With long strides he turned down the river bend and in a few moments the immeasurable white wilderness had swallowed him up.
The Big Hill trail was so called from a high, barren hill around whose base it swung to follow a series of lakes leading to the northwest. Of course as Bob had never been over the trail he did not know its course, or where to find the traps that Douglas had left hanging in the trees or lying on rocks the previous spring at the end of the hunting season. Bill was to go with him to the farthest tilt on this first journey to point these out to him and show him the way, then leave him and hurry back to his own path, while Bob set the traps and worked his way back to the junction tilt.
Shortly after Dick left them they started, Bill going ahead and breaking the trail with his snow-shoes while Bob behind hauled the loaded toboggan. On they pushed through trees heavily laden with snow, out upon wide, frozen marshes, skirting lakes deep hidden beneath the ice and snow which covered them like a great white blanket. The only halts were for a moment now and again to note the location of traps as they passed, which Bob with his keen memory of the woods could easily find again when he returned to set them. Once they came upon some ptarmigans, white as the snow upon which they stood. Their “grub bag” received several of the birds, which were very tame and easily shot. A hurried march brought them to the first tilt at noon, where they had dinner, and that night, shortly after dark, they reached the second tilt, thirty miles from their starting point. At midday on Thursday they came to the end of the trail.
When they had had dinner of fried ptarmigan and tea, Bill announced: “I’ll be leavin’ ye now, Bob. In two weeks from Friday we’ll be meetin’ in th’ river tilt.”
“All right, an’ I’ll be there.”
“An’ don’t be gettin’ lonesome, now I leaves un.”
“I’ll be no gettin’ lonesome. There be some traps t’ mend before I starts back an’ a chance bit o’ other work as’ll keep me busy.”
Then Bill turned down the trail, and Bob for the first time in his life was quite alone in the heart of the great wilderness.
A STREAK OF GOOD LUCK
When Bill was gone Bob went to work at once getting some traps that were hanging in the tilt in good working order. He set them and sprang them one after another, testing every one critically. They were practically all new ones, and Douglas, after his careful, painstaking manner, had left them in thorough repair. These were some additional traps that no place had been found for on the trail. There were only about twenty of them and Bob decided that he would set them along the shores of a lake beyond the tilt, where there were none, and look after them on the Saturday mornings that he would be lying up there. The next morning he put them on his toboggan, and shouldering his gun he started out.