Arrival at the Colorado - The author in difficulty - Loss of a journal, and advice to travelling tyros - The rendezvous - Motley groups infesting it - Rum drinking, swearing, and other accomplishments in vogue - Description of the camp - Trout and grayling - Abundance of game - Cock of the plains - Departure from the rendezvous - An accession to the band - A renegado Blackfoot chief - Captain Stewart and Mr. Ashworth - Muddy creek - More carousing - Abundance of trout - Bear river - A hard day's march - Volcanic country - White clay pits and " Beer spring " - Rare birds and common birds - Mr. Thomas McKay - Rough and arid country - Meeting with Captain Bonneville's party - Captains Stewart and Wyeth's visit to the lodge of the "bald chief" - Blackfoot river - Adventure with a grizzly bear - Death of "Zip Koon" - Young grizzly bears and buffalo calves - A Blackfoot Indian - Dangerous experiment of McKay - the three "Tetons" - Large trout - Departure of our Indian companions - Shoshone river - Site of "Fort Hall" - Preparations for a buffalo hunt.
June 19th. We arrived to-day on the Green river, Siskadee or Colorado of the west,a beautiful, clear, deep, and rapid stream, which receives the waters of Sandy, and encamped upon its eastern bank. After making a hasty meal, as it was yet early in the day, I sallied forth with my gun, and roamed about the neighborhood for several hours in quest of birds. On returning, towards evening, I found that the whole company had left the spot, the place being occupied only by a few hungry wolves, ravens, and magpies, the invariable gleaners of a forsaken camp.
I could not at first understand the meaning of all I saw. I thought the desertion strange, and was preparing to make the best of it, when a quick and joyful neigh sounded in the bushes near me, and I recognized the voice of my favorite horse. I found him carefully tied, with the saddle, &c., lying near him. I had not the least idea where the company had gone, but I knew that on the rich, alluvial banks of the river, the trail of the horses would be distinct enough, and I determined to place my dependence, in a great measure, upon the sagacity of my excellent dumb friend, satisfied that he would take me the right course. I accordingly mounted, and off we went at a speed which I found some difficulty in restraining. About half an hour's hard riding brought us to the edge of a large branch of the stream, and I observed that the horses had here entered. I noticed other tracks lower down, but supposed them to have been made by the wanderings of the loose animals. Here then seemed the proper fording place, and with some little hesitation, I allowed my nag to enter the water; we had proceeded but a few yards, however, when down he went off a steep bank, far beyond his depth. This was somewhat disconcerting; but there was but one thing to be done, so I turned my horse's head against the swift current, and we went snorting and blowing for the opposite shore. We arrived at length, though in a sadly wet and damaged state, and in a few minutes after, came in view of the new camp.
Captain W. explained to me that he had heard of good pasture here, and had concluded to move immediately, on account of the horses; he informed me, also, that he had crossed the stream about fifty yards below the point where I had entered, and had found an excellent ford. I did not regret my adventure, however, and was congratulating myself upon my good fortune in arriving so seasonably, when, upon looking to my saddle, I discovered that my coat was missing. I had felt uncomfortably warm when I mounted, and had removed the coat and attached it carelessly to the saddle; the rapidity of the current had disengaged it, and it was lost forever. The coat itself was not of much consequence after the hard service it had seen, but it contained the second volume of my journal, a pocket compass, and other articles of essential value to me. I would gladly have relinquished every thing the garment held, if I could have recovered the book; and although I returned to the river, and searched assiduously until night, and offered large rewards to the men, it could not be found.
The journal commenced with our arrival at the Black Hills, and contained some observations upon the natural productions of the country, which to me, at least, were of some importance; as well as descriptions of several new species of birds, and notes regarding their habits, &c., which cannot be replaced.
I would advise all tourists, who journey by land, never to carry their itineraries upon their persons; or if they do, let them be attached by a cord to the neck, and worn under the clothing. A convenient and safe plan would probably be, to have the book deposited in a close pocket of leather, made on the inner side of the saddle-wing; it would thus be always at hand, and if a deep stream were to be passed the trouble of drying the leaves would not be a very serious matter.
In consequence of remaining several hours in wet clothes, after being heated by exercise, I rose the next morning with so much pain, and stiffness of the joints, that I could scarcely move. But notwithstanding this, I was compelled to mount my horse with the others, and to ride steadily and rapidly for eight hours. I suffered intensely during this ride; every step of my horse seemed to increase it, and induced constant-sickness and retching.
