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Editorial Reviews. Book Description. Samuel Hall Young, a Presbyterian clergyman, met John Alaska Days with John Muir by [Young, Samual Hall].
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- Alaska Days with John Muir by Samuel Hall Young
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- Alaska Days with John Muir by Samuel Hall Young - Free Ebook
He drew me close to him by crooking his arm and as my head came up past his level he caught 44 Alaska Days with John Muir me by my collar with his teeth! My feet struck the little two-inch shelf on which he was standing, and I could see Muir, flattened against the face of the rock and facing it, his right hand stretched up and clasping a little spur, his left holding me with an iron grip, his head bent sideways, as my weight drew it.
Alaska Days with John Muir by Samuel Hall Young
I felt as alert and cool as he. Climb up- ward with your feet. The miracle grows as I ponder it. The wall was almost perpendicular and smooth. My weight on his jaws dragged him outwards. And yet, holding me by his teeth as a panther her cub and clinging like a squirrel to a tree, he climbed with me straight up ten or twelve feet, with only the help of my iron-shod feet scrambling The Rescue 45 on the rock.
It was utterly impossi- ble, yet he did it! When he landed me on the little shelf along which we had come, my nerve gave way and I trembled all over. I sank down exhausted, Muir only less tired, but supporting me. The sun had set; the air was icy cold and we had no coats. We would soon chill through. Muir's task of rescue had only begun and no time was to be lost.
In a minute he was up again, examining my shoulders. The right one had an upward dislo- cation, the ball of the humerus rest- ing on the process of the scapula, the rim of the cup. I told him how, and he soon snapped the bone into its socket. But the left was a harder proposition. The luxation was downward and forward, and the strong, nervous reaction of the mus- cles had pulled the head of the bone deep into my armpit.
There 46 Alaska Days with John Muir was no room to work on that narrow ledge.
Alaska Days with John Muir by Samuel Hall Young - Free Ebook
All that could be done was to make a rude sling with one of my suspenders and our handkerchiefs, so as to both support the elbow and keep the arm from swinging. Then came the task to get down that terrible wall to the glacier, by the only practicable way down the mountain that Muir, after a careful search, could find. Again I am at loss to know how he accomplished it. For an unencumbered man to descend it in the deepening dusk was a most difficult task; but to get a tot- tery, nerve-shaken, pain-wracked cripple down was a feat of positive wonder.
My right arm, though in place, was almost helpless. I could only move my forearm; the muscles of the upper part simply refusing to obey my will. Muir would let him- self down to a lower shelf, brace him- self, and I would get my right hand The Rescue 47 against him, crawl my fingers over his shoulder until the arm hung in front of him, and falling against him, would be eased down to his standing ground. Sometimes he would pack me a short distance on his back. My right shoulder came out three times that night, and had to be reset.
It was dark when we reached the base; there was no moon and it was very cold. The glacier provided an operating table, and I lay on the ice for an hour while Muir, having slit the sleeve of my shirt to the collar, tugged and twisted at my left arm in a vain attempt to set it. But the ball was too deep in its false socket, and all his pulling only bruised and made it swell.
So he had to do up the arm again, and tie it tight to my body. It must have been near mid- 48 Alaska Days with John Muir night when we left the foot of the cliff and started down the mountain. We had ten hard miles to go, and no supper, for the hardtack had dis- appeared ere we were half-way up the mountain. Muir dared not take me across the glacier in the dark; I was too weak to jump the crevasses.
So we skirted it and came, after a mile, to the head of a great slide of gravel, the fine moraine matter of the receding glacier. Muir sat down on the gravel; I sat against him with my feet on either side and my arm over his shoulder.
Then he began to hitch and kick, and presently we were sliding at great speed in a cloud of dust. A full half-mile we flew, and were almost buried when we reached the bottom of the slide. It was the easiest part of our trip. Now we found ourselves in the canyon, down which tumbled the gla- cial stream, and far beneath the ridge The Rescue 49 along which we had ascended. The sides of the canyon were sheer cliffs.
The rapids became falls and we often had to retrace our steps to find a way around them. After we reached the timber-line, some four miles from the summit, the go- ing was still harder, for we had a thicket of alders and willows to fight.
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Here Muir offered to make a fire and leave me while he went forward for assistance, but I refused. He was eyes, hands, feet, and heart to me — my care- taker, in whom I trusted absolutely. My eyes brim with tears even now when I think of his utter self-aban- don as he ministered to my infirmi- ties.
About four o'clock in the morning we came to a fall that we could not compass, sheer a hundred feet or more. So we had to attack the steep walls of the canyon. After a hard struggle we were on the mountain ridges again, traversing the flower pastures, creeping through openings in the brush, scrambling over the dwarf fir, then down through the fallen timber. It was half-past seven o'clock when we descended the last slope and found the path to Glenora. Here we met a straggling party The Rescue 51 of whites and Indians just start- ing out to search the mountain for us.
As I was coming wearily up the teetering gang-plank, feeling as if I couldn't keep up another minute, Dr. Kendall stepped upon its end, barring my passage, bent his bushy white brows upon me from his six feet of height, and began to scold: Do you know you've kept us waiting " Just then Captain Lane jumped forward to help me, digging the old Doctor of Divinity with his elbow in the stomach and nearly knocking him off the boat.
Kendall was a very tall, thin, severe-looking old lady, with face lined with grief by the loss of her children. She 52 Alaska Days with John Muir had not gone to bed at all that night, but walked the deck and would not let her husband or the others sleep. Soon after daylight she began to lash the men with the whip of her tongue for their " cowardice and inhuman- ity '' in not starting at once to search for me. Young is undoubtedly lying mangled at the foot of a cliff, or else one of those terrible bears has wounded him; and you are lolling around here instead of starting to his rescue.
