Shingle Creek — Black Mountain, 13 September 1893

According to our original plan we should have stayed for the full duration of our expedition, that is five days, at the camping place at Shingle Creek. But the Indians insisted that we should march further and higher already today to the Black Mountain as they were of the opinion that more game would be found there. They themselves had set the fourth hour of the morning as the time for departure. But they only laughed when we admonished them at 5 o’clock to earnestly think about the departure and started to cook their breakfast and then started without haste to catch their horses and also saddled them slowly so that we could only move out towards 7 o’clock. Unfortunately there existed no means to incite these phlegmatic people apart from the fact that any use of force probably would have only the opposite effect. There was nothing left than exercise ourselves in patience.

During the ride we no longer regretted the late departure as it would not have been possible to advance in darkness on the narrow paths and steep slopes. Here we were given ample opportunities to admire the skill of the horses that climbed up on only a foot wide paths without a single misstep which in any case would have had fatal consequences. Often enough fallen trees of considerable dimensions had to be passed over.

Today it was again necessary to cross deeply cut gorges but the mountain ledges were at the beginning at least densely wooded. We could also notice tracks of game whose paths crossed ours. From a dense cowberry bush, a grouse flew up into the air that in behavior and appearance was similar to the European black grouse. Finally we saw also on young poplars how the bark had often been stripped an torn off.

The higher we climbed the rougher the current of the air and the more inhospitable the scenery became. To my displeasure, everywhere one could more and more see the signs of horrible forest fires with arid, half burnt, partly still standing, partly fallen trees.  That we were getting close to the forest line was revealed by smaller but more resistant trees, a delightful species of  balsam firs with their characteristic cone-shaped growth and dense short branches which as true all weather fir tree were defending themselves against all atmospheric influences. Between the trees were mighty rock clefts that impeded the view. The air turned frosty and a cold, biting wind was blowing towards us.

After we had just completed a very difficult passage the leading Indian suddenly jumped off his horse like a cat, crouched low and pointing towards the opposite ledge while shouted „deer, deer“. Dismounting too, I became aware of a mule grazing at no fewer than 300 paces. As a closer approach did not seem practical due to the unfavorable wind and terrain I tried a shot but without result as the animal disappeared into the dense pine forest.

It was now necessary to overcome a very difficult ascent that led very steeply to a high ridge so that our brave mustangs had great difficulties to reach that place. Just below the ridge there was a windswept basin where we should establish our new camp. But the train could only arrive in a few hours time so that we dismounted from the steamy horses in order to hunt immediately in the vicinity. An Indian stayed with the horses, a second one was intended as my guide, my gentlemen entrusted themselves in pairs to the guidance of redskins. Then we determined the territories where each of us was to hunt and split up with a hearty „Waidmannsheil!“

Led by my Indian named Charley who had recently broken his arm and carried it in a sling, I turned to the West and hunted first next to the camping ground for two grizzly bears, it looked like a happy mother with its young that must have passed here a short time ago — a happy discovery that made my pulse beat quicker and increased my eagerness for the hunt. Also not far from us a piece of high game ran away of which I however was only able to see its legs. Sneaking up without noise was not easy here. We often had to climb over broken trees and jump and surpass great difficult terrain. The mountain landscape in front of us offered much that was attractive and interesting:  the, for the most part, arid forest at the limit of the forest line, strange rock and stone formations, multi-colored mosses and lichen, swampy spots that looked like a high moor in miniature and finally a mountain flora that showed many similarities to the one at home. I found Achillea, red Aquilegia, purple Christmas rose, tiny juniper, some species of Arnica etc. Stripes of fog rushed across the heights but soon disappeared and an ice-cold cutting wind came up.

Turning around a corner we suddenly saw a piece of game flee in front of me and run back to a ridge reverting back towards me. Despite the distance being rather large I dared to shoot, the piece was hit in the shoulder and disappeared beyond the ridge. Alarmed by the shot, a second piece appeared and stopped, however covered by branches, nearly in the same place. Here too I fired and started my search for it where I at first found much bloody tracks and then about a hundred paces further the first piece hit in the shoulder and finally in the vicinity also the second one. Both pieces were strong mule animals that was in size between our high and fallow deer with strangely formed nearly bat-like ears. A further characteristic of these animals is the complete absence of upper teeth.