When we halted, I was so completely exhausted, as to require assistance in dismounting, and shortly after, sank into a state of insensibility from which I did not recover for several hours. Then a violent fever commenced, alternating for two whole days, with sickness and pain. I think I never was more unwell in my life; and if I had been at home, lying on a feather bed instead of the cold ground, I should probably have fancied myself an invalid for weeks. (I am indebted to the kindness of my companion and friend, Professor Nuttall, for supplying, in great measure, the deficiency occasioned by the loss of my journal.)
22d. -- We are now lying at the rendezvous. W. Sublette, Captains Serre, Fitzpatrick, and other leaders, with their companies, are encamped about a mile from us, on the same plain, and our own camp is crowded with a heterogeneous assemblage of visitors. The principal of these are Indians, of the Nez Perce, Banneck and Shoshone tribes, who come with the furs and peltries which they have been collecting at the risk of their lives during the past winter and spring, to trade for ammunition, trinkets, and "fire water." There is, in addition to these, a great variety of personages amongst us; most of them calling themselves white men, French-Canadians, half-breeds, &c., their color nearly as dark, and their manners wholly as wild, as the Indians with whom they constantly associate. These people, with their obstreperous mirth, their whooping, and howling, and quarrelling, added to the mounted Indians, who are constantly dashing into and through our camp, yelling like fiends, the barking and baying of savage wolf-dogs, and the incessant cracking of rifles and carbines, render our camp a perfect bedlam. A more unpleasant situation for an invalid could scarcely be conceived. I am confined closely to the tent with illness, and am compelled all day to listen to the hiccoughing jargon of drunken traders, the sacré and foutre of Frenchmen run wild, and the swearing and screaming of our own men, who are scarcely less savage than the rest, being heated by the detestable liquor which circulates freely among them.
It is very much to be regretted that at times like the present, there should be a positive necessity to allow the men as much rum as they can drink, but this course has been sanctioned and practised by all leaders of parties who have hitherto visited these regions, and reform cannot be thought of now. The principal liquor in use here is alcohol diluted with water. It is sold to the men at three dollars the pint! Tobacco, of very inferior quality, such as could be purchased in Philadelphia at about ten cents per pound, here brings two dollars ! and everything else in proportion. There is no coin in circulation, and these articles are therefore paid for by the independent mountain-men, in beaver skins, buffalo robes, &c.; and those who are hired to the companies, have them charged against their wages.
I was somewhat amused to-day by observing one of our newly hired men enter the tent, and order, with the air of a man who knew he would not be refused, twenty dollars' worth of rum, and ten dollars worth of sugar, to treat two of his companions who were about leaving the rendezvous!
30th. Our camp here is a most lovely one in every respect, and as several days have elapsed since we came, and I am convalescent, I can roam about the country a little and enjoy it. The pasture is rich and very abundant, and it does our hearts good to witness the satisfaction and comfort of our poor jaded horses. Our tents are pitched in a pretty little valley or indentation in the plain, surrounded on all sides by low bluffs of yellow clay. Near us flows the clear deep water of the Siskadee, and beyond, on every side, is a wide and level prairie, interrupted only by some gigantic peaks of mountains and conical butes in the distance. The river, here, contains a great number of large trout, some grayling, and a small narrow-mouthed white fish, resembling a herring. They are all frequently taken with the hook, and, the trout particularly, afford excellent sport to the lovers of angling. Old Izaac Walton would be in his glory here, and the precautionary measures which he so strongly recommends in approaching a trout stream, he would not need to practise, as the fish is not shy, and bites quickly and eagerly at a grasshopper or minnow.
Buffalo, antelopes, and elk are abundant in the vicinity, and we are therefore living well. We have seen also another kind of game, a beautiful bird, the size of a half grown turkey, called the cock of the plains, (Tetrao urophasianus.) We first met with this noble bird on the plains, about two days' journey east of Green river, in flocks, or packs, of fifteen or twenty, and so exceedingly tame as to allow an approach to within a few feet, running before our horses like domestic fowls, and not unfrequently hopping under their bellies, while the men amused themselves by striking out their feathers with their riding whips. When we first saw them, the temptation to shoot was irresistible; the guns were cracking all around us, and the poor grouse falling in every direction; but what was our disappointment, when, upon roasting them nicely before the fire, we found them so strong and bitter as not to be eatable. From this time the cock of the plains was allowed to roam free and unmolested, and as he has failed to please our palates, we are content to admire the beauty of his plumage, and the grace and spirit of his attitudes.
