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´╗┐Title: Camps and Trails
Author: Abbott, Henry, 1850-
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Camps and Trails" ***

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CAMPS AND TRAILS

By
HENRY ABBOTT

NEW YORK
1918

Copyright 1918
by
HENRY ABBOTT



Camps and Trails
by
Henry Abbott

My rifle was standing against a birch tree within easy reach of my
right hand, while I, sitting on a log, was eating my lunch. A
hunter's lunch is carried in a small cotton bag and a string tied
around the mouth of the bag also secures it to one's belt. On one
side of this bag, faded to a pale blue from many washings, appears
printed matter containing a trade mark, a name of manufacturer or
dealer and indications that the bag once contained sugar. The
contents of the bag on this occasion just fitted my appetite.

While I was busily munching a sandwich I became aware of a curious
bird sitting on the lower limb of a tree at my left and about ten
yards away. I do not mean that he was an unusual bird; he wore a
plain slaty-gray coat and was a little larger than a full grown
robin. He was quite a commonplace bird and one often seen in our
northern forests. His name is Canada jay. I do not know why, but he
is also sometimes called whiskey jack. He was curiously and intently
watching me with his right eye. Presently he turned his head and
studied my operations with his left eye. Most birds and many animals
who live in the woods have a distinct advantage over man in the fact
that their eyes are so placed that they are able to look in opposite
directions at the same time. They can thus look for their prey with
one eye, while watching out for an enemy with the other.

This fellow was apparently not entirely satisfied with what his right
eye saw, so for purposes of confirmation he turned on me the left
eye. I had not noticed his arrival. He had silently come after I sat
down on the log. He now spread his wings and without a single flap
silently skated across the air to another tree on my right but a
little nearer, where he could "view the subject from another
standpoint." It now occurred to me, that, possibly the jay bird might
also be needing some lunch so I tossed a small piece of bread out on
the other end of the log when he slid down and ate it. Then I invited
him to come nearer; and presently, when I gave him a piece of meat he
was eating it out of my hand. While I was closely watching my guest,
there suddenly and as silently appeared a second bird walking down
the log, and then in a moment a third arrived to join the lunch
party. The strangest thing about the incident was the silence and
suddenness with which, like ghosts, the birds appeared before me, and
when the last crumb had been devoured, they as silently slipped away.

The place where the jays and I met was in a dense forest about
fifteen miles from any human habitation and it is probable that they
had met the human animal so seldom that the native curiosity of the
forest dweller had not yet given place to fear.

Bige and I were hunting. We were living at "The Dan'l Boone Camp" on
the northwestern slope of Crescent Mountain. We left camp that
morning about seven o'clock and together traveled down the valley,
following one of our own trails about three miles until we crossed
Pigeon Brook, where we separated. When Bige and I hunt, we always get
far enough apart so there will be no possibility of shooting each
other. Also, we hunt separately to avoid conversation. Gossip on a
"still hunt" is about the worst practice in which one can indulge.

  [Illustration: The Dan'l Boone Cabin]

On this occasion, it was agreed that Bige should climb the eastern
end of Wild Cat Mountain and proceed along the top of the ridge which
extends several miles toward the west, while I hunted through the
valley and over the foot hills, meeting him on the western end of the
ridge for lunch at twelve o'clock. It was now nearly one o'clock and
as I had been unable to find Bige, I ate lunch with the jay birds as
above described.

Since leaving Bige that morning I had seen no big game, but had shot
a goshawk. Every guide and hunter of my acquaintance in the North
Woods, is the sworn enemy of this bird of prey. No man is thought to
have performed his duty if he allows one of these hawks to escape.
The goshawk destroys many song birds, but his particular object in
life is to kill partridges. The partridge is one of our most
desirable game birds. He has many enemies among the four footed
residents of the forest. The owl also, will kill a partridge at
night, while he is roosting in a tree; but the goshawk (sometimes
called partridge hawk) pursues a policy of frightfulness amounting
almost to extermination of the partridge. He will sit all day, and
day after day in a tree in that part of the woods where a flock of
young partridges live, watching his opportunity to pounce upon and
kill them one after another, until the last one is disposed of; when
he will go on a hunt for another flock.

