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The Peoples, Their Places

Through the Mackenzie Basin: Edmonton to Lesser Slave Lake

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Packhorse"Our route lay through a line of low, broken hills, with scattered woods, largely burnt and blown down by the wind; a desolate tract, which enclosed, to our left, the Lily Lake - Ascútamo Sakaigon - a somewhat marshy looking sheet of water. Some miles farther on we crossed Whiskey Creek, a white man's name, of course, given by an illicit distiller, who throve for a time, in the old 'Permit Days' in this secluded spot. Beyond this the long line of the Vermilion Hills hove in sight, and presently we reached the Vermilion River, the Wyamun of the Crees, and, before nightfall, the Nasookamow, or Twin Lake, making our camp in an open besmirched pinery, a cattle shelter, with bleak and bare surroundings, neighboured by the shack of a solitary settler. He had, no doubt, good reasons for his choice; but it seemed a very much less inviting locality than Stony Creek, which we came to next morning, approaching it through rich and massive spruce woods, the ground strewn with anemones, harebells and violets, and interspersed with almost startlingly snow-white poplars, whose delicate buds had just opened into leaf.

Towards evening we reached the Tawutináow Bridge, some eighteen miles from the Landing, our finest camp, dry and pleasant, with sward and copse and a fine stream close by. Here is an extensive peat bed, which was once on fire and burnt for years - a great peril to freighters' ponies, which sometimes grazed into its unseen but smouldering depths.

In the morning an endless succession of small creeks wasTracking Along the Athabasca passed, screened by deep valleys which fell in from hills and muskegs to the south, and at noon, jaded with slow travel, we reached Athabasca Landing. A long hill leads down to the flat, and from its brow we had a striking view of the village below and of the noble river, which much resembles the Saskatchewan, minus the prairies. We were now fairly within the bewildering forest of the North, which spreads, with some intervals of plain, to the 69th parallel of north latitude; an endless jungle of shaggy spruce, black and white poplar, birch, tamarack and Banksian pine. At the Landing we pitched our tents in front of the Hudson's Bay Company's post, where had stood, the previous year, a big canvas town of 'Klondikers.'" [continue]

Reprinted from Through the Mackenzie Basin: An Account of the Signing of Treaty No. 8 and the Scrip Commission, 1899 by Charles Mair.