A Consultation Whether
to Proceed by Land or Water—
Preparations for Boat-Building.—An Exploring Party.—A
Party of Trappers Detached.—Two Snake Visitors.—Their
Report Concerning the River.—Confirmed by the Exploring
Party.—Mad River Abandoned.—Arrival at Henry’s Fort.—
Detachment of Robinson, Hoback, and Rezner to Trap.—Mr.
Miller Resolves to Accompany Them.—Their Departure.
On the banks of Mad River Mr. Hunt held a consultation with the other partners as to their future movements. The wild and impetuous current of the river rendered him doubtful whether it might not abound with impediments lower down, sufficient to render the navigation of it slow and perilous, if not impracticable. The hunters who had acted as guides knew nothing of the character of the river below; what rocks, and shoals, and rapids might obstruct it, or through what mountains and deserts it might pass. Should they then abandon their horses, cast themselves loose in fragile barks upon this wild, doubtful, and unknown river; or should they continue their more toilsome and tedious, but perhaps more certain wayfaring by land?
The vote, as might have been expected, was almost unanimous for embarkation; for when men are in difficulties every change seems to be for the better. The difficulty now was to find timber of sufficient size for the construction of canoes, the trees in these high mountain regions being chiefly a scrubbed growth of pines and cedars, aspens, haws, and service-berries, and a small kind of cotton-tree, with a leaf resembling that of the willow. There was a species of large fir, but so full of knots as to endanger the axe in hewing it. After searching for some time, a growth of timber, of sufficient size, was found lower down the river, whereupon the encampment was moved to the vicinity.
The men were now set to work to fell trees, and the mountains echoed to the unwonted sound of their axes. While preparations were thus going on for a voyage down the river, Mr. Hunt, who still entertained doubts of its practicability, despatched an exploring party, consisting of John Reed, the clerk, John Day, the hunter, and Pierre Dorion, the interpreter, with orders to proceed several days’ march along the stream, and notice its course and character.