July 2d.-We bade adieu to the rendezvous this morning; packed up our moveables, and journied along the bank of the river. Our horses are very much recruited by the long rest and good pasture which they have enjoyed, and, like their masters, are in excellent spirits.
During our stay at the rendezvous, many of us looked anxiously for letters from our families, which we expected by the later caravans, but we were all disappointed. For myself, I have received but one since I left my home, but this has been my solace through many a long and dreary journey. Many a time, while pacing my solitary round as night-guard in the wilderness, have I sat myself down, and stirring up the dying embers of the camp fire, taken the precious little memento from my bosom, undrawn the string of the leathern sack which contained it, and poured over the dear characters, till my eyes would swim with sweet, but sad recollections, then kissing the inanimate paper, return it to its sanctuary, tighten up my pistol belt, shoulder my gun, and with a quivering voice, swelling the "all's well" upon the night breeze, resume my slow and noiseless tramp around my sleeping companions.
Many of our men have left us, and joined the returning companies, but we have had an accession to our party of about thirty Indians; Flat-heads, Nez Percés, &c., with their wives, children, and dogs. Without these our camp would be small; they will probably travel with us until we arrive on Snake river, and pass over the country where the most danger is to be apprehended from their enemies, the Black-feet.
Some of the women in this party, particularly those of the Nez Percé nation, are rather handsome, and their persons are decked off in truly savage taste. Their dresses of deer skin are profusely ornamented with beads and porcupine quills; huge strings of beads are hung around their necks, and their saddles are garnished with dozens of little hawk's bells, which jingle and make music for them as they travel along. Several of these women have little children tied to their backs, sewed up papoose fashion, only the head being seen; as they jolt along the road, we not unfrequently hear their voices ringing loud and shrill above the music of the bells. Other little fellows who have ceased to require the maternal contributions, are tied securely on other horses, and all their care seems to be to sleep, which they do most pertinaciously in spite of jolting, noise, and clamor. There is among this party, a Blackfoot chief; a renegado from his tribe, who sometime since killed the principal chief of his nation, and was in consequence under the necessity of absconding. He has now joined the party of his hereditary foes, and is prepared to fight against his own people and kindred. He is a fine, warlike looking fellow, and although he takes part in all the war-songs, and sham-battles of his adopted brothers, and whoops, and howls as loud as the best of them, yet it is plain to perceive that he is distrusted and disliked. All men, whether, civilized or savage, honorable, or otherwise, detest and scorn a traitor!
We were joined at the rendezvous by a Captain Stewart, an English gentleman of noble family, who is travelling for amusement, and in search of adventure. He has already been a year in the mountains, and is now desirous of visiting the lower country, from which he may probably take passage to England by sea. Another Englishman, a young man, named Ashworth, also attached himself to our party, for the same purpose.
Our course lay along the bank of Ham's fork, through a hilly and stony, but not a rocky country; the willow flourished on the margin of the stream, and occasionally the eye was relieved, on scanning the plain, by a pretty clump of cottonwood or poplar trees. The cock of the plains is very abundant here, and our pretty little summer yellow bird, (Sylvia oestiva,) one of our most common birds at home, is our constant companion. How natural sounds his little monotonous stave, and how it seems to carry us back to the dear scenes which we have exchanged for the wild and pathless wilderness!
4th. We left Ham's fork this morning, now diminished to a little purling brook,and passed across the hills in a north-westerly direction for about twenty miles, when we struck Muddy creek. This is a branch of Bear river, which empties into the Salt lake, or "lake Bonneville," as it has been lately named, for what reason I know not. Our camp here, is a beautiful and most delightful one. A large plain, like a meadow, of rich, waving grass, with a lovely little stream running through the midst, high hills, capped with shapely cedars on two sides, and on the others an immense plain, with snow clad mountains in the distance. This being a memorable day, the liquor kegs were opened, and the men allowed an abundance. We, therefore, soon had a renewal of the coarse and brutal scenes of the rendezvous. Some of the bacchanals called for a volley in honor of the day, and in obedience to the order, some twenty or thirty " happy " ones reeled into line with their muzzles directed to every point of the compass, and when the word "fire" was given, we who were not "happy" had to lie flat upon the ground to avoid the bullets which were careering through the camp.
