Thrilling Tales: 37 Days of Peril

You can survive: Truly alone in the wilderness: Lost in Yellowstone for 37 days pretty much without equipment, food, clothing or shelter. ‘After wandering away from the rest of the expedition on September 9, 1870, Everts managed to lose the pack horse which was carrying most of his supplies. He ate a songbird and minnows raw, and a local thistle plant to stay alive; the plant (Cirsium foliosum or elk thistle) was later renamed “Evert’s Thistle” after him. Everts’ party searched for him for a while, and his friends in Helena offered a reward of $600 to find him. “Yellowstone Jack” Baronett and George A. Pritchett found Everts, suffering from frostbite, burn wounds from thermal vents and his campfire, and other wounds suffered during his ordeal, so malnourished he weighed only 50 pounds (23 kg). One stayed with him to nurse him back to health while the other walked 75 miles (121 km) for help; in spite of their assistance, Everts denied the men the payment of the reward, claiming he could have made it out of the mountains on his own.’

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[Illustration: Imaginary Companions.]

I have read with great satisfaction the excellent descriptive articles
on the wonders of the Upper Yellowstone, in the May and June
numbers of your magazine. Having myself been one of the party
who participated in many of the pleasures, and suffered all the perils
of that expedition, I can not only bear testimony to the fidelity of
the narrative, but probably add some facts of experience which will
not detract from the general interest it has excited.

A desire to visit the remarkable region, of which, during several
years’ residence in Montana, I had often heard the most marvelous
accounts, led me to unite in the expedition of August last. The
general character of the stupendous scenery of the Rocky Mountains
prepared my mind for giving credit to all the strange stories told of
the Yellowstone, and I felt quite as certain of the existence of the
physical phenomena of that country, on the morning that our company
started from Helena, as when I afterwards beheld it. I engaged in the
enterprise with enthusiasm, feeling that all the hardships and
exposures of a month’s horseback travel through an unexplored region
would be more than compensated by the grandeur and novelty of the
natural objects with which it was crowded. Of course, the idea of
being lost in it, without any of the ordinary means of subsistence,
and the wandering for days and weeks, in a famishing condition, alone,
in an unfrequented wilderness, formed no part of my contemplation. I
had dwelt too long amid the mountains not to know that such a thought,
had it occurred, would have been instantly rejected as improbable;
nevertheless, “man proposes and God disposes,” a truism which found a
new and ample illustration in my wanderings through the Upper
Yellowstone region.

On the day that I found myself separated from the company, and for
several days previous, our course had been impeded by the dense growth
of the pine forest, and occasional large tracts of fallen timber,
frequently rendering our progress almost impossible. Whenever we came
to one of these immense windfalls, each man engaged in the pursuit of
a passage through it, and it was while thus employed, and with the
idea that I had found one, that I strayed out of sight and hearing of
my comrades. We had a toilsome day. It was quite late in the
afternoon. As separations like this had frequently occurred, it gave
me no alarm, and I rode on, fully confident of soon rejoining the
company, or of finding their camp. I came up with the pack-horse,
which Mr. Langford afterwards recovered, and tried to drive him along,
but failing to do so, and my eyesight being defective, I spurred
forward, intending to return with assistance from the party. This
incident tended to accelerate my speed. I rode on in the direction
which I supposed had been taken, until darkness overtook me in the
dense forest. This was disagreeable enough, but caused me no alarm. I
had no doubt of being with the party at breakfast the next morning. I
selected a spot for comfortable repose, picketed my horse, built a
fire, and went to sleep.

The next morning I rose at early dawn, saddled and mounted my horse,
and took my course in the supposed direction of the camp. Our ride of
the previous day had been up a peninsula jutting into the lake, for
the shore of which I started, with the expectation of finding my
friends camped on the beach. The forest was quite dark, and the trees
so thick, that it was only by a slow process I could get through them
at all. In searching for the trail I became somewhat confused. The
falling foliage of the pines had obliterated every trace of travel. I
was obliged frequently to dismount, and examine the ground for the
faintest indications. Coming to an opening, from which I could see
several vistas, I dismounted for the purpose of selecting one leading
in the direction I had chosen, and leaving my horse unhitched, as had
always been my custom, walked a few rods into the forest. While
surveying the ground my horse took fright, and I turned around in time
to see him disappearing at full speed among the trees. That was the
last I ever saw of him. It was yet quite dark. My blankets, gun,
pistols, fishing tackle, matches–everything, except the clothing on
my person, a couple of knives, and a small opera-glass were attached
to the saddle.

[Illustration: “The Last I Ever Saw of Him.”]

I did not realize the possibility of a permanent separation from the
company. Instead of following up the pursuit of their camp, I engaged
in an effort to recover my horse. Half a day’s search convinced me of
its impracticability. I wrote and posted in an open space several
notices, which, if my friends should chance to see, would inform them
of my condition and the route I had taken, and then struck out into
the forest in the supposed direction of their camp. As the day wore on
without any discovery, alarm took the place of anxiety at the prospect
of another night alone in the wilderness, and this time without food
or fire. But even this dismal foreboding was cheered by the hope that
should soon rejoin my companions, who would laugh at my adventure, and
incorporate it as a thrilling episode into the journal of our trip.
The bright side of a misfortune, as I found by experience, even under
the worst possible circumstances, always presents some features of
encouragement. When I began to realize that my condition was one of
actual peril, I banished from my mind all fear of an unfavorable
result. Seating myself on a log, I recalled every foot of the way I
had traveled since the separation from my friends, and the most
probable opinion I could form of their whereabouts was, that they had,
by a course but little different from mine, passed by the spot where I
had posted the notices, learned of my disaster, and were waiting for
me the rejoin them there, or searching for me in that vicinity. A
night must be spent amid the prostrate trunks before my return could
be accomplished. At no time during my period of exile did I experience
so much mental suffering from the cravings of hunger as when,
exhausted with this long clay of fruitless search, I resigned myself
to a couch of pine foliage in the pitchy darkness of a thicket of
small trees. Naturally timid in the night, I fully realized the
exposure of my condition. I peered upward through the darkness, but
all was blackness and gloom. The wind sighed mournfully through the
pines. The forest seemed alive with the screeching of night birds, the
angry barking of coyotes, and the prolonged, dismal howl of the gray
wolf. These sounds, familiar by their constant occurrence throughout
the journey, were now full of terror, and drove slumber from my
eyelids. Above all this, however, was the hope that I should be
restored to my comrades the next day.

Early the next morning I rose unrefreshed, and pursued my weary way
over the prostrate trunks. It was noon when I reached the spot where
my notices were posted. No one had been there. My disappointment was
almost overwhelming. For the first time, I realized that I was lost.
Then came a crushing sense of destitution. No food, no fire; no means
to procure either; alone in an unexplored wilderness, one hundred and
fifty miles from the nearest human abode, surrounded by wild beasts,
and famishing with hunger. It was no time for despondency. A moment
afterwards I felt how calamity can elevate the mind, in the formation
of the resolution “not to perish in that wilderness.”

