A Trek Out West - Part 4

Continued from A Trek Out West - Part 3. [Dr. Ferber] 7th.—We moved camp and made a twenty-mile ride, which tired us out, as well as the horses. We had got into rough, but more picturesque country; had to pass many high and steep mountains; sometimes it was not without danger to go down the steep canyons and slide down the rocks. At about 4 o'clock we arrived at the junction of the two branches of Battle Creek in a lovely valley, which is surrounded on three sides, forming a triangle, by high mountains. We put our camp up near the junction of the two branches, both of them splendid streams, large enough for fly casting. We had scarcely put our feet on the ground when I made my rod ready to catch. Almost with every cast one or two fine trout were lauded. I never had a better trout fishing. Not to say that fish were of large size, but they were so abundant and so gamey that I could not stop fishing, although I had to put them all back, as we could not eat them all. Out of one pool, where the branches came together, I caught thirty-two trout, from six to eighteen ounces, without moving from my stand. The fish were delicious, and we had them cooked in three different styles.


[Otto Franc] Wednesday, Aug 7 - We break up camp & start out for Battle Creek; after 8 1/2 hours ride through beautiful up & down very steep mountains & after crossing some lovely little streams we come upon Battle Creek & camp in a very nice narrow valley; We find the creek full of very gamey trout that take the fly greedily; we have excellent sport with them; 1 try to steal a march on a deer in some willow bushes close to camp but the deer will not have it & escapes unhurt. I also saw a monster of a black tail Buck, I could not get a shot at him.


[Dr. Ferber] Aug 8th.—After breakfast Jack and Frank with the rifle, and I with the shot-gun, went out hunting. I bagged four fine mountain grouse, and in the afternoon Frank killed three and Jack one. These birds, which some call blue grouse, are here in great numbers and are of fine flavor. Two of them weighed two pounds and fourteen ounces each.


[Otto Franc] Thursday, Aug 8 - The Doctor, who is an experienced Fisherman, says he never saw a stream so full of trout as Battle Creek; although the temptation is very great we do not kill any more than we can eat. We found signs of Mountain Sheep; I climb two very high & steep mountains in search of them without finding any, but am richly rewarded by the beautiful view I have from the tops of them; it reminded me of a part of the Alps near Chamonix. We see a great many Eagles they are very shy, also plenty of sandhill cranes, I tried very hard this morning to shoot one but they were too wary for me; in the afternoon Dr. & I go out with the Shotguns & kill a number of Mountain Grouse, among them a male bird that weighs almost 3 #. Supper consists of: Trout Grouse Antelope Flap jacks Coffee


[Dr. Ferber] 9th—Started from camp 7:30 a.m. to get to Battle Lake. But it was no go ! After eight hours horrible tramp through thick bushes, fallen timber, over rocks, in a hard rain-storm, we all felt tired, and concluded to give it up for that day and go to camp. Before we got down to the creek Tip killed a deer, and we shot at an elk pretty far off without doing him any harm. Our camp outfit was, although it was covered, pretty damp, and the first thing when we stopped was to make a big fire and get warm and dry. The rest was to cook dinner, which we were anxiously waiting for, as our appetite was grand. My friend, Frank, ate half as much in meat as the weight of his body, not to speak of the flapjacks. In half an hour we were quite different men, and smoked another pipe of peace. This camp, 8,700 feet high, in the narrow valley of the main branch of Battle Creek was surrounded on both sides by high wooded mountains. We did not feel very comfortable here, but still had to stay another day in order to send the guides out to look for the lake. We passed an unpleasant night, as all our camp outfit, as quilts, blankets, etc., was damp. The next morning, on the 10th Aug., Jack and Tip started to hunt for Battle Lake, while Frank and I went out fishing. The trout were not very hungry, and did take the fly well, because there was so much food washed down the mountain for them by the freshet, still I caught enough for our table. At noon the guides came back, bringing us good news. They found the lake about two miles off. We could have gone there the same day, but we thought better to wait till our bedding was dry again. To speak of the trout I caught here, I never saw Salma fontinalis like them before.