The "Boche" which I shot was sitting on the limb of a tree eating
something which he was holding down on the limb with one foot. On
going up to the tree to pick up my hawk I found on the ground,
feathers, that I knew did not belong to him, and a few feet away,
discovered a full grown partridge, recently killed, from the breast
of which a piece of flesh had been torn out.

I suspect that our feeling of enmity toward the goshawk is not
entirely due to sympathy for the defenseless partridge. Mixed motives
may inspire us to acts of revenge. We, ourselves sometimes eat breast
of partridge.

After my luncheon guests had gone, I took a drink of water at a
spring near our lunch table and considered what should be my next
move. Failing to meet Bige at the appointed place, I reasoned that,
possibly he was on the trail of game which led in the opposite
direction. In any case, I felt quite sure he would not, in returning,
come back over the route I took going out; also that he would not
feel safe in crossing my path; so he most likely would go back on the
northern slope of the mountain. Accordingly, I turned southward,
intending after about a mile on that tack to swing toward the east
and work back to the camp; crossing Pigeon Brook below where we had
crossed it in the morning. This course would take me half-way up
Crescent Mountain and around the outside curve of that ridge. I
estimated that I could make this course back to camp, traveling
quietly as a hunter should, in about five hours.

So, frequently consulting my compass, I proceeded down the mountain,
over hillocks, across ravines, through swamps, often following the
beaten path of a deer's runway; again, forcing a passage through a
briar patch or tangled witch-hopple. Then, there were long stretches
of smooth forest floor carpeted with a Persian rug of Autumn leaves
of brilliant and somber hues, woven into the most gorgeous and
fantastic patterns. A soft October breeze rustled the tree tops and
partially drowned the noise of rasping dry leaves under foot. It was
an ideal day for wandering alone in the woods, far from the call of
the telephone bell or the rush and jostle of the crowded city street.

Presently, coming over the top of a knoll, I saw a few rods ahead, a
deer with gracefully mounted antlers which had recently been polished
by rubbing them against bushes and saplings. The deer was making most
unusual motions. I have seen deer in the woods doing many queer and
unexplained things, but this fellow seemed to be digging a hole in
the ground as does a rabbit or a woodchuck. He was pawing the earth
with both fore feet; was working hard and giving his entire attention
to the job, while the leaves flew from his rapidly flying hoofs. His
head was turned away from where I stood and he had not noted by
approach, so I crept up behind a clump of bushes and watched the
progress of what I believed to be a new game for deer to play.
Presently he pushed his muzzle under a pile of leaves and lifted his
head working his jaws vigorously. Then something fell from the tree
above, hit him on the head and bounded off in the leaves. He paid not
the slightest attention to it, but continued to paw the ground and
occasionally root his nose into it like a hog.

Then I gave my attention to the tree under which the deer was digging
and saw that it was a beech and that beech nuts were being shaken
down by the wind and sifted through the fallen leaves; while the deer
was pawing the leaves away to get the nuts.

About this time a shifting breeze carried the human scent to the
deer's nostrils and his head came up with a jerk. He blew a bugle
blast of warning that could be heard a mile down the valley, and with
head and tail erect he bounded away down the hillside as if the Devil
was after him.

Just then, it occurred to me that I had a rifle in my right hand and
that, for that day at least, it was my business to hunt deer. By this
time, however, several trees were between the deer and myself and
though I could occasionally see the flash of his white tail in the
distance it would have been folly to waste a shot on him. An
examination of his tracks showed that he was covering twenty feet at
every jump.

After gathering a pocketful of beech nuts for my own consumption, I
proceeded on my way eating nuts and musing on the good judgment of
the deer in his choice of food.

About an hour later I heard in the distance ahead, a rumbling noise
that seemed like the long continued roll of a snare drum or the purr
of an eight cylinder gasoline engine. I felt quite certain that no
motor car would be found in this roadless wilderness but pressed
forward to investigate. Proceeding in the direction from which the
sounds came, which were now repeated at intervals, beginning slowly
like a locomotive starting; I heard the bumps coming gradually faster
and faster until they merged into a continuous rumble lasting for a
half minute when the sounds died away as if the steam supply were
exhausted.

I now recognized my old friend the ruffed grouse or drummer partridge
on his drumming log. With tail feathers spread fanwise, neck feathers
ruffed up and the points of wing feathers dragging, he would strut
like a turkey gobbler up and down the log until arriving at the
particular drumming spot, he stretched his neck, filled his lungs
with air, lifted wings and pounded his
breast-bump-bump-thump-bup-br-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r.

