National Geographic : 1899 Apr
SOURCES OF THE SASKATCHEWAN fallen trees passed over, swamps and rivers crossed, the close-set mazes of deep forests penetrated, and a pathway carefully selected over the treacherous holes of loose rock-slides. To seize the exact hour or day, amid the changes of fickle weather, the veil ing smoke of forest fires, and blinding snowstorms, that a par ticular journey or mountain ascent may be accomplished rests in no small measure on the experience of the pack-horse, and it is a cause for little wonder that the traveler soon learns to take a certain pride in the faithful beasts which often do service at the sacrifice of their lives. Speaking generally of the headwaters of the Saskatchewan, the valleys are well wooded, the mountains very high for this part of the Rockies, and large areas are covered by snow-fields or gla ciers. The general character of the scenery is remarkably grand and unfailing in variety of mountain forms, so long as the val leys are the point of view. When viewed, however, from high summits it is somewhat monotonous, due to the fact that thou sands of mountains are visible in the grand panorama, all quite uniform in height, among which the higher peaks that are 11,000 or 12,000 feet above sea-level are apparently lost. All the larger streams come from glaciers, and consequently reach their highest stage during the hottest weather. Their waters are turbid with glacial mud, and they undergo a rise by day, when the sun melts the ice, and a fall at night, when freez ing commences. The region of the Middle Fork, especially near Glacier lake and the base of Mt Forbes, is one of the grandest and most imposing, not only in the Rockies, but possibly in any mountain region of the world, even under gloomy skies and in the desolate garb of winter. In this region are some of the highest mountains between Montana and the Athabasca pass. The forests which clothe all the mountains up to a height of 7,000 feet above sea-level are chiefly of Engelmann's spruce and balsam fir, with occasional areas of jack pine. T he beautiful Lyall's larch, characteristic of the mountains farther south, was never seen in these valleys. The summer season, which usually begins in June and lasts till September, is too short for extensive geographical work, so that much remains to be done in the way of exact measurement of mountains and glaciers. However, the very fact that travel among these mountains is still for the most part purely explora tory adds not a little to the pleasure of visiting a region of such exceptional grandeur.