In this little stream, the trout are more abundant than we have yet seen them. One of our sober men took, this afternoon, upwards of thirty pounds. These fish would probably average fifteen or sixteen inches in length, and weigh three-quarters of a pound; occasionally, however, a much larger one is seen.
5th. -We travelled about twenty miles this day, over a country abounding in lofty hills, and early in the afternoon arrived on Bear river, and encamped. This is a fine stream of about one hundred and fifty feet in width, with a moveable sandy bottom. The grass is dry and poor, the willow abounds along the banks, and at a distance marks the course of the stream, which meanders through an alluvial plain of four to six miles in width. At the distance of about one hundred miles from this point, the Bear river enters the Salt lake, a large body of salt water, without outlet, in which there is so large an island as to afford streams of fresh water for goats and other animals living upon it.
On the next day we crossed the river, which we immediately left, to avoid a great bend, and passed over some lofty ranges of hills and through rugged and stony valleys between them; the wind was blowing a gale right ahead, and clouds of dust were flying in our faces, so that at the end of the day, our countenances were disguised as they were on the plains of the Platte. The march today has been a most laborious and fatiguing one both for man and beast; we have travelled steadily from morning till night, not stopping at noon; our poor horses' feet are becoming very much worn and sore, and when at length we struck Bear river again and encamped, the wearied animals refused to eat, stretching themselves upon the ground and falling asleep from very exhaustion.
Trout, grayling, and a kind of char are very abundant here the first very large. The next day we travelled but twelve miles, it being impossible to urge our worn-out horses farther. Near our camp this evening we found some large gooseberries and currants, and made a hearty meal upon them. They were to us peculiarly delicious. We have lately been living entirely upon dried buffalo, without vegetables or bread; even this is now failing us, and we are upon short allowance. Game is very scarce, our hunters cannot find any, and our Indians have killed but two buffalo for several days. Of this small stock they would not spare us a mouthful, so it is probable we shall soon be hungry.
The alluvial plain here presents many unequivocal evidences of volcanic action, being thickly covered with masses of lava, and high walls and regular columns of basalt appear in many places. The surrounding country is composed, as usual, of high hills and narrow, stony valleys between them; the hills are thickly covered with a growth of small cedars, but on the plain, nothing flourishes but the everlasting wormwood, or sage as it is here called.
Our encampment on the 8th, was near what are called the "White-clay pits," still on Bear river. The soil is soft chalk, white and tenacious; and in the vicinity are several springs of strong supercarbonated water, which bubble up with all the activity of artificial fountains. The taste was very agreeable and refreshing, resembling Saratoga water, but not so saline. The whole plain to the hills, is covered with little mounds formed of calcareous sinter, having depressions on their summits, from which once issued streams of water. The extent of these eruptions, at some former period, must have been very great. At about half a mile distant, is an eruptive thermal spring of the temperature of 90 deg., and near this is an opening in the earth from which a stream of gas issues without water.
In a thicket of common red cedars, near our camp, I found, and procured several specimens of two beautiful and rare birds which I had never before seen -- the Lewis' woodpecker and Clark's crow, (Picus torquatus and Corvus columbianus.)
We remained the whole of the following day in camp to recruit our horses, and a good opportunity was thus afforded me of inspecting all the curiosities of this wonderful region, and of procuring some rare and valuable specimens of birds. Three of our hunters sallied forth in pursuit of several buffalo whose tracks had been observed by some of the men, and we were overjoyed to see them return in the evening loaded with the meat and marrow bones of two animals which they had killed.
We saw here the whooping crane, and white pelican, numerous; and in the small streams near the bases of the hills, the common canvass-back duck, shoveller, and black duck, (Anas obscura,) were feeding their young.
We were this evening visited by Mr. Thomas McKay, an Indian trader of some note in the mountains. (This is the son of Alexander McKay, who was massacred by the Indians of the N. W. Coast on board the ship "Tonquin", an account of which is given in Irving's "Astoria". I have often heard McKay speak of the tragic fate of his parent, and with the bitter animosity and love of revenge inherited from his Indian mother, I have heard him declare that he will yet be known on the coast as the avenger of blood.) He is a step-son of Dr. McLaughlin, the chief factor at Fort Vancouver, on the Columbia, and the leader of a party of Canadians and Indians, now on a hunt in the vicinity. This party is at present in our rear, and Mr. McKay has come ahead in order to join us, and keep us company until we reach Portneuf river, where we intend building a fort.