The drummer partridge--the male of the species is very fussy and
particular about his drumming log. It is carefully selected with
reference to its sonorous quality. He always drums on the same log
and at exactly the same spot on that log throughout the season.
Indeed the same log is likely to be used for drumming purposes
several years, but it would be difficult to prove that the same bird
did the drumming in successive seasons. One can, however, be quite
certain that no two drummers ever occupy the same log in any single
season. The fittest would surely whip the weaker one and drive him
away.

Several years ago, there was a drumming log about sixty feet back of
our "Cedar Lake Camp." Bige and I were wakened early every morning by
the old drummer announcing with his tattoo that it was time to get
up. He was very regular in his habits and made an excellent alarm
clock.

I had by now worked my way up close enough to the log to study the
movements of the drummer; indeed I could have knocked him off of that
log with a club. He soon discovered my presence, stopped drumming and
flew up into a tree about thirty yards away.

We usually hunt partridge with a shot gun and are supposed to shoot
them while on the wing. But if one meets a partridge while using a
rifle the ethics of the woods requires that one must wait until the
bird alights and then shoot him only in the head or neck. Now, the
neck of a partridge when the feathers are removed, is about the
diameter of a lead pencil and the head is the size of a silver dime.
This makes a small target to hit with a rifle at thirty yards, but it
has been done, so I fired. The bullet passed close to his left ear
causing him to sharply dodge toward the right. The second shot cut a
feather from his neck, then he suddenly remembered an engagement he
had with a lady bird on the other side of the valley.

I arrived at camp before dark and had a fire started, the potatoes
put over to boil and other preparations for supper under way when
Bige came staggering into camp with the hind quarters of a deer
wrapped in the skin on his shoulders. Bige had put in a strenuous
day, had carried his meat from the valley west of Wild Cat Mountain,
a distance of about seven miles and he had a good appetite for
supper, which I had ready by the time he had put the venison in the
cooler.

The cooler was an empty pork barrel which a year earlier we had
procured at a lumber camp several miles down the valley; and which at
great expenditure of effort and time we had rolled, tumbled and
carried through the woods all the way back to our camp. We had then
scrubbed out the barrel, weighted it with stones and in the shade of
a clump of balsam trees had sunk it in a deep hole in the brook
flowing from our spring so that the water came near its top. On nails
inside of the barrel we hung our fresh meat and game, and the icy
water from the spring flowing around the barrel kept the contents as
hard and fresh as if in a cold-storage warehouse; while a slab of
spruce bark with a stone on top formed a cover to keep night prowling
flesh-eating neighbors out of our refrigerator.

At the supper table I told Bige about the deer I had seen digging
beech nuts, and he said that in dressing out the deer he shot, he
found its stomach filled with beech nuts, and that they more nearly
resemble buckwheat, than any other food a buck-deer can find in the
woods. Long after the first snowfall in the Autumn one can find
places where deer have pawed away the snow to dig beech nuts out from
under the leaves.

In the middle of the night I was wakened by some unusual noise
outside the cabin. Listening intently I heard footsteps softly
padding down the path toward the spring brook. Not a breath of air
was moving and the silence of the night was noisy and oppressive.
Straining my ears I again heard the soft foot falls. Then a sniffing,
smelling sound. Later, two bright stars close together appeared
through the open doorway about a foot above the sill. Twinkling,
shining, expanding, the stars grew into a pair of eyes in the
darkness. The owner of the eyes sniffed, then spoke, apparently to
his partner outside,--"Uh huh!"--They're here!--"Uh huh! Uh
huh!"--Been here before!--They're here again!--"Uh huh!" We keep a
pile of dry wood inside the cabin for use in kindling fires on rainy
days. From my bunk I reached over, grabbed a stick of wood and flung
it through the doorway and the thieving coon in his striped prison
garments scuttled away through the bush into the night.

The following morning we found the coon's tracks--they looked as if
made by the hand of an infant--in the soft mud near our refrigerator.

