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find trout enough; so, while some prepared the camp,
the rest fell to fishing. Seizing the birch poles which
some party of Indians, or white hunters, had left on
the shore, and baiting our hooks with pork, and with



KTAADN 59

trout, as soon as they were caught, we cast our lines
into the mouth of the Aboljacknagesic, a clear, swift,
shallow stream, which came in from Ktaadn. In
stantly a shoal of white chivin (Leuciscus pulchellus),
silvery roaches, cousin-trout, or what not, large and
small, prowling thereabouts, fell upon our bait, and one
after another were landed amidst the bushes. Anon
their cousins, the true trout, took their turn, and alter
nately the speckled trout, and the silvery roaches,
swallowed the bait as fast as we could throw in; and
the finest specimens of both that I have ever seen, the
largest one weighing three pounds, were heaved upon
the shore, though at first in vain, to wriggle down into
the water again, for we stood in the boat ; but soon we
learned to remedy this evil; for one, who had lost his
hook, stood on shore to catch them as they fell in a
perfect shower around him, sometimes, wet and slip
pery, full in his face and bosom, as his arms were out
stretched to receive them. While yet alive, before their
tints had faded, they glistened like the fairest flowers,
the product of primitive rivers; and he could hardly
trust his senses, as he stood over them, that these jewels
should have swam away in that Aboljacknagesic water
for so long, so many dark ages; these bright fluviatile
flowers, seen of Indians only, made beautiful, the Lord
only knows why, to swim there! I could understand
better for this, the truth of mythology, the fables of
Proteus, and all those beautiful sea-monsters, how
all history, indeed, put to a terrestrial use, is mere his
tory; but put to a celestial, is mythology always.
But there is the rough voice of Uncle George, who



60 THE MAINE WOODS

commands at the frying-pan, to send over what you 've
got, and then you may stay till morning. The pork
sizzles and cries for fish. Luckily for the foolish race,
and this particularly foolish generation of trout, the
night shut down at last, not a little deepened by the
dark side of Ktaadn, which, like a permanent shadow,
reared itself from the eastern bank. Lescarbot, writ
ing in 1609, tells us that the Sieur Champdore, who,
with one of the people of the Sieur de Monts, ascended
some fifty leagues up the St. John in 1608, found the
fish so plenty, " qu'en mettant la chaudiere sur le feu
ils en avoient pris suffisamment pour eux disner avant
que Teau fust chaude." Their descendants here are
no less numerous. So we accompanied Tom into the
woods to cut cedar twigs for our bed. While he went
ahead with the axe and lopped off the smallest twigs of
the flat-leaved cedar, the arbor-vitse of the gardens, we
gathered them up, and returned with them to the boat,
until it was loaded. Our bed was made with as much
care and skill as a roof is shingled; beginning at the
foot, and laying the twig end of the cedar upward, we
advanced to the head, a course at a time, thus succes
sively covering the stub-ends, and producing a soft and
level bed. For us six it was about ten feet long by six
in breadth. This time we lay under our tent, having
pitched it more prudently with reference to the wind
and the flame, and the usual huge fire blazed in front.
Supper was eaten off a large log, which some freshet
had thrown up. This night we had a dish of arbor-
vitae or cedar tea, which the lumberer sometimes uses
when other herbs fail,



KTAADN 61

" A quart of arbor- vitee,
To make him strong and mighty,"

but I had no wish to repeat the experiment. It had
too medicinal a taste for my palate. There was the
skeleton of a moose here, whose bones some Indian
hunters had picked on this very spot.

In the night I dreamed of trout-fishing; and, when
at length I awoke, it seemed a fable that this painted
fish swam there so near my couch, and rose to our
hooks the last evening, and I doubted if I had not
dreamed it all. So I arose before dawn to test its truth,
while my companions were still sleeping. There stood
Ktaadn with distinct and cloudless outline in the
moonlight ; and the rippling of the rapids was the only
sound to break the stillness. Standing on the shore, I
once more cast my line into the stream, and found the
dream to be real and the fable true. The speckled trout
and silvery roach, like flying-fish, sped swiftly through
the moonlight air, describing bright arcs on the dark
side of Ktaadn, until moonlight, now fading into day
light, brought satiety to my mind, and the minds of my
companions, who had joined me.

