Henry David Thoreau.

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on some point of ancient history, were amused by the
attitude which the Indian, who could not tell what we
were talking about, assumed. He constituted himself
umpire, and, judging by our air and gesture, he 'very
seriously remarked from time to time, "you beat," or
"he beat."

Leaving a spacious bay, a northeasterly prolongation
of Chamberlain Lake, on our left, we entered through a
short strait into a small lake a couple of miles over, called
on the map Telasinis, but the Indian had no distinct
name for it, and thence into Telos Lake, which he called
PaytaywecomgomoCy or Burnt-Ground Lake. This
curved round toward the northeast, and may have been


three or four miles long as we paddled. He had not been
here since 1825. He did not know what Telos meant;
thought it was not Indian. He used the word " spoke-
logan" (for an inlet in the shore which led nowhere),
and when I asked its meaning said that there was " no
Indian in 'em." There was a clearing, with a house and
barn, on the southwest shore, temporarily occupied by
some men who were getting the hay, as we had been
told ; also a clearing for a pasture on a hill on the west
side of the lake.

We landed on a rocky point on the northeast side, to
look at some red pines (Pinus resinosa), the first we had
noticed, and get some cones, for our few which grow in
Concord do not bear any.

The outlet from the lake into the East Branch of the
Penobscot is an artificial one, and it was not very appar
ent where it was exactly, but the lake ran curving far up
northeasterly into two narrow valleys or ravines, as if it
had for a long time been groping its way toward the
Penobscot waters, or remembered when it anciently
flowed there; by observing where the horizon was
lowest, and following the longest of these, we at length
reached the dam, having come about a dozen miles from
the last camp. Somebody had left a line set for trout,
and the jack knife with which the bait had been cut on
the dam beside it, an evidence that man was near, and
on a deserted log close by a loaf of bread baked in a
Yankee baker. These proved the property of a solitary
hunter, whom we soon met, and canoe and gun and
traps were not far off. He told us that it was twenty
miles farther on our route to the foot of Grand Lake,


where you could catch as many trout as you wanted, and
that the first house below the foot of the lake, on the
East Branch, was Hunt's, about forty-five miles farther;
though there was one about a mile and a half up Trout
Stream, some fifteen miles ahead, but it was rather a
blind route to it. It turned out that, though the stream
was in our favor, we did not reach the next house till the
morning of the third day after this. The nearest perma
nently inhabited house behind us was now a dozen miles
distant, so that the interval between the two nearest
houses on our route was about sixty miles.

This hunter, who was a quite small, sunburnt man,
having already carried his canoe over, and baked his
loaf, had nothing so interesting and pressing to do as to
observe our transit. He had been out a month or' more
alone. How much more wild and adventurous his life
than that of the hunter in Concord woods, who gets
back to his house and the mill-dam every night! Yet
they in the towns who have wild oats to sow commonly
sow them on cultivated and comparatively exhausted
ground. And as for the rowdy world in the large cities,
so little enterprise has it that it never adventures in this
direction, but like vermin clubs together in alleys and
drinking-saloons, its highest accomplishment, per
chance, to run beside a fire-engine and throw brickbats.
But the former is comparatively an independent and
successful man, getting his living in a way that he likes,
without disturbing his human neighbors. How much
more respectable also is the life of the solitary pioneer or
settler in these, or any woods, having real difficulties,
not of his own creation, drawing his subsistence directly


from nature, than that of the helpless multitudes in
the towns who depend on gratifying the extremely arti
ficial wants of society and are thrown out of employment
by hard times!

Here for the first time we found the raspberries really
plenty, that is, on passing the height of land between
the Allegash and the East Branch of the Penobscot ; the
same was true of the blueberries.