Shaking his head the Indian observed the two pieces and said that these had been good shots, then made the usual sign for eating and continuously talked about the camp. The communication with this man was very difficult as he only spoke a mixture of English and Indian, but there was no doubt that he only wanted to return to the camp to which I did not agree at all as I wanted to continue hunting. U succeeded after the application of suitable means to suppress my redskin’s desire for the camp and create an understanding for the continuation of the hunt.

We arrived to a beautifully situated spot from where one could admire the rocky mountains on the opposite side separated from us by a deep gorge and many hundred hectares of forest that was delimited by a blue mountain range. Here too important lots had been destroyed by fires but I learned that not only the Indians, railway workers and colonists had created these destructions but also the gold diggers in this region whose mountains carry significant names such as Gold Range. The burn the wood to be able to examine the ground more closely.

When I slowly advanced in a very overgrown ledge, two more mules ran past. I shot and the first one tumbled after a few steps and died while the second one, apparently well hit, fled towards the valley and soon disappeared among the trees. Now the Indian was no longer willing to remain and uttered often the ominous word „camp“ and walked straight towards it even though I wanted to extend the hunt and foremost look for the second animal as we were unable to find it after the first few hundred paces. But he was unwilling to do that and I ha finally to give in and thus we climbed up to a steep ridge above the forest line that revealed eternal snow in two places and descended on the other side. To retard the return to camp, I sat down and marked a rest. Even though I thought to be at least an hour distant from the camp, I suddenly heard shots fired in the vicinity and bullets flew over my head, proof that I had entered into the hunting ground of another party. When I walked in the direction from which the shots had come, I met Prónay and Imhof who shot at grouse from the camp and did not expect me in the direction that was actually part of their hunting territory.

The Indians had led us fully criss-cross and showed little eagerness for their task. I had wanted to stay for the full day and still had been back at the camp at noon. The same happened to Imhof and Prónay who involuntarily met Wurmbrand and Clam and had all been led back to camp. They now set out to hunt grouse. As my Indian could not be moved to continue hunting, I at least gave the order to fetch the killed animals and joined the grouse hunt.

It is nearly unbelievable how trusting, or better said, how stupid those animals are: If they are flushed out from the ground, they fly only a short distance and land again. If they land on a tree, one can approach almost without cover and shoot them down. If multiple animals sit next to each other, one can catch them all as they remain sitting despite of the shots. Of a flock that had landed on a big fir tree above the horses and the camp fire Imhof shot three one after another. One fell into the fire, a second on a horse. After half an hour we closely examined the tree again and discovered another two grouses pressed to the trunk which I then shot. Unfortunately they had been killed with bullets and thus shot to pieces but still enriched our table.

In the mean time the train column under the command of Sanchez who had well and bravely performed his first attempts as a rider. The difficulties of the march had delayed and tired the column that had arrived with the tents and the provisions. The tents were set up at an altitude of more than 2000 m at the selected spot that however was exposed to storms. I rested for some time as I still did not feel well. When I asked three hours later about the condition of the shot animals, I was informed that the unreliable Indians had not yet departed to get them.

Finally I no longer wanted to remain at the camp fire. I took my rifle and hunted alone, as no Indian was ready, across the closest heights and forests and soon heard the shout of an Indian when I was taking observations from a boulder. Upon my answer, Charley worked his way through a tangle of tree trunks and reported that two grizzly bears had been observed in a valley nearby. This message made me rush forward despite being tired as quickly as the fallen trees permitted and soon I found still fresh tracks but unfortunately not the bears. My hope too was dashed of cutting off their path. The evening arrived and I had to return to the camp. Only rarely did I have such a bad and tiring path home as here as we were exposed to a big wind and snow breakage where we were forced to continuously climb and jump over a true labyrinth of wildly distributed fallen trunks. Soon our feet were hurting so much that we were barely able to continue and arrived at the camp only by dragging ourselves forward with great effort. A grouse constituted my only catch. In the mean time the party of Wurmbrand and Clam had returned after a six hour march with a mule calf and a grouse.

After sunset I became still colder and more uncomfortable. An icy wind blew mercilessly into our face coming directly from the close snow fields. We could only warm up a bit at the camp fire as the place offered no protection due to the lack of tall trees.

Links

  • Location: Penticton, Canada
  • ANNO – on 13.09.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is closed for summer until 15 September. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the opera „Der fliegende Holländer“.

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