30. Bering Lake to Seattle

The 1905 US Geological Survey trip to Alaska inspired Hayes with natural beauty and disgusted him with human folly.  By the end of the trip, the generally mild, hard working young man from Oregon finds himself pushed too far by a shirker named Small under the protection of the trip’s leaders Martin and Maddren.  Hayes did not break his hand, and Small couldn’t see through swollen eyes to strike back with the axe he grabbed – but Hayes knows this will be his last USGS trip to Alaska.

The map below won’t appear in an email.  The current chapter appears as the green path down from Alaska, preceded by the blue  up to Alaska, and followed by the short (funny) pink path around Northern Washington State.

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Click here to download chapters 1-30 on Google Earth.  

Here and There Synopsis:

30.1 Wolverines and Colonialists

August 12, 1905

To this far place in Alaska come newspapers from Seattle in which Brooks “somewhat drew a long bow.” Hayes reads with interest about Brooks and Martin exploring the ice fields, climbing mountains, and rowing in swift water and ocean breakers – why, he even describes shooting white water with Martin. “Strange, but I was not mentioned at all. But I do wish the reading public could have seen Messrs. Brooks and martin walking down the bank while I turned the nose of the boat upstream and shot the water all alone… Martin doesn’t mention this article to me.”

Hayes is up Canyon creek cooking for Hill and McDonald who are surveying around the nearby ranges. The rest of the survey team remains camped near Behring Lake. They’ve measured a 47 square mile coal area east of Copper River flats. If these rich fields are to be exploited, a deepwater port must be located; a coast and geodetic survey boat sounds Controller Bay while the survey team works.

Unloading on the immense flats along the coast can be quite dangerous. Once while lining a boat against the rip tide, quicksand sucked Martin in to his waist. Hayes and Hamilton got to him on oars and the false bottom of the boat, literally pulling him out of his boots. (Hopefully not the ones in the picture in segment 28.) “He was covered with mud and slime, and was badly frightened. Martin is always having marvelous adventures.”

In the hills, Hayes encounters a new animal, “a fairly formidable beast called a carcajou, or wolverine.”

Carcajou or Wolverine

Wolverines are the curse of trappers. “One will follow a trap line for miles destroying bait, springing traps, eating any fox or marten in a trap and will rob a cache, spraying a frightful scent over such goods as he may not eat.” A member of the skunk family, “the Indians say they can whip a bear.”

Hayes’ comments on colonialism are contradictory and always fascinating. On this date he writes a long rant beginning, “The Indians are better than white men. They never steal from us, are quiet, mind their own affairs, but are debauched by the renegade whites who have brought drink and disease that is rapidly wiping out the entire people.” Noting that still habitable native houses stand empty near the beaches, he continues, “So it is and always has been before the Anglo-Saxon. He decimates the people aboriginal to the countries he conquers by whiskey, by debauching their womenfolk and by crowding them all off into corners considered worthless, where they lose heart and soon perish.” Then he goes on about how the Spaniards enslaved the Mexicans and South Americans – inadvertently hardening them for survival – and the methods of the Catholic church: conversion followed by execution to prevent backsliding. He ends with, “The Anglo-Saxon is not so concerned about the native’s soul, but does get everything else he has.”

30.2 Naming Berg Lake

August 30,1905

Hayes together with some in the survey party “have crossed the range to Behring Glacier, where there is a log cabin beside the ice field and where we can see away into infinity across the ice. It is the most majestic scene I have ever witnessed.” On days of unusual clarity long comet tails of windblown snow can be seen howling off Mounts St. Elias and Logan more than one hundred miles distant but looking more like ten.

Mt. St. Elias

Mt. Logan

Martin is “chary” of christening the unnamed peaks nearby; he’s afraid “He might offend the powers that be in Washington if he did.” Already such luminaries as Foraker, Dall, and Tillman – all men in positions to give Martin his job – denominate peaks nearby.

Maddren, the fossil collector, not so chary as Martin, names a small lake half a mile below their cabin Berg Lake. “Martin received his subordinate’s decision with shrieks of silence, and it was felt by all assembled here.” Martin’s reaction aside, the name seems apt. Every night gigantic bergs break off the glacier thundering into the lake sometimes roaring for minutes on end when successive bergs break from the main mass of ice.

30.3 Winter Coming

September 6, 1905

Now Hayes and several others are camped, “high above the gorge of Canyon Creek and at the timberline.” In early September this high up, winter approaches. “Daily the snow line creeps down the big range to the north of us, and in a few days will be at the ice fields for the winter.” Returning up the hill from a hike to the main camp for supplies, Hayes saw that wolverine tracks covered his own downward footprints on the entire path.

September 10,1905

A foot of snow has fallen and the college boys “take it good naturedly.” Some of the prospectors are clearing out for the winter, carrying one hundred pound packs down the rugged mountains. Hayes’ main concern is keeping the large outfit fed. He must pack in food from base camp a thousand feet below, “and it keeps me humming to feed them and get food in. They don’t seem to realize it either.”

