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John Muir

Shortly after our return to Wrangell the missionaries planned a grand mission excursion up the coast of the mainland to the Chilcat country, which I gladly joined, together with Mr. Vanderbilt, his wife, and a friend from Oregon. The river steamer Cassiar was chartered, and we had her all to ourselves, ship and officers at our command to sail and stop where and when we would, and of course everybody felt important and hopeful.

A few days later I set out with Professor Reid's party to visit some of the other large glaciers that flow into the bay, to observe what changes have taken place in them since October, 1879, when I first visited and sketched them. We found the upper half of the bay closely choked with bergs, through which it was exceedingly difficult to force a way. After slowly struggling a few miles up the east side, we dragged the whale-boat and canoe over rough rocks into a fine garden and comfortably camped for the night.

I made a second trip up the Stickeen in August and from the head of navigation pushed inland for general views over dry grassy hills and plains on the Cassiar trail.

  Boston: English. 
  Chuck: Water, stream. 
  Deliat: Very, or very good. 
  Friday: Shoreward. 
  Hi yu: A great quantity of, plenty of. 
  Hootchenoo: A native liquor. See page 202. 

On the trail to the steamboat-landing at the foot of Dease Lake, I met a Douglas squirrel, nearly as red and rusty in color as his Eastern relative the chickaree. Except in color he differs but little from the California Douglas squirrel. In voice, language, gestures, temperament, he is the same fiery, indomitable little king of the woods. Another darker and probably younger specimen met near the Caribou House, barked, chirruped, and showed off in fine style on a tree within a few feet of us.

Next day I planned an excursion to the so-called Dirt Glacier, the most interesting to Indians and steamer men of all the Stickeen glaciers from its mysterious floods. I left the steamer Gertrude for the glacier delta an hour or two before sunset. The captain kindly loaned me his canoe and two of his Indian deck hands, who seemed much puzzled to know what the rare service required of them might mean, and on leaving bade a merry adieu to their companions. We camped on the west side of the river opposite the front of the glacier, in a spacious valley surrounded by snowy mountains.

I arrived at Wrangell in a canoe with a party of Cassiar miners in October while the icy regions to the northward still burned in my mind. I had met several prospectors who had been as far as Chilcat at the head of Lynn Canal, who told wonderful stories about the great glaciers they had seen there. All the high mountains up there, they said, seemed to be made of ice, and if glaciers "are what you are after, that's the place for you," and to get there "all you have to do is to hire a good canoe and Indians who know the way."

From here, on October 24, we set sail for Guide Charley's ice-mountains. The handle of our heaviest axe was cracked, and as Charley declared that there was no firewood to be had in the big ice-mountain bay, we would have to load the canoe with a store for cooking at an island out in the Strait a few miles from the village. We were therefore anxious to buy or trade for a good sound axe in exchange for our broken one. Good axes are rare in rocky Alaska. Soon or late an unlucky stroke on a stone concealed in moss spoils the edge.

On October 30 we visited a camp of Hoonas at the mouth of a salmon-chuck. We had seen some of them before, and they received us kindly. Here we learned that peace reigned in Chilcat. The reports that we had previously heard were, as usual in such cases, wildly exaggerated. The little camp hut of these Indians was crowded with the food-supplies they had gathered - chiefly salmon, dried and tied in bunches of convenient size for handling and transporting to their villages, bags of salmon-roe, boxes of fish-oil, a lot of mountain-goat mutton, and a few porcupines.

The day of our start for Wrangell was bright and the Hoon, the north wind, strong. We passed around the east side of the larger island which lies near the south extremity of the point of land between the Chilcat and the Chilcoot channels and thence held a direct course down the east shore of the canal. At sunset we encamped in a small bay at the head of a beautiful harbor three or four miles south of Berner's Bay, and the next day, being Sunday, we remained in camp as usual, though the wind was fair and it is not a sin to go home.

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