there. The two Chicago men were both in the Klondike rush – started out from Edmonton on the Dawson trail – Mr. Kaeke was 2 ½ years trying to get though and finally landed up at Port George. Mr. Sommer – after various stunts from Edmonton, rescue parties, etc. And going down the Athabasca 2 days by boat, and then tracking up it again, which took two months, when they decided they did not care for that route – went by steamer. He said that while there, whenever there was a small rush to a new place, he was right in it every time. He also occasionally made a few odd pennies in other ways besides digging gold – happened to be at Nome when the rush came there, and earned two dollars an hour by working unloading lighters in the surf. In the course of the evening he made what he called “Klondike lemonade”, a citric acid mixture flavoured with ginger – very excellent. As we sat around, M. and Mr. Reading perched on boxes, some on the bench by the table, and some on the ground, swapping yarns amicably with those four mild and harmless individuals, and with the sound of Indian tom-toms from across the river – the peaceful scene was certainly a contrast to what we had expected of the “T John Cache” before we arrived, and at the moment when we first have in sight of the queer place.

Tete Jaune Cache.

Friday, Aug. 21.

               We hit the pike, homeward bound, at 9:30 after, of course, an affectionate farewell, photos taken, etc.  Made quicker time than going down – 5 hrs. took us just across Swift Current River, where we camped.  Northern lights again in the evening, this time rays going straight up from the horizon.

Swift Current Camp.

Saturday, Aug. 22.

               We started off gaily after breakfast with just saddle horses to up the Grand Fork to the lake at the base of Robson Pk.  Saw be the tracks that the Indian berry pickers from the Cache had been up there recently.  Came to a camp where we recognized the style of fireplace as Dr. Coleman’s.  He tried to get to Robson this way first last year, so Mr. Reading said, found it could not be climbed from this side, then tried to go up behind the Rainbow Mts. from farther up the river, but the snow came and stopped him.  The Grand Fork valley grows narrow and steep sided a few miles up, but we found a very bad trail blazed leading up along the side which we followed, doing some great log jumping, until it stopped short in a windfall.  I stopped short too, and reposed myself in a berry patch near the horses, while the others crawled away somewhat further, but did not see anything much worth while, and the thermometer was 86°, the sun blazing and the bugs were all there – all kinds of them.  So we thought we would leave that problematical lake for someone else.  Mr Reading said he had been at the head of Swift Current River where he could get a look down into the Grand Fork Valley and he had not seen anything resembling a lake there.  He also told us that the Grand Fork surveyors had measured Robson Pk. from a base line a mile long and say it is only 12,760 ft. high instead of 13,700 as McEvoy gives it – or 14,700 as it is on my little geol. map.  The air was smokier than ever today, and clouds gathering around Robson as well, so we did not get any photos of it from there.  The smoke had been getting worse every day since we came in here, when we first noticed it down the Fraser valley toward the Cache.  They told us there that they though the fire had probably been started by two fellows who had been there recently, and who had said in disgust that the only thing that country was fit for was to be burned up.  They went on down the river – and the smoke came drifting back up the river.  We got home to camp about 2 P. M. and were just sitting down to a snack, when W. announced that an outfit was coming from the direction of the Cache.  We knew it must be Mr. Kaeke and Mr. Sommer as they were about leaving to go up the Grand Fork for a few days prospecting, or hunting, or both.  W. went out and spoke to them and they said they were going to go camp at the Grand Fork.  After about an hour we heard their horses coming up near us and wondered if they had crossed the river on them or if they were camped on this side.

Swift Current Camp.

Sunday, Aug. 23.

               Cloudy morning and began to rain before packing was done, so we started out wearing slickers although the chances were we should see the prospectors as we passed.  Their horses did cross the river on them, Mr. K. was up after them quite early and said he had to swim for it.  They grinned cheerfully as we rode past their camp, and Mr. Sommer (“The Chicago Kid” which he said was his only name while in Alaska), said they would soon be with us again, as they had decided to go on to Dominion Prairie, horse feed being so poor at the Grand Fork.  M. assured them there was good feed a little way up, but they did not seem to care about it, so we shall probably have the pleasure of their company for several days, as all outfits have to camp at about the same places along this road.  We made the drive to Moose Lake Camp in 5½ hrs. – rain most of the way.  I had not realized how much brush we scrubbed through till it was dripping wet and poured quarts of water on us as we passed.  The Chicago Kid and his partner blew into camp about half an hour after we did, and greeted us with cheerful shouts “everybody wet and happy?”  Most of us spent what was left of the afternoon, drying out, and a great big fire felt pretty good – quite a change from yesterday when we rode along sweltering in the sun.  The others came over in the evening and we had some more assorted yarns, Klondike and others.


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