Telos Lake, the head of the St. John on this side,
and Webster Pond, the head of the East Branch of the
Penobscot, are only about a mile apart, and they are
connected by a ravine, in which but little digging was
required to make the water of the former, which is the
highest, flow into the latter. This canal, which is some
thing less than a mile long and about four rods wide, was
made a few years before my first visit to Maine. Since
then the lumber of the upper Allegash and its lakes has
been run down the Penobscot, that is, up the Allegash,
which here consists principally of a chain of large and
stagnant lakes, whose thoroughfares, or river-links, have
been made nearly equally stagnant by damming, and
then down the Penobscot. The rush of the water has
produced such changes in the canal that it has now the
appearance of a very rapid mountain stream flowing
through a ravine, and you would not suspect that any
digging had been required to persuade the waters of the
St. John to flow into the Penobscot here. It was so
winding that one could see but little way down.

It is stated by Springer, in his " Forest Life," that the
cause of this canal being dug was this : according to the
treaty of 1842 with Great Britain, it was agreed that all


the timber run down the St. John, which rises in Maine,
"when within the Province of New Brunswick . . .
shall be dealt with as if it were the produce of the said
Province," which was thought by our side to mean that
it should be free from taxation. Immediately, the Pro
vince, wishing to get something out of the Yankees,
levied a duty on all the timber that passed down the
St. John ; but to satisfy its own subjects " made a cor
responding discount on the stumpage charged those
hauling timber from the crown lands." The result was
that the Yankees made the St. John run the other way,
or down the Penobscot, so that the Province lost both its
duty and its water, while the Yankees, being greatly
enriched, had reason to thank it for the suggestion.

It is wonderful how well watered this country is. As
you paddle across a lake, bays will be pointed out to you,
by following up which, and perhaps the tributary stream
which empties in, you may, after a short portage, or
possibly, at some seasons, none at all, get into another
river, which empties far away from the one you are on.
Generally, you may go in any direction in a canoe, by
making frequent but not very long portages. You are
only realizing once more what all nature distinctly
remembers here, for no doubt the waters flowed thus in
a former geological period, and, instead of being a lake
country, it was an archipelago. It seems as if the more
youthful and impressible streams can hardly resist the
numerous invitations and temptations to leave their
native beds and run down their neighbors' channels.
Your carries are often over half-submerged ground, on
the dry channels of a former period. In carrying from


one river to another, I did not go over such high and
rocky ground as in going about the falls of the same
river. For in the former case I was once lost in a swamp,
as I have related, and, again, found an artificial canal
which appeared to be natural.

I remember once dreaming of pushing a canoe up the
rivers of Maine, and that, when I had got so high that
the channels were dry, I kept on through the ravines and
gorges, nearly as well as before, by pushing a little
harder, and now it seemed to me that my dream was
partially realized.

Wherever there is a channel for water, there is a road
for the canoe. The pilot of the steamer which ran from
Oldtown up the Penobscot in 1854 told me that she
drew only fourteen inches, and would run easily in two
feet of water, though they did not like to. It is said that
some Western steamers can run on a heavy dew, whence
we can imagine what a canoe may do. Montresor, who
was sent from Quebec by the English about 1760 to
explore the route to the Kennebec, over which Arnold
afterward passed, supplied the Penobscot near its source
with water by opening the beaver-dams, and he says,
"This is often done." He afterward states that the
Governor of Canada had forbidden to molest the beaver
about the outlet of the Kennebec from Moosehead Lake,
on account of the service which their dams did by raising
the water for navigation.

This canal, so called, was a considerable and ex
tremely rapid and rocky river. The Indian decided that
there was water enough in it without raising the dam,
which would only make it more violent, and that he


would run down it alone, while we carried the greater
part of the baggage. Our provision being about half
consumed, there was the less left in the canoe. We had
thrown away the pork-keg, and wrapt its contents in
birch bark, which is the unequaled wrapping-paper of
the woods.

Following a moist trail through the forest, we reached
the head of Webster Pond about the same time with the
Indian, notwithstanding the velocity with which he
moved, our route being the most direct. The Indian
name of Webster Stream, of which this pond is the
source, is, according to him, Madunkchunk, i. e., Height
of Land, and of the pond, Madunkchunk-gamooc, or
Height of Land Pond. The latter was two or three miles
long. We passed near a pine on its shore which had been
splintered by lightning, perhaps the day before. This
was the first proper East Branch Penobscot water that
we came to.