10th. We were moving early this morning: our horses were very much recruited, and seemed as eager as their masters to travel on. It is astonishing how soon a horse revives, and overcomes the lassitude consequent upon fatigue, when he is allowed a day's rest upon tolerable pasture. Towards noon, however, after encountering the rough lava-strewn plain for a few hours, they became sufficiently sobered to desist from all unnecessary curvetting and prancing, and settled down into a very matter-of-fact trudge, better suited to the country and to the work which they have yet to do.
Soon after we left, we crossed one of the high and stony hills by which our late camp is surrounded; then making a gentle descent, we came to a beautiful and very fertile plain. This is, however, very different from the general face of the country; in a short time, after passing over the rich prairie, the same dry aridity and depauperation prevailed, which is almost universal west of the mountains. On the wide plain, we observed large sunken spots, some of them of great extent, surrounded by walls of lava, indicating the existence, at some very ancient date, of active craters. These eruptions have probably been antediluvian or have existed at a period long anterior to the present order of creation. On the side of the hills are high walls of lava and basaltic dykes, and many large and dark caves are formed by the juxtaposition of the enormous masses.
Early in the afternoon we passed a large party of white men, encamped on the lava plain near one of the small streams. Horses were tethered all around, and men were lolling about playing games of cards, and loitering through the camp, as though at a loss for employment. We soon ascertained it to be Captain Bonneville's company resting after the fatigues of a long march. Mr. Wyeth and Captain Stewart visited the lodge of the "bald chief," and our party proceeded on its march. The difficulties of the route seemed to increase as we progressed, until at length we found ourselves wedged in among huge blocks of lava and columns of basalt, and were forced, most reluctantly, to retrace our steps for several miles, over the impediments which we had hoped we were leaving forever behind us. We had nearly reached Bonneville's camp again, when Captains Wyeth and Stewart joined us, and we struck into another path which proved more tolerable. Wyeth gave us a rather amusing account of his visit to the worthy captain. He and Captain Stewart were received very kindly by the veteran, and every delicacy that the lodge afforded was brought forth to do them honor. Among the rest, was some metheglen or diluted alcohol sweetened with honey, which the good host had concocted; this dainty beverage was set before them, and the thirsty guests were not slow in taking advantage of the invitation so obligingly given. Draught after draught of the precious liquor disappeared down the throats of the visitors, until the anxious, but still complaisant captain, began to grow uneasy.
"I beg you will help yourselves, gentlemen," said the host, with a smile which he intended to express the utmost urbanity, but which, in spite of himself, had a certain ghastliness about it.
"Thank you, sir, we will do so freely," replied the two worthies, and away went the metheglen as before.
Cup after cup was drained, until the hollow sound of the keg indicated that its contents were nearly exhausted, when the company rose, and thanking the kind host for his noble entertainment, were bowed out of the tent with all the polite formality which the accomplished captain knows so well how to assume.
Towards evening, we struck Blackfoot river, a small, sluggish, stagnant stream, heading with the waters of a rapid rivulet passed yesterday, which empties into the Bear river. This stream passes in a north-westerly direction through a valley of about six miles in width, covered with quagmires, through which we had great difficulty in making our way. As we approached our encampment, near a small grove of willows, on the margin of the river, a tremendous grizzly bear rushed out upon us. Our horses ran wildly in every direction, snorting with terror, and became nearly unmanageable. Several balls were instantly fired into him, but they only seemed to increase his fury. After spending a moment in rending each wound, (their invariable practice,) he selected the person who happened to be nearest, and darted after him, but before he proceeded far, he was sure to be stopped again by a ball from another quarter. In this way he was driven about amongst us for perhaps fifteen minutes, at times so near some of the horses, that he received several severe kicks from them. One of the pack horses was fairly fastened upon by the terrific claws of the brute, and in the terrified animal's efforts to escape the dreaded gripe, the pack and saddle were broken to pieces and disengaged. One of our mules also lent him a kick in the head while pursuing it up an adjacent hill, which sent him rolling to the bottom. Here he was finally brought to a stand.