The hope of finding the party still controlled my plans. I thought, by
traversing the peninsula centrally, I would be enabled to strike the
shore of the lake in advance of their camp, and near the point of
departure for the Madison. Acting upon this impression, I rose from a
sleepless couch, and pursued my way through the timber-entangled
forest. A feeling of weakness took the place of hunger. Conscious of
the need of food, I felt no cravings. Occasionally, while scrambling
over logs and through thickets, a sense of faintness and exhaustion
would come over me, but I would suppress it with the audible
expression, “This won’t do; I must find my company.” Despondency would
sometimes strive with resolution for the mastery of my thoughts. I
would think of home–of my daughter–and of the possible chance of
starvation, or death in some more terrible form; but as often as these
gloomy forebodings came, I would strive to banish them with
reflections better adapted to my immediate necessities. I recollect at
this time discussing the question, whether there was not implanted by
Providence in every man a principle of self-preservation equal to any
emergency which did not destroy his reason. I decided this question
affirmatively a thousand times afterwards in my wanderings, and I
record this experience here, that any person who reads it, should he
ever find himself in like circumstances, may not despair. There is
life in the thought. It will revive hope, allay hunger, renew energy,
encourage perseverance, and, as I have proved in my own case, bring a
man out of difficulty, when nothing else can avail.

It was mid-day when I emerged from the forest into an open space at
the foot of the peninsula. A broad lake of beautiful curvature, with
magnificent surroundings, lay before me, glittering in the sunbeams.
It was full twelve miles in circumference. A wide belt of sand formed
the margin which I was approaching, directly opposite to which, rising
seemingly from the very depths of the water, towered the loftiest peak
of a range of mountains apparently interminable. The ascending vapor
from innumerable hot springs, and the sparkling jet of a single
geyser, added the feature of novelty to one of the grandest landscapes
I ever beheld. Nor was the life of the scene less noticeable than its
other attractions. Large flocks of swans and other water-fowl were
sporting on the quiet surface of the lake; otters in great numbers
performed the most amusing aquatic evolutions; mink and beaver swam
around unscared, in the most grotesque confusion. Deer, elk, and
mountain sheep stared at me, manifesting more surprise than fear at
my presence among them. The adjacent forest was vocal with the songs
of birds, chief of which were the chattering notes of a species of
mockingbird, whose imitative efforts afforded abundant merriment. Seen
under favorable circumstances, this assemblage of grandeur, beauty,
and novelty would have been transporting; but, jaded with travel,
famishing with hunger, and distressed with anxiety, I was in no humor
for ecstacy. My tastes were subdued and chastened by the perils which
environed me. I longed for food, friends and protection. Associated
with my thoughts, however, was the wish that some of my friends of
peculiar tastes could enjoy this display of secluded magnificence,
now, probably, for the first time beheld by mortal eyes.

The lake was at least one thousand feet lower than the highest point
of the peninsula, and several hundred feet below the level of
Yellowstone Lake. I recognized the mountain which overshadowed it as
the landmark which a few days before, had received from Gen. Washburn
the name of Mount Everts; and as it is associated with some of the
most agreeable and terrible incidents of my exile, I feel that I have
more than a mere discoverer’s right to the perpetuity of that
christening. The lake is fed by innumerable small streams from the
mountains, and the countless hot springs surrounding it. A large river
flows from it, through a canon a thousand feet in height, in a
southeasterly direction, to a distant range of mountains, which I
conjectured to be Snake River; and with the belief that I had
discovered the source of the great southern tributary of the Columbia,
I gave it the name of Bessie Lake, after the

“Sole daughter of my house and heart.”

During the first two days, the fear of meeting with Indians gave me
considerable anxiety, but, when conscious of being lost, there was
nothing I so much desired as to fall in with a lodge of Bannacks or
Crows. Having nothing to tempt their cupidity, they would do me no
personal harm, and, with the promise of reward, would probably
minister to my wants and aid my deliverance. Imagine my delight, while
gazing upon the animated expanse of water, at seeing sail out from a
distant point a large canoe containing a single oarsman. It was
rapidly approaching the shore where I was seated. With hurried steps I
paced the beach to meet it, all my energies stimulated by the
assurance it gave of food, safety and restoration to friends. As I
drew near to it it turned towards the shore, and oh! bitter
disappointment, the object which my eager fancy had transformed into
an angel of relief stalked from the water, an enormous pelican,
flapped its dragon-wings, as if in mockery of my sorrow, and flew to a
solitary point farther up the lake. This little incident quite
unmanned me. The transition from joy to grief brought with it a
terrible consciousness of the horrors of my condition. But night was
fast approaching, and darkness would come with it. While looking for a
spot where I might repose in safety, my attention was attracted to a
small green plant of so lively a hue as to form a striking contrast
with deep pine foliage. For closer examination I pulled it up by the
root, which was long and tapering, not unlike a radish. It was a
thistle. I tasted it; it was palatable and nutritious. My appetite
craved it, and the first meal in four days was made on thistle-roots.
Eureka! I had found food. No optical illusion deceived me this time; I
could subsist until I rejoined my companions. Glorious counterpoise to
the wretchedness of the preceding half-hour!

Overjoyed at this discovery, with hunger allayed, I stretched myself
under a tree, upon the foliage which had partially filled a space
between contiguous trunks, and fell asleep. How long I slept I know
not; but suddenly I was roused by a loud, shrill scream, like that of
a human being in distress, poured, seemingly, into the very portals of
my ear. There was no mistaking that fearful voice. I had been deceived
by and answered it a dozen times while threading the forest, with the
belief that it was a friendly signal. It was the screech of a mountain
lion, so alarmingly near as to cause every nerve to thrill with
terror. To yell in return, seize with convulsive grasp the limbs of
the friendly tree, and swing myself into it, was the work of a moment.
Scrambling hurriedly from limb to limb, I was soon as near the top as
safety would permit. The savage beast was snuffing and growling below
apparently on the very spot I had just abandoned. I answered every
growl with a responsive scream. Terrified at the delay and pawing of
the beast, I increased my voice to its utmost volume, broke branches
from the limbs, and, in the impotency of fright, madly hurled them at
the spot whence the continued howlings proceeded.

Failing to alarm the animal, which now began to make a circuit of the
tree, as if to select a spot for springing into it, I shook, with a
strength increased by terror, the slender trunk until every limb
rustled with the motion. All in vain. The terrible creature pursued
his walk around the tree, lashing the ground with his tail, and
prolonging his howlings almost to a roar. It was too dark to see, but
the movements of the lion kept me apprised of its position. Whenever I
heard it on one side of the tree I speedily changed to the
opposite–an exercise which, in my weakened state, I could only have
performed under the impulse of terror. I would alternately sweat and
thrill with horror at the thought of being torn to pieces and devoured
by this formidable monster. All my attempts to frighten it seemed
unavailing. Disheartened at its persistency, and expecting every
moment it would take the deadly leap, I tried to collect my thoughts,
and prepare for the fatal encounter which I knew must result. Just at
this moment it occurred to me that I would try silence. Clasping the
trunk of the tree with both arms, I sat perfectly still. The lion, at
this time ranging around, occasionally snuffing and pausing, and all
the while filling the forest with the echo of his howlings, suddenly
imitated my example. This silence was more terrible, if possible, than
the clatter and crash of his movements through the brushwood, for now
I did not know from what direction to expect his attack. Moments
passed with me like hours. After a lapse of time which I cannot
estimate, the beast gave a spring into the thicket and ran screaming
into the forest. My deliverance was effected.