After breakfast Bige and I sawed a couple of blocks, each about four
feet long, off a spruce log. Then Bige took a pack-basket and went
back to Wild Cat Mountain for the forequarters of the deer which he
had left hanging in a tree the day before; while I, with an axe and a
couple of hard wood wedges (the same tools with which Abe Lincoln,
ninety years ago, split rails), proceeded to split the two spruce
blocks into thin staves from six to eight inches wide. These I
sharpened at one end and drove into the ground on the bank of the
stream below the cooler; arranging them as nearly as possible in a
circle with the edges touching and making a vertical cylinder about
two and a half feet in diameter. I put hoops of osier withes around
the tops of the staves and used other slabs of the spruce for a
cover. Then I gathered stones and built a fireplace on the gravelly
bed near the water. A trench was dug from the fireplace up the
sloping bank and under the cylinder of staves. This was covered with
flat stones and dirt and it served as a flue to carry smoke from the
fireplace by the brook into the smoke-house on the bank. In the
smoke-house we hung strips of venison--the venison having first been
packed in salt over night. The fire was kept smoldering and smoking
by a liberal use of green birch wood. At the end of two days smoking
we had on hand a stock of the finest "Jerked Venison" that any hunter
ever put into his lunch bag. The smoke of green birch imparts a spicy
flavor that is not found in jerked meat cured by the Indian method of
drying in the sun.

The Dan'l Boone Cabin was built fifteen years ago, and was located in
this particular spot because of a spring of pure cold water which we
discovered while on a hunting expedition. It is a long way from any
lake but is in the edge of good hunting country. To reach it, from
our cottage we went by boat up the lake to the mouth of the river,
then proceeded along the river bank past the rapids about two miles
to the falls. At the falls the township line crosses the river, and
we followed it through the woods up over the top of the mountain and
down to one of the foot hills on the opposite slope.

The township line was marked through the woods by four blazes on each
tree, placed in the form of a diamond, a chip being cut out at each
angles of the diamond. The line was practically straight and was not
difficult to follow, except that it led up the steepest part of the
mountain and over the highest ridge. In places one had to crawl on
hands and knees and hang onto roots and bushes to avoid sliding back.
We had to climb just the same, both going and coming and with a heavy
pack on one's back it was rather strenuous, and there were about four
miles of the line that we used.

  [Illustration: The Township Line]

I felt confident that a better route could be found to the camp and
Bige and I often discussed the matter but we continued to use the
township line through the first season. One day during the second
summer of our tenancy, while Bige was busy with some other chore, I
took an axe and started out from camp, determined to mark a new and
better trail out of the woods.

There was a steep rocky ledge or rather a succession of ledges,
leading to the mountain top and I reasoned that if I kept to the left
and below these ledges I should pass over the shoulder of the
mountain thus avoiding the high ridge and steep part of our old
trail. Then, after passing the rocky ledges I knew that if I
continued on down hill I should, sooner or later, reach water; either
the river or the lake. This was such a simple proposition that I
should not need my compass so left it in camp.

  [Illustration: A Trail Blaze]

In marking an ordinary trail through the woods a chip is cut out of a
tree so as to expose the white wood under the bark, this we call a
"blaze" and it is usually placed about five feet above the ground
which brings the mark as nearly as possible on the line of vision. It
also is high enough to be seen above the deep snows of winter. The
distance between blazed trees depends upon the density of the forest,
but in passing one mark the next one should always be in view. Also
the trees should be marked on both sides so that the trail may be
followed in both directions. A blaze on a soft wood tree, a pine,
spruce, hemlock or balsam will remain white and visible longer than
one made on a hardwood tree. The exposed wood of a beech, birch or
maple becomes stained and browned in a few months and is not
distinctly visible on a dark day; so we always mark the soft woods
when possible.

It was my purpose to first go through and mark out the new route,
then, later with Bige's help cut the brush and clear fallen wood out
of the path.

I made rapid progress, keeping the rocky ledges always in sight in
the distance, but working well below and to the left of them. After
about two hours work I crossed a line of old markings on the trees
that looked strangely like the township line, but I knew it was not
possible that it could be, as the township line was more than a half
mile to the south of where I stood and moreover, it ran in a
different direction. This must be a boundary line of the lumber
company's property. So I continued on with my job of marking trees.