When I came on board she at once took charge and issued her orders, which everybody jumped to obey. She had blankets spread on the floor of the cabin and laid me on The Rescue 58 them. She obtained some whisky from the captain, some water, por- ridge and coffee from the steward. She was sitting on the floor with my head in her lap, feeding me coffee with a spoon, when Dr.
Kendall came in and began on me again: What would have become of your Indians and your new church? Kendall turned and thrust her spoon like a sword at him. Have you no sense? Go instantly, I say! My recollections of that day are not very clear. The shoulder was in a bad condition — swollen, bruised, very painful. I had to be strength- ened with food and rest, and Muir called from his sleep of exhaustion, 54 Alaska Days with John Muir so that with four other men he could pull and twist that poor arm of mine for an hour.
They got it into its socket, but scarcely had Muir got to sleep again before the strong, nervous twitching of the shoulder dislocated it a second time and seem- ingly placed it in a worse condition than before. Captain Lane was now summoned, and with Muir to direct, they worked for two or three hours.
Whisky was poured down my throat to relax my stubborn, pain-convulsed muscles. Then they went at it with two men pulling at the towel knotted about my wrist, two others pulling against them, foot braced to foot, Muir manipulating my shoulder with his sinewy hands, and the stocky Captain, strong and compact as a bear, with his heel against the yarn ball in my armpit, takes me by the elbow and says, " I'll set it or pull the arm off! I am conscious of a frightful strain, a spasm of anguish in my side as his heel slips from the ball and kicks in two of my ribs, a snap as the head of the bone slips into the cup — then kindly oblivion.
I was awakened about five o'clock in the afternoon by the return of the whole party from an excursion to the Great Glacier at the Boundary Line. Muir, fresh and enthusiastic as ever, had been the pilot across the moraine and upon the great ice mountain; and I, wrapped like a mummy in linen strips, was able to join in his laughter as he told of the big D. He could, and did, go back to Glenora on the return trip of the Cassiar, ascend the mountain again, see the sunset from its top, make charming sketches, stay all night and see the sunrise, filling his cup of joy so full that he could pour out entrancing descriptions for days.
While I — well, with entreating arms about one's neck and pleading, tearful eyes looking into one's own, what could one do but promise to climb no more? But my lifelong lamentation over a treasure forever lost, is this: As light of heart, as free, as wild; As credulous of fairy tale; As simple in your faith, as frail In reason; jealous, petulant; As crude in manner ; ignorant. Yet wise in love; as rough, as mild — You are a child!
You are a man, old Friend — a man! Ah, sure in richer tide ne'er ran The blood of earth's nobility, Than through your veins; intrepid, free; In counsel, prudent; proud and tall; Of passions full, yet ruling all; No stauncher friend since time began; You are a MAN! From about the tenth of July to the twentieth of November he was in southeastern Alaska. Very little of this time did he spend indoors. Until steamboat navigation of the Stickeen River was closed by the forming ice, he made frequent trips to the Great Glacier — thirty miles up the river, to the Hot Springs, the Mud Glacier and the in- terior lakes, ranges, forests and flower pastures.
Always upon his re- turn for my house was his home the most of that time he would be full to intoxication of what he had seen, 69 60 Alaska Days with John Muir and dinners would grow cold and lamps burn out while he held us en- tranced with his impassioned stories. Although his books are all master- pieces of lucid and glowing English, Muir was one of those rare souls who talk better than they write; and he made the trees, the animals, and es- pecially the glaciers, live before us. Somehow a glacier never seemed cold when John Muir was talking about it. On September nineteenth a little stranger whose expected advent was keeping me at home arrived in the person of our first-born daughter.
For two or three weeks preceding and following this event Muir was busy writing his summer notes and finish- ing his pencil sketches, and also studying the flora of the islands. It was a season of constant rains when the saanah, the southeast rain-wind, blew a gale.
But these stormy days The Voyage 61 and nights, which kept ordinary peo- ple indoors, always lured him out into the woods or up the mountains. One wild night, dark as Erebus, the rain dashing in sheets and the wind blowing a hurricane, Muir came from his room into ours about ten o'clock with his long, gray overcoat and his Scotch cap on. He rejected with scorn the proffered lantern: At two o'clock in the morning there came a hammering at the front door.
What brings you here? I brought them into the house, and, putting on my clothes and lighting the lamp, I set about to find out the trouble. It was not easy. They were greatly excited and frightened. All Stickeen scare; plenty cly. We want you play God; plenty play. An eager chorus protested; it was not like the light of a camp-fire in The Voyage 68 the least; it waved in the air like the wings of a spirit. Besides, there was no gold on the top of a hill like that; and no human being would be so fool- ish as to camp up there on such a night, when there were plenty of com- fortable houses at the foot of the hill.
It was a spirit, a malignant spirit. Suddenly the true explanation flashed into my brain, and I shocked my Indians by bursting into a roar of laughter. In imagination I could see him so plainly — John Muir, wet but happy, feeding his fire with spruce sticks, studying and enjoying the storm! But I explained to my na- tives, who ever afterwards eyed Muir askance, as a mysterious being whose ways and motives were beyond all conjecture.
