Rugged mountains appeared ahead, crowding down to the water edge, and offering a barrier to further progress on the side they were ascending. Crossing the river, therefore, they encamped on its northwest bank, where they found good pasturage and buffalo in abundance. The weather was overcast and rainy, and a general gloom pervaded the camp; the voyageurs sat smoking in groups, with their shoulders as high as their heads, croaking their foreboding, when suddenly towards evening a shout of joy gave notice that the lost men were found. They came slowly lagging into camp, with weary looks, and horses jaded and wayworn. They had, in fact, been for several days incessantly on the move. In their hunting excursion on the prairies they had pushed so far in pursuit of buffalo, as to find it impossible to retrace their steps over plains trampled by innumerable herds; and were baffled by the monotony of the landscape in their attempts to recall landmarks. They had ridden to and fro until they had almost lost the points of the compass, and became totally bewildered; nor did they ever perceive any of the signal fires and columns of smoke made by their comrades. At length, about two days previously, when almost spent by anxiety and hard riding, they came, to their great joy, upon the “trail” of the party, which they had since followed up steadily.
Those only who have experienced the warm cordiality that grows up between comrades in wild and adventurous expeditions of the kind, can picture to themselves the hearty cheering with which the stragglers were welcomed to the camp. Every one crowded round them to ask questions, and to hear the story of their mishaps; and even the squaw of the moody half-breed, Pierre Dorion, forgot the sternness of his domestic rule, and the conjugal discipline of the cudgel, in her joy at his safe return.
The Black Mountains.—Haunts
of Predatory Indians.—Their
Wild and Broken Appearance.—Superstitions Concerning Them—
Thunder Spirits.—Singular Noises in the Mountains—Secret
Mines.-Hidden Treasures.—Mountains in Labor.—Scientific
Explanation.-Impassable Defiles.—Black-Tailed Deer.-The
Bighorn or Ahsahta.-Prospect From a Lofty Height.—Plain
With Herds of Buffalo.-Distant Peaks of the Rocky
Mountains.—Alarms in the Camp.-Tracks of Grizzly Bears.—
Dangerous Nature of This Animal.-Adventures of William
Cannon and John Day With Grizzly Bears.
Mr. Hunt and his party were now on the skirts of the Black Hills, or Black Mountains, as they are sometimes called; an extensive chain, lying about a hundred miles east of the Rocky Mountains, and stretching in a northeast direction from the south fork of the Nebraska, or Platte River, to the great north bend of the Missouri. The Sierra or ridge of the Black Hills, in fact, forms the dividing line between the waters of the Missouri and those of the Arkansas and the Mississippi, and gives rise to the Cheyenne, the Little Missouri, and several tributary streams of the Yellowstone.