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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/30

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26
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

In a sheltered depression on the summit is a place which should be historic. Here every band of pilgrims has camped for the night. Here it has cast away its luggage, discarded its horses, abandoned its dogs. Into the springy heather-grown basin, sheltered from the wind, we may find trodden into the muck harnesses, sleds, bottles, cups, plates, hats, trousers, neckties, bones of dogs, bones of horses, ravens, newspapers, playing cards, cigarette papers, shirts, collars—every evidence of a failing civilization. The dead ravens tell the story of their premature attacks on dogs and horses, for the men have pistols, and they are the last to go. Near this place, some later humorist has built a house of empty beer bottles, set together with mortar—a house big enough to shelter you and me from the storm. Bones of men are strewn along the way—you can trace the trail by the soiled and dislocated heather—but all these, so far as I know, have had a decent burial. Some of them, to be sure, were buried under avalanches, but that was on the south side of the pass, near the foot of the great unnamed waterfall, over which unheeded flows the Nameless River. We have passed the waterfall and the river, and are now well down on the Yukon side. The little ice-cold Summit Lake, where more than one loaded team and its teamsters went through the breaking ice, is said to be well stocked with trout. Men described these to us as Dolly Varden trout (Salvelinus malma). As the lake flows into the Yukon, and as the Dolly Varden is not found in the Yukon, which has only the Great Lake trout or Mackinaw trout (Cristivomer namaycush), we developed a geological theory that the Yukon had stolen this lake from the Skagway. The theory looked not unreasonable. Rivers do such things. At the head of the lake was a little dam of glacial drift. Cut through this dam, and the head of the Yukon would flow down into the Skagway. Perhaps it did so in the days before this dam was made. But facts are facts. Let us see what kind of trout lives in the lake, and we will tell you its glacial history. My companion, Professor Harold Heath, borrowed a fly and cast into the lake. We had one rise, and landed the fish. It was the Great Lake trout and not the Dolly Varden. So we laid our theory on the shelf and allowed the Summit Lake to remain in the past as it is in the present, a head-spring of the Yukon. I said that rivers do such things. At the head of the Roanoke River, near Allegheny Springs, in Virginia, is a valley which the Roanoke has stolen—fishes and all—from the Holston River, on the other side of the ridge. To steal a valley is to undermine it gradually from the other side, until the water in the first valley turns and flows the other way. But the Yukon has stolen nothing from the Skagway, and on second thought it deserves no credit for its reticence.

It looks cold to the north of the White Pass, even in mid-summer. Down the long rock-ridges between the lakes goes the trail—on and on through reindeer moss and heather, all the way above