The Great River and the Black Sheep

The silence is broken by a red pine squirrel; I swear he is scolding me. Chastising me, actually, but possibly no worse than I am chastising myself. Here I am, on my first trip as a professional naturalist, and I have already made grievous mistakes.

The latest mistake, last night, had almost gotten me and my companions drowned. We were part way up the Stickeen River, with the water in full flood stage. Another mistake, just being here. Probably two weeks too early, but when we left Wrangell, Alaska, I was too impatient to get going and did not listen to reason. As always, man plans and the gods laugh.

My name is Andrew Jackson Stone, and I am on a journey financed by Recreation Magazine, the magazine of the conservation group The League of American Sportsmen. This trip is officially known as the Northland Expedition.

Originally, I took a steamer from Tacoma, Washington, along the coastline of British Columbia, up to Juneau. The plan was for my brother-in-law, A.M. Hummer, and I to move our families to Juneau and build houses as our base of operations for our exploration of the upper Yukon, exploring north of the Arctic Circle for three years. Juneau, though, a new gold mining town, was a cesspool. Quickly, I changed my plans. I suppose this trip was my first mistake, but really at this point I had been relying on the advice of others.

So back to the continental United States we went. Hummer was so disillusioned that he did not continue. After speaking with people more knowledgeable on the area, I decided to set up headquarters at Fort Wrangell and start searching for the mystical black bighorn sheep I had heard rumors of. This would entail a trip up the mighty Stickeen River, all the way to the town of Telegraph Creek, the head of navigation. From there I would set out on foot and by horseback, in search of specimens to hunt.

I adjusted my supply list, picked up what I needed, and booked space on the steamer Al-Ki. My plan was to leave on Thursday June the 11th, the year of our Lord, 1896. I had spoken to prospectors that had actually been there, and now felt way more comfortable with my choice of location, along with my gear selection.

On the way north we stopped off at the Indian village called Alert Bay on Vancouver’s Island, now part of Canada. It was a rare sunny day, unusual for this part of the world. What a great location and day for photographing, even though I did not have much time. Got some wonderful exposures of totem poles.

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