There was a great variety in the different methods of transportation which we were compelled to adopt in our journey through Kamchatka; and to this fact was attributable perhaps, in a great degree, the sense of novelty and freshness which during our three months' travel in the peninsula never entirely wore off. We experienced in turn the pleasures and discomforts of whale-boats, horses, rafts, canoes, dog-sledges, reindeer-sledges, and snow-shoes; and no sooner did we begin to tire of the pleasures and ascertain the discomforts of one, than we were introduced to another.

At Kluchei we abandoned our rafts, and took Kamchadal log canoes, which could be propelled more easily against the rapid current of the Yolofka River, which we had now to ascend. The most noticeable peculiarity of this species of craft, and a remarkable one it is, is a decided and chronic inclination to turn its bottom side upward and its upper side bottomward without the slightest apparent provocation. I was informed by a reliable authority that a boat capsized on the Kamchatka, just previous to our arrival, through the carelessness of a Kamchadal in allowing a jack-knife to remain in his right-hand pocket without putting something of a corresponding weight into the other; and that the Kamchadal fashion of parting the hair in the middle originated in attempts to preserve personal equilibrium while navigating these canoes. I should have been somewhat inclined to doubt these remarkable and not altogether new stories, were it not for the reliability and unimpeachable veracity of my informant, Mr. Dodd. The seriousness of the subject is a sufficient guarantee that he would not trifle with my feelings by making it the pretext for a joke.

We indulged ourselves on Saturday morning in a much later sleep than was consistent with our duty, and it was almost eight o'clock before we went down to the beach.

Upon first sight of the frail canoes, to which our destinies and the interests of the Russian-American Telegraph Company were to be intrusted, there was a very general expression of surprise and dissatisfaction. One of our party, with the rapid a priori reasoning for which he was distinguished, came at once to the conclusion that a watery death would be the inevitable termination of a voyage made in such vessels, and he evinced a very marked disinclination to embark. It is related of a great warrior, whose Commentaries were the detestation of my early life, that during a very stormy passage of the Ionian Sea he cheered up his sailors with the sublimely egotistical assurance that they carried "Caesar and his fortunes"; and that, consequently, nothing disastrous could possibly happen to them. The Kamchatkan Caesar, however, on this occasion seemed to distrust his own fortunes, and the attempts at consolation came from the opposite quarter. His boatman did not tell him, "Cheer up, Caesar, a Kamchadal and his fortunes are carrying you," but he did assure him that he had navigated the river for several years, and had "never been drowned once." What more could Caesar ask! - After some demur we all took seats upon bearskins in the bottoms of the canoes, and pushed off.

All other features of natural scenery in the vicinity of Kluchei sink into subordination to the grand central figure of the Kluchefskoi volcano, the monarch of Siberian mountains, whose sharp summit, with its motionless streamer of golden smoke, can be seen anywhere within a radius of a hundred miles. All other neighbouring beauties of scenery are merely tributary to this, and are valued only according to their capability of relieving and setting forth this magnificent peak, whose colossal dimensions rise in one unbroken sweep of snow from the grassy valleys of the Kamchatka and Yolofka, which terminate at its base. "Heir of the sunset and herald of morning," its lofty crater is suffused with a roseate blush long before the morning mists and darkness are out of the valleys, and long after the sun has set behind the purple mountains of Tigil. At all times, under all circumstances, and in all its ever-varying moods, it is the most beautiful mountain I have ever seen. Now it lies bathed in the warm sunshine of an Indian summer's day, with a few fleecy clouds resting at the snow-line and dappling its sides with purple shadows; then it envelops itself in dense volumes of black volcanic smoke, and thunders out a hoarse warning to the villages at its feet; and finally, toward evening, it gathers a mantle of grey mists around its summit, and rolls them in convulsed masses down its sides, until it stands in the clear atmosphere a colossal pillar of cloud, sixteen thousand feet in height, resting upon fifty square miles of shaggy pine forest.

You think nothing can be more beautiful than the delicate tender colour, like that of a wild-rose leaf, which tinges its snows as the sun sinks in a swirl of red vapours in the west; but "visit it by the pale moonlight," when its hood of mist is edged with silver, when black shadows gather in its deep ravines and white misty lights gleam from its snowy pinnacles, when the host of starry constellations seems to circle around its lofty peak, and the tangled silver chain of the Pleiades to hang upon one of its rocky spires - then say, if you can, that it is more beautiful by daylight.