At the outlet of Webster Lake was another dam, at
which we stopped and picked raspberries, while the
Indian went down the stream a half-mile through the
forest, to see what he had got to contend with. There
was a deserted log camp here, apparently used the pre
vious winter, with its " hovel " or barn for cattle. In the
hut was a large fir twig bed, raised two feet from the
floor, occupying a large part of the single apartment, a
long narrow table against the wall, with a stout log
bench before it, and above the table a small window, the
only one there was, which admitted a feeble light. It
was a simple and strong fort erected against the cold, and
suggested what valiant trencher work had been done


there. I discovered one or two curious wooden traps,
which had not been used for a long time, in the woods
near by. The principal part consisted of a long and
slender pole.

We got our dinner on the shore, on the upper side of
the dam. As we were sitting by our fire, concealed by the
earth bank of the dam, a long line of sheldrake, half-
grown, came waddling over it from the water below,
passing within about a rod of us, so that we could almost
have caught them in our hands. They were very abun
dant on all the streams and lakes which we visited, and
every two or three hours they would rush away in a long
string over the water before us, twenty to fifty of them
at once, rarely ever flying, but running with great rapid
ity up or down the stream, even in the midst of the most
violent rapids, and apparently as fast up as down, or else
crossing diagonally, the old, as it appeared, behind, and
driving them, and flying to the front from time to time,
as if to direct them. We also saw many small black dip
pers, which behaved in a similar manner, and, once or
twice, a few black ducks.

An Indian at Oldtown had told us that we should be
obliged to carry ten miles between Telos Lake on the
St. John and Second Lake on the East Branch of the
Penobscot ; but the lumberers whom we met assured us
that there would not be more than a mile of carry. It
turned out that the Indian, who had lately been over
this route, was nearest right, as far as we were concerned.
However, if one of us could have assisted the Indian in
managing the canoe in the rapids, we might have run the
greater part of the way ; but as he was alone in the man-


agement of the canoe in such places, we were obliged to
walk the greater part. I did not feel quite ready to try
such an experiment on Webster Stream, which has so
bad a reputation. According to my observation, a bat-
teau, properly manned, shoots rapids as a matter of
course, which a single Indian with a canoe carries round.

My companion and I carried a good part of the bag
gage on our shoulders, while the Indian took that which
would be least injured by wet in the canoe. We did not
know when we should see him again, for he had not been
this way since the canal was cut, nor for more than
thirty years. He agreed to stop when he got to smooth
water, come up and find our path if he could, and halloo
for us, and after waiting a reasonable time go on and try
again, and we were to look out in like manner for him.

He commenced by running through the sluiceway
and over the dam, as usual, standing up in his tossing
canoe, and was soon out of sight behind a point in a wild
gorge. This Webster Stream is well known to lumber
men as a difficult one. It is exceedingly rapid and rocky,
and also shallow, and can hardly be considered naviga
ble, unless that may mean that what is launched in it
is sure to be carried swiftly down it, though it may be
dashed to pieces by the way. It is somewhat like navi
gating a thunder-spout. With commonly an irresistible
force urging you on, you have got to choose your own
course each moment, between the rocks and shallows,
and to get into it, moving forward always with the
utmost possible moderation, and often holding on, if you
can, that you may inspect the rapids before you.