By six o'clock, having mounted our packs and a good
blanketful of trout, ready dressed, and swung up such
baggage and provision as we wished to leave behind
upon the tops of saplings, to be out of the reach of
bears, we started for the summit of the mountain, dis
tant, as Uncle George said the boatmen called it, about
four miles, but as I judged, and as it proved, nearer
fourteen. He had never been any nearer the mountain
than this, and there was not the slightest trace of man



62 THE MAINE WOODS

to guide us farther in this direction. At first, push
ing a few rods up the Aboljacknagesic, or " open-land
stream," we fastened our batteau to a tree, and traveled
up the north side, through burnt lands, now partially
overgrown with young aspens and other shrubbery;
but soon, recrossing this stream, where it was about
fifty or sixty feet wide, upon a jam of logs and rocks,
and you could cross it by this means almost any
where, we struck at once for the highest peak, over
a mile or more of comparatively open land, still very
gradually ascending the while. Here it fell to my lot,
as the oldest mountain-climber, to take the lead. So,
scanning the woody side of the mountain, which lay
still at an indefinite distance, stretched out some seven
or eight miles in length before us, we determined to
steer directly for the base of the highest peak, leaving a
large slide, by which, as I have since learned, some of our
predecessors ascended, on our left. This course would
lead us parallel to a dark seam in the forest, which
marked the bed of a torrent, and over a slight spur,
which extended southward from the main mountain,
from whose bare summit we could get an outlook over
the country, and climb directly up the peak, which
w T ould then be close at hand. Seen from this point, a
bare ridge at the extremity of the open land, Ktaadn
presented a different aspect from any mountain I have
seen, there being a greater proportion of naked rock
rising abruptly from the forest; and we looked up at
this blue barrier as if it were some fragment of a wall
which anciently bounded the earth in that direction.
Setting the compass for a northeast course, which was



KTAADN 63

the bearing of the southern base of the highest peak,
we were soon buried in the woods.

We soon began to meet with traces of bears and
moose, and those of rabbits were everywhere visible.
The tracks of moose, more or less recent, to speak lit
erally, covered every square rod on the sides of the
mountain ; and these animals are probably more numer
ous there now than ever before, being driven into this
wilderness, from all sides, by the settlements. The track
of a full-grown moose is like that of a cow, or larger,
and of the young, like that of a calf. Sometimes we
found ourselves traveling in faint paths, which they had
made, like cow-paths in the woods, only far more in
distinct, being rather openings, affording imperfect vis
tas through the dense underwood, than trodden paths;
and everywhere the twigs had been browsed by them,
clipped as smoothly as if by a knife. The bark of trees
was stripped up by them to the height of eight or nine
feet, in long, narrow strips, an inch wide, still showing
the distinct marks of their teeth. We expected nothing
less than to meet a herd of them every moment, and
our- Nimrod held his shooting-iron in readiness ; but
we did not go out of our way to look for them, and,
though numerous, they are so wary that the unskillful
hunter might range the forest a long time before he
could get sight of one. They are sometimes dangerous
to encounter, and will not turn out for the hunter, but
furiously rush upon him and trample him to death, un
less he is lucky enough to avoid them by dodging round
a tree. The largest are nearly as large as a horse, and
weigh sometimes one thousand pounds; and it is said



64 THE MAINE WOODS

that they can step over a five-foot gate in their ordinary
walk. They are described as exceedingly awkward-look
ing animals, with their long legs and short bodies,
making a ludicrous figure when in full run, but making
great headway, nevertheless. It seemed a mystery to us
how they could thread these woods, which it required
all our suppleness to accomplish, climbing, stooping,
and winding, alternately. They are said to drop their
long and branching horns, which usually spread five
or six feet, on their backs, and make their way easily
by the weight of their bodies. Our boatmen said, but
I know not with how much truth, that their horns are
apt to be gnawed away by vermin while they sleep.
Their flesh, which is more like beef than venison, is
common in Bangor market.

