A Mountain Journey

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  • Back there he had passed a fine spruce tree...: where he might have made his fire and spread his blankets. That tree, like a strong and lonely woman, called to his weary body to stop. But two hours of daylight remained and he went on.
  • Dave Conroy, a trapper carrying 50 pounds of furs for the market.
  • He knew as he stood on the summit that he should have made camp two miles back in the timber and crossed the divide in the morning.
  • As he looked back, while still sliding forward with the momentum of his descent, the ice broke beneath him. It broke with a low muffled reverberation, startling as if the river had spoken. The snow drifted about him, the points of his skis dropped down.
  • He was eighty miles from the railroad, a journey of four days. Unable to light a fire, without warmth or food, he would never make it. His fingers were frozen. His feet probably were frozen too. He had one chance. Across the river from Hoodoo Creek where he stood, a high pass led over into the Moose River. Frank MacMoran trapped up there and had his cabin on Terrace Creek.
  • But it was too late. It would mean siwashing for another night underneath a tree. A biting wind was driving the mist back up the valley and the sun westering behind the ranges threw long feeble shadows across the snow. He was less than three miles from the cabin, and the promise of its warmth and comfort would not let him stop.
  • He knew what he should do. He should stop, make a fire, dry his hands and feet, and change his socks and mittens.
  • He came up from the river through the timber into the cabin clearing. But no log walls rose to greet him. No closed door waiting for his touch to open. He stood in the middle of the clearing where the cabin had been, hemmed about by swaying pine trees, pine trees that swayed as the wind sighed through them.
  • Since he had passed that way, fire had gutted the cabin. A few log ends remained above ground. It was as though the cabin had subsided into the snow that rose like a slow inundation to cover it.
  • Unable to light a fire, without warmth or food, he would never make it. His fingers were frozen. His feet probably were frozen too. He had one chance. Across the river from Hoodoo Creek where he stood, a high pass led over into the Moose River. Frank MacMoran trapped up there and had his cabin on Terrace Creek.
  • How good to rest! How soft and warm the snow! There was the valley below him, empty in the moonlight- the clearing in the forest, timber that looked small and black as marsh grass.
  • Later, the pale cold sun was high in the sky. It shone full upon him. But the light of the sun was dim, as if a brighter light shone from behind it and the sunlight was its shadow. He could not see across the valley now, where the white cottage with the open door and the green trees had been. The world was growing small, dying slowly in the darkness of the sunlight.
  • When he opened his eyes again, the moon had gone. The red sun, topping the range across the valley, shone upon him.
  • He heard horse bells. It was winter and no horses were within a hundred miles. He heard streaming river water. He heard a wide brown river running over mossy boulders between low banks of grass and willow.
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