[Illustration: The Mountain Lion.]

Had strength permitted, I should have retained my perch till daylight,
but with the consciousness of escape from the jaws of the ferocious
brute came a sense of overpowering weakness which almost palsied me,
and made my descent from the tree both difficult and dangerous.
Incredible as it may seem, I lay down in my old bed, and was soon lost
in a slumber so profound that I did not awake until after daylight.
The experience of the night seemed like a terrible dream; but the
broken limbs which in the agony of consternation I had thrown from the
tree, and the rifts made in fallen foliage by my visitant in his
circumambulations, were too convincing evidences of its reality. I
could not dwell upon my exposure and escape without shuddering, and
reflecting that probably like perils would often occur under less
fortunate circumstances, and with a more fatal issue. I wondered what
fate was in reserve for me–whether I should ultimately sink from
exhaustion and perish of starvation, or become the prey of some of the
ferocious animals that roamed these vast fastnesses. My thoughts then
turned to the loved ones at home. They could never know my fate, and
would indulge a thousand conjectures concerning it, not the least
distressing of which would be that I had been captured by a band of
hostile Sioux, and tortured to death at the stake.

I was roused from this train of reflections by a marked change in the
atmosphere. One of those dreary storms of mingled snow and rain,
common to these high latitudes, set in. My clothing, which had been
much torn, exposed my person to its “pitiless peltings.” An easterly
wind, rising to a gale, admonished me that it would be furious and of
long duration. None of the discouragements I had met with dissipated
the hope of rejoining my friends; but foreseeing the delay, now
unavoidable, I knew that my escape from the wilderness must be
accomplished, if at all, by my own unaided exertions. This thought was
terribly afflicting, and brought before me, in vivid array, all the
dreadful realities of my condition. I could see no ray of hope. In
this condition of mind I could find no better shelter than the
spreading branches of a spruce tree, under which, covered with earth
and boughs, I lay during the two succeeding days; the storm,
meanwhile, raging with unabated violence. While thus exposed, and
suffering from cold and hunger, a little benumbed bird, not larger
than a snow-bird, hopped within my reach. I instantly seized and
killed it, and, plucking its feathers, ate it raw. It was a delicious
meal for a half-starved man.

Taking advantage of a lull in the elements, on the morning of the
third day I rose early and started in the direction of a large group
of hot springs which were steaming under the shadow of Mount Everts.
The distance I traveled could not have been less than ten miles. Long
before I reached the wonderful cluster of natural caldrons, the storm
had recommenced. Chilled through, with my clothing thoroughly
saturated, I lay down under a tree upon the heated incrustation until
completely warmed. My heels and the sides of my feet were frozen. As
soon as warmth had permeated my system, and I had quieted my appetite
with a few thistle-roots, I took a survey of my surroundings, and
selected a spot between two springs sufficiently asunder to afford
heat at my head and feet, On this spot I built a bower of pine
branches, spread its incrusted surface with fallen foliage and small
boughs, and stowed myself away to await the close of the storm.
Thistles were abundant, and I had fed upon them long enough to realize
that they would, for a while at least, sustain life. In convenient
proximity to my abode was a small, round, boiling spring, which I
called my dinner-pot, in which, from time to time, I cooked my roots.

This establishment, the best I could improvise with the means at hand,
I occupied seven days–the first three of which were darkened by one
of the most furious storms I ever saw. The vapor which supplied me
with warmth saturated my clothing with its condensations. I was
enveloped in a perpetual steam-bath. At first this was barely
preferable to the storm, but I soon became accustomed to it, and
before I left, though thoroughly parboiled, actually enjoyed it.

I had little else to do during my imprisonment but cook, think, and
sleep. Of the variety and strangeness of my reflections it is
impossible to give the faintest conception. Much of my time was given
to devising means for escape. I recollected to have read, at the time
of their publication, the narratives of Lieutenant Strain and Doctor
Kane, and derived courage and hope from the reflection that they
struggled with–and survived perils not unlike those which environed
me. The chilling thought would then occur, that they were not alone.
They had companions in suffering and sympathy. Each could bear his
share of the burden of misery which it fell to my lot to bear alone,
and make it lighter from the encouragement of mutual counsel and aid
in a cause of common suffering. Selfish as the thought may seem, there
was nothing I so much desired as a companion in misfortune. How
greatly it would alleviate my distress! What a relief it would be to
compare my wretchedness with that of a brother sufferer, and with him
devise expedients for every exigency as it occurred! I confess to the
weakness, if it be one, of having squandered much pity upon myself
during the time I had little else to do.

Nothing gave me more concern than the want of fire. I recalled
everything I had ever read or heard of the means by which fire could
be produced; but none of them were within my reach. An escape without
it was simply impossible. It was indispensable as a protection against
night attacks from wild beasts. Exposure to another storm like the one
just over would destroy my life, as this one would have done, but for
the warmth derived from the springs. As I lay in my bower anxiously
awaiting the disappearance of the snow, which had fallen to the depth
of a foot or more, and impressed with the belief that for want of fire
I should be obliged to remain among the springs, it occurred to me
that I would erect some sort of monument, which might, at some future
day, inform a casual visitor of the circumstances under which I had
perished. A gleam of sunshine lit up the bosom of the lake, and with
it the thought flashed upon my mind that I could, with a lens from my
opera-glasses, get fire from Heaven. Oh happy, life-renewing thought!
Instantly subjecting it to the test of experiment, when I saw the
smoke curl from the bit of dry wood in my fingers, I felt, if the
whole world were offered me for it, I would cast it all aside before
parting with that little spark. I was now the happy possessor of food
and fire. These would carry me through. All thoughts of failure were
instantly abandoned. Though the food was barely adequate to my
necessities–a fact too painfully attested by my attenuated body–I
had forgotten the cravings of hunger, and had the means of producing
fire. I said to myself, “I will not despair.”

[Illustration: The First Fire.]

My stay at the springs was prolonged several days by an accident that
befell me on the third night after my arrival there. An unlucky
movement while asleep broke the crust on which I reposed, and the hot
steam, pouring upon my hip, scalded it severely before I could escape.
This new affliction, added to my frost-bitten feet, already festering,
was the cause of frequent delays and unceasing pain through all my
wanderings. After obtaining fire, I set to work making preparations
for as early departure as my condition would permit. I had lost both
knives since parting from the company, but I now made a convenient
substitute by sharpening the tongue of a buckle which I cut from my
vest. With this I cut the legs and counters from my boots, making of
them a passable pair of slippers, which I fastened to my feet as
firmly as I could with strips of bark. With the ravelings of a linen
handkerchief, aided by the magic buckle-tongue, I mended my clothing.
Of the same material I made a fish-line, which, on finding a piece of
red tape in one of my pockets better suited to the purpose, I
abandoned as a “bad job.” I made of a pin that I found in my coat a
fish-hook, and, by sewing up the bottoms of my bootlegs, constructed a
good pair of pouches to carry my food in, fastening them to my belt by
the straps.