We had proceeded on thus seven or eight miles, till
about noon, with frequent pauses to refresh the weary
ones, crossing a considerable mountain stream, which
we conjectured to be Murch Brook, at whose mouth we
had camped, all the time in woods, without having once
seen the summit, and rising very gradually, when the
boatmen beginning to despair a little, and fearing that
we were leaving the mountain on one side of us, for
they had not entire faith in the compass, McCauslin
climbed a tree, from the top of which he could see the
peak, when it appeared that we had not swerved from
a right line, the compass down below still ranging with
his arm, which pointed to the summit. By the side of
a cool mountain rill, amid the woods, where the water
began to partake of the purity and transparency of the
air, we stopped to cook some of our fishes, which we had



KTAADN 65

brought thus far in order to save our hard-bread and
pork, in the use of which we had put ourselves on short
allowance. We soon had a fire blazing, and stood around
it, under the damp and sombre forest of firs and birches,
each with a sharpened stick, three or four feet in length,
upon which he had spitted his trout, or roach, previ
ously well gashed and salted, our sticks radiating like
the spokes of a wheel from one centre, and each crowd
ing his particular fish into the most desirable exposure,
not with the truest regard always to his neighbor's
rights. Thus we regaled ourselves, drinking meanwhile
at the spring, till one man's pack, at least, was con
siderably lightened, when we again took up our line of
march.

At length we reached an elevation sufficiently bare
to afford a view of the summit, still distant and blue,
almost as if retreating from us. A torrent, which proved
to be the same we had crossed, was seen tumbling
down in front, literally from out of the clouds. But this
glimpse at our whereabouts was soon lost, and we were
buried in the woods again. The wood was chiefly yel
low birch, spruce, fir, mountain-ash, or round-wood,
as the Maine people call it, and moose- wood. It was
the worst kind of traveling; sometimes like the densest
scrub oak patches with us. The cornel, or bunch-ber
ries, were very abundant, as well as Solomon Vseal and
moose-berries. Blueberries were distributed along our
whole route; and in one place the bushes were droop
ing with the weight of the fruit, still as fresh as ever.
It was the 7th of September. Such patches afforded a
grateful repast, and served to bait the tired party for-



66 THE MAINE WOODS

ward. When any lagged behind, the cry of " blueber
ries " was most effectual to bring them up. Even at
this elevation we passed through a moose-yard, formed
by a large flat rock, four or five rods square, where
they tread down the snow in winter. At length, fearing
that if we held the direct course to the summit, we
should not find any water near our camping-ground,
we gradually swerved to the west, till, at four o'clock,
we struck again the torrent which I have mentioned,
and here, in view of the summit, the weary party de
cided to camp that night.

While my companions were seeking a suitable spot
for this purpose, I improved the little daylight that was
left in climbing the mountain alone. We were in a
deep and narrow ravine, sloping up to the clouds, at
an angle of nearly forty-five degrees, and hemmed in
by walls of rock, which were at first covered with low
trees, then with impenetrable thickets of scraggy birches
and spruce trees, and with moss, but at last bare of all
vegetation but lichens, and almost continually draped
in clouds. Following up the course of the torrent which
occupied this, and I mean to lay some emphasis on
this word up, pulling myself up by the side of per
pendicular falls of twenty or thirty feet, by the roots of
firs and birches, and then, perhaps, walking a level rod
or two in the thin stream, for it took up the whole
road, ascending by huge steps, as it were, a giant's
stairway, down which a river flowed, I had soon cleared
the trees, and paused on the successive shelves, to look
back over the country. The torrent was from fifteen
to thirty feet wide, without a tributary, and seemingly



KTAADN 67

not diminishing in breadth as I advanced; but still it
came rushing and roaring down, with a copious tide,
over and amidst masses of bare rock, from the very
clouds, as though a waterspout had just burst over
the mountain. Leaving this at last, I began to work
my way, scarcely less arduous than Satan's anciently
through Chaos, up the nearest though not the highest
peak. At first scrambling on all fours over the tops of
ancient black spruce trees (Abies nigra), old as the flood,
from two to ten or twelve feet in height, their tops flat
and spreading, and their foliage blue, and nipped with
cold, as if for centuries they had ceased growing up
ward against the bleak sky, the solid cold. I walked
some good rods erect upon the tops of these trees, which
were overgrown with moss and mountain cranberries.
It seemed that in the course of time they had filled
up the intervals between the huge rocks, and the cold
wind had uniformly leveled all over. Here the prin
ciple of vegetation was hard put to it. There was ap
parently a belt of this kind running quite round the
mountain, though, perhaps, nowhere so remarkable as
here. Once, slumping through, I looked down ten feet,
into a dark and cavernous region, and saw the stem of
a spruce, on whose top I stood, as on a mass of coarse
basket-work, fully nine inches in diameter at the ground.
These holes were bears' dens, and the bears were even
then at home. This was the sort of garden I made my
way over, for an eighth of a mile, at the risk, it is true,
of treading on some of the plants, not seeing any path
through it, certainly the most treacherous and porous
country I ever traveled.