There is no gold up there and he never takes a gun with him or a pick. Ida mamook — what make? Almost the whole of the Alexandrian Archipelago, that great group of eleven hundred wooded islands that forms the southeastern cup-handle of Alaska, was at that time a terra incognita. The only seaman's chart of the region in existence was that made by the great English navi- gator, Vancouver, in It was a wonderful chart, considering what an absurd little sailing vessel he had in which to explore those intricate wa- ters with their treacherous winds and tides.
But Vancouver's chart was hastily made, after all, in a land of fog and I The Voyage 65 rain and snow. He had not the mod- ern surveyor's instruments, boats or other helps. And, besides, this re- gion was changing more rapidly than, perhaps, any other part of the globe. Volcanic islands were being born out of the depths of the ocean; landslides were filling up channels between the islands; tides and riv- ers were opening new passages and closing old ones; and, more than all, those mightiest tools of the great Engineer, the glaciers, were furrow- ing valleys, dumping millions of tons of silt into the sea, forming islands, promontories and isthmuses, and by their recession letting the sea into deep and long fiords, forming great bays, inlets and passages, many of which did not exist in Vancouver's time.
In certain localities the living glacier stream was breaking off bergs so fast that the resultant bays were lengthening a mile or more 66 Alaska Days with John Muir each year. Where Vancouver saw only a great crystal wall across the sea, we were to paddle for days up a long and sinuous fiord; and where he saw one glacier, we were to find a dozen. My mission in the proposed voy- age of discovery was to locate and visit the tribes and villages of Thlin- gets to the north and west of Wran- gell, to take their census, confer with their chiefs and report upon their condition, with a view to establish- ing schools and churches among them.
The most of these tribes had never had a visit from a missionary, and I felt the eager zeal of an Eliot or a Martin at the prospect of tell- ing them for the first time the Good News. Muir's mission was to find and study the forests, mountains and glaciers. I also was eager to see these and learn about them, and Muir was glad to study the natives The Voyage 67 with me — so our plans fitted into each other well.
We have been chosen to puj; some inter- esting people and some of Nature's grandest scenes on the page of hu- man record and on the map. We are daily losing the most impor- tant news of all the world. We both loved the same poets and could re- peat, verse about, many poems of Tennyson, Keats, Shelley and Burns. He took with him a volume of Thoreau, and I one of Emerson, and we enjoyed them together. I had my printed Bible with me, and he had his in his head — the result of a Scotch father's discipline. Our stud- ies supplemented each other and our tastes were similar. We had both 68 Alaska Days with JoHn Muir lived clean lives and our conversa- tion together was sweet and high, while we both had a sense of humor and a large fund of stories.
But Muir's knowledge of Nature and his insight into her plans and methods were so far beyond mine that, while I was organizer and com- mander of the expedition, he was my teacher and guide into the inner recesses and meanings of the islands, bays and mountains we explored to- gether. Our ship for this voyage of dis- covery, while not so large as Van- couver's, was much more shapely and manageable — a kladushu etlan six fathom red-cedar canoe.
It be- longed to our captain, old Chief Tow-a-att, a chief who had lately embraced Christianity with his whole heart — one of the simplest, most faithful, dignified and brave souls I ever knew. He fully expected to The Voyage 69 meet a martyr's death among his heathen enemies of the northern islands; yet he did not shrink from the voyage on that account. His crew numbered three. First in importance was Kadishan, also a chief of the Stickeens, chosen be- cause of his powers of oratory, his kinship with Chief Shathitch of the Chilcat tribe, and his friendly rela- tions with other chiefs.
He was a born courtier, learned in Indian lore, songs and customs, and able to in- struct me in the proper Thlinget etiquette to suit all occasions. The other two were sturdy young men — Stickeen John, our interpreter, and Sitka Charley. They were to act as cooks, camp-makers, oarsmen, hunters and general utility men. We stowed our baggage, which was not burdensome, in one end of the canoe, taking a simple store of provisions — flour, beans, bacon, su- 70 Alaska Days with John Muir gar, salt and a little dried fruit.
We were to depend upon our guns, fish- hooks, spears and clamsticks for other diet. As a preliminary to our palaver with the natives we followed the old Hudson Bay custom, then firmly established in the North. We took materials for a potlatch, — leaf- tobacco, rice and sugar. Our Indian crew laid in their own stock of pro- visions, chiefly dried salmon and seal- grease, while our table was to be separate, set out with the white man's viands. We did not get off without trou- ble. Kadishan's mother, who looked but little older than himself, strongly objected to my taking her son on so perilous a voyage and so late in the fall, and when her scoldings and en- treaties did not avail she said: Our hearts beat high with anticipa- tion.
Every passage between the islands was a corridor leading into a new and more enchanting room of Nature's great gallery. The lapping waves whispered enticing secrets, while the seabirds screaming over- head and the eagles shrilling from the sky promised wonderful adven- tures. The voyage naturally divides it- self into the human interest and the study of nature; yet the two con- stantly blended throughout the whole voyage.
I can only select a few instances from that trip of six weeks whose every hour was new and strange. Our captain, taciturn and self- reliant, commanded Muir's admira- tion from the first. His paddle was sure in the stern, his knowledge of the wind and tide unfailing. When- 72 Alaska Days with John Muir ever we landed the crew would be- gin to dispute concerning the best place to make camp. But old Tow-a- att, with the mast in his hand, would march straight as an arrow to the likeliest spot of all, stick down his mast as a tent-pole and begin to set up the tent, the others invariably ac- quiescing in his decision as the best possible choice.
