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time to finish them during the journey; but I can give you, from my journal, an account of what I observed and met with in the course of our expedition.
We had a very agreeable company: Mr. Little of Wells, Mr. Cutler of Ipswich, Dr. Fisher of Beverly, all naturalists; two young gentlemen from college; several pilots, axmen, and attendants; and at Conway we met Mr. Jo. Whipple, who had previously engaged to join us. On number consisted of eleven. Conway is the last settlement on this side the mountains, distant about 18 miles, the greater part of the way through an old road; i.e., one that was cut 10 years ago, and has been disused for several years; and 'tis now grown up with bushes as high as a man's head on horseback, full of wind-fallen trees, deep mires, and broken bridges; and in one place a tornado had so torn up the trees that we laboured with excessive difficulty to get through with our horses. It was on Friday morning, the 23d of July, that we set off from Conway, and took our leave of house and bed for 3 days, to make a genuine tour in the wilderness. The snow had been gone from off the south side of the Mountain but ten days; and yet at Conway we had full-grown cucumbers. This may sound like a traveller's story, but you may depend on the truth of it. But why, you will say, does the snow lie so long on the south side? I answer, it is a fact, and I have frequently observed it, that the snow lies longer on the south side of hills than on the north. The N.W. wind drives the snow over the tops of the hills, and it lodges in the hollows, where it grows firm and hard, and is deeper than elsewhere. On these stupendous mountains there are long winding gullies, from 100 to 1,000 feet deep, which contain a vast quantity of these drifted snows, accumulating during the long winter, which begins there generally in September or October, and it must take a long time to dissolve them. Our pilot who was commander of a party, who worked on the road
through which we travelled, in 1774, told me that on the 6th of June, that year, some of his party ascended the Mountain, and found the snow 13 feet deep on the south side, and so hard as to bear them; and that a fortnight after he went up himself, and there remained 5 feet of the snow in the same place. You must allow me to remark here, if so vast a quantity of snow lodges and remains on these Mountains, how many more mountains toward the N.W. are there whose frozen summits serve to give that keenness to the air which comes from that quarter! 'Tis not the Lakes that make the N.W. winds so piercing, but the hoary summits of the infinite ranges of mountains, some of which, perhaps, at the remotest regions of the N.W., may retain the snows undissolved through the whole year.
Our pilot judged it best for us to go up by a branch of Saco River to the height of land between that and Amariscogin waters; then we could ascend the Mountain by a ridge which is one continued ascent to the top. Had we attempted it in any other part, we must have ascended and descended several mountains before we could have reached the summit. Accordingly, he conducted us along the eastern side of the Mountains, till we reached a meadow on the height of land between two mountains. This meadow is about a mile in length. Several springs run into it from the mountain on the cast side, and form channels, in which the water seems almost stagnant, as if at a loss which way to proceed. At each end of the meadow is a beaver damm. Through one the water runs S. into Saco, and through the other N. into Amariscogin. This meadow served to give feed to our horses, and by the side of it we constructed our tent. It was built of poles and bark. Three upright forked stakes supported an horizontal pole, from which four or five others were laid sloping to the ground, like one side of a roof. On these were laid spruce bark, peeled from the trees. The same
sort of bark made a floor, which was covered with hemlock twigs. This was our bed: our saddles and bags served for pillows; we had each a blanket, and before the tent we had a long, large fire. I should have told you that, before we arrived at this spot, we came by what is called the New River. This is a noble cascade, upwards of 100 feet high in view at once; but it comes from much higher. It is a torrent of water which broke out in October, 1775, after or during a long and heavy rain. It bore down rocks and trees, and piled them up, in some places on its sides, and in others across, so as to run under them. It caused a vast flood in the river Saco, which ran muddy for several weeks. The cascade is winding, in some places narrowed to two feet, in others forming a wide sheet, and on some level rocks a spreading bason. It comes out of the mountains in three springs, which, after running separately down a great way, unite in one beautiful cascade, and fall into Ellis River, a branch of Saco.