We entered the Yolofka about noon. This river empties into the Kamchatka from the north, twelve versts above Kluchei. Its shores are generally low and marshy, and thickly overgrown with rushes and reedy grass, which furnish cover for thousands of ducks, geese, and wild swans. We reached, before night, a native village called Harchina (har'-chin-ah) and sent at once for a celebrated Russian guide by the name of Nicolai Bragan (nick-o-lai' brag'-on) whom we hoped to induce to accompany us across the mountains.

From Bragan we learned that there had been a heavy fall of snow on the mountains during the previous week; but he thought that the warm weather of the last three or four days had probably melted most of it away, and that the trail would be at least passable. He was willing at all events to try to take us across. Relieved of a good deal of anxiety, we left Harchina early on the morning of the 17th, and resumed our ascent of the river. On account of the rapidity of the current in the main stream, we turned aside into one of the many "protoks" (pro-tokes') or arms into which the river was here divided, and poled slowly up for four hours. The channel was very winding and narrow, so that one could touch with a paddle the bank on either side, and in many places the birches and willows met over the stream, dropping yellow leaves upon our heads as we passed underneath. Here and there long scraggy tree-trunks hung over the bank into the water, logs green with moss thrust their ends up from the depths of the stream, and more than once we seemed about to come to a stop in the midst of an impassable swamp. Nicolai Alexandrovich, our guide, whose canoe preceded ours, sang for our entertainment some of the monotonous melancholy songs of the Kamchadals, and Dodd and I in turn made the woods ring with the enlivening strains of "Kingdom Coming" and "Upidee." When we tired of music we made an amicable adjustment of our respective legs in the narrow canoe, and lying back upon our bearskins slept soundly, undisturbed by the splash of the water and the scraping of poles at our very ears. We camped that night on a high sandy beach over the water, ten or twelve miles south of Yolofka.

It was a warm still evening, and as we all sat on our bearskins around the camp-fire, smoking and talking over the day's adventures, our attention was suddenly attracted by a low rumbling, like distant thunder, accompanied by occasional explosions. "What's that?" demanded the Major quickly. "That," said Nicolai soberly, as he emptied his lungs of smoke, "is the Kluchefskoi volcano talking to the peak of Suveilich" (soo-veil'-itch). "Nothing private in the conversation, I suppose," observed Dodd dryly; "he shouts it out loud enough." The reverberations continued for several minutes, but the peak of Suveilich made no response. That unfortunate mountain had recklessly expended its volcanic energies in early life, and was now left without a voice to answer the thundering shouts of its mighty comrade. There was a time when volcanoes were as numerous in Kamchatka as knights around the table of King Arthur, and the peninsula trembled to the thunder of their shoutings and midnight jollity; but one after another they had been suffocated with the fiery streams of their own eloquence, until at last Kluchefskoi was left alone, calling to its old companions throughout the silent hours of long winter nights, but hearing no response save the faint far-away echoes of its own mighty voice.

I was waked early on the following morning by the jubilant music of "Oh, Su-san'-na-a-a, don't ye cry for me!" and crawling out of the tent I surprised one of our native boatmen in the very act of drumming on a frying-pan and yelling out joyously:

  "Litenin' struck de telegraf, 
  Killed two thousand niggers; 
  Shut my eyes to hole my breff, 
  Su-san'-na-a-a, don't ye cry!"

A comical skin-clad native, in the heart of Kamchatka, playing on a frying-pan and singing, "Oh, Susanna!" like an arctic negro minstrel, was too much for my gravity, and I burst into a fit of laughter, which, soon brought out Dodd. The musician, who had supposed that he was exercising his vocal organs unheard, stopped suddenly, and looked sheepishly around, as if conscious that he had been making himself ridiculous in some way, but did not know exactly how.

"Why, Andrei," said Dodd, "I didn't know you could sing in English."

"I can't, Barin," was the reply; "but I can sing a little in American."

Dodd and I went off in another roar of laughter, which puzzled poor Andrei more and more.

"Where did you learn?" Dodd asked.

"The sailors of a whaling-ship learned it to me when I was in Petropavlovsk, two years ago; isn't it a good song?" he said, evidently fearing that there might be something improper in the sentiment.

