Arrived at Chipewyan, we are able to arrange to be taken up the Peace in the same little tug Primrose which had before carried us so safely to Fond du Lac.
UP THE PEACE TO VERMILION
“What lies ahead no human mind can know,
To-morrow may bring happiness or woe.
We cannot carry charts, save the hope that’s in our hearts
As along the unknown trail we blithely go.”
When we leave Chipewyan August 17th, the fall hunt of waveys has already begun. We learn afterwards that the Loutit boys alone made a bag of sixteen hundred of these birds which, salted down, form a considerable part of the winter food of the old Fort. Mrs. William Johnson comes down to see us embark. She has overwhelmed us with generous kindness at our every visit to Chipewyan, kindness we cannot soon forget. It is a small group which now starts out in the little tug on the bosom of the mighty Peace,—Major Routledge, R.N.W.M.P., Mr. and Mrs. John Gaudet with their two olive-branches “Char-lee” and “Se-li-nah,” now returning to Lesser Slave Lake from a visit to Fort Good Hope, Miss Brown and myself.
This part of the journey we are to enjoy more keenly than all that has gone before. Rising on the western side of the Rocky Mountains, the Peace River is the largest affluent of the Mackenzie, being already a splendid stream when it cuts through that range. With but one break, the Peace River affords a nine hundred mile stretch of navigation, and we can justly describe the country through which it flows as a plateau in which the river has made for itself a somewhat deep valley. Extensive grassy plains border it on both sides, and north of Fort Vermilion country of this character extends to the valley of the Hay River. Crossing the Quatre Fourches, an offshoot of the Peace at the Lake Athabasca edge, we turn our faces due west to a land of promise. The Mackenzie River and the banks of the Great Slave may some day afford homes to a busy and prosperous populace, but there are many fertile and more accessible lands to be settled first. With the Peace River Country there is no conjecture, for it is merely a question of the coming of the railway. Given a connection with the world to the south, the district watered by the Peace will at once support a vast agrarian population. The advance riders are already on the ground.
It is not our intent to go to the expense of using a steamer for our whole journey up the Peace. Scows will allow us to proceed more leisurely and to see more as we go, so the second day we turn the steamer back and transfer ourselves and our belongings into a little open craft or model-boat The Mee-wah-sin. We have a crew of five men, one on the steering-sweep and four to track, and in this wise we make our way for three hundred miles up the great river to Fort Vermilion. One day we improvise a sail and so make fifty miles in a favourable wind, but, with this exception, every other mile of the journey is by patient towing.