About noon on the following day they were obliged to bid farewell to Lin Hathaway, his wagon and horses, as the logging-road went no farther. The young settler turned homeward rather regretfully. It might be many months again before he got a chance of talking to anybody beyond his father and mother, and the boys had brought a dash of outside life into his woodland solitude.
The travellers proceeded on foot through a dense forest, which, luckily for Dol, had little undergrowth and mostly a soft carpet of moss or dry pine needles. Still they had plenty of climbing over windfalls, with many rough pokes and jibes from forward boughs and rotten limbs, to rob the way of sameness. Through this labyrinth they were safely piloted by Uncle Eb and Joe, the latter with his compass in his hand, and the former simply studying the “Indian’s compass,” which is observing how the moss grows upon the tree-trunks, there being always a greater quantity on the side which faces north.
Before nightfall they reached another log cabin, tenanted by a man who had just settled down for the purpose of clearing up a farm. Here they were lodged for the night, without trouble of making camp.
The third day of their journey was marked by two sensations. They halted for a short rest at a point where there was an extensive break in the forest. Scarcely had they emerged from the gloom of a dense growth of cedars, when Dol exclaimed.—
“Good gracious! That looks as if people had been building a jolly high railroad out here.”
On the right rose a bare, steep ridge of sand and gravel, nearly ninety feet in height, and closely resembling a railway embankment.
“Well, boy,” laughed Dr. Phil, “if that’s a railroad, Nature built it, and by a mighty curious process too. The sand, rocks, and gravel of which it is mostly formed must have been swept here by a great rush of waters that once prevailed over this land. We call the ridge a ‘Horseback.’ If you like, we’ll climb to the top of it, after we’ve had our snack [lunch], and you can get a peep at the surrounding country.”
So they did. The top was level, and wide enough for two carriages to drive abreast; and the view from it was one which could never be forgotten. Around them were millions of acres of forest land, beautiful with the contrasts of October; here dipping into a cedar valley, in the midst of which they saw the silver smile of a woodland lake, there rising into a hill crowned with towering pines, some of them over a hundred feet in height.
But, most thrilling sight of all, they beheld, only half a dozen miles away, rising in sublime grandeur against the sky, the mountain of mountains in Maine,—great Katahdin. They had caught glimpses of its curved line of peaks before. Now they saw its forests, and the rugged slides where avalanches of bowlders and earth from the top had ploughed heavily downward, sweeping away all growth.