Thus accoutered, on the morning of the eighth day after my arrival at
the springs I bade them a final farewell, and started on my course
directly across that portion of the neck of the peninsula between me
and the southeast arm of Yellowstone Lake. It was a beautiful morning.
The sun shone bright and warm, and there was a freshness in the
atmosphere truly exhilarating. As I wandered musingly along, the
consciousness of being alone, and of having surrendered all hope of
finding my friends, returned upon me with crushing power. I felt, too,
that those friends, by the necessities of their condition, had been
compelled to abandon all efforts for my recovery. The thought was full
of bitterness and sorrow. I tried to realize what their conjectures
were concerning my disappearance; but could derive no consolation from
the long and dismal train of circumstances they suggested. Weakened by
a long fast, and the unsatisfying nature of the only food I could
procure, I know that from this time onward to the day of my rescue, my
mind, though unimpaired in those perceptions needful to
self-preservation, was in a condition to receive impressions akin to
insanity. I was constantly traveling in dream-land, and indulging in
strange reveries such as I had never before known. I seemed to possess
a sort of duality of being, which, while constantly reminding me of
the necessities of my condition, fed my imagination with vagaries of
the most extravagant character. Nevertheless, I was perfectly
conscious of the tendency of these morbid influences, and often tried
to shake them off, but they would ever return with increased force,
and I finally reasoned myself into the belief that their indulgence,
as it afforded me pleasure, could work no harm while it did not
interfere with my plans for deliverance. Thus I lived in a world of
ideal happiness, and in a world of positive suffering at the same

A change in the wind and an overcast sky, accompanied by cold, brought
with them a need of warmth. I drew out my lens and touchwood, but
alas! there was no sun. I sat down on a log to await his friendly
appearance. Hours passed; he did not come. Night, cold, freezing
night, set in, and found me exposed to all its terrors. A bleak
hill-side sparsely covered with pines afforded poor accommodations for
a half-clad, famished man. I could only keep from freezing by the most
active exertion in walking, rubbing, and striking my benumbed feet and
hands against the logs. It seemed the longest, most terrible night of
my life, and glad was I when the approaching dawn enabled me to
commence retracing my steps to Bessie Lake. I arrived there at noon,
built my first fire on the beach, and remained by it, recuperating,
for the succeeding two days.

The faint hope that my friends might be delayed by their search for me
until I could rejoin them now foresook me altogether. I made my
arrangements independent of it. Either of three directions I might
take would effect my escape, if life and strength held out. I drew
upon the sand of the beach a map of these several courses with
reference-to my starting-point from the lake, and considered well the
difficulties each would present. All were sufficiently defined to
avoid mistake. One was to follow Snake River a distance of one hundred
miles or more to Eagle Rock bridge; another, to cross the country
between the southern shore of Yellowstone Lake and the Madison
Mountains, by scaling which I could easily reach the settlements in
the Madison valley; and the other, to retrace my journey over the long
and discouraging route by which I had entered the country. Of these
routes the last-mentioned seemed the least inviting, probably because
I had so recently traversed it, and was familiar with its
difficulties. I had heard and read so much concerning the desolation
and elemental upheavals and violent waters of the upper valley of the
Snake, that I dared not attempt to return in that direction. The route
by the Madison Range, encumbered by the single obstruction of the
mountain barrier, was much the shortest, and so, most unwisely as will
hereafter appear, I adopted it.

Filling my pouches with thistle-roots, I took a parting survey of the
little solitude that had afforded me food and fire the preceding ten
days, and with something of that melancholy feeling experienced by one
who leaves his home to grapple with untried adventures, started for
the nearest point on Yellowstone Lake. All that day I traveled over
timber-heaps, amid tree-tops, and through thickets. At noon I took the
precaution to obtain fire. With a brand which I kept alive by frequent
blowing, and constant waving to and fro, at a late hour in the
afternoon, faint and exhausted, I kindled a fire for the night on the
only vacant spot I could find amid a dense wilderness of pines. The
deep gloom of the forest, in the spectral light which revealed on all
sides of me a compact and unending growth of trunks, and an impervious
canopy of somber foliage; the shrieking of night-birds; the
supernaturally human scream of the Mountain lion; the prolonged howl
of the wolf, made me insensible to all other forms of suffering.

[Illustration: A Night of Terror.]

The burn on my hip was so inflamed that I could only sleep in a
sitting posture. Seated with my back against a tree, the smoke from
the fire almost enveloping me in its suffocating folds, I vainly
tried, amid the din and uproar of this horrible serenade, to woo the
drowsy god. My imagination was instinct with terror. At one moment it
seemed as if, in the density of a thicket, I could see the blazing
eyes of a formidable forest monster fixed upon me, preparatory to a
deadly leap; at another I fancied that I heard the swift approach of a
pack of yelping wolves through the distant brushwood, which in a few
minutes would tear me limb from limb. Whenever, by fatigue and
weakness, my terror yielded to drowsiness, the least noise roused me
to a sense of the hideousness of my condition. Once, in a fitful
slumber, I fell forward into the fire, and inflicted a wretched burn
on my hand. Oh! with what agony I longed for day!

A bright and glorious morning succeeded the dismal night, and brought
with it the conviction that I had been the victim of uncontrollable
nervous excitement. I resolved henceforth to banish it altogether;
and, in much better spirits than I anticipated, resumed my journey
towards the lake. Another day of unceasing toil among the tree-tops
and thickets overtook me, near sunset, standing upon a lofty headland
jutting into the lake, and commanding a magnificent prospect of the
mountains and valley over an immense area. In front of me, at a
distance of fifty miles away, in the clear blue of the horizon, rose
the arrowy peaks of the three Tetons. On the right, and apparently in
close proximity to the eminence I occupied, rolled the picturesque
range of the Madison, scarred with clefts, ravines, gorges and canons,
each of which glittered in the sunlight or deepened in shadow as the
fitful rays of the descending luminary glanced along their varied
rocky irregularities. Above where I stood were the lofty domes of
Mounts Langford and Doane, marking the limits of that wonderful
barrier which had so long defied human power in its efforts to subdue
it. Rising seemingly from the promontory which favored my vision was
the familiar summit of Mount Everts, at the base of which I had dwelt
so long, and which still seemed to hold me within its friendly shadow.
All the vast country within this grand enclosure of mountains and
lake, scarred and seamed with the grotesque ridges, rocky escarpments,
undulating hillocks, and miniature lakes, and steaming with hot
springs, produced by the volcanic forces of a former era, lay spread
out before me like a vast panorama.

