National Geographic : 1899 Apr
SOURCES OF THE SASKATCHEWAN 125 8,000 feet our descent began into a valley that we knew must be either the Athabasca or the Whirlpool river, which flows into the Athabasca. Thus the most critical part of our expedition, the discovery of a pass from the Saskatchewan to the Athabasca, was safely accomplished. It is highly probable that ours is the first party to go over this route. Though now twenty-six days out from Laggan, we were only a little more than half way to the Athabasca pass, but a description of that country would carry us beyond the subject in hand. It was not until late in the season of 1898 that I had an op portunity to visit the source of the Middle Fork of the Saskatch ewan. For this trip I engaged as packer William Peyto, a man who had proved very efficient on previous expeditions; also a cook and an outfit of nine horses. It seemed almost foolhardy, when on October 12, against driving snow showers and a cold wind, we set out from Laggan and once more resumed our toilsome march through the many miles of burnt timber northward, as it were, into the very teeth of winter. Through constant snowstorms-for the headwaters of the Bow are a breeding place for bad weather-we passed the upper Bow lake, the divide beyond, and got six miles down the Little Fork on the third day, as a result of forced marches. During the following night there was a curious creaking sound of the tent ropes and a sagging of the canvas, and in the morn ing our prospects for a successful trip were very gloomy indeed, with ten inches of new snow on the ground. Not wishing under these circumstances to get further away from civilization, we remained in camp all day. By afternoon the snow ceased, and the next day we were again on the march. The snow was fifteen inches deep in the Little Fork valley, but only half that depth near the Saskatchewan, which we reached on the sixth day. On October 18 we crossed the Little Fork and turned westward into a region that promised to be full of interest. The weather, which had been cloudy and threatening for some days, now gave signs of improvement by the appearance of blue sky in the west. and soon after the high mountains up the Middle Fork were bathed in sunlight, the dazzling light on the snow-covered land scape being very cheering after the days of gloom and storm. The trail penetrates a forest on the south bank and, frequently coming out on the river, allows views of the wide, log-strewn gravel-wash, the work of summer floods.