68 THE MAINE WOODS

" Nigh foundered on he fares,
Treading the crude consistence, half on foot,
Half flying,"

But nothing could exceed the toughness of the twigs,
not one snapped under my weight, for they had
slowly grown. Having slumped, scrambled, rolled,
bounced, and walked, by turns, over this scraggy coun
try, I arrived upon a side-hill, or rather side-mountain,
where rocks, gray, silent rocks, were the flocks and
herds that pastured, chewing a rocky cud at sunset.
They looked at me with hard gray eyes, without a bleat
or a low. This brought me to the skirt of a cloud, and
bounded my walk that night. But I had already seen
that Maine country when I turned about, waving, flow
ing, rippling, down below.

When I returned to my companions, they had se
lected a camping-ground on the torrent's edge, and
were resting on the ground ; one was on the sick list,
rolled in a blanket, on a damp shelf of rock. It was
a savage and dreary scenery enough, so wildly rough,
that they looked long to find a level and open space
for the tent. We could not well camp higher, for want
of fuel; and the trees here seemed so evergreen and
sappy, that we almost doubted if they would acknow
ledge the influence of fire ; but fire prevailed at last, and
blazed here, too, like a good citizen of the world. Even
at this height we met with frequent traces of moose,
as well as of bears. As here was no cedar, we made
our bed of coarser feathered spruce; but at any rate
the feathers were plucked from the live tree. It was,
perhaps, even a more grand and desolate place for a



KTAADN 69

night's lodging than the summit would have been, being
in the neighborhood of those wild trees, and of the
torrent. Some more aerial and finer-spirited winds
rushed and roared through the ravine all night, from
time to time arousing our fire, and dispersing the em
bers about. It was as if we lay in the very nest of a
young whirlwind. At midnight, one of my bed-fellows,
being startled in his dreams by the sudden blazing
up to its top of a fir tree, whose green boughs were
dried by the heat, sprang up, with a cry, from his bed,
thinking the world on fire, and drew the whole camp
after him.

In the morning, after whetting our appetite on some
raw pork, a wafer of hard-bread, and a dipper of con
densed cloud or waterspout, we all together began to
make our way up the falls, which I have described;
this time choosing the right hand, or highest peak,
which was not the one I had approached before. But
soon my companions were lost to my sight behind the
mountain ridge in my rear, which still seemed ever re
treating before me, and I climbed alone over huge rocks,
loosely poised, a mile or more, still edging toward the
clouds; for though the day was clear elsewhere, the
summit was concealed by mist. The mountain seemed
a vast aggregation of loose rocks, as if some time it had
rained rocks, and they lay as they fell on the moun
tain sides, nowhere fairly at rest, but leaning on each
other, all rocking stones, with cavities between, but
scarcely any soil or smoother shelf. They were the raw
materials of a planet dropped from an unseen quarry,
which the vast chemistry of nature would anon work



70 THE MAINE WOODS

up, or work down, into the smiling and verdant plains
and valleys of earth. This was an undone extremity
of the globe; as in lignite we see coal in the process of
formation.

At length I entered within the skirts of the cloud
which seemed forever drifting over the summit, and yet
would never be gone, but was generated out of that
pure air as fast as it flowed away; and when, a quarter
of a mile farther, I reached the summit of the ridge,
which those who have seen in clearer weather say is
about five miles long, and contains a thousand acres of
table-land, I was deep within the hostile ranks of clouds,
and all objects were obscured by them. Now the wind
would blow me out a yard of clear sunlight, wherein I
stood; then a gray, dawning light was all it could ac
complish, the cloud-line ever rising and falling with the
wind's intensity. Sometimes it seemed as if the sum
mit would be cleared in a few moments, and smile in
sunshine ; but what was gained on one side was lost on
another. It was like sitting in a chimney and waiting
for the smoke to blow away. It was, in fact, a cloud-
factory, these were the cloud-works, and the wind
turned them off done from the cool, bare rocks. Occa
sionally, when the windy columns broke in to me, I
caught sight of a dark, damp crag to the right or left ;
the mist driving ceaselessly between it and me. It
reminded me of the creations of the old epic and dra
matic poets, of Atlas, Vulcan, the Cyclops, and Prome
theus. Such was Caucasus and the rock where Prome
theus was bound. ^Eschylus had no doubt visited such
scenery as this. It was vast, Titanic, and such as man