30.4 Back at Berg Lake

September 26, 1905

Hayes and company return the cabin above Berg Lake for the geologists to mop up work here. “Nightly now the bergs break off the glacier with tremendous roarings, and the grinding after, when the newly born berg grinds among its fellows, is awesome to hear.” New ice an inch thick forms on the lake at night only to be broken to bits every time a new chunk of ice breaks from the main sheet. Hayes speculates that, “It must be this lake that sometimes breaks out down Behring river and floods the entire country.”

Berg Lake breaking down the gorge in 1956

Hayes laughs at the engineers who all carry gold watches they love to show off to the impoverished miners. But when anyone wants to know the correct time, they all ask Hayes who owns a dollar Ingersoll whose timekeeping improved after falling to the floor where it was stepped on by some heavy Alaskan in hob-nailed boot.

30.5 “Too bad one has to have trouble.”

October 5, 1905

The reader will recall a member of the survey party named Small who was hired in the same cook/handyman capacity to the crew as Hayes. For the past several months Small, under the protection of the topographer Maddren, has been shirking his duties and bullying Hayes. Maddren has convinced Martin that Hayes is responsible for shortages of food – when Maddren himself took a good bit from Hayes’ allotment. “Other than these three, Martin, Maddren, and Small, I get on well with the rest of the crowd.”

These very three, Martin, Maddren, and Small, moved together with Hayes, “up river to another camp, where are some miners coming and going, together with their Indian packers.” Feeling covered by Martin and Maddren, Small began berating Hayes before some of the miners packing out. “We came to blows a couple of mornings since, and Small is in bed with both eyes shut, while I have a badly smashed left hand. Small lead with his nose, breaking my thumb, but it was worth it. Martin rushed to the rescue of his protégé, who got an axe, but could not see to use it.”

The “grizzled miners” readily size up the situation and the two men. One asks Small, “What’s the matter with your eye? Limb strike it?” (Hayes’ quote.) Small, in reply: “Yes, Struck me right hin the heye!” (Hayes’ quote.) Then the grim faced Alaskan glancing at his mates: “Gee! Must have give you a hell of a lick!” (Hayes’ quote.) But Martin cannot immediately judge the situation fairly, “He promises to see me out of the country, has already secured the services of a Chilean in case.”

After a couple of days with Hayes doing all the “slop-up jobs” and Small recovering his sight, Martin, Maddren, and the two combatants rejoined the main party at Behring Lake. When the rest of the crew “proclaimed their joy at Small’s take down,” Martin finally realized he’d “backed the wrong horse.” One of the company, Billy Hill went so far as to quote scripture “Behold, he that seeketh earnestly shall find!” (Hayes’ quote.) All but the two bosses had seen Small’s bullying and are glad Hayes evened the score.

30.6 An Apology of Sorts

October 10, 1905

With winter coming in earnest the entire crew waits at Wingham Island for the steamer Excelsior.

Steamer Excelsior

Martin has apologized for his attitude but Hayes sees only a feeble attempt to pick the strongest side: all in the party except Maddren back Hayes, and Martin wants to appear their leader. “Small tried to smirk and make up, but I turned from him.” Hamilton or maybe some of the rodmen from among the college students are all right, but as for the rest, “[I] never want to see any of them again.”

30.7 Sitka

October 14,1905

The survey party barely made the Excelsior, rowing out in a blinding gale. Once aboard Hayes found a cache of apples and pears under the pillow in his four-man cabin. “The steward had swiped these off the ship to sell to passengers, and we scoffed the lot free.”

At a stopover at Yakutat, one of the young survey members, Bill McDonald, “got a crush on an Indian maid named Judith Johnson.” Judith returned his affection and only the ship’s departure cut short a budding romance.

“Sitka is as picturesque as ever.” As when he had been here before, Hayes is favorably impressed with the Indian school. The students from Ketchikan to Nome and Behring Strait, “seem an earnest lot, and surely some good will come out of this school.” Technical training and book work for the boys, domestic science for the girls.

30.8 Adrift in Seattle

October 24, 1905

At Seattle, Hayes parts from the survey crew. “Martin … has been trying to square things. But it is the end, I know that. I would be afraid to go with him again.”

Immediately following his first survey trip to Alaska in 1903, Hayes: turned down a place at Stanford; learned of his father’s death; sailed fruitlessly to Liverpool and back to Galveston; walked across the Southwestern United States desert; broke rocks in Tacoma, and hopped logs for a winter in Eureka. He calls all that “My last disaster after leaving Alaska.” Fearing a repeat, he’s determined to save what he earned this past summer in Alaska.

He knows what he doesn’t want to do – but, “what to do, what to do, is always the question for a wanderer, and I am one at heart, even if I am not so good at it. I’m 27 now, and have not made much of a splash in the world. Perhaps I never will.”

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