"The distance from Athabasca Landing to the Lesser Slave is called
sixty-five miles, but this must have been ascertained by measuring from
point to point, for, following the shore up stream, as boats must, it is
certainly more. To the head of the river is an additional sixty miles, and
thence to the head of the lake seventy-five more. The Hudson's Bay
Company had a storehouse at the Forks, and an island was forming where the
waters meet, the finest feature of the place being an echo, which
reverberated the bugler's call at reveille very grandly.
A spurt was made in the early morning, the trackers first following a
bank overgrown with alders and sallows, all of a size, which looked
exactly like a well-kept hedge, but soon gave way to the usual dense line
of poplar and spruce, rooted to the very edges of the banks, which are low
compared with those of the Athabasca. After ascending it for some
distance, it being Sunday, we camped for the day upon an open grassy
point, around which the river swept in a perfect semicircle, the dense
forest opposite towering in one equally perfect, and glorious in light and
shade and harmonious tints of green, from somber olive to the lightest
pea. The point itself was covered with strawberry vines and dotted with
clumps of Saskatoon's all in bloom.
It was a lovely and lonely spot, which was soon converted into a scene
of eating and laughter, and a drying ground for wet clothes. Towards
evening Bishop Grouard and Father Lacombe held a well-attended service,
which in this profound wilderness was peculiarly impressive.
Shortly after our tents were pitched a boat drifted past with five
jaded-looking men aboard - more baffled Klondikers returning from Peace
River. We had heard of numbers in the interior who could neither go on nor
return, and expected to meet more castaways before we reached the lake. In
this we were not astray, and several days after in the upper river we met
a York boat loaded with them - alert and unmistakable Americans, but with
the worn features of disappointed men." [continue]
Reprinted from Through the Mackenzie Basin: An Account of
the Signing of Treaty No. 8 and the Scrip Commission, 1899 by Charles Mair.