After another hour it occurred to me that it took a long time for me
to get past the ledges of rock that pointed up to the ridge of the
mountain top. I ought surely, by this time, to be going down hill
toward the river. So I stopped work to study the forestscape. There
were the ledges in the distance on my right and the forest floor
sloping gently to the left. There were the undisturbed, primeval
forest trees with their tops a hundred or more feet above, branches
interlaced and shutting out a view even of the clouds which now
obscured the sun. There was very little underbrush and this suggested
the thought that the task of clearing the path would be easy.
Everything was as it should be, so I continued cutting chips out of
trees on my new route.

A few minutes later I crossed another line of old blazes very like
the one I had crossed an hour ago. This I decided was the other side
of the lumber lot. In another quarter hour I met a third line of
blazed trees. But this time the marks were fresh, there was only one
blaze on each side of a tree and there were fresh chips on the ground
under them. This was most extraordinary. I could not conceive of any
reason for any other person marking a trail in those woods, unless,
possibly a surveyor might be at work there, but I had not met a
surveyor in the woods since the Government Maps were made several
years ago.

I determined to investigate, so struck my axe into a tree, left it
there and started down this new trail to find the fellow who was
making it. Broken ferns, trampled moss and bent bushes indicated that
it had been made very recently and I might overtake the trail maker
if I hurried up. So I stumbled along as fast as possible.

In about twenty minutes I saw an axe sticking in a blazed tree. The
owner of that axe must be somewhere near and I looked around for him.
Not finding him within range of vision I examined the axe. It was
mine! There was a nick in the helve that I had put there myself. But
how the dickens did it get here? Was it possible that Bige? Yes, we
had two axes in camp. No, that was the same axe I had taken out that
morning. Its weight and shape suited me better than the other and so
I had marked the handle.

Puzzling over the mysterious situation, I continued explorations.
Leaving the axe sticking in the tree trunk, I started to climb over
the rocks up the steep mountain side. In due time I reached the top
and found the township line which I had many times followed over the
ridge. I then proceeded along the ridge toward the south, but it
ceased to be a ridge after a few rods and I soon climbed down steep
rocky ledges till I met a new blazed trail. Then I went back up the
mountain and followed the township line down the steep part and met
another new blazed trail. Then I followed this new blazed trail until
I crossed the township line again and a few rods further on I came
back to the axe sticking in the tree.

At this point in the game I peeled a piece of birch bark, sat down
and with a stub of pencil made a diagram of the mountain and the
various trails I had made and met during the day.

This was the northeastern end of the mountain which Bige and all the
other guides for many years had known to be a crescent shaped ridge.
They also had known that the ridge, following its curve was about
three miles long. My discovery consisted in learning that this end of
the mountain was a rocky cone-shaped peak and about three hundred
feet higher than the top of the ridge. Also that during an entire
Summer we had been climbing over this peak on the township line and
had thereby wasted many thousands of foot-pounds of energy.

By keeping the rocky ledges in view in laying out my new route, I had
made a complete circle around the mountain peak, had twice crossed
the township line and intersected my own trail at the end of the
loop.

I reached camp about the time Bige had supper ready. At the table I
told him about my new route to the river. "Sufferin Mike! well, by
Gosh! Ha-ha-ha" spoke Bige. "The next time you lay out a trail, you
take a compass along, and no matter how sure you may be that the
compass is wrong, you go where the compass points. Many a man has
been lost in the woods by refusing to be guided by his compass and
using his own judgment instead."

  [Illustration: Trails on Crescent Mountain]

The following day, I went down to the lake and from the boat out in
the middle of the lake I sighted across my compass over the shoulder
of the mountain and determined that I should start from the shore of
the lake, instead of the river, follow a course toward 280 degrees
while the needle was at zero, till I reached the crest of the
shoulder, and then swing toward 270 degrees. This proved to be the
correct theory and in the course of time my three mile trail ended
within ten rods of the cabin. This saved us a walk of two miles up
the river bank and a boat ride of more than half a mile on the lake,
besides cutting out a steep climb where the grade, in the opinion of
one of our guests, was "ninety-five per cent."

This trail making incident occurred fourteen years ago. It serves to
indicate how easy it is for one to go astray in a large forest. I
have since blazed many trails in the woods. I have also, many times
been misplaced in the forest while hunting or exploring and am always
on such occasions reminded of Bige's advice to "never argue with your
compass while in the woods." Whenever my compass tells me that camp
is in a direction opposite to that which reason and memory and the
lay of the land indicates, my practice is to sit down on a log, lay
the compass on the log, stand the gun up against a tree far enough
away so the steel of its barrel will not influence the compass needle
and try to arrange in mind the topography of the country I am in.
After a reasonable rest I am always willing to follow the pointing of
the compass at least for a limited distance.