At our first meal Muir's sense of humor cost us one-third of a roll of butter. We invited our captain to take dinner with us. I got out the bread and other viands, and set the two-pound roll of butter beside the bread and placed both by Tow-a- att. He glanced at the roll of but- ter and at the three who were to eat, measured with his eye one-third of the roll, cut it off with his hunt- ing knife and began to cut it into squares and eat it with great gusto.
I was about to interfere and show The Voyage 73 him the use we made of butter, but Muir stopped me with a wink. Dur- ing our voyage it did not rain every day, but the periods of sunshine were so rare as to make us hail them with joyous acclamation. We steered our course due west- ward for forty miles, then through a sinuous, island-studded passage called Rocky Strait, stopping one day to lay in a supply of venison before sailing on to the village of the Kake Indians. My habit throughout the voyage, when com- 74 Alaska Days with John Muir ing to a native town, was to find where the head chief lived, feed him with rice and regale him with to- bacco, and then induce him to call all his chiefs and head men together for a council.
When they were all assembled I would give small pres- ents of tobacco to each, and then open the floodgate of talk, proclaim- ing my mission and telling them in simplest terms the Great New Story. Muir would generally follow me, un- folding in turn some of the won- ders of God's handiwork and the beauty of clean, pure living; and then in turn, beginning with the head chief, each Indian would make his speech. We were received with joy everywhere, and if there was suspi- cion at first old Tow-a-att's tearful pleadings and Kadishan's oratory speedily brought about peace and unity.
These palavers often lasted a The Voyage 75 whole day and far into the night, and usually ended with our being feasted in turn by the chief in whose house we had held the council. In this manner the first census of southeastern Alaska was taken. Before starting on the voyage, we heard that there was a Harvard graduate, bearing an honored New England name, living among the Kake Indians on Kouyou Island. On arriving at the chief town of that tribe we inquired for the white man and were told that he was camping with the family of a sub-chief at the mouth of a salmon stream.
We set off to find him. As we neared 76 Alaska Days with John Muir the shore we saw a circular group of natives around a fire on the beach, sitting on their heels in the stoical Indian way. We landed and came up to them. Not one of them deigned to rise or show any excite- ment at our coming. The eight or nine men who formed the group were all dressed in colored four- dollar blankets, with the exception of one, who had on a ragged frag- ment of a filthy, two-dollar, Hudson Bay blanket. The back of this man was towards us, and after speaking to the chief, Muir and I crossed to the other side of the fire, and saw his face.
It was the white man, and the ragged blanket was all the cloth- ing he had upon him! An effort to open conversation with him proved futile. He answered only with grunts and mumbled monosyllables. Thus the most filthy, degraded, hopelessly lost savage that we found The Voyage 77 in this whole voyage was a college graduate of great New England stock!
We found this village hilariously drunk. There was a very stringent prohibition law over Alaska at that time, which ab- solutely forbade the importation of any spirituous liquors into the Ter- ritory. But the law was deficient in one vital respect — it did not pro- hibit the importation of molasses; and a soldier during the military oc- cupancy of the Territory had in- structed the natives in the art of making rum.
The method was sim- ple. A five-gallon oil can was taken and partly filled with molasses as a base; into that alcohol was placed 78 Alaska Days with John Muir if it were obtainable , dried apples, berries, potatoes, flour, anything that would rot and ferment; then, to give it the proper tang, ginger, cayenne pepper and mustard were added.
This mixture was then set in a warm place to ferment. Another oil can was cut up into long strips, the solder melted out and used to make a pipe, with two or three turns through cool water, — forming the worm, and the still. Talk about your forty-rod whiskey — I have seen this " hooch," as it was called be- cause these same Hootz-noo natives first made it, kill at more than forty rods, for it generally made the na- tives fighting drunk.
Through the large company of screaming, dancing and singing na- tives we made our way to the chiefs house. By some miracle this majes- tic-looking savage was sober. Per- haps he felt it incumbent upon him The Voyage 79 as host not to partake himself of the luxuries with which he regaled his guests. He took us hospitably into his great community house of split cedar planks with carved totem poles for corner posts, and called his young men to take care of our canoe and to bring wood for a fire that he might feast us.
The wife of this chief was one of the finest look- ing Indian women I have ever met, — tall, straight, lithe and dignified. But, crawling about on the floor on all fours, was the most piteous tra- vesty of the human form I have ever seen. It was an idiot boy, six- teen years of age.
He had neither the comeliness of a beast nor the intellect of a man. His name was Hootz-too Bear Heart , and indeed all his motions were those of a bear rather than of a human being. Crossing the floor with the swing- ing gait of a bear, he would crouch 80 Alaska Days with John Muir back on his haunches and resume his constant occupation of sucking his wrist, into which he had thus formed a livid hole. When disturbed at this horrid task he would strike with the claw-like fingers of the other hand, snarling and grunting. Yet the beautiful chieftainess was his mother, and she loved him.
For sixteen years she had cared for this monster, feed- ing him with her choicest food, put- ting him to sleep always in her arms, taking him with her and guarding him day and night. When, a short time before our visit, the medicine men, accusing him of causing the ill- ness of some of the head men of the village, proclaimed him a witch, and the whole tribe came to take and torture him to death, she fought them like a lioness, not counting her own life dear unto her, and saved her boy. When I said to her thoughtlessly. The Voyage 81 '' Oh, would you not be relieved at the death of this poor idiot boy?