I doubt if distress and suffering can ever entirely obliterate all
sense of natural grandeur and magnificence. Lost in the wonder and
admiration inspired by this vast world of beauties, I nearly forgot to
improve the few moments of remaining sunshine to obtain fire. With a
lighted brand in my hand, I effected a most difficult and arduous
descent of the abrupt and stony headland to the beach of the lake. The
sand was soft and yielding. I kindled a fire, and removing the
stiffened slippers from my feet, attached them to my belt and wandered
barefoot along the sandy shore to gather wood for the night. The dry
warm sand was most grateful to my lacerated and festering feet, and
for a long time after my wood-pile was supplied, I sat with them
uncovered. At length, conscious of the need of every possible
protection from the freezing night atmosphere, I sought my belt for
the slippers, and one was missing. In gathering the wood it had become
detached, and was lost. Darkness was closing over the landscape, when,
sorely disheartened with the thought of passing the night with one
foot exposed to freezing temperature, I commenced a search for the
missing slipper. I knew I could not travel a day without it. Fearful
that it had dropped into the lake, and been carried by some recurrent
wave beyond recovery, my search for an hour among fallen trees and
bushes, up the hill-side and along the beach, in darkness and with
naming brands, at one moment crawling on hands and feet into a
brush-heap, another peering among logs and bushes and stones, was
filled with anxiety and dismay. Success at length rewarded my
perseverance, and no language can describe the joy with which I drew
the cause of so much distress from beneath the limb that, as I passed,
had torn it from my belt. With a feeling of great relief, I now sat
down in the sand, my back to a log, and listened to the dash and roar
of the waves. It was a wild lullaby, but had no terrors for a worn-out
man. I never passed a night of more refreshing sleep. When I awoke my
fire was extinguished save a few embers, which I soon fanned into a
cheerful flame. I ate breakfast with some relish, and started along
the beach in pursuit of a camp, believing that if successful I should
find directions what to do, and food to sustain me. The search which I
was making lay in the direction of my pre-arranged route to the
Madison Mountains, which I intended to approach at their lowest point
of altitude.

Buoyed by the hope of finding food and counsel, and another night of
undisturbed repose in the sand, I resumed my journey along the shore,
and at noon found the camp last occupied by my friends on the lake. A
thorough search for food in the ground and trees revealed nothing, and
no notice to apprise me of their movements could be seen. A
dinner-fork, which afterwards proved to be of infinite service in
digging roots, and a yeast-powder can, which would hold half a pint,
and which I converted into a drinking-cup and dinner-pot, were the
only evidences that the spot had ever been visited by civilized man.
“Oh!” thought I, “why did they forget to leave me food!” it never
occurring to me that they might have cached it, as I have since
learned they did, in several spots nearer the place of my separation
from them. I left the camp in deep dejection, with the purpose of
following the trail of the party to the Madison. Carefully inspecting
the faint traces left of their course of travel, I became satisfied
that from some cause they had made a retrograde movement from this
camp, and departed from the lake at a point further down stream.
Taking this as an indication that there were obstructions above, I
commenced retracing my steps along the beach. An hour of sunshine in
the afternoon enabled me to procure fire, which, in the usual manner,
I carried to my camping-place. There I built a fire, and to protect
myself from the wind, which was blowing violently, lashing the lake
into foam, I made a bower of pine boughs, crept under it, and very
soon fell asleep. How long I slept I know not, but I was aroused by
the snapping and cracking of the burning foliage, to find my shelter
and the adjacent forest in a broad sheet of flame. My left hand was
badly burned, and my hair singed closer than a barber would have
trimmed it, while making my escape from the semi-circle of burning
trees. Among the disasters of this fire, there was none I felt more
seriously than the loss of my buckle-tongue knife, my pin fish-hook,
and tape fish-line.

[Illustration: The Burning Forest.]

The grandeur of the burning forest surpasses description. An immense
sheet of flame, following to their tops the lofty trees of an almost
impenetrable pine forest, leaping madly from top to top, and sending
thousands of forked tongues a hundred feet or more athwart the
midnight darkness, lighting up with lurid gloom and glare the
surrounding scenery of lake and mountains, fills the beholder with
mingled feelings of awe and astonishment. I never before saw anything
so terribly beautiful. It was marvelous to witness the flash-like
rapidity with which the flames would mount the loftiest trees. The
roaring, cracking, crashing, and snapping of falling limbs and burning
foliage was deafening. On, on, on traveled the destructive element,
until it seemed as if the whole forest was enveloped in flame. Afar up
the wood-crowned hill, the overtopping trees shot forth pinnacles and
walls and streamers of arrowy fire. The entire hill-side was an ocean
of glowing and surging fiery billows. Favored by the gale, the
conflagration spread with lightning swiftness over an illimitable
extent of country, filling the atmosphere with driving clouds of
suffocating fume, and leaving a broad and blackened trail of spectral
trunks shorn of limbs and foliage, smoking and burning, to mark the
immense sweep of its devastation.

Resolved to search for a trail no longer, when daylight came I
selected for a landmark the lowest notch in the Madison Range.
Carefully surveying the jagged and broken surface over which I must
travel to reach it, left the lake and pushed into the midst of its
intricacies. All the day, until nearly sunset, I struggled over rugged
hills, through windfalls, thickets, and matted forests, with the
rock-ribbed beacon constantly in view. As I advanced it receded, as if
in mockery of my toil. Night overtook me with my journey half
accomplished. The precaution of obtaining fire gave me warmth and
sleep, and long before daylight I was on my way. The hope of finding
an easy pass into the valley of the Madison inspired me with fresh
courage and determination, but long before I arrived at the base of
the range, I scanned hopelessly its insurmountable difficulties. It
presented to my eager vision an endless succession of inaccessible
peaks and precipices, rising thousands of feet sheer and bare above
the plain. No friendly gorge or gully or canon invited such an effort
as I could make to scale this rocky barrier. Oh, for the faith that
could remove mountains! How soon should this colossal fabric open at
my approach! What a feeling of helpless despair came over me with the
conviction that the journey of the last two days had been in vain! I
seated myself on a rock, upon the summit of a commanding hill, and
cast my eyes along the only route which now seemed tenable–down the
Yellowstone. How many dreary miles of forest and mountain filled the
terrible panorama! I thought that before accepting this discouraging
alternative I would spend a day in search for a pass. Twenty miles at
most would take me into the Madison Valley, and thirty more restore me
to friends who had abundance. Supposing that I should find plenty of
thistles, I had left the lake with a small supply, and that was
entirely spent. I looked in vain for them where I then was.

While I was thus considering whether to remain and search for a
passage or return to the Yellowstone, I experienced one of those
strange hallucinations which many of my friends have misnamed
insanity, but which to me was Providence. An old clerical friend, for
whose character and counsel I had always cherished peculiar regard, in
some unaccountable manner seemed to be standing before me, charged
with advice which would relieve my perplexity. I seemed to hear him
say, as if in a voice and with the manner of authority:

“Go back immediately, as rapidly as your strength will permit. There
is no food here, and the idea of scaling these rocks is madness.”

“Doctor,” I rejoined, “the distance is too great. I cannot live to
travel it.”

“Say not so. Your life depends upon the effort. Return at once. Start
now, lest your resolution falter. Travel as fast and as far as
possible–it is your only chance.”

