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   Chapter 13 ACROSS THE DIVIDE

A Woman's Way Through Unknown Labrador By Mina Hubbard Characters: 7151

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


The gale continued all night with passing showers, which threatened to riddle the tent with their force, and it was not till ten the following forenoon that we were able to proceed, hugging the shore as we went. Deer were about in all directions, and as we rounded a point near the head of the lake, George, standing in the bow of the canoe, and looking across to the woods beyond the big marsh, which stretched away northward, said: "The wood over there is just moving with them."

Camp was pitched on the point among the spruce and tamarack, preparatory to scouting for George River waters, and lunch over, Job and Joe were off to the task, while George and Gilbert built a stage and put the caribou meat over the fire to smoke and dry again. It was my golden opportunity to air my camp stuff, and bags were emptied and everything spread out in the sunshine and wind. Later my washing, neglected on Sunday on account of the storm, was added to the decorations.

How very much I wanted to go scouting with Job and Joe! Here I expected difficulties in finding the way. The map I carried indicated a number of detached lakes stretching miles northward from Lake Michikamats, and to find among the lakes of this upper plain the one which should prove the source of the George River, promised to be interesting work. Inwardly impatient I waited for the return of the men. Less than two hours later I saw them come down across the marsh to where they had left the canoe. There mounting a huge boulder they sat down to watch the caribou.

This was trying, when I had so eagerly waited for the news they were to bring; but a little reflection convinced me that it meant simply-nothing definite about the George River. Otherwise they would have come immediately to camp. The conclusion proved correct, and when towards evening they came in, the report was- more streams and lakes leading northward up the slope of the plateau. We had not yet reached the real head of the Nascaupee River.

Thursday morning, August 10th, we began our portage across the marsh. Before leaving, the men had a few careless, ineffectual shots at a crow which had alighted near the camp, the first of its kind we had seen on the trip. The marsh was one mile wide from east to west, and reached almost two miles northward from the upper end of the lake. It was cut by many little streams, which, issuing from a tiny lake one mile and a half above camp, wound about among the grassy hummocks of the marsh, collecting half a mile below in a small pond, to break again into innumerable tiny channels leading down to Lake Michikamats.

The pond and streams above gave us some paddling. Then came more portaging to the little lake. Below it lay a stretch of higher ground which was a queer sort of collection of moss-covered hummocks, crisscrossed by caribou trails cut deep into the soft soil. Here cloudberries grew in abundance, and though not yet ripe, they were mature enough to taste almost as good as the green apples I used to indulge in surreptitiously in the days of my youth. They seemed a great treat now, for they were the first fruit found in abundance on the trip, though we had seen a few that were nearly ripe on an island in Lake Michikamau, and on the 8th of August Gilbert had gathered a handful of ripe blueberries on Caribou Hill.

The lake was about one mile long and two hundred yards wide, and was fed by a good-sized stream coming down from the north in continuous rapids. The stream was deep, and the canoes were poled up with all the outfit in them to the lake above, and

on a great bed of huge, packed boulders at the side of the stream we halted for lunch. The quest was becoming more and more interesting. When was our climbing to end? When were we really going to find the headwaters of the Nascaupee, and stand at the summit of the plateau? It was thoroughly exciting work this climbing to the top of things.

That afternoon our journey carried us northwest through beautiful Lake Adelaide, where long wooded points and islands cutting off the view ahead, kept me in a constant state of suspense as to what was to come next. About 4 P.M. we reached the northern extremity of the lake, where the way seemed closed; but a little searching discovered a tiny stream coming in from the north and west of this the well marked Indian trail. What a glad and reassuring discovery it was, for it meant that we were on the Indian highway from Lake Michikamau to George River. Perhaps our task would not be so difficult after all.

The portage led north one hundred yards to a little lake one mile long and less than one quarter wide, and here we found ourselves at the very head of the Nascaupee River. There was no inlet to the lake, and north of it lay a bog two hundred yards wide which I knew must be the Height of Land, for beyond it stretched a body of water which had none of the appearance of a still water lake, and I felt sure we should find its waters flowing north.

It was just 5 P.M. when, three hundred miles of my journey into the great, silent wilderness passed, I stepped out of the canoe to stand at last on the summit of the Divide-the first of the white race to trace the Nascaupee River to its source.

I had a strange feeling of being at the summit of the world. The country was flat and very sparsely wooded, but I could not see far. It seemed to fall away on every hand, but especially to north and south. The line of the horizon was unnaturally near, and there was more than the usual realising sense of the great space between the earth and the sky. This was enhanced by the lifting of a far distant hill-top above the line as if in an attempt to look across the Divide.

That morning I had found myself with only a few films left, for the fascination of taking the first photographs of the region traversed had betrayed me into using my material more lavishly than I should; but now I squandered two films in celebration of the achievement, taking one picture looking out over the waters flowing South to Lake Melville and the Atlantic and facing about, but without otherwise changing my position, one over the waters which I felt sure we should find flowing north to Ungava Bay.

In a wonderfully short time the outfit had been portaged across, and we were again in the canoes, the quest now being, not for the inlet but for the outlet of the lake, a much less difficult task. Less than an hour's paddling carried us to the point where the George River, as a tiny stream, steals away from its source in Lake Hubbard, as if trying to hide in its rocky bed among the willows, to grow in force and volume in its three hundred mile journey to Ungava, till at its discharge there it is a great river three miles in width.

Here at its beginning on the boggy margin of the stream we went into camp. Here I saw the sun set and rise again, and as I lay in my tent at dawn, with its wall lifted so that I could look out into the changing red and gold of the eastern sky, I heard a splashing of water near, and looking up saw a little company of caribou cross at the head of the stream and disappear towards the sunrise.

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