[Otto Franc] Friday Aug 9 - Start in search of Battle Lake which is supposed to be near the head of Battle Creek on top of a mountain; very few people have ever been to it & our guides have only a vague idea where it is situated; it is said to be so full of Trout that it is only necessary to dip your finger in the lake & you will pull out a Trout at the end of it; We rode through one extremely rough & wild country, so rough indeed that only a Rocky Mountain Pony can pass through it, an Eastern horse never would; we were kept busy al1 the time admiring the wonderful scenery; we started without a bit of meat & consequently kept our eyes open for something to shoot for supper, but a train of 8 horses passing through the timber makes so much noise that it is very seldom one gets a fair shot at deer or elk. We were out about 2 hours when a series of severe thundershowers set in & drenched us to the skin in less time then it takes to tell, I wore my pants tucked into my boots & the water actually ran out of the tops of the boots; the rain made the ground very slippery & our ponies had a hard time of it to keep their foothold; after we had been riding 7 hours we gave up al1 hopes of finding the lake to day & commenced to look for a good camping ground which is a very difficult task in these wild mountains as it requires quite a piece of pasture to fill the stomachs of 8 hungry Rocky Mountain ponies; we were just getting reconciled to the idea of suppering on Bacon & flap jacks when suddenly Tip who is the leader of the party jumped off his horse, fired & roiled over a fat black tail deer; this causes great rejoicing as we were all wet & tired & did not feel like hunting very much after getting into camp; we only take the loins as our ponies can only carry very light loads over such rough ground; we had hardly secured the meat whena band of 12-15 Elk cross our path at 300 yards distance, the timber is very thick so that we cannot see them plainly but Tip, Jack & the Dr. jump off their horses & open fire, 1 doz shots were fired in a minute & the Elk were at once lost to sight presumably without any holes in them, I did not fire as I thought it useless & had a good laugh at the ardent hunters; 1/2 hour later we find a beautiful valley with plenty of grass & water, we select a spot under a cluster of large Pine trees & soon have a roaring fire, venison & bacon in the pan, coffee in the pot & forget all about our wet clothes; when we travel we have only 2 meals a day viz: Breakfast & Supper & consequently plenty of appetite; after the meal we light our pipes sit around the fire & listen to the Indian & hunting stories of Tip & Jack; our camp is 8700 feet above the sea the air is delightfully fresh but very thin so that mountain climbing gets us terribly our of breath; our ponies seem to be accustomed to it as they never seem to suffer after the severest climbing; we saw some Grouse but the woods were so wet that we did not care to go after them, we also saw plenty of ripe raspberries but we were so ardent in our search of the Lake that we did not take the time to pick them.


[Otto Franc] Saturday Aug 10 - We got up stiff & chilly from having slept in wet blankets, a big fire & good breakfast soon remedy that. Tip & Jack start off to look for the lake; Dr. & I go fishing - have moderate success we find some excellent ripe strawberries. At noon Tip & Jack return & report the lake 2 miles from camp & full of fish, we shall move camp there tomorrow, I go hunting in the afternoon on some wooded hills but do not get anything; there is a high mountain 5-6 miles from camp with snow on it which I intend to climb in order to look for mountain sheep & to enjoy the view; Jack was out hunting & came home empty.


[Dr. Ferber] 11th.—Early in the morning we started for the lake, where we arrived after a half-hour's riding over rocky hills and thickly fallen timber. What a wonderful panorama we had after we had ascended the last hill. I am not able to describe it. A fine, but rather small, sheet of water before us, about 500 or 500 yards long, and 300 yards wide, was surrounded on one side by a steep, bare rock, 1,000 feet high; on the other sides by high wooded hills. The water of the lake was as smooth as a mirror, and we saw hundreds, even thousands, of small trout playing or rising to the surface for insects. Toward the high rock the water seems to be very deep, but on other parts pretty shallow. Frank and myself being ahead, we had not to wait very long for our train, and then we rode slowly along the lake to the place where, several years ago, Prospector (gold digger) had built a log-house. This we used for camp, being large and dry. That it did not take very long for me to get ready for the trout you will imagine. The poor fish were so hungry that they came to us on shore where we were standing, waiting for our artificial flies, and even bare hooks. I fished all around the lake, and caught several hundred, but put them back again, as I left it to Frank to furnish our table. He only fished a while, and caught his basket nearly full. Never in all my fishing have I found a pond or lake so well stocked with trout as this Battle Lake, but we did not catch a larger fish than one pound six ounces. I think there was too little food for the great number of fish.


[Otto Franc] Sunday, Aug 11 - After another rainy night we start for Battle Lake although the distance is only 1 1/2 miles it is over 2 hours before our pack animals reach the same on account of the great quantity of fallen timber. Battle Lake is a beautiful sheet of water 500 yards long 250 yds. wide, clear water & of great depth; 9150 feet above the sea, on one side overtopped by a very steep mountain which is exactly 1000 feet higher than the lake; there is another smaller lake about 250 yards from the main lake & 50 feet lower than it; it is formed by an outlet of the upper one; the main lake is crammed full of small trout that will bite at anything; I commenced fishing with a fly and pulled out fish as fast as I could throw the line, pretty soon the fly was tore off & only the bare hook left, I continued fishing with that & caught just as many fish as before; they do not seem to grow larger than 1/2 #, the most of them are 1/4 #; in the afternoon I climbed the mountain on the side of the lake, it was very hard work as most of the time I had to use both hands & feet; the view is magnificent & of vast extent as the mountain is 10,150 feet above the level of the sea, however I could see more than 25 mountains higher than the one on which 1 was, a good many of them snow covered. I saw some Elk feeding in the distance but could not approach them on account of obstacles in the way; by the lake we found a log cabin & the names of a party that had camped there in September 1877, we appropriate the cabin for our own use; we seem to be above the fly & mosquito line, as we see none of them; game must be plenty in the neighborhood judging from the numerous tracks, we will try to get some tomorrow; for curiosity sake, we get up supper in the following manner; Jack built a fire gets the frying pan ready; take the fishing pole catch a fish hand it to Jack who cleans it in a few seconds puts it in the pan over the fire & so on until the pan is full & in about 5 minutes from the time the fish are caught we are eating them; they are very gamey little fellows & fairly fight amongst themselves for the hook.