“Doctor, I am rejoiced to meet you in this hour of distress, but doubt
the wisdom of your counsel. I am within seventy miles of Virginia.
Just over these rocks, a few miles away, I shall find friends. My
shoes are nearly worn out, my clothes are in tatters, and my strength
is almost overcome. As a last trial, it seems to me I can but attempt
to scale this mountain or perish in the effort, if God so wills.”

“Don’t think of it. Your power of endurance will carry you through. I
will accompany you. Put your trust in Heaven. Help yourself and God
will help you.”

[Illustrations: The Ghostly Counsellor.]

Overcome by these and other persuasions, and delighted with the idea
of having a traveling companion, I plodded my way over the route I had
come, intending at a certain point to change it so as to strike the
river at the foot of the lake. Stopping after a few miles of travel, I
had no difficulty in procuring fire, and passed a comfortable night.
When I resumed my journey the next day the sun was just rising.
Whenever I was disposed, as was often the case, to question the wisdom
of the change of routes, my old friend appeared to be near with words
of encouragement, but his reticence on other subjects both surprised
and annoyed me. I was impressed at times, during the entire journey
with the belief that my return was a fatal error, and if my
deliverance had failed should have perished with that conviction.
Early this day I deflected from my old route and took my course for
the foot of the lake, with the hope, by constant travel, to reach it
the next day. The distance was greater than I anticipated. Nothing is
more deceptive than distance in these high latitudes. At the close of
each of the two suceeding days, my point of destination was seemingly
as far from me as at the moment I took leave of the Madison Range, and
when, cold and hungry, on the afternoon of the fourth day, I gathered
the first food I had eaten in nearly five days, and lay down by my
fire near the debouchure of the river, I had nearly abandoned all hope
of escape.

At daybreak I was on the trail down the river. The thought I had
adopted from the first, “I will not perish in this wilderness,” often
revived my sinking spirits, when, from faintness and exhaustion, I
felt but little desire for life. Once, while struggling through a
field of tangled trunks which seemed interminable, at one of the
pauses I found myself seriously considering whether it was not
preferable to die there than renew the effort to proceed. I felt that
all attempt to escape was but a bitter prolongation of the agony of
dissolution. A seeming whisper in the air, “While there is life there
is hope; take courage,” broke the delusion, and I clambered on. I did
not forget to improve the mid-day sun to procure fire. Sparks from the
lighted brands had burned my hands and crisped the nails of my
fingers, and the smoke from them had tanned my face to the complexion
of an Indian. While passing through an opening in the forest I found
the tip of a gull’s wing; it was fresh. I made a fire upon the spot,
mashed the bones with a stone, and consigning them to my camp kettle,
the yeast-powder box, made half a pint of delicious broth. The
remainder of that day and the night ensuing were given to sleep.

I lost all sense of time. Days and nights came and went, and were
numbered only by the growing consciousness that I was gradually
starving. I felt no hunger, did not eat to appease appetite, but to
renew strength. I experienced but little pain. The gaping sores on my
feet, the severe burn on my hip, the festering crevices at the joints
of my fingers, all terrible in appearance, had ceased to give me the
least concern. The roots which supplied my food had suspended the
digestive power of the stomach, and their fibres were packed in it a
matted, compact mass.

Not so with my hours of slumber. They were visited by the most
luxurious dreams. I would apparently visit the most gorgeously
decorated restaurants of New York and Washington; sit down to immense
tables spread with the most appetizing viands; partake of the richest
oyster stews and plumpest pies; engage myself in the labor and
preparation of curious dishes, and with them fill range upon range of
elegantly furnished tables until they fairly groaned beneath the
accumulated dainties prepared by my own hands. Frequently the entire
night would seem to have been spent in getting up a sumptuous dinner.
I would realize the fatigue of roasting, boiling, baking, and
fabricating the choicest dishes known to the modern cuisine, and in my
disturbed slumber’s would enjoy with epicurean relish the food thus
furnished even to repletion. Alas! there was more luxury than life in
these somnolent vagaries.

It was a cold, gloomy day when I arrived in the vicinity of the falls.
The sky was overcast and the snow-capped peaks rose chilly and bleak
through the biting atmosphere. The moaning of the wind through the
pines, mingling with the sullen roar of the falls, was strangely in
unison with my own saddened feelings. I had no heart to gaze upon a
scene which a few weeks before had inspired me with rapture and awe.
One moment of sunshine was of more value to me than all the marvels
amid which I was famishing. But the sun had hid his face and denied me
all hope of obtaining fire. The only alternative was to seek shelter
in a thicket. I penetrated the forest a long distance, before finding
one that suited me. Breaking and crowding my way into its very midst,
I cleared a spot large enough to recline upon, interlaced the
surrounding brushwood, gathered the fallen foliage into a bed, and lay
down with a prayer for sleep and forgetfulness. Alas! neither came.
The coldness increased through the night. Constant friction with my
hands and unceasing beating with my legs and feet saved me from
freezing. It was the most terrible night of my journey, and when, with
the early dawn, I pulled myself into a standing posture, it was to
realize that my right arm was partially paralyzed, and my limbs so
stiffened with cold as to be almost immovable. Fearing lest paralysis
should suddenly seize the entire system, I literally dragged myself
through the forest to the river. Seated near the verge of the great
canon below the falls, I anxiously awaited the appearance of the sun.
That great luminary never looked so beautiful as when, a few moments
afterwards, he emerged from the clouds and exposed his glowing beams
to the concentrated powers of my lens. I kindled a mighty flame, fed
it with every dry stick and broken tree-top I could find, and without
motion, and almost without sense, remained beside it several hours.
The great falls of the Yellowstone were roaring within three hundred
yards, and the awful canon yawned almost at my feet; but they had lost
all charm for me. In fact, I regarded them as enemies which had lured
me to destruction, and felt a sullen satisfaction in morbid

My old friend and adviser, whose presence I had felt more than seen
the last few days, now forsook me altogether. But I was not alone. By
some process which I was too weak to solve, my arms, legs, and stomach
were transformed into so many traveling companions. Often for hours I
would plod along conversing with these imaginary friends. Each had his
peculiar wants which he expected me to supply. The stomach was
importunate in his demand for a change of diet–complained incessantly
of the roots I fed him, their present effect and more remote
consequences. I would try to silence him with promises, beg of him to
wait a few days, and when this failed of the quiet I desired, I would
seek to intimidate him by declaring, as a sure result of negligence,
our inability to reach home alive. All to no purpose–he tormented me
with his fretful humors through the entire journey. The others would
generally concur with him in these fancied altercations. The legs
implored me for rest, and the arms complained that I gave them too
much to do. Troublesome as they were, it was a pleasure to realize
their presence. I worked for them, too, with right good will, doing
many things for their comfort, which, had I felt alone, would have
remained undone. They appeared to be perfectly helpless of themselves;
would do nothing for me or for each other. I often wondered, while
they ate and slept so much that they did not aid in gathering wood and
kindling fires. As a counterpoise to their own inertia, whenever they
discovered languor in me on necessary occasions, they were not wanting
in words of encouragement and cheer. I recall as I write an instance
where by prompt and timely interposition, the representative of the
stomach saved me from a death of dreadful agony. One day I came to a
small stream issuing from a spring of mild temperature on the
hillside, swarming with minnows. I caught some with my hands and ate
them raw. To my taste they were delicious. But the stomach refused
them, accused me of attempting to poison him, and would not be
reconciled until I had emptied my pouch of the few fish I had put
there for future use. Those that I ate made me very sick. Poisoned by
the mineral in the water, had I glutted my appetite with them as I
intended, I should doubtless have died in the wilderness, in
excruciating torment.

