National Geographic : 1939 Jul
LORDS OF THE ROCKIES By this same spring we had camped before. Grass and flowers almost covered the blackened rocks of our old campfire, but they did not erase the memory of those days with our friends of the wilds. Below the camp site lay a meadow con taining the unnamed lake where we hoped to find moose. Since last we had seen it the upper end had been filled in with silt and sedges. The small oval of water lay contracting annually within the meadow, whose grassy banks were squeezing it from all sides. A forest marched an advance guard of young trees down to take over both. Already the lake seemed to have given up, for the diminished surface was a solid reflection of encroaching grass and trees. MOOSE AND ELK RETREAT From the edge of the timber where we stood, we saw black furrows crisscrossing and skirting the meadow. But we sighted none of the moose and elk that had made them. The clatter of hoofs and the shout ing of the guide to the hot, snorting horses had frightened away the wild life, which would not return until he had left with the pack train. Rarely having had luck with wild creatures when other people were pres ent, we were willing to have our friendly guide return home promptly. The only "assistant" we have ever had was a black bear cub that became intrigued by the insectlike buzzes and clicks of the cameras (page 103). Necessary as guides are, we employ them only to pack us in to base camps, where they leave us to follow the animals in our own way. From the top of the packs we unloaded the two four-foot parcels containing our folding canvas boat. Next we tossed to the soft grass the rolls of bedding, air mat tresses, tent, and folding table. Out of the saddle boxes we lifted more carefully the photographic supplies and food, which we turned over to Lucie. She unpacked kettles while I gathered dry pine sticks for a fire. Scarcely needing to look, Lucie reached here and there in the boxes, pulling out a package of macaroni, a roll of dried soup, powdered milk and salt, and had them in kettles ready to boil. She mixed up a pan of biscuits which I baked in the reflector oven before the open fire. Crackers, mac aroni and cheese, gooseberry jam made from wild berries gathered in our last camp, and tea completed the lunch. We do not use any stimulant except weak tea with a tablespoonful of honey per cup. After a 20- to 30-mile hike, a pint of this "pick-me-up" revives us com pletely in 15 to 20 minutes with no let down afterward. The fact that we do not smoke has proved fortunate, for we have been admitted to areas closed to the public because of fire hazard. We never carry guns. SELECTING A CAMP SITE We chose a site beside the silver branches of a sturdy alpine fir, whose candlelike cones stood up as if to light our camp. Here we pitched the tent behind a hedge of alders and willow clumps bordering the rivulet. On this location the rising sun dried out dew and gave warmth; yet the forest wall afforded protection from wind and furnished shade during the heat of the day. The camp was concealed from the lake and meadow on which we expected to see moose and elk by peeping through a lattice of willows. With all our precautions for concealment, suddenly the chatter of a pine squirrel ripped the silence of the cool valley as she announced our presence, at the same time berating us for intruding upon her home stead. At her first volley Lucie dug into our bags for shelled almonds, pecans, raisins, and crackers, which we put on rocks and fallen trees. Canada jays, called "camp robbers," swooped from nowhere to feast on the offerings, but before our sleeping bags were unrolled and the boat set up the pine squirrel discovered the bribe and com plained no more (page 99). FOUR TROUT IN 15 MINUTES Before the sun left the silent valley we unpacked fishing rods, fitted the wooden keel and metal ribs into the canvas boat, and pushed out through slapping wavelets into the lake. At one end we found deep water where within 15 minutes four large trout ex ploded the surface and made the lines sing before giving up. We had all the fish we could eat for dinner and breakfast. Carrying the boat up the slope, we turned it upside down near the tent, so no evidence of our presence would be visible from the lake. Also, the craft afforded a shelter for our provisions.