National Geographic : 1957 Aug
such as the overgrown rhubarb patch we raided, that many people had followed this route before us. We drifted 100 miles downstream before we saw any other humans. A party of Indian women and children, with a long string of pack dogs, came out of the forest toward the shoreline. They stopped and stared at us with shy curiosity. Indians Build Homes for the Dead The discovery that nearly all of us were women dispelled some of their reserve, and one of them came down to the shore to talk to us. She told us they were moving to an other camp, "many miles." The huskies ob viously were doing the bulk of the work. Strapped to the dogs' backs were pots and pans, five-gallon fuel cans, and bedding, as well as a litter of newborn pups. Farther upstream, at Big Salmon, we had gone ashore to explore a temporarily aban doned Indian village (page 252). Sleds and farm tools lay all around, half hidden in the tall grass. At one of the low log cabins a toy steamboat leaned against the doorway, await ing the return of its child owner. The Indians would come back in the fall, at the start of the trapping season. At Little Salmon we found two colorful cemeteries, typical of some groups of Atha paskan Indians of northwest Canada and in terior Alaska. On nearly every grave, in addition to a cross, stood a gaily painted little house, filled with the belongings of the deceased. Many of these miniature dwellings must have cost more than the homes of the living. One house, obviously built for the spirit of a departed male, contained knives, guns, and fishing tackle. Through the curtained glass windows of another we saw sewing equipment, pots, and pans. A tiny table was set with dishes that held real food. The spirits were well cared for. Village Turns Its Back on the River The first going community we came to was Carmacks, a village of some 20 cabins and frame houses, two trading posts, a church, and post office. A truck horn blasted for ferry service across the river, and we knew at once that the town's future was assured. The new Dawson highway meets the Yukon here, and Carmacks was turning its back on the quiet river, facing a future of grinding gears, pop ping exhausts, and dust. Ever since the start of our adventure we 257 1inny Hill Wood Pint-sized Beast of Burden Takes a Rest On the trail, gasoline in the can sloshed so much that the Indian's dog was barely able to waddle. It sat down at every opportunity. had girded ourselves for Five Finger Rapids. Some people had dismissed them lightly; others had warned of their treachery. Now they loomed before us-five separate chan nels where the foaming water cascaded around a quartet of rocky buttes. We went ashore to don life jackets and pull up the spray decks. Susan went first in her single-seater. Then Woody and I started through. The hull shook with the first wave. The steep rocky walls fairly raced by us. Whitecaps danced around the bow, but not a drop came into the cockpit. Suddenly we were in more placid water and paddled over to the back eddy to wait for the others. "We could have done that with all four boats rafted together," said Woody, almost disappointedly. The rapids were tame for foldboats, but guiding a big paddle-wheeler through them, we thought, could be worse than dangerous. Along the cliff we could see the cable by which steamers winched themselves through on their way upstream (page 265). Our next stop depressed us. All along the river we had seen abandoned stern-wheelers, deserted cabins, and stacks of cordwood no longer needed to make steam for river boats.