Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Indian trail around the mountain North of Yale

On May 13, 2012, I wrote about Elton Alexander Anderson's view of his grandfather's journey up the Fraser River with the incoming 1848 brigade.
I will now include Alexander Caulfield Anderson's own description of his downriver passage around that bluff in 1847, directly from his journals found in the British Columbia Archives.
We will begin before he reaches that last canyon bridge, and follow him though the journey as he climbs the cliffs from the Anderson River to the top of Lake Mountain:

We "ascended the mountain, and struck directly for Fraser's River. The ascent is tedious, but by making the road deviously the inconvenience of the hill may be easily overcome. Upon the top of the mountain is an even surface free from underwood extending a couple of miles, when by diverging a little to the right Fraser's River is again seen winding below.
"Mr. [Montrose] McGillivray being taken unwell, [we] abandoned the intention of proceeding down to the river, and we are encamped on the brow of the mountain. Around us are a few patches of snow."

At this place they are at the top of the mountain above the winding Black Canyon, and Hell's Gate canyon is just north of their position. If you visit Hell's Gate, take a good look at the mountain directly east of the place! That's the mountain that the 1848 brigade passed over -- twice!

"I struck off the road to take a birds-eye view of a rapid which obstructs the navigation near this spot and which is said not to be practicable at this season. Judging from the agitated appearance of the stream as seen from our elevated position, this rapid is a succession of dangerous whirlpools, apparetnly unnavigable, and I am informed unavoidable by portage. It resembles some of the Columbia rapids in the dale-like formation of the banks, and there seemed to me to be little facility for putting out the line. But the Indians say that it loses its dangerous character at a lower stage of the water."

In this last paragraph, I believe that dale-like must be "dalle-like" -- Dalle being a French word used in the fur trade for canyons such as this. Though the Natives do not indicate to Anderson that there is a trail made of boards through this canyon, there must apparently be one -- this is the canyon where Simon Fraser actually came downriver on the Natives' deerskin and rope trails. Hence there is an error in my book which will be corrected in the next edition -- but I am happy to tell you that these trails also existed at the bluff just south of Yale, and their presence is recorded in Alexander Caulfield Anderson's journal. Read on!

"May 27. Set out at 3 1/4 am and descended the hill in a slanting direction to the village of Kequeloose upon Fraser's River which spot we reach after two hours of slow travelling."
As you know, the village of Kequeloose stood about where Alexandra Lodge now stands, just north of the east end of the Alexandra Bridge that crosses the Fraser at Spuzzum.

"The track may be easily improved and by making an occasional circuit a good horse road may be constructed. From Kequeloose it took us 2 1/2 hours to reach Spuzzum [village], the ferry proposed by [the Sto:lo chief] Pahallak, a distance of about 6 miles.
"The country is very rough and much labor with many painful circuits would be necessary to complete a road anywise practicable for horses. There is a village upon the right bank of the river at the mouth of a stream issuing from the direction of Lillooet mountains [to the West].
"Procured a canoe and after some delay succeeded in crossing [the Fraser River, at the Spuzzum Native village]. At this season both the nature of the banks and the strength of the water preclude the practicability of a horse ferry upon a large scale, nor is there a spot near suitable for this purpose.
"Seeing thus that the plan proposed, of which the ferry in question was an essential condition, was rendered void, I determined on ascertaining whether the navigation in the direction of the falls was so bad as I was led to believe, for the information I had recently received from the Indians induced me to hope that a means of overcoming the obstacle, by portage and otherwise, might possibly be devised.
"Accordingly I despatched Mr. McGillivray to pass the party by the land track marked on Pahallak's sketch, while with [Edouard] Montigny and some Indians I proceeded in a course by the river. In 35 minutes we reached the head of the Falls, running a small rapid by the way.
"Several hours after the party arrived, Mr. McGillivray reporting very unfavourably of the road. We are now encamped upon a rocky eminence about 2/3 of the distance down the rapids. I subjoin the conclusion at which I am arrived after as careful an examination of the navigation down to this point, as it has been in my power to afford.
"The rapids extend at the present stage of the water, with intervals of navigable space, for a distance of about 3 miles, confined in some parts between lofty walls of rock. This is the case at the first stage where the width of the stream is contacted to 100 yds. or less. In other parts the shores are shelving with broken rocks or smooth rocky surfaces.
"On both sides wherever the nature of the shores will by possibility admit of their erection, are numerous scaffolds upon which the natives suspend their salmon to dry, at the proper season.
"The first stage of the rapid above alluded to might be run waded, being at present free of material danger. Its ascent would be less feasible from the difficulty of putting out a line. But in either direction there is every facility on the right hand side for carrying both boats and cargo by the portage, 630 paces in length, used by the Natives for the purpose.
"It is unexceptionable in all respects, passing through a small valley behind the confining rampart of rock. A couple of hundred yards lower down is the second stage, and to effect this there is likewise great facility. The third stage is formed by a rocky island in the middle of the river, where a portage over a rocky point upon the right shore is again quite practicable. Below this we are encamped.

"May 28. Resumed our journey as soon as daylight enabled us to thread our way among the broken rocks. A few hundred yards below our encampment is another rapid where a portage upon the left side is necessary at the present stage of water. This portage passes over a point and is apparently favourable in all respects. This is the lowest rapid of the series save one which is unworthy of notice, and having now examined the whole, I have no hesitation in pronouncing my opinion that they are far from presenting any insurmountable obstacle to our progress even at the present high stage of the water. At the worst their difficulties when united do not exceed those of the Dalles and Chutes of the Columbia combined.

"After passing the rapids the pathway led along a dangerous causeway of cedar boards connecting the several projecting points of the precipice. Shortly afterwards we crossed a stream close by which is the first village of the Schince, or Lest, tribe."

This journal is a copy of his original journal which has not been found, by me at least. At this point in the copy, Alexander Caulfield Anderson added a note, which said: "This is where Fort Yale now stands." And so, he leaves little doubt that the Native trail above Fort Yale is made of the same materials that Simon Fraser found in Hell's Gate and Black Canyons to the north.

I had a wonderful description of this trail which I used in the book, written by the gold-miners in 1858. I am looking for it, and when I locate this description, I will add it in here so that you will have more information. You might have to wait for it as it is proving hard to find, but I am reorganizing all the papers I have here for the next book, and it will eventually be uncovered!

Thanks for your patience.

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