"It's a capital song," Dodd replied reassuringly; "do you know any more American words?"

"Oh yes, your honour!" (proudly) "I know 'dam yerize,' 'by 'm bye tomorry,' 'no savey John,' and 'goaty hell,' but I don't know what they all mean."

It was evident that he didn't! His American education was of limited extent and doubtful utility; but not even Cardinal Mezzofanti himself could have been more proud of his forty languages than poor Andrei was of "dam yerize" and "goaty hell." If ever he reached America, the blessed land that he saw in his happier dreams, these questionable phrases would be his passports to the first society.

While we had been talking with Andrei, Viushin had built a fire and prepared breakfast, and just as the sun peered into the valley we sat down on bearskins around our little candle-box and ate some "selanka," or sour soup, upon which Viushin particularly prided himself, and drank tumbler after tumbler of steaming tea. Selanka, hardtack, and tea, with an occasional duck roasted before the fire on a sharp stick, made up our bill of fare while camping out. Only in the settlements did we enjoy such luxuries as milk, butter, fresh bread, preserved rose-petals, and fish pies.

Taking our places again in the canoes after breakfast, we poled on up the river, shooting occasionally at flying ducks and swans, and picking as we passed long branches full of wild cherries which drooped low over the water. About noon we left the canoes to go around a long bend in the river, and started on foot with a native guide for Yolofka. The grass in the river bottom and on the plains was much higher than our waists, and walking through it was very fatiguing exercise; but we succeeded in reaching the village about one o'clock, long before our canoes came in sight.

Yolofka, a small Kamchadal settlement of half a dozen houses, is situated among the foot-hills of the great central Kamchatkan range, immediately below the pass which bears its name, and on the direct route to Tigil and the west coast. It is the head of canoe navigation on the Yolofka River, and the starting-point for parties intending to cross the mountains. Anticipating difficulty in getting horses enough for our use at this small village, the Major had sent eight or ten overland from Kluchei, and we found them there awaiting our arrival.

Nearly the whole afternoon was spent in packing the horses and getting ready for a start, and we camped for the night beside a cold mountain spring only a few versts away from the Village. The weather, hitherto, had been clear and warm, but it clouded up during the night, and we began the ascent of the mountains Tuesday morning the 19th, in a cold, driving rain-storm from the north-west. The road, if a wretched foot-path ten inches wide can be said in any metaphorical sense to be a road, was simply execrable. It followed the track of a swollen mountain torrent, which had its rise in the melting snows of the summit, and tumbled in roaring cascades down a narrow, dark, precipitous ravine. The path ran along the edge of this stream, first on one side, then on the other, and then in the water, around enormous masses of volcanic rock, over steep lava slopes, where the water ran like a mill-race through dense entangling thickets of trailing pine, into ragged heaps of fallen tree-trunks, and along narrow ledges of rock where it would be thought that a mountain sheep could hardly pass. I would guarantee, with twenty men, to hold that ravine against the combined armies of Europe! Our packhorses rolled down steep banks into the stream, tore their loads off against tree-trunks, stumbled, cut their legs in falling over broken volcanic rocks, took flying leaps across narrow chasms of roaring water, and performed feats which would have been utterly beyond the strength and endurance of any but Kamchatkan horses. Finally, in attempting to leap a distance of eight or ten feet across the torrent, I was thrown violently from the saddle, and my left foot caught firmly, just above the instep, in the small iron stirrup. The horse scrambled up the other side and started at a frightened gallop up the ravine, dragging my body over the ground by one leg. I remember making a desperate effort to protect my head, by raising myself upon my elbows, but the horse kicked me suddenly in the side, and I knew nothing more until I found myself lying upon the ground with my foot still entangled in the broken stirrup, while the horse galloped away up the ravine. The giving way of a single strap had saved my skull from being crushed like an egg-shell against the jagged rocks. I was badly bruised and very faint and dizzy, but no bones seemed to be broken, and I got up without assistance. Thus far the Major had kept his quick temper under strong control; but this was too much, and he hurled the most furious invectives at poor Nicolai for leading us over the mountains by such a horrible pass, and threatened him with the direst punishment when we should reach Tigil. It was of no use for Nicolai to urge in self-defence that there was no other pass; it was his business to find another, and not imperil men's lives by leading them into a God-forsaken ravine like this, choked up with landslides, fallen trees, water, lava, and masses of volcanic rock! If anything happened to any member of our party in this cursed gorge, the Major swore he would shoot Nicolai on the spot! Pale and trembling with fright, the poor guide caught my horse, mended my stirrup strap, and started on ahead to show that he was not afraid to go where he asked us to follow.