The instruments we carried were 2 barometers, 2 thermometers, 1 sextant, 1 telescope, 1 chain, and 2 surveying compasses. On examining them, one of the barometers was broke, and the mercury gone; one of the thermometers rendered useless by air-bubbles having got into the ball and the mercury fixed in the tube. Our intention was to have placed one of each at the foot of the Mountain, and carried the others up; but this design was rendered abortive. However, the remaining instruments were car
Saturday, July 24, at 64 A.M., we began our ascent. At the first steep precipice, Dr. F. complained of a pain in his side, and returned to the tent, where Whipple's negro man waited to take care of the horses and baggage. We then ascended by the side of a large stream on our left, making frequent pauses, an account being kept of the continuance of each. Being the heaviest person in the
company, you may depend on it that I was not the nimblest, and the pauses were the more frequent on my account. Having travelled in this manner till 8 h. 20 m., and ascended several very steep and craggy precipices, I found my breath fail, and needed so many pauses that I considered whether it were best for me to proceed any farther. The summit, though in sight, appeared much higher than the distance we had come. The ascent higher up was steeper; the more frequent pauses on my account would retard the company, so that we should not get up in any tolerable season. The clouds were covering the mountain above us. My exercise had so heated me already, that I was persuaded if I got to the top I should be fit for nothing but to lie down and sleep. We held a council; and all the company, having first borne their testimony that I had done the best I could, advised me to return. Two offered to accompany me; but, not willing to deprive any of them of the enjoyment they had taken so much pains already for, I consented to come down alone, comforting myself with that old adage, In magnis võluisse sat est. Keeping the stream on my right in my descent, I had the pleasure of seeing what none of the rest did. I came to one precipice, over which I looked, and found it completely perpendicular. I went to one side, and, by stepping on some loose rocks, got down to the face of it, which was about five feet high, and twelve or fifteen long, composed of square-faced stones, laid as fair and regular as a piece of masonry, the water trickling out from between them. The side of the Mountain, as far as I ascended, is composed of a mass of loose rocks, covered with a deep green moss, in some places as thick as a bed. The moss covers the rocks and their interstices, so that in many places you walk on it and it bends under you, and yet supports your weight; but in other places it proves treacherous, and lets you through, to the danger of your shins, which happened to one, and but one, of our com
pany. This moss on the steep sides of the Mountain serves as a sponge to retain the vapors which are continually brought by the winds in the form of clouds against these Mountains, and there deposited; it also preserves the rain-water from running off at once, and keeps the springs supplied with a perpetual dripping. The growth on the Mountain is spruce and fir, chiefly the former.
By 10 o'clock I had got on the level ground, and my voice was answered from the tent, where I arrived safe, though much fatigued; and, having taken some refreshment, slept for two or three hours. In the afternoon, Dr. F. and I visited the beaver damm in the meadow. It was old and firm, and overgrown with alders; we could see no trace of their cabbin.
Toward night, signs of rain. We put some new bark on our tent, got the baggage within it, provided fewel for the night, and anxiously expected the return of our friends; but it was their lot to pass the night on the Mountain, round a fire, which they kindled with difficulty. It rained all night. Our fire decayed, and our tent, notwithstanding all our precaution, leaked; but by constant attention we kept our fire alive, and ourselves tolerably dry. Soon after daybreak, Sunday, July 25, we heard the report of a gun, which we answered; then voices, which we likewise answered; and by six o'clock our friends arrived safe, and not so wet as I expected to find them.
Their account of what passed after I left them is as follows: The ascent became much more steep and difficult, and they were till 6 m. after 1 o'clock getting to the top of the highest pinnacle. The growth grew shorter, till it diminished to shrubs, then bushes, then low vines with blue and red berries, then winter-grass and gray moss, and lastly naked rock. The top of the Mountain is called The Plain. It is composed of stones covered with gray moss, which is spread over the stones and their