A gradual mental introversion grew upon me as physical weakness
increased. The grand and massive scenery which, on the upward journey,
had aroused every enthusiastic impulse of my nature, was now tame and
spiritless. My thoughts were turned in upon myself–upon the dreadful
fate which apparently lay just before me–and the possible happiness
of the existence beyond. All doubt of immortality fled in the light of
present realities. So vivid were my conceptions of the future that at
times I longed for death, not less as the beginning of happiness than
as a release from misery. Led on by these reflections, I would recall
the varied incidents of my journey–my escape from the lion, from
fire, my return from Madison Range–and in all of them I saw how much
I had been indebted to that mysterious protection which comes only
from the throne of the Eternal. And yet, starving, foot-sore, half
blind, worn to a skeleton, was it surprising that I lacked the faith
needful to buoy me above the dark waters of despair, which I now felt
were closing around me?

In less serious moods, as I struggled along, my thoughts would revert
to the single being on whom my holiest affections centered–my
daughter. What a tie was that to bind me to life! Oh! could I be
restored to her for a single hour, long enough for parting counsel and
blessing, it would be joy unspeakable! Long hours of painful travel
were relieved of physical suffering by this absorbing agony of the
mind which, when from my present standpoint I contrast it with the
personal calamities of my exile, swells into mountains.

To return from this digression. At many of the streams on my route I
spent hours in endeavoring to catch trout, with a hook fashioned from
the rim of my broken spectacles, but in no instance with success. The
tackle was defective. The country was full of game in great variety. I
saw large herds of deer, elk, antelope, occasionally a bear, and many
smaller animals. Numerous flocks of ducks, geese, swans, and pelicans
inhabited the lakes and rivers. But with no means of killing them,
their presence was a perpetual aggravation. At all the camps of our
company I stopped and recalled many pleasant incidents associated with

One afternoon, when approaching “Tower Falls,” I came upon a large
hollow tree, which, from the numerous tracks surrounding it, and the
matted foliage in the cavity, I recognized as the den of a bear. It
was a most inviting couch. Gathering a needful supply of wood and
brush, I lighted a circle of piles around the tree, crawled into the
nest, and passed a night of unbroken slumber. I rose the next morning
to find that during the night the fires had communicated with the
adjacent forest, and burned a large space in all directions, doubtless
intimidating the rightful proprietor of the nest, and saving me from
another midnight adventure.

At “Tower Falls” I spent the first half of a day in capturing a
grasshopper, and the remainder in a fruitless effort to catch a mess
of trout. In the agony of disappointment, I resolved to fish no more.
A spirit of rebellion seized me. I determined that thistles should
thenceforth be my only sustenance. “Why is it,” I asked myself, “that
in the midst of abundance, every hour meeting with objects which would
restore strength and vigor and energy, every moment contriving some
device to procure the nourishment my wasting frame requires, I should
meet with these repeated and discouraging failures.” Thoughts of the
early teaching of a pious mother suppressed these feelings. Oh! how
often have the recollections of a loved New England home, and the
memories of a happy childhood, cheered my sinking spirits, and
dissipated the gathering gloom of despair! There were thoughts and
feelings and mental anguishes without number, that visited me during
my period of trial, that never can be known to any but my God and
myself. Bitter as was my experience, it was not unrelieved by some of
the most precious moments I have ever known.

Soon after leaving “Tower Falls,” I entered the open country. Pine
forests and windfalls were changed for sage brush and desolation, with
occasional tracts of stinted verdure, barren hillsides, exhibiting
here and there an isolated clump of dwarf trees, and ravines filled
with the rocky debris of adjacent mountains. My first camp on this
part of the route, for the convenience of getting wood, was made near
the summit of a range of towering foot-hills. Towards morning a storm
of wind and snow nearly extinguished my fire. I became very cold; the
storm was still raging when I arose, and the ground white with snow. I
was perfectly bewildered and had lost my course of travel. No visible
object, seen through the almost blinding storm, reassured me, and
there was no alternative but to find the river and take my direction
from its current, Fortunately after a few hours of stumbling and
scrambling among rocks and over crests, I came to the precipitous side
of the canyon through which it ran, and with much labor, both of hands
and feet, descended it to the margin. I drank copiously of its pure
waters, and sat beside it for a long time, waiting for the storm to
abate, so that I could procure fire. The day wore on, without any
prospect of a termination to the storm. Chilled through, my tattered
clothing saturated, I saw before me a night of horrors unless I
returned to my fire. The scramble up the side of the rocky canyon in
many places nearly perpendicular, was the hardest work of my journey.
Often while clinging to the jutting rocks with hands and feet, to
reach a shelving projection, my grasp would unclose and I would slide
many feet down the sharp declivity. It was night when, sore from the
bruises I had received, I reached my fire; the storm, still raging,
had nearly extinguished it. I found a few embers in the ashes, and
with much difficulty kindled a flame. Here on this bleak mountain
side, as well as I now remember, I must have passed two nights beside
the fire in the storm. Many times during each night I crawled to a
little clump of trees to gather wood, and brush, and the broken limbs
of fallen tree-tops. All the sleep I obtained was snatched from the
intervals which divided these labors. It was so harassed with
frightful dreams as to afford little rest. I remember, before I left
this camp, stripping up my sleeves to look at my shrunken arms. Flesh
and blood had apparently left them. The skin clung to the bones like
wet parchment. A child’s hand could have clasped them from wrist to
shoulder. “Yet” thought I, “It is death to remain; I cannot perish in
this wilderness.”

[Illustration: Descending the Precipice.]

Taking counsel of this early formed resolution, I hobbled on my course
through the snow, which was rapidly disappearing before the rays of
the warm sun. Well knowing that I should find no thistles in the open
country, I had filled my pouches with them before leaving the forest.
My supply was running low, and there was several days of heavy
mountain travel between me and Boteler’s ranch. With the most careful
economy, it could last but two or three days longer. I saw the
necessity of placing myself and imaginary companions upon allowance.
The conflict which ensued with the stomach, when I announced this
resolution, required great firmness to carry through. I tried
wheedling and coaxing and promising; failing in these, I threatened to
part company with a comrade so unreasonable, and he made no further

Two or three days before I was found, while ascending a steep hill, I
fell from exhaustion into a sage brush, without the power to rise.
Unbuckling my belt, as was my custom, I soon fell asleep. I have no
idea of the time I slept, but upon awakening I fastened my belt,
scrambled to my feet, and pursued my journey. As night drew on I
selected a camping-place, gathered wood into a heap, and felt for my
lens to procure fire. It was gone. If the earth had yawned to swallow
me I would not have been more terrified.