The first impulse of one who thinks he is lost in the forest is that
of haste. One is always in a desperate hurry to get somewhere quick.
If this impulse is obeyed and the now alarmed traveler rushes off at
headlong speed, the danger is, not only that of going in the wrong
direction, but in nine cases out of ten, the victim travels in
circles. The psychology of deliberation is like first aid to the
injured and the victim soon begins to realize that he is not really
lost. He is only temporarily mislaid and will soon pull himself out
and locate some familiar landmark.

The "Davy Crockett Camp" we built on a narrow shelf on a steep
hillside. It overlooked "Muskrat City" which lay in the valley
directly in front and below our open "lean-to." We were well pleased
with the result of our efforts in the construction of this forest
boarding house. It had a fireplace in front for heating the camp and
a cooking fireplace at one side. This arrangement kept the cooking
odors out of our camp blankets and clothing. We also had a dining
table and a kitchen table, both made of split logs. The water was
good and the entire outfit comfortable. Moreover, we generally had
good luck in hunting while there.

The best way to reach Davy Crockett's was to go up the river about
seven miles, then take the "Elk Pond Tote Road" back through the
woods five miles to Muskrat City. We also sometimes used another
route which was shorter but more difficult. This was by way of Dan'l
Boone's; from which point we had cut a trail down the valley and over
the western end of Crescent Mountain.

Several times I tried to get a photograph of the Crockett Camp.
Because of its location I could get no standing room for a front
view. If the camera was placed up the hill back of the camp the
picture would show only the roof. One day I climbed a tree with the
camera and took a snap shot at the side. The artist spoiled this film
in developing. The following winter, six feet of snow broke down the
roof and in a wind storm a large tree fell across it and smashed the
shack. It was not rebuilt and I never got a picture of the Davy
Crockett Camp.

We once set up a tent alongside the "Cherry Pond Camp" and for a
week, entertained there a party of six hunters and four guides. It
proved to be a strenuous business to provide enough food for ten
husky appetites. However, they all expressed the wish that they might
come again; we therefore, concluded that they were not sent away very
hungry.

  [Illustration: A Hunting Party at Cherry Pond Camp]

The "Cedar Lake Camp" on the shore of that lake, was in a good
fishing region. It was a starting point as well, for exploring trips.
Through the waters of that lake and its many tributary streams with
short carrys to other lakes and ponds, we could make long excursions
by boat.

The "Buck Mountain Camp" was at first a cabin similar to Danl's.
Later we built an open camp addition which we used for sleeping
quarters during the summer but we usually slept in the cabin in cold
weather. A short distance from this camp was "The Anxious Seat" which
has been fully described in another story.

  [Illustration: The Cedar Lake Camp]

One day while staying at this camp I was hunting in the valley north
of Parker's Pond. Had just crossed a beaver meadow and entered a
thicket of balsam and cedar trees, when I came upon the saddest and
most distressing sight I have ever witnessed in the woods. Under the
shelter of these evergreen trees in a space perhaps twenty yards in
diameter, I counted the bleaching skeletons of seventeen deer. Eight
of these were small, evidently the bones of young animals, less than
a year old. The ground within this space was trampled hard and bare
of green vegetation. Witch hopple bushes had been pulled up by the
roots and the larger stems and branches stripped of twigs were left
lying on the ground. Ground hemlock had been skinned of everything
except the main stems. Even the bark was gone. The lower branches of
the trees, balsam, cedar and a few hemlocks to a height of seven feet
from the ground were stripped bare of twigs and bark. A fallen and
rotting hardwood tree lay partly within the circle of death. Beyond
the bone yard, this tree trunk was covered with a heavy coating of
moss. Within, it had been scraped and gnawed. Starvation was written
in large letters all over the place.