Is he not my son, uh-yeet- kutsku my dear little son? One more human story before I come to Muir's part. It was during the latter half of the voyage, and after our discovery of Glacier Bay. The climax of the trip, so far as the missionary interests were concerned, was our visit to the Chilcat and Chil- coot natives on Lynn Canal, the most northern tribes of the Alexan- drian Archipelago. Here reigned the proudest and worst old' savage of Alaska, Chief Shathitch. His 82 Alaska Days with John Muir wealth was very great in Indian treasures, and he was reputed to have cached away in different places sev- eral houses full of blankets, guns, boxes of beads, ancient carved pipes, spears, knives and other valued heir- looms.
He was said to have stored away over one hundred of the ele- gant Chilcat blankets woven by hand from the hair of the mountain goat. His tribe was rich and unscrupulous. Its members were the middle-men between the whites and the Indians of the Interior. They did not allow these Indians to come to the coast, but took over the mountains articles purchased from the whites — guns, ammunition, blankets, knives and so forth — and bartered them for furs.
It was said that they claimed to be the manufacturers of these wares and so charged for them what prices they pleased. Thus they carried out literally the story told of Hudson Bay traffic, — piling beaver skins to the height of a ten-dollar Hudson Bay musket as the price of the musket. They were the most quarrelsome and warlike of the tribes of Alaska, and their vil- lages were full of slaves procured by forays upon the coasts of Van- couver Island, Puget Sound, and as far south as the mouth of the Colum- bia River.
I was eager to visit these large and untaught tribes, and es- tablish a mission among them. About the first of November we came in sight of the long, low-built village of Yin-des-tuk-ki. As we paddled up the winding channel of the Chilcat River we saw great ex- citement in the town. We had hoisted the American flag, as was our custom, and had put on our best 84 Alaska Days with John Mnir apparel for the occasion. When we got within long musket-shot of the village we saw the native men come rushing from their houses with their guns in their hands and mass in front of the largest house upon the beach.
Then we were greeted by what seemed rather too warm a re- ception — a shower of bullets falling unpleasantly around us. Instinc- tively Muir and I ceased to paddle, but Tow-a-att commanded, '' Ut-ha, ut'ha! As we drew near the shore a line of runners extended down the beach to us, keeping within shouting distance of each other. Then came the questions like bullets — '' Gusu- wa-eh? Whence do you come? What is your business here? The Voyage 85 ''A great preacher-chief and a great ice-chief have come to bring you a good message.
We were to be the guests of the chief of Yin-des-tuk-ki, old Don-na- wuk Silver Eye , so called because he was in the habit of wearing on all state occasions a huge pair of silver-bowed spectacles which a Rus- sian officer had given him. He con- fessed he could not see through them, but thought they lent dignity to his countenance. We paddled slowly up to the village, and Muir and I, watching with interest, saw the warriors all disappear. Dashing into the water they ranged themselves along each side of the canoe; then lifting up our canoe with us in it they rushed with excited cries up the bank to the chiefs house and set us down at his door.
It was the Thlinget way of paying us honor as great guests. Then we were solemnly ushered into the presence of Don-na-wuk. His house was large, covering about fifty by sixty feet of ground. The interior was built in the usual fash- ion of a chiefs house — carved corner posts, a square of gravel in the cen- ter of the room for the fire sur- rounded by great hewn cedar planks set on edge; a platform of some six feet in width running clear around the room; then other planks on edge and a high platform, where the chief- tain's household goods were stowed and where the family took their re- The Voyage 87 pose.
A brisk fire was burning in the middle of the room; and after a short palaver, with gifts of to- bacco and rice to the chief, it was announced that he would pay us the distinguished honor of feasting us first. It was a never-to-be-forgotten banquet. We were seated on the lower platform with our feet to- wards the fire, and before Muir and me were placed huge washbowls of blue Hudson Bay ware.
Before each of our native attendants was placed a great carved wooden trough, hold- ing about as much as the washbowls. We had learned enough of Indian etiquette to know that at each course our respective vessels were to be filled full of food, and we were ex- pected to carry off what we could not devour. It was indeed a " feast of fat things. It was served, a whole washbowlful for each of us, with a dressing of seal-grease. Muir and I adroitly manoeuvred so as to get our salmon and seal-grease served sepa- rately; for our stomachs had not been sufficiently trained to endure that rancid grease.
This course fin- ished, what was left was dumped into receptacles in our canoe and guarded from the dogs by young men especially appointed for that purpose. Our washbowls were cleansed and the second course brought on. This consisted of the back fat of the deer, great, long hunks of it, served with a gravy of seal-grease.
The third course was little Russian potatoes about the size of walnuts, dished out to us, a wash- bowlful, with a dressing of seal- grease. The final course was the only berry then in season, the long The Voyage B9 fleshy apple of the wild rose mel- lowed with frost, served to us in the usual quantity with the invariable sauce of seal-grease. In order to prop- erly receive His Majesty, Muir and I and our two chiefs were each given a whole bale of Hudson Bay blan- kets for a couch.
Shathitch made us wait a long time, doubtless to im- press us with his dignity as supreme chief. The heat of the fire after the wind 90 Alaska Days with John Muir and cold of the day made us very drowsy. We fought off sleep, how- ever, and at last in came stalking the biggest chief of all Alaska, clothed in his robe of state, which was an elegant chinchilla blanket; and upon its yellow surface, as the chief slowly turned about to show us what was written thereon, we were aston- ished to see printed in black letters these words, " To Chief Shathitch, from his friend, William H.
Whether Seward was regaled with viands similar to those offered to us, his- tory does not relate. To me the inspiring part of that The Voyage 91 voyage came next day, when I preached from early morning until midnight, only occasionally relieved by Muir and by the responsive speeches of the natives. I heard a scrambling upon the roof, and looking up I saw a row of black heads around the great smoke-hole 92 Alaska Days with John Muir in the center of the roof.