The only chance for life was lost. The last hope had fled. I seemed to
feel the grim messenger who had been long pursuing me knocking at the
portals of my heart as I lay down by the side of the wood pile and
covered myself with limbs and sage brush, with the dreadful conviction
that my struggle of life was over, and I should rise no more. The
flood gates of misery seemed now to be opened, and it rushed in living
tide upon my soul. With the rapidity of lightning, I ran over every
event of my life. Thoughts doubled and trebled upon me, until I saw,
as if in vision, the entire past of my existence. It was all before
me, as if painted with a sunbeam, and all seemingly faded like the
phantoms of a vivid dream.

As calmness returned, reason resumed her empire. Fortunately the
weather was comfortable. I summoned all the powers of my memory,
thought over every foot of the day’s travel, and concluded that the
glass must have become detached from my belt while sleeping. Five long
miles over the hills must be retraced to regain it. There was no
alternative, and before daylight I had staggered over half the
distance. I found the lens on the spot where I had slept. No incident
of my journey brought with it more of joy and relief.

Returning to the camp of the previous night, I lighted the pile I had
prepared, and lay down for a night of rest. It was very cold, and
towards morning commenced snowing. With difficulty I kept the fire
alive. Sleep was impossible. When daylight came, I was impressed with
the idea that I must go on despite the storm. A flash–momentary but
vivid–came over me, that I should be saved. Snatching a lighted
brand, I started through the storm. In the afternoon the storm abated
and the sun shone at intervals. Coming to a small clump of trees, I
set to work to prepare a camp. I laid the brand down which I had
preserved with so much care, to pick up a few dry sticks with which to
feed it, until I could collect wood for a camp-fire and in the few
minutes thus employed it expired. I sought to revive it, but every
spark was gone. Clouds obscured the sun, now near the horizon, and the
prospect of another night of exposure without fire became fearfully
imminent. I sat down with my lens and the last remaining piece of
touchwood I possessed to catch a gleam of sunshine, feeling that my
life depended upon it. In a few minutes the cloud passed, and with
trembling hands I presented the little disk to the face of the glowing
luminary. Quivering with excitement lest a sudden cloud should
interpose, a moment passed before I could hold the lens steadily
enough to concentrate a burning focus. At length it came. The little
thread of smoke curled gracefully upwards from the Heaven-lighted
spark, which, a few moments afterwards, diffused with warmth and
comfort my desolate lodgings.

I resumed my journey the next morning, with the belief that I should
make no more fires with my lens. I must save a brand, or perish. The
day was raw and gusty; an east wind, charged with storm, penetrated my
nerves with irritating keenness. After walking a few miles the storm
came on, and a coldness unlike any other I had ever felt seized me. It
entered all my bones. I attempted to build a fire, but could not make
it burn. Seizing a brand, I stumbled blindly on, stopping within the
shadow of every rock and clump to renew energy for a final conflict
for life. A solemn conviction that death was near, that at each pause
I made my limbs would refuse further service, and that I should sink
helpless and dying in my path, overwhelmed me with terror. Amid all
this tumult of the mind, I felt that I had done all that man could do.
I knew that in two or three days more I could effect my deliverance,
and I derived no little satisfaction from the thought that, as I now
was in the broad trail, my remains would be found, and my friends
relieved of doubt as to my fate. Once only the thought flashed across
my mind that I should be saved, and I seemed to hear a whispered
command to “Struggle on.” Groping along the side of a hill, I became
suddenly sensible of a sharp reflection, as of burnished steel.
Looking up, through half-closed eyes, two rough, but kindly faces met
my gaze.

“Are you Mr. Everts?”

“Yes. All that is left of him.”

“We have come for you.”

“Who sent you?”

“Judge Lawrence and other friends.”

“God bless him and them and you! I am saved!” and with these words,
powerless of further effort, I fell forward into the arms of my
preservers, in a state of unconsciousness. I was saved. On the very
brink of the river which divides the known from the unknown, strong
arms snatched me from the final plunge, and kind ministrations wooed
me back to life.

[Illustration: The Rescue.]

Baronet and Prichette, my two preservers, by the usual appliances,
soon restored me to consciousness, made a camp upon the spot, and
while one went to Fort Ellis, a distance of seventy miles, to return
with remedies to restore digestion and an ambulance to convey me to
that post, the other sat by my side, and with all the care, sympathy,
and solicitude of a brother, ministered to my frequent necessities. In
two days I was sufficiently recovered in strength to be moved twenty
miles down the trail to the cabin of some miners who were prospecting
in that vicinity. From these men I received every possible attention
which their humane and generous natures could devise. A good bed was
provided, game was killed to make broth, and the best stores of their
larder placed at my command. For four days, at a time when every day’s
labor was invaluable in their pursuit, they abandoned their work to
aid in my restoration. Owing to the protracted inaction of the system,
and the long period which must transpire before Prichette’s return
with remedies, my friends had serious doubts of my recovery.

The night after my arrival at the cabin, while suffering the most
excruciating agony, and thinking that I had only been saved to die
among friends, a loud knock was heard at the cabin door. An old man in
mountain costume entered–a hunter, whose life was spent among the
mountains. He was on his way to find a brother. He, listened to the
story of my sufferings, and tears rapidly coursed each other down his
rough, weather-beaten face. But when he was told of my present
necessity, brightening in a moment, he exclaimed:

“Why, Lord bless you, if that is all, I have the very remedy you need.
In two hours’ time all shall be well with you.”

He left the cabin, returning in a moment with a sack filled with the
fat of a bear which he had killed a few hours before. From this he
rendered out a pint measure of oil. I drank the whole of it. It proved
to be the needed remedy, and the next day, freed from pain, with
appetite and digestion reestablished, I felt that good food and plenty
of it were only necessary for an early recovery.

In a day or two I took leave of my kind friends, with a feeling of
regret at parting, and gratitude for their kindness as enduring as
life. Meeting the carriage on my way, I proceeded to Bozeman, where I
remained among old friends, who gave me every attention until my
health was sufficiently restored to allow me to return to my home in

My heartfelt thanks are due to the members of the Expedition, all of
whom devoted seven, and some of them twelve days to the search for me
before they left Yellowstone Lake; and to Judge Lawrence, of Helena,
and the friends who cooperated with him in the offer of reward which
sent Baronet and Prichette to my rescue.

My narrative is finished. In the course of events the time is not far
distant when the wonders of the Yellowstone will be made accessible to
all lovers of sublimity, grandeur, and novelty in natural scenery, and
its majestic waters become the abode of civilization and refinement;
and when that arrives, I hope, in happier mood and under more
auspicious circumstances, to revisit scenes fraught for me with such
thrilling interest; to ramble along the glowing beach of Bessie Lake;
to sit down amid the hot springs under the shade of Mount Everts; to
thread unscarred the mazy forests, retrace the dreary journey to the
Madison Range, and with enraptured fancy gaze upon the mingled glories
and terrors of the great falls and marvelous canon, and to enjoy, in
happy contrast with the trials they recall, their power to delight,
elevate, and overwhelm the mind with wondrous and majestic beauty.


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