The poor animal was so completely surrounded by enemies that he became bewildered. He raised himself upon his hind feet, standing almost erect, his mouth partly open, and from his protruding tongue the blood fell fast in drops. While in this position, he received about six more balls, each of which made him reel. At last, as in complete desperation, he dashed into the water, and swam several yards with astonishing strength and agility, the guns cracking at him constantly; but he was not to proceed far. Just then, Richardson, who had been absent, rode up, and fixing his deadly aim upon him, fired a ball into the back of his head, which killed him instantly. The strength of four men was required to drag the ferocious brute from the water, and upon examining his body, he was found completely riddled; there did not appear to be four inches of his shaggy person, from the hips upward, that had not received a ball. There must have been at least thirty shots made at him, and probably few missed him; yet such was his tenacity of life, that I have no doubt he would have succeeded in crossing the river, but for the last shot in the brain. He would probably weigh, at the least, six hundred pounds, and was about the height of an ordinary steer. The spread of the foot, laterally, was ten inches, and the claws measured seven inches in length. This animal was remarkably lean; when in good condition, he would, doubtless, much exceed in weight the estimate I have given. Richardson, and two other hunters, in company, killed two in the course of the afternoon, and saw several others.
This evening, our pet antelope, poor little "Zip Koon," met with a serious accident. The mule on which he rode, got her feet fastened in some lava blocks, and, in the struggle to extricate herself, fell violently on the pointed fragments. One of the delicate legs of our favorite was broken, and he was otherwise so bruised and hurt, that, from sheer mercy, we ordered him killed. We had hoped to be able to take him to the fort which we intend building on the Portneuf river, where he could have been comfortably cared for. This is the only pet we have had in the camp, which continued with us for more than a few days. We have sometimes taken young grizzly bears, but these little fellows, even when not larger than puppies, are so cross and snappish, that it is dangerous to handle them, and we could never become attached to any animal so ungentle, and therefore young "Ephraim," (to give him his mountain cognomen,) generally meets with but little mercy from us when his evil genius throws him in our way. The young buffalo calf is also very often taken, and if removed from the mother, and out of sight of the herd, he will follow the camp as steadily as a dog; but his propensity for keeping close to the horse's heels often gets him into trouble, as he meets with more kicks than caresses from them. He is considered an interloper, and treated accordingly. The bull calf of a month or two old, is sometimes rather difficult to manage; he shows no inclination to follow the camp like the younger ones, and requires to be dragged along by main force. At such times, he watches for a good opportunity, and before his captor is aware of what is going on, he receives a butt from the clumsy head of the intractable little brute, which, in most cases, lays him sprawling upon the ground.
I had, an adventure of this sort a few days before we arrived at the rendezvous. I captured a large bull calf, and with considerable difficulty, managed to drag him into the camp, by means of a rope noosed around his neck, and made fast to the high pommel of my saddle. Here I attached him firmly by a cord to a stake driven into the ground, and considered him secure. In a few minutes, however, he succeeded in breaking his fastenings, and away he scoured out of the camp. I lost no time in giving chase, and although I fell flat into a ditch, and afforded no little amusement to our people thereby, I soon overtook him, and was about seizing the stranded rope, which was still around his, neck, when, to my surprise, the little animal showed fight; he came at me with all his force, and dashing his head into my breast, bore me to the ground in a twinkling. I, however, finally succeeded in recapturing him, and led and pushed him back into the camp; but I could make nothing of him; his stubbornness would neither yield to severity or kindness, and the next morning I loosed him and let him go.
11th. On ascending a hill this morning, Captain Wyeth, who was at the head of the company, suddenly espied an Indian stealing cautiously along the summit, and evidently endeavoring to conceal himself. Captain W. directed the attention of McKay to the crouching figure, who, the moment he caught a glimpse of him, exclaimed, in tones of joyful astonishment, " a Blackfoot, by --- !" and clapping spurs to his horse, tore up the hill with the most frantic eagerness, with his rifle poised in his hand ready for a shot. The Indian disappeared over the hill like a lightning flash, and in another second, McKay was also out of sight, and we could hear the rapid clatter of his horse's hoofs, in hot pursuit after the fugitive. Several of the men, with myself, followed after at a rapid gait, with, however, a very different object. Mine was simply curiosity, mingled with some anxiety, lest the wily Indian should lead our impetuous friend into an ambushment, and his life thus fall a sacrifice to his temerity. When we arrived at the hill-top, McKay was gone, but we saw the track of his horse passing down the side of it, and we traced him into a dense thicket about a quarter of a mile distant. Several of our hardy fellows entered this thicket, and beat about for some time in various directions, but nothing could they see either of McKay or the Indian. In the mean time, the party passed on, and my apprehensions were fast settling into a certainty that our bold companion had found the death he had so rashly courted, when I was inexpressibly relieved by hearing the crackling of the bushes near, which was immediately followed by the appearance of the missing man himself.