By the Indian's direction we took an old path on the


south side, which appeared to keep down the stream,
though at a considerable distance from it, cutting off
bends, perhaps to Second Lake, having first taken the
course from the map with a compass, which was north
easterly, for safety. It was a wild wood-path, with a few
tracks of oxen which had been driven over it, probably
to some old camp clearing, for pasturage, mingled with
the tracks of moose which had lately used it. We kept on
steadily for about an hour without putting down our
packs, occasionally winding around or climbing over a
fallen tree, for the most part far out of sight and hearing
of the river; till, after walking about three miles, we
were glad to find that the path came to the river again at
an old camp ground, where there was a small opening
in the forest, at which we paused. Swiftly as the shallow
and rocky river ran here, a continuous rapid with dan
cing waves, I saw, as I sat on the shore, a long string of
sheldrakes, which something scared, run up the oppo
site side of the stream by me, with the same ease that
they commonly did down it, just touching the surface
of the waves, and getting an impulse from them as they
flowed from under them; but they soon came back,
driven by the Indian, who had fallen a little behind us
on account of the windings. He shot round a point just
above, and came to land by us with considerable water
in his canoe. He had found it, as he said, " very strong
water," and had been obliged to land once before to
empty out what he had taken in. He complained that it
strained him to paddle so hard in order to keep his canoe
straight in its course, having no one in the bows to aid
him, and, shallow as it was, said that it would be no joke


to upset there, for the force of the water was such that he
had as lief I would strike him over the head with a pad
dle as have that water strike him. Seeing him come out
of that gap was as if you should pour water down an
inclined and zigzag trough, then drop a nutshell into it,
and, taking a short cut to the bottom, get there in time
to see it come out, notwithstanding the rush and tumult,
right side up, and only partly full of water.

After a moment's breathing-space, while I held his
canoe, he was soon out of sight again around another
bend, and we, shouldering our packs, resumed our

We did not at once fall into our path again, but made
our way with difficulty along the edge of the river, till at
length, striking inland through the forest, we recovered
it. Before going a mile we heard the Indian calling to us.
He had come up through the woods and along the path
to find us, having reached sufficiently smooth water to
warrant his taking us in. The shore was about one fourth
of a mile distant, through a dense, dark forest, and as he
led us back to it, winding rapidly about to the right
and left, I had the curiosity to look down carefully, and
found that he was following his steps backward. I could
only occasionally perceive his trail in the moss, and yet
he did not appear to look down nor hesitate an instant,
but led us out exactly to his canoe. This surprised me;
for without a compass, or the sight or noise of the river
to guide us, we could not have kept our course many
minutes, and could have retraced our steps but a short
distance, with a great deal of pains and very slowly,
using a laborious circumspection. But it was evident


that he could go back through the forest wherever he
had been during the day.

After this rough walking in the dark woods it was an
agreeable change to glide down the rapid river in the
canoe once more. This river, which was about the size
of our Assabet (in Concord), though still very swift, was
almost perfectly smooth here, and showed a very visible
declivity, a regularly inclined plane, for several miles,
like a mirror set a little aslant, on which we coasted
down. This very obvious regular descent, particularly
plain when I regarded the water-line against the shores,
made a singular impression on me, which the swiftness
of our motion probably enhanced, so that we seemed to
be gliding down a much steeper declivity than we were,
and that we could not save ourselves from rapids and
falls if we should suddenly come to them. My compan
ion did not perceive this slope, but I have a surveyor's
eyes, and I satisfied myself that it was no ocular illusion.
You could tell at a glance on approaching such a river
which way the water flowed, though you might perceive
no motion. I observed the angle at which a level line
would strike the surface, and calculated the amount of
fall in a rod, which did not need to be remarkably great
to produce this effect.

It was very exhilarating, and the perfection of travel
ing, quite unlike floating on our dead Concord River,
the coasting down this inclined mirror, which was now
and then gently winding, down a mountain, indeed,
between two evergreen forests, edged with lofty dead
white pines, sometimes slanted half-way over the stream,
and destined soon to bridge it. I saw some monsters


there, nearly destitute of branches, and scarcely dimin
ishing in diameter for eighty or ninety feet.