I believe we must have jumped our horses across that mountain torrent fifty times in an ascent of 2000 feet, to avoid the rocks and landslides which appeared first on one side and then on the other. One of our packhorses had given out entirely, and several others were nearly disabled, when, late in the afternoon, we finally reached the summit of the mountains, 4000 feet above the sea. Before us, half hidden by grey storm-clouds and driving mist, lay a great expanse of level table-land, covered to a depth of eighteen inches with a soft dense cushion of arctic moss, and holding water like an enormous sponge. Not a tree nor a landmark of any kind could be seen - nothing but moss and flying scud. A cold piercing wind from the north swept chilly storm-clouds across the desolate mountain top, and drove tiny particles of half-frozen rain into our faces with blinding, stinging force. Drenched to the skin by eight or nine hours' exposure to the storm, tired and weak from long climbing, with boots full of icy water, and hands numb and stiff from cold, we stopped for a moment to rest our horses and decide upon our course. Brandy was dealt out freely to all our men in the cover of a tin pail, but its stimulating influence was so counteracted by cold that it was hardly perceptible. The poor starosta of Yolofka, with dripping clothes, blue lips, chattering teeth, and black hair plastered over his white cheeks, seemed upon the point of giving out. He caught eagerly at the pail-cover full of brandy which the Major handed to him, but every limb was shaking spasmodically, and he spilled most of it in getting it to his mouth.

Fearing that darkness would overtake us before we could reach shelter, we started on toward a deserted, half-ruined "yurt" (yoort) [Footnote: A Mongolian name for a portable or permanent house-like shelter, made of logs, skins, or felt.] which Nicolai said stood near the western edge of this elevated plateau, about eight versts distant. Our horses sank to the knee at every step in the soft, spongy cushion of wet moss, so that we could travel no faster than a slow walk, and the short distance of eight versts seemed to be interminable. After four more dreary hours, spent in wandering about through grey drifting clouds, exposed to a bitter north-west wind, and a temperature of just 32 deg., we finally arrived in a half-frozen condition at the yurt. It was a low, empty hut, nearly square in shape, built of variously sized logs, and banked over with two or three feet of moss and grass-grown earth, so as to resemble an outdoor cellar. Half of one side had been torn down by storm-besieged travellers for firewood; its earthen floor was dank and wet with slimy tricklings from its leaky roof; the wind and rain drove with a mournful howl down through its chimney-hole; its door was gone, and it presented altogether a dismal picture of neglected dilapidation. Nothing daunted, Viushin tore down another section of the ruined side to make a fire, hung over teakettles, and brought our provision boxes under such shelter as the miserable hut afforded. I never could ascertain where Viushin obtained the water that night for our tea, as there was no available stream within ten miles, and the drippings of the roof were thick and discoloured with mud. I have more than a suspicion, however, that he squeezed it out of bunches of moss which he tore up from the soaking tundra (toon'-drah). Dodd and I took off our boots, poured about a pint of muddy water out of each, dried our feet, and, as the steam rose in clouds from our wet clothes, began to feel quite comfortable.

Viushin was in high good humour. He had voluntarily assumed the whole charge of our drivers during the day, had distinguished himself by most unwearied efforts in raising fallen horses, getting them over breakneck places, and cheering up the disconsolate Kamchadals, and he now wrung the water out of his shirt, and squeezed his wet hair absent-mindedly into a kettle of soup, with a countenance of such beaming serenity and a laugh of such hearty good-nature that it was of no use for anybody to pretend to be cross, tired, cold, or hungry. With that sunny face irradiating the smoky atmosphere of the ruinedyurt, and that laugh ringing joyously in our ears, we made fun of our misery and persuaded ourselves that we were having a good time. After a scanty supper of selanka, dried fish, hardtack, and tea, we stretched our tired bodies out in the shallowest puddles we could find, covered ourselves with blankets, overcoats, oilcloths, and bearskins, and succeeded, in spite of our wet clothes and wetter beds, in getting to sleep.