KTAADN 71

never inhabits. Some part of the beholder, even some
vital part, seems to escape through the loose grating of
his ribs as he ascends. He is more lone than you can
imagine. There is less of substantial thought and fair
understanding in him than in the plains where men in
habit. His reason is dispersed and shadowy, more thin
and subtile, like the air. Vast, Titanic, inhuman Na
ture has got him at disadvantage, caught him alone,
and pilfers him of some of his divine faculty. She does
not smile on him as in the plains. She seems to say
sternly, Why came ye here before your time. This
ground is not prepared for you. Is it not enough that
I smile in the valleys ? I have never made this soil for
thy feet, this air for thy breathing, these rocks for thy
neighbors. I cannot pity nor fondle thee here, but for
ever relentlessly drive thee hence to where I am kind.
Why seek me where I have not called thee, and then
complain because you find me but a stepmother?
Shouldst thou freeze or starve, or shudder thy life away,
here is no shrine, nor altar, nor any access to my ear.

" Chaos and ancient Night, I come no spy
With purpose to explore or to disturb
The secrets of your realm, but . . .

as my way

Lies through your spacious empire up to light."

The tops of mountains are among the unfinished
parts of the globe, whither it is a slight insult to the
gods to climb and pry into their secrets, and try their
effect on our humanity. Only daring and insolent men,
perchance, go there. Simple races, as savages, do not
climb mountains, their tops are sacred and mysteri-



72 THE MAINE WOODS

ous tracts never visited by them. Pomola is always
angry with those who climb to the summit of Ktaadn.

According to Jackson, who, in his capacity of geo
logical surveyor of the State, has accurately measured
it, the altitude of Ktaadn is 5300 feet, or a little more
than one mile above the level of the sea, and he adds,
" It is then evidently the highest point in the State of
Maine, and is the most abrupt granite mountain in New
England." The peculiarities of that spacious table-land
on which I was standing, as well as the remarkable
semicircular precipice or basin on the eastern side, were
all concealed by the mist. I had brought my whole
pack to the top, not knowing but I should have to
make my descent to the river, and possibly to the settled
portion of the State alone, and by some other route, and
wishing to have a complete outfit with me. But at length
fearing that my companions would be anxious to reach
the river before night, and knowing that the clouds
might rest on the mountain for days, I was compelled
to descend. Occasionally, as I came down, the wind
would blow me a vista open, through which I could see
the country eastward, boundless forests, and lakes, and
streams, gleaming in the sun, some of them emptying
into the East Branch. There were also new mountains
in sight in that direction. Now and then some small
bird of the sparrow family would flit away before me,
unable to command its course, like a fragment of the
gray rock blown off by the wind.

I found my companions where I had left them, on
the side of the peak, gathering the mountain cranberries,
which filled every crevice between the rocks, together



KTAADN 73

with blueberries, which had a spicier flavor the higher
up they grew, but were not the less agreeable to our
palates. When the country is settled, and roads are
made, these cranberries will perhaps become an article of
commerce. From this elevation, just on the skirts of the
clouds, we could overlook the country, west and south,
for a hundred miles. There it was, the State of Maine,
which we had seen on the map, but not much like that,
immeasurable forest for the sun to shine on, that east
ern stuff we hear of in Massachusetts. No clearing, no
house. It did not look as if a solitary traveler had cut
so much as a walking-stick there. Countless lakes,
Moosehead in the southwest, forty miles long by ten
wide, like a gleaming silver platter at the end of the
table; Chesuncook, eighteen long by three wide, without
an island; Millinocket, on the south, with its hundred
islands; and a hundred others without a name; and
mountains, also, whose names, for the most part, are
known only to the Indians. The forest looked like a
firm grass sward, and the effect of these lakes in its
midst has been well compared, by one who has since
visited this same spot, to that of a " mirror broken into
a thousand fragments, and wildly scattered over the
grass, reflecting the full blaze of the sun." It was a



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