As we thus swept along, our Indian repeated in a
deliberate and drawling tone the words "Daniel Web
ster, great lawyer," apparently reminded of him by the
name of the stream, and he described his calling on him
once in Boston, at what he supposed was his boarding-
house. He had no business with him, but merely went
to pay his respects, as we should say. In answer to our
questions, he described his person well enough. It was
on the day after Webster delivered his Bunker Hill ora
tion, which I believe Polis heard. The first time he
called he waited till he was tired without seeing him, and
then went away. The next time, he saw him go by the
door of the room in which he was waiting several times,
in his shirt-sleeves, without noticing him. He thought
that if he had come to see Indians, they would not have
treated him so. At length, after very long delay, he came
in, walked toward him, and asked in a loud voice,
gruffly, " What do you want ? " and he, thinking at first,
by the motion of his hand, that he was going to strike
him, said to himself, " You 'd better take care; if you try
that I shall know what to do." He did not like him, and
declared that all he said "was not worth talk about a
musquash." We suggested that probably Mr. Webster
was very busy, and had a great many visitors just then.

Coming to falls and rapids, our easy progress was
suddenly terminated. The Indian went alongshore to
inspect the water, while we climbed over the rocks,
picking berries. The peculiar growth of blueberries on
the tops of large rocks here made the impression of high


land, and indeed this was the Height-of-Land Stream.
When the Indian came back, he remarked, " You got to
walk; ver strong water." So, taking out his canoe, he
launched it again below the falls, and was soon out of
sight. At such times he would step into the canoe, take
up his paddle, and, with an air of mystery, start off,
looking far down-stream, and keeping his own counsel,
as if absorbing all the intelligence of forest and stream
into himself; but I sometimes detected a little fun in his
face, which could yield to my sympathetic smile, for he
was thoroughly good-humored. We meanwhile scram
bled along the shore with our packs, without any path.
This was the last of our boating for the day.

The prevailing rock here was a kind of slate, standing
on its edges, and my companion, who was recently from
California, thought it exactly like that in which the gold
is found, and said that if he had had a pan he would
have liked to wash a little of the sand here.

The Indian now got along much faster than we, and
waited for us from time to time. I found here the only
cool spring that I drank at anywhere on this excursion,
a little water filling a hollow in the sandy bank. It was a
quite memorable event, and due to the elevation of the
country, for wherever else we had been the water in the
rivers and the streams emptying in was dead and warm,
compared with that of a mountainous region. It was
very bad walking along the shore over fallen and drifted
trees and bushes, and rocks, from time to time swinging
ourselves round over the water, or else taking to a gravel
bar or going inland. At one place, the Indian being
ahead, I was obliged to take off all my clothes in order


to ford a small but deep stream emptying in, while my
companion, who was inland, found a rude bridge, high
up in the woods, and I saw no more of him for some
time. I saw there very fresh moose tracks, found a new
goldenrod to me (perhaps Solidago ihyrsoidea), and I
passed one white pine log, which had lodged, in the
forest near the edge of the stream, which was quite five
feet in diameter at the butt. Probably its size detained it.
Shortly after this I overtook the Indian a,t the edge
of some burnt land, which extended three or four miles
at least, beginning about three miles above Second Lake,
which we were expecting to reach that night, and which
is about ten miles from Telos Lake. This burnt region
was still more rocky than before, but, though compara
tively open, we could not yet see the lake. Not having
seen my companion for some time, I climbed, with the
Indian, a singular high rock on the edge of the river,
forming a narrow ridge only a foot or two wide at top,
in order to look for him ; and, after calling many times,
I at length heard him answer from a considerable dis
tance inland, he having taken a trail which led off from
the river, perhaps directly to the lake, and was now in
search of the river again. Seeing a much higher rock, of
the same character, about one third of a mile farther
east, or down-stream, I proceeded toward it, through the
burnt land, in order to look for the lake from its summit,
supposing that the Indian would keep down the stream
in his canoe, and hallooing all the while that my com
panion might join me on the way. Before we came
together I noticed where a moose, which possibly I had
scared by my shouting, had apparently just run along a


large rotten trunk of a pine, which made a bridge, thirty
or forty feet long, over a hollow, as convenient for him
as for me. The tracks were as large as those of an ox,
but an ox could not have crossed there. This burnt land
was an exceedingly wild and desolate region. Judging

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