After a little a ripping, tearing sound came from the sides of the building. They were prying off the planks in order that those outside might hear. When my voice faltered with long talking Tow-a-att and Kadishan took up the story, telling what they had learned of the white man's reli- gion; or Muir told the eager natives wonderful things about what the great one God, whose name is Love, was doing for them.
The all-day meeting was only interrupted for an hour or two in the afternoon, when we walked with the chiefs across the narrow isthmus between Pyramid Harbor and the eastern arm of Lynn Canal, and I selected the harbor, farm and townsite now occupied by Haines mission and town and Fort William H.
This was the beginning of the large missions of Haines and Klukwan. Sky-piercing peaks the voiceless chorus raise, To fill with ecstasy the wond'ring night. Complete, with every part in sweet accord, Th' adoring breezes waft it up, on wings Of beauty-incense, giving to the Lord The purest sacrifice glad Nature brings. The list'ning stars with rapture beat and glow; The moon forgets her high, eternal calm To shout her gladness to the sea below, Whose waves are silver tongues to join the psalm. Those everlasting snow-fields are not cold; This icy solitude no barren waste.
The crystal masses burn with love untold ; The glacier-table spreads a royal feast. Warders at Heaven's gate! Hoar-headed priests of Nature's inmost shrine! Strong seraph forms in robes immaculate! Draw me from earth ; enlighten, change, refine ; Till I, one little note in this great song, Who seem a blot upon th' unsullied white, No discord make — a note high, pure and strong — Set in the silent music of the night. No island, rock, forest, mountain or glacier which we passed, near or far, was neglected. We went so at our own sweet will, without any set time or schedule, that we were constantly finding ob- jects and points of surprise and in- terest.
When we landed, the algae, which sometimes filled the little har- bors, the limpets and lichens of the rocks, the fucus pods that snapped beneath our feet, the grasses of the beach, the moss and shrubbery among the trees, and, more than all, the majestic forests, claimed atten- 95 1 96 Alaska Days with John Muir tion and study. Muir was one of the most expert foresters this coun- try has ever produced. He was never at a loss. The luxuriant vege- tation of this wet coast filled him with admiration, and he never took a walk from camp but he had a whole volume of things to tell me, and he was constantly bringing in trophies of which he was prouder than any hunter of his antlers.
Now it was a bunch of ferns as high as his head; now a cluster of minute and wonderfully beautiful moss blos- soms; now a curious fungous growth; now a spruce branch heavy with cones; and again he would call me into the forest to see a strange and grotesque moss formation on a dead stump, looking like a tree standing upon its head. Thus, although his objective was the glaciers, his thor- ough knowledge of botany and his interest in that study made every The Discovery 97 camp just the place he wished to be.
He always claimed that there was more of pure ethics and even of moral evil and good to be learned in the wilderness than from any book or in any abode of man. He was fond of quoting Wordsworth's stanza: The Fatherhood of God and the Unity of God, the immanence of God in na- ture and His management of all the affairs of the universe, was his con- stantly reiterated belief. He saw de- sign in many things which the ordi- nary naturalist overlooks, such as the symmetry of an island, the bal- ancing branches of a tree, the har- mony of colors in a group of flowers, 98 Alaska Days with John Muir the completion of a fully rounded landscape.
In his view, the Creator of it all saw every beautiful and sub- lime thing from every viewpoint, and had thus formed it, not merely for His own delight,- but for the delectation and instruction of His human children. What land- scape gardening! What a scheme of things! And to think that He should plan to bring us feckless creatures here at the right moment, and then flash such glories at us! Man, we're not worthy of such honor! There was something so intimate in his theism that it purified, elevated and broad- ened mine, even when I could not agree with him.
His constant ex- clamation when a fine landscape would burst upon our view, or a shaft of light would pierce the clouds and glorify a mountain, was, " Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Two weeks from home brought us to Icy Straits and the homes of the Hoonah tribe. Here the knowledge of the way on the part of our crew ended. We put into the large Hoonah village on Chichagof Island. After the usual preaching and census-taking, we took Alaska Days with John Muir aboard a sub-chief of the Hoonahs, who was a noted seal hunter and, therefore, able to guide us among the ice-floes of the mysterious Gla- cier Bay of which we had heard.
Vancouver's chart gave us no inti- mation of any inlet whatever; but the natives told of vast masses of floating ice, of a constant noise of thunder when they crashed from the glaciers into the sea; and also of fearsome bays and passages full of evil spirits which made them very perilous to navigate. In one bay there was said to be a giant devil-fish with arms as long as a tree, lurking in malignant pa- tience, awaiting the passage that way of an unwary canoe, when up would flash those terrible arms with their thousand suckers and, seizing their prey, would drag down the men to the bottom of the sea, there to be mangled and devoured by the The Discovery horrid beak.
Another deep fiord was the abode of Koosta-kah, the Otter- man, the mischievous Puck of Indian lore, who was waiting for voyagers to land and camp, when he would seize their sleeping forms and trans- port them a dozen miles in a mo- ment, or cradle them on the tops of the highest trees. Again there was a most rapacious and ferocious killer- whale in a piece of swift water, whose delight it was to take into his great, tooth-rimmed jaws whole canoes with their crews of men, man- gling them and gulping them down as a single mouthful.
