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SUNDAY in camp is generally looked
upon as the holiday of the week, when letters are written, and a hundred and one tasks difficult of accomplishment on other days are disposed of, with a smoke and a yarn between whiles. When not otherwise engaged, we sometimes ramble away for the day on a prospecting tramp, a hunt, or a climb up one of the mountains. For the latter we entertain no particular relish, as there is little pleasure to counterbalance the great hardships of such an excursion. Nevertheless, once or twice a year, like the deer's thirst for the saltlick, comes the desire to scramble up the great heights. Several times, however, can I recollect having to return without gaining the desired goal, owing to the inaccessible precipices forming an effectual barrier to our further progress.
A Day's Ramble in the Selkirk Mountains.
The following little excursion Scotty and I had planned out weeks before, and on Saturday night over our last smoke we decided that an early start was necessary; so having given cook word to that effect, we rolled in our Hud
A DIFFICULT ASCENT.
son's Bay "four pointers," and slept the sleep of the just.
In the morning we were aroused by strains of melody issuing from that indispensible article of camp outfit, the frying-pan, which cook was manipulating a la tambourine. It was our daily reveille, and in raw, cold weather it was enough to put one in a homicidal
humour to be thus awakened from a refreshing sleep. This, however, was a day of days, when mere existence is a pleasure, and deep draughts of the pure morning air seem to invigorate one's whole being, causing every muscle to swell with the pride of conscious health and strength. After breakfast we
prepare some lunches of ham sandwiches, and, shouldering our rifles, we start off for our tramp up Mount H————. Following the pack trail for half a mile down the river, we arrive at a tree which we had dropped across the stream some time previously, and on this walk to the other bank.
To the novice, walking a small log across an angry stream is sometimes a
ticklish experience, and attended, probably, with a ducking, if nothing worse. With us, however, it was an every day occurrence, and it is really only a matter of self-confidence and taking care that the eyes do not wander away from the log.
The water is now as clear as crystal, but by three in the afternoon it will be a turgid muddy torrent, subsiding again to its normal condition before the next morning. This is due to the melting of the snow in the great heights above us, all mountain streams during the summer months being so influenced.
We now follow the course of a small torrent, which winds its way up the mountain-side through a tangled growth of alder bushes from five to eight feet in height, and it seems difficult of belief that this is the path of an avalanche. But it is so, the alder bushes assuming a recumbent position after the first few feet of snow have fallen, again to spring up when the "beautiful" disappears; and, if we examine closely, we see that the bushes are even now leaning down hill at an angle of forty-five degrees. The ground we are walking upon is all debris, brought down by the slides, probably the accumulation of thousands of years, and it must be of great depth, to judge from the convexity of the surface with regard to the general contour of the mountain-side.
About three-quarters of a mile from the valley we reach a point where the slide narrows and divides into two ravines, or clefts, in the solid rock; here and there patches of snow remain still unmelted. These ravines have bare walls of rock fully fifty feet in height, the bottom and sides being worn as smooth as polished marble by the action of the snow and ice, and in places the glossy surface is roughly scarred as if by large rocks in their rapid transit valleyward.
Further travel up the course of the slide being impracticable, we start climbing up the tongue between the two ravines, where the ground is one mass of "deadfalls," and thickly covered with small standing timber. Our
progress is necessarily slow. Still we struggle along, with frequent and brief periods of rest, but the unusual exercise tells upon one fearfully, for the muscles brought into play are entirely different to those used in walking or ordinary travel.
Here the mountain-side becomes more broken, the timber sparser and more stunted, and there are frequently small precipices around which we have to make detours.
The ascent now becomes both difficult and perilous. Our rifles are also a great hindrance, and were it not that we may see a goat at any time now, I should feel very much tempted to leave mine until my return. After an hour's tough struggling in some really dangerous places, that make one feel uncomfortable when thinking of returning, we arrive at a pleasant grassy slope, where, disposing our racked and weary limbs in the most comfortable attitudes, we enjoy a well-earned rest. This slope, which seems almost level in comparison with what we have just traversed, is covered with a short, bunchy grass and low bushes, interspersed with patches of heather, of the latter there being three varieties, red, white, and purple. Upon examination I find this is not the same as the Scotch heather and that found in other parts of Great Britain, the blossoms being much larger and coarser, but still very pretty. All kinds of flowers sprinkle the ground in profusion; in fact, upon all the open patches of ground on our way up we discovered flowers of all descriptions, the varieties changing as we ascended. There was also a moss with a very pretty pink blossom, the name of which I am unable to give, not having much botanical knowledge, but imagine it is rare. The timber-line is quite a distance below us, the highest shrubs here being only about eighteen inches above the ground.
Looking down into the valley we are unable to see that part of the mountain we have just traversed, so steep is it compared with the slope upon which we are resting, and as we are fully a hundred feet back from the brink, it
seems as if we were looking over the edge of a precipice. The awful depth down into the valley is truly horrifying to contemplate, and a feeling of giddiness overcomes me as I gaze, with a sensation of falling headlong into the abyss. Closing my eyes and turning upon my side, this disagreeable sensation soon passes away.
Upon opening my eyes blinkingly in the glaring sun, what do they rest upon but a goat!!!!
Yes, a goat, which to my eyes looks as large as a house at that moment. Scotty's eyes bulge out like saucers when I whisper, "Look at that goat!"
Picking up my rifle, I fire, whereupon the goat gives a bound in the air, and comes down upon all four feet at once, giving himself a good shake after the operation, as if not sure whether he is awake.
Bang!!! Again I miss him, and like a flash he is out of sight, to reappear again, however, in a few moments, about fifty feet higher up, standing out on a pinnacle like some statue. Bang!!! And that's the last of him, unhurt, too, as any one can easily see.
At that moment, probably, I made use of language which can be most fittingly described as "Things one would rather have left unsaid," and small blame to me, too, considering the circumstances. Truly we were two great hunters, lolling at our ease and the game standing around inspecting us.
During this time Scotty had neither fired a shot nor said a word, and turning in his direction I discovered him with rather a red face, picking up some cartridges from the ground, and slipping them into the magazine of his rifle. This, coupled with the fact that the "click, click" of the lever backwards and forwards had been quite
audible several times, made me jump at the conclusion that he had been suffering from an attack of "buck fever," and such being the case, as he afterwards confessed. He had just pumped every cartridge out of his rifle without firing a shot.
Being conscious that a smile was stealing over my face, and not wishing to hurt his feelings, I turned my head away. Indeed, as far as that was concerned, I had not much to brag about myself, firing three shots at short range without making a hit. My glance, however, chancing to rest upon the backsight of my rifle, the whole mystery was explained. The sight was up to the 500 yards notch, so there was not much to be wondered at. The rifle was provided with a sporting backsight, which, as every one familiar with Marlin and Winchester rifles knows, is a spring, which is forced up by a wedge indented with notches for ranges from 100 to 500 yards. It was therefore evident that on the journey up something had struck the sight, forcing