He was in an excessively bad humor, and grumbled audibly about the "Blackfoot rascal getting off in that cowardly fashion," without at all heeding the congratulations which I was showering upon him for his almost miraculous escape. He was evidently not aware of having been peculiarly exposed, and was regretting, like the hunter who loses his game by a sudden shift of wind, that his human prey had escaped him.
The appearance of this Indian is a proof that others are lurking near; and if the party happens to be large, they may give us some trouble. We are now in a part of the country which is almost constantly infested by the Blackfeet; we have seen for several mornings past, the tracks of moccasins around our camp, and not unfrequently the prints of unshod horses, so that we know we are narrowly watched; and the slumbering of one of the guard, or the slightest appearance of carelessness in the conduct of the camp, may bring the savages whooping upon us like demons.
Our encampment this evening is on one of the head branches of the Blackfoot river, from which we can see the three remarkable conic summits known by the name of the "Three Butes" or "Tetons." Near these flows the Portneuf, or south branch of Snake or Lewis' river. Here is to be another place of rest, and we look forward to it with pleasure both on our own account and on that of our wearied horses.
12th. In the afternoon we made a camp on Ross's creek, a small branch of Snake river. The pasture is better than we have had for two weeks, and the stream contains an abundance of excellent trout. Some of these are enormous, and very fine eating. They bite eagerly at a grasshopper or minnow, but the largest fish are shy, and the sportsman requires to be carefully concealed in order to take them. We have here none of the fine tackle, jointed rods, reels, and silkworm gut of the accomplished city sportsman; we have only a piece of common cord, and a hook seized on with half-hitches, with a willow rod cut on the banks of the stream; but with this rough equipment we take as many trout as we wish, and who could do more, even with all the curious contrivances of old Izaac Walton or Christopher North?
The band of Indians which kept company with us from the rendezvous, left us yesterday, and fell back to join Captain Bonneville's party, which is travelling on behind. We do not regret their absence; for although they added strength to our band, and would have been useful in case of an attack from Blackfeet, yet they added very materially to our cares, and gave us some trouble by their noise, confusion, and singing at night.
On the 14th, we travelled but about six miles, when a halt was called, and we pitched our tents upon the banks of the noble Shoshone or Snake river. It seems now, as though we were really nearing the western extremity of our vast continent. We are now on a stream which pours its waters directly into the Columbia, and we can form some idea of the great Oregon river by the beauty and magnitude of its tributary. Soon after we stopped, Captain W., Richardson, and two others left us to seek for a suitable spot for building a fort, and in the evening they returned with the information that an excellent and convenient place had been pitched upon, about five miles from our present encampment. On their route, they killed a buffalo, which they left at the site of the fort, suitably protected from wolves, &c. This is very pleasing intelligence to us, as our stock of dried meat is almost exhausted, and for several days past we have been depending almost exclusively upon fish.
The next morning we moved early, and soon arrived at our destined camp. This is a fine large plain on the south side of the Portneuf, with an abundance of excellent grass and rich soil. The opposite side of the river is thickly covered with large timber of the cottonwood and willow, with a dense undergrowth of the same, intermixed with service-berry and currant bushes.
Most of the men were immediately put to work, felling trees, making horse-pens, and preparing the various requisite materials for the building, while others were ordered to get themselves in readiness for a start on the back track, in order to make a hunt, and procure meat for the camp. To this party I have attached myself, and all my leisure time to-day is employed in preparing for it.
Our number will be twelve, and each man will lead a mule with a pack-saddle, in order to bring in the meat that we may kill. Richardson is the principal of this party, and Mr. Ashworth has also consented to join us, so that I hope we shall have an agreeable trip. There will be but little hard work to perform; our men are mostly of the best, and no rum or cards are allowed.