Many were these stories of fear told us at the Hoonah village the night before we started to explore the icy bay, and our credulous Stickeens gave us rather broad hints that it was time to turn back. You are likely to meet death and nothing else if you go into that dangerous region. A day's sail brought us to a little, heavily wooded island near the mouth of Glacier Bay. This we named Pleasant Island. As we broke camp in the morning our guide said: Muir's excitement was in- creasing every moment, and as the majestic arena opened before us and the Muir, Geicke, Pacific and other great glaciers all nameless as yet The Discovery began to appear, he could hardly contain himself.
He was impatient of any delay, and was constantly calling to the crew to redouble their efforts and get close to these won- ders. Now the marks of recent gla- ciation showed plainly. Here was a conical island of gray granite, whose rounded top and symmetrical shoul- ders were worn smooth as a Scotch monument by grinding glaciers. Here was a great mountain slashed sheer across its face, showing sharp edge and flat surface as if a slab of mountain size had been sawed from it.
Yonder again loomed a granite range whose huge breasts were rounded and polished by the resist- less sweep of that great ice mass which Vancouver saw filling the bay. Soon the icebergs were charging down upon us with the receding tide and dressing up in compact phalanx Alaska Days with John Muir when the tide arose. First would come the advance guard of smaller bergs, with here and there a house- like mass of cobalt blue with streaks of white and deeper recesses of ul- tramarine; here we passed an eight- sided, solid figure of bottle-green ice; there towered an antlered formation like the horns of a stag.
Now we must use all caution and give the larger icebergs a wide berth. They are treacherous creatures, these ice- bergs. You may be paddling along by a peaceful looking berg, sleeping on the water as mild and harmless as a lamb; when suddenly he will take a notion to turn over, and up under your canoe will come a spear of ice, impaling it and lifting it and its occupants skyward; then, turning over, down will go canoe and men to the depths. Our progress up the sixty miles of Glacier Bay was very slow. Three The Discovery nights we camped on the bare gran- ite rock before we reached the limit of the bay.
All vegetation had dis- appeared; hardly a bunch of grass was seen. The only signs of former life were the sodden and splintered spruce and fir stumps that projected here and there from the bases of huge gravel heaps, the moraine mat- ter of the mighty ice mass that had engulfed them. They told the story of great forests which had once cov- ered this whole region, until the great sea of ice of the second gla- cial period overwhelmed and ground them down, and buried them deep under its moraine matter.
When we landed there were no level spots on which to pitch our tent and no sandy beaches or gravel beds in which to sink our tent-poles. I learned from Muir the gentle art of sleeping on a rock, curled like a squirrel around a boulder. We estimated the distance by the tide and our rate of rowing, tracing the shore-line and islands as we went along and getting the points of the compass from our little pocket instrument.
Rain was falling almost constantly during the week we spent in Glacier Bay. Now and then the clouds would lift, showing the twin peaks of La Perouse and the majestic sum- mits of Mts. These mighty summits, twelve thou- sand, fifteen thousand and sixteen thousand feet high, respectively, pierced the sky directly above us; sometimes they seemed to be hang- ing over us threateningly. Only once did the sky completely clear; and then was preached to us the wonderful Sermon of Glacier Bay. The Discovery Early that morning we quitted our camp on a barren rock, steering to- wards Mt.
A night of sleepless discomfort had ushered in a bleak gray morning. Our Indians were sullen and silent, their scowling looks resenting our relentless pur- pose to attain to the head of the bay. The air was damp and raw, chilling us to the marrow. The for- bidding granite mountains, showing here and there through the fog, seemed suddenly to push out threat- ening fists and shoulders at us.
All night long the ice-guns had bom- barded us from four or five direc- tions, when the great masses of ice from living glaciers toppled into the sea, crashing and grinding with the noise of thunder. The granite walls hurled back the sound in reiterated peals, multiplying its volume a hundredfold. Power was there in appalling force. Visions of those evergreen forests that had once clung trustingly to these mountain walls, but had been swept, one and all, by the relentless forces of the ice and buried deep under mountains of moraine matter, but added to the present desolation.
We could not enjoy; we could only endure. Death from overturning icebergs, from charging tides, from mountain ava- lanche, threatened us. Suddenly I heard Muir catch his breath with a fervent ejaculation. Fol- lowing his gaze towards Mt. Crillon, I saw the summit highest of all crowned with glory indeed. It was not sunlight; there was no appear- ance of shining; it was as if the Great Artist with one sweep of His brush had laid upon the king-peak of all a crown of the most brilliant of all The Discovery colors — as if a pigment, perfectly made and thickly spread, too deli- cate for crimson, too intense for pink, had leaped in a moment upon the mountain top ; " An awful rose of dawn.
It was a rose blooming in ice-fields, a love-song in the midst of a stern epic, a drop from the heart of Christ upon the icy desolation and barren affections of a sin-frozen world. It warmed and thrilled us in an instant. We who had been dull and apathetic a moment before, shiv- ering in our wet blankets, were glow- ing and exultant now. Even the Indians ceased their paddling, gazing with faces of awe upon the wonder. Now, as we watched that kingly peak, we saw the color leap to one and another and another of the snowy summits around it.
The monarch had a whole family of royal Alaska Days with John Muir princes about him to share his glory. Their radiant heads, ruby crowned, were above the clouds, which seemed to form their silken garments. As we looked in ecstatic silence we saw the light creep down the moun- tains. It was changing now. The glowing crimson was suffused with soft, creamy light. If it was less divine, it was more warmly human. Heaven was coming down to man. The dark recesses of the mountains began to lighten. They stood forth as at the word of command from the Master of all; and as the chang- ing mellow light moved downward that wonderful colosseum appeared clearly with its battlements and peaks and columns, until the whole majestic landscape was revealed.