[Dr. Ferber] On the second day, Aug. 12, I cleaned fifteen fish, and found worms in five of them. Of course I threw them away, and we did not eat any more fish out of the lake. Frank took the aneroid and climbed up the high rock near the lake, where he found that he had ascended 1,000 feet; the top was 10,150 feet. The same day, all of us, Tip with Frank and Jack with me, started for a hunt. Frank was so lucky as to kill a doe elk and spikebuck elk, and could have shot many more; we could have killed some, too, but, having enough of meat, did not like to slaughter them. We found elk by the hundreds, but no large bucks, and could get close up to them. We ascended mountain after mountain, very heavily wooded on the lower parts of them, while on the tops only bare rocks and snow, and at last we got up the principal peak of this range, where my aneroid showed 10,850 feet. Here we were on the great divide between the Pacific and Atlantic, and on the line between Wyoming and Colorado. The view from here was grand. We saw nearly all the high peaks of the northern part of Colorado, as well north of us the Elk mountains and some other high ranges. The wind was blowing very fresh, so we did not stay long, and rode down again to our camp. I tried the trout once more to hook bigger fish, but without result. The little fellows took anything we threw in, and would have taken " a red-hot stove," as my friend, F. Endicott, likes to say.


Although the elevation we were traveling on now was from 9,000 to 11,000 feet, the vegetation was luxuriant, while we found on the lower plateaus, 6,000 to 8,000 feet, scarcely a shrub. Wo saw here timber of enormous size—pine and poplar—not so very high, but of great diameter and of dense growth. There was high and good grass everywhere, and a great variety of flowers; a splendid country for botanists to make studies and collections.



[Otto Franc] Monday Aug 12 - We have no meat & all start out to get some; Tip & I are about 1 mile from camp when I catch a glimpse of a large Elk feeding among some young pines; I jump quickly off the horse & roll over a fine fat Doe Elk by a good shot just behind the shoulder; this must have been (one) of a band of several hundred as immediately after I fired we could see & hear Elk running in every direction; we found my Elk dead not more than 3 or 4 yds. from where I shot her; after having taken the loins & the tongue we proceed toward a high mountain to look for mountain sheep; after 1/2 hours ride we see another band of Elk with a nice young Buck on the outside; as the loin of a young Elk are delicious eating I resolve to get him if possible, we lead the horses quietly out of sight - & I crawl towards the band when 100 yards off I get a fair chance at the buck & drop him in his tracks with a bullet through his shoulder; as these are my first Elk & both very well shot I am not little proud of my achievement; after having secured the desired meat we start again for the big mountains. This first one we climb we find to be 10,500 feet high, with plenty of large snowfields & a most brilliant view of the surrounding country but no sheep, we then try another whose summit we reach nearly exhausted, as we had to drag our ponies after us a good deal of the time, it is 11,000 feet high, presents a grander view than the first one but no sheep again, we then try another with the same success; the wind blows very strong & cold & as we are tired & hungry we turn homeward; on the return trip I miss a black tail Deer [head on] at 80 yards; this puts a damper on my morning doings & teaches me that I am not quite the crackshot I supposed myself to be; During to days tramp we crossed & recrossed the "Divide". We saw the North Platte plainly; the water from Battle Lake reaches the Pacific Ocean by way of Snake, Green & Colorado Rivers.


[Dr. Ferber] 13th.. —We left this lovely little spot, and, going westward, we followed this dividing range of mountains through forests, crossing brooks and canyons, till after a ride of about twenty four hours, we came to an old camp of ours on the Savery, where we stopped on the 5th and 6th. Having had a very early breakfast, we felt awful hungry at 4 o'clock, when we came in camp, and we proved that a pound of juicy elk steak each was not too much. My pipe was lighted then, and I took my rod and brought a nice mess of trout home.


[Otto Franc] Tuesday Aug 13 - We break camp & commence to travel back toward Rawlins; in order to escape the dense & fallen timber of the valley which is a serious impediment to our pack horses we ascend to the summit of the Divide & follow the same for several miles, we are 10000 feet above the sea - the summit being narrow we have a beautiful view right & left; when we get down a little lower we strike several bands ofElk but do not shoot any as we have plenty of meat; after 7 1/2 hours ride we reach Savory Creek & go into camp; we have now left the mountains & are again in the Plains. [This story will continue, following the summer trek of Texas Jack, Otto Franc, and Dr. Ferber in Part 5.]


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