Camp Fires in the Yukon
BY HARRY A: VAUER
In grateful remembrance
of the beloved comrade of many trails,
who in my early youth took me by the hand
and led me along the untrodden ways of the wilderness,
this volume is dedicated.
Camp Fires in the Yukon – The intendment of this volume is not to present a work on wilderness travel nor is it offered as a treatise on woodcraft, though it necessarily contains somewhat of both.
Its sole purpose is to accurrately record the writer’s experiences and observations as a hunter of big game in The Yukon just as they happened day by day and set down in my diary at the time the events narrated transpired.
When the writer has assumed to go beyond the range of his own experiences and relate those of his hunting companions, the diary records those experiences just as related to him by his companions about the camp fire at the end of the day’s chase.
For the benefit of those who may desire to follow the writer’s trail into this remarkable hunting field, it seemed wise to incorporate an account of the route taken by this expedition together with a brief description of points of interest along the way.
The modes of travel with their difficulties, the items of equipment, expeditionary and personal, the character of the commissary, and the methods of hunting are set forth as indispensable to a true account of the summer’s work and a possible help to any who may travel the same trail.
The objects of the expedition were twofold: to observe and study the habits of the various game on their native ranges, and to obtain specimens of the game for the collections of the individual members of my party.
Of no less importance than obtaining specimens was the study of the habits of the Ovis dalli, being the pure white mountain sheep, and the less observed and more rare animals, the woodland caribou, rangifer osborni, found in large numbers in the undisturbed mountain ranges, which we visited.
The sheep mentioned in this diary are all the Ovis dalH, as we observed not a single specimen of Fanning sheep, nor of Stone’s sheep.The caribou mentioned are all the rangifer osborni, as we observed no other specimens of the caribou family.
For the sake of clarity and in order to enable the reader to follow the movements of the expedition into the interior, and more particularly as it has been the writer’s effort and purpose to record only facts as they transpired without straying into the fields of fiction, the writer has deemed the purpose to be best served by a strict adherence to the facts and observations set down at the time of their occurrence in his diary.
These are the things I have seen,
And these are the thoughts I feel,
As I lie in the warmth of the firelight’s gleam,
Till sleep steals away my will.
CAMP FIRES IN THE YUKON CHAPTER I
“Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what luck betide
Let us journey to a lonely land I know.
There’s a whisper on the night-wind, there’s a star agleam
to guide us,
And the wild is calling, calling let us go.”
The northwest angle of the Western Hemisphere stretches into the Pacific Ocean toward Asia, forming the United States Territory of Alaska, well termed a “nation’s treasure house.”
Separated from Alaska on the east by only the imaginary boundary of the one hundred and forty-first meridian of longitude, lies an inland domain politically a province of the Dominion of Canada, with a sea coast of only 200 miles on the ice-bound Arctic Sea; and this domain is also a “nation’s treasure house,” a land of romance and somewhat of mystery the Yukon.
Within this Yukon Territory there flows a remarkable and mighty stream, the Yukon River, which not only furnished the name to this domain, but with its tributary streams constitutes practicably the only artery of commerce, development, and civilization within the territorial boundaries.
Rising within fifteen miles of the Pacific Ocean at Dyea Inlet on the southern boundary of the country, the Yukon rips and tears its irresistible way north by west about one thousand miles, where it crosses the Arctic Circle and turning westward flows more than twelve hundred miles through the middle of Alaska until it loses itself in the icy waters of the Pacific.
Peculiar among rivers is the extent of its navigability, for steamboat navigation begins at Lake Bennet, not quite forty miles north of Dyea Pass, where rise the streams that feed the waters of the lake.
From the head of navigation, and I refer to steamboat navigation, to the outlet of the river in Bering Sea the distance is approximately twenty-five hundred miles, over which large-size steamers operate all summer, excepting three and one-half miles at the canyon and rapids, where the steamboats could run down-stream, but by reason of the current it would be impossible to get them up-stream.
And this navigability over so much of its course seems to be characteristic not only of the main artery of the Yukon, but holds as to its tributary streams, as the Tahkini, the Teslin, the Pelly, Stewart, Tanana, Koyukuk, Porcupine, and the White rivers are navigable for very considerable distances by the large flat-bottomed steamboats of the Mississippi River type.
Naturally and inevitably the course of settlement and development, following the lines of least resistance, is found along this stream and its subarteries.
Indeed, without a single exception, unless it be a few clustering mining camps, there is no settlement of the dignity of a village within this northland, but is found upon the river.
Few indeed are the cities; when we have mentioned White Horse, Caribou, Selkirk, Teslin, Ogilvie, Fortymile, and Dawson, we have mentioned them all and by courtesy have included several that are questionable as being even of village dignity. They are all on the Yukon or its tributaries and there are none elsewhere.
The Yukon courses for most of its length through a mighty sea of mountains, rising like a petrified ocean on either side of the river with green and brown and grey slopes merging into crests of eternal snows. It is truly a mighty wilderness, a land ofimmense silence and mystery, and of incomparable beauty.
It is pre-eminently a land of the hunter, whether the hunt be the lure of the gold hidden within the mountains, or the fur-bearing animals in the forests, or the faunal life that calls to the sportsman seeker for big game. It is the land of the Klondike ; it is the specially favored home of the valuable black and silver fox; it is the greatest hunting field for big game on the North American Continent.
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