Now we saw the design and pur- pose of it all. Now the text of this great sermon was emblazoned across the landscape — '' God is Love '' ; and The Discovery we understood that these relentless forces that had pushed the molten mountains heavenward, cooled them into granite peaks, covered them with snow and ice, dumped the moraine matter into the sea, filling up the sea, preparing the world for a stronger and better race of men who knows? But there was no profanity in Muir's exclamation, ''We have met with God! The discomforts of the voyage, the toil, the cold and rain of the past weeks were a small price to pay for one glimpse of its surpass- ing loveliness.
Again and again Muir would break out, after a long silence of blissful memory, with ex- clamations: He sent us to His most glorious exhibition. Praise God, from whom all bless- ings flow! Muir must climb the most accessible of the mountains. My weak shoulders forbade me to as- cend more than two or three thou- sand feet, but Muir went more than twice as high.
Upon two or three of the glaciers he climbed, although the speed of these icy streams was so great and their '' frozen cataracts " The Discovery were so frequent, that it was difficult to ascend them. I began to understand Muir's whole new theory, which theory made Tyndall pronounce him the greatest authority on glacial action the world had seen. He pointed out to me the mechanical laws that gov- erned those slow-moving, resistless streams; how they carved their own valleys; how the lower valley and glacier were often the resultant in size and velocity of the two or three glaciers that now formed the branches of the main glaciers; how the harder strata of rock resisted and turned the masses of ice; how the steely ploughshares were often inserted into softer leads and a whole mountain split apart as by a wedge.
Muir would explore all day long, often rising hours before daylight and disappearing among the moun- Alaska Days with John Muir tains, not coming to camp until after night had fallen. Again and again the Indians said that he was lost; but I had no fears for him. When he would return to camp he was so full of his discoveries and of the new facts garnered that he would talk until long into the night, almost for- getting to eat.
Returning down the bay, we passed the largest glacier of all, which was to bear Muir's name. It was then fully a mile and a half in width, and the perpendicular face of it towered from four to seven hun- dred feet above the surface of the water. The ice masses were break- ing off so fast that we were forced to put off far from the face of the glacier.
The great waves threat- ened constantly to dash us against the sharp points of the icebergs. We wished to land and scale the glacier from the eastern side. We rowed The Discovery our canoe about half a mile from the edge of the glacier, but, attempt- ing to land, were forced hastily to put off again.
A great wave, formed by the masses of ice breaking off into the water, threatened to dash our loaded canoe against the boul- ders on the beach. Rowing further away, we tried it again and again, with the same result. As soon as we neared the shore another huge wave would threaten destruction. We were fully a mile and a half from the edge of the glacier before we found it safe to land. Muir spent a whole day alone on the glacier, walking over twenty miles across what he called the gla- cial lake between two mountains.
A cold, penetrating, mist-like rain was falling, and dark clouds swept up the bay and clung about the shoul- ders of the mountains. When night approached and Muir had not re- Alaska Days with John Muir turned, I set the Indians to digging out from the bases of the gravel hills the frazzled stumps and logs that remained of the buried forests. These were full of resin and burned brightly. I made a great fire and cooked a good supper of venison, beans, biscuit and coffee. When pitchy darkness gathered, and still Muir did not come, Tow-a-att made some torches of fat spruce, and tak- ing with him Charley, laden with more wood, he went up the beach a mile and a half, climbed the base of the mountain and kindled a beacon which flashed its cheering rays far over the glacier.
Muir came stumbling into camp with these two Indians a little be- fore midnight, very tired but very happy. The glacier almost got me this time. If it had not been for the beacon and old The Discovery Tow-a-att, I might have had to spend the night on the ice. The crevasses were so many and so bewildering In their mazy,, crisscross windings that I was actually going farther into the glacier when I caught the flash of light.
He attacked them ravenously, but presently was talking again: You'll never make up what you have lost to-day. IVe been wandering through a thousand rooms of God's crystal temple. I've been a thousand feet down in the crevasses, with matchless domes and sculptured figures and carved ice- work all about me. Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App.
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If you like this book you will also want to read the following 99 cent books on Arctic adventures: Samuel Hall Young here is writing about his adventures with John Muir and Hall's Dog Stickeen, not that Stickeen belonged to anyone according to the book. So if you've read Muir's book "Stickeen", this is where it started. The stories about Muir are beautiful for lack of a better word. Samuel Hall Young was a missionary and John Muir was doing what he always did. They were going to the same places so they went together and continued writing to each other until Muir's death. Samuel Hall Young lost all those letters when the "steamer went to the bottom of the Yukon".
It's too bad those letters didn't survive. Anyway, if you know who John Muir is, and you appreciate what all he did Sierra Club etc.. The part where Muir rescues Hall Young after a fall while climbing is worth a book in itself. Truly awesome book,, this is what Kindle is all about..
It describes the late 19th century expeditions into and around glacier bay by canoe - as told one of Muir's friends who serves as the "expedition leader". They went hundreds of miles in a canoe - in September; We go on foot cruise ships in July Muir is certainly more well known for his work in Yosemite and California, but he apparently had a significant impact on Alaska too.
If Muir was anything close to as energetic, quirky and driven as this account says, he was a remarkable individual. It tells about Muir hiking 8 thousand foot mountains during storms, with no lights, no food, no trails, no weapons and no equipment. How did he do that? Apparently he did it quite often, and it's a wonder he lived into old-age without getting killed by a bear, or a fall, or exposure to the elements.
The book also gives a flavor for the various local Indian tribes and even some of the battles with one another.