  [Illustration: The Buck Mountain Camp]

In summer time the deer find food in plenty everywhere; and in great
variety. In winter their diet is more limited as to variety but they
can always find enough food if they are able to move about. Deer can
manage fairly well even in deep snows, so long as the snow remains
soft. They also have been seen traveling on a hard crust formed on
top of four or five feet of snow. But when the crust is thin and the
deer breaks through, the thin sharp edges of icy crust cut his legs
and a bloody trail marks the path of his floundering until,
discouraged, he returns to the "yard" in the evergreen thicket, where
he, and a number of his fellows herd together for protection from the
cold winds of our northern winters. Within this yard the animals move
about and pound down the falling snow, while outside, the drifts grow
deeper. Here, when the crust had formed on the snow and every green
thing within easy reach had been eaten, the deer stood upon his hind
legs, stretching his long neck to its utmost length and reached into
the lower branches of the overhanging trees for a mouthful of browse.
When the last scrap of brush had been devoured, too weak to longer
stand, he lay down to await a slow and lingering death by starvation.
And when the last feeble blat of the last surviving member of the
herd trembled on the frosty air, the curtain fell on the saddest of
all woodland tragedies.

Every summer we find it necessary to cut out trees which have been
thrown across our trails by storms of the previous winter. Sometimes,
the limb of a tree falls through the roof of one of our camps, making
repairs necessary. Occasionally, in our absence, a porcupine gnaws
our rustic camp stools or eats up the dining table; now and then,
some animal friend steals our food, but these are minor troubles that
are easily cured or provided against.

A few times, other people have used our camps, but these, if they are
real woodsmen and know how to use a camp, are always welcome. To
such, "the latch string is always out." But the animal we most fear,
indeed the most destructive animal that ever enters the woods, is the
picnicker. His bump of destructiveness is, if one may judge by his
works, abnormally developed. He is never constructive. He calmly
makes use of the works of others without ever saying, by your leave.
Seemingly, he is never happy, unless he is tearing down something
that others have painstakingly and laboriously constructed.

When your picnicker enters a camp, he burns up the firewood if any
has been left there, and he always uses the balsam boughs of the camp
bed for kindling. Also, he uses a lot of it for fun, just to see it
blaze up high and throw out sparks. He never has been known to cut
firewood. He has no axe and wouldn't know how to use an axe if he had
one; so when he arrives at a camp, if no wood is found ready to hand,
he burns up the rustic seats. Next he burns the slats of the bed,
then the camp table, then a part of the frame or roof timbers of the
camp. When he departs the ground is left strewn with scraps of the
late meal, lunch boxes, newspapers, tin cans and other refuse. After
a few visits of picnic parties the camp is a complete and hopeless
ruin.

  [Illustration: The High Ball Brook Camp--before]

A few years ago, George and Leslie built a camp for Judge Bowles. It
was located at the place where the trail to Bald Mountain Pond
crosses High Ball Brook. The camp had a frame made of saplings that
was covered with tar paper. It had a good bed, rustic table with bark
top, seats, fireplace, etc., and was, in every way comfortable. The
Judge and his friends stayed in his camp one night. After that,
whenever he visited the place, he found it occupied by a picnic
party.

The trail to Bald Mountain Pond was marked many years ago by the
Indians. It is now a well beaten path, known and used by Summer
residents and boarders along both shores of the lake through fourteen
miles of its length. They came in motor boats, in parties of four, of
six, of a dozen, and twenty-five or thirty at a time. It was a short
and easy walk of a half an hour through the woods to the camp. The
picnickers did the rest. The two pictures "before" and "after"
herewith, show what happened in one short season to the Judge's camp.

  [Illustration: The High Ball Brook Camp--after]

Most of the camps that Bige and I have built, are too far from the
main lines of motor boat travel, and they require the expenditure of
too much effort to reach them, to make them attractive to the average
picnicker. Yet, mindful of the fate of the High Ball Brook Camp, we
have in some cases thought it wise to camouflage the trail. Many
novel and some ingenious devices have been employed to this end.

One misguiding scheme, we successfully practiced as follows. At a
place where the trail should, properly, describe an elbow or a curve,
the blazing of trees would continue on in a straight line, leading
possibly over a hill or down through a swamp where it would peter out
and end in nothing. Then returning to the elbow or turning point, the
real trail would be marked by taking bunches of moss off the hardwood
trees and nailing them onto balsam or spruce trees. This practice
would be followed for fifty yards or more, when the blazes would
begin to appear again. Of course, an old and experienced woodsman, if
he were suspicious of a trick, would never be caught by this one; as
he would know that moss never grows on a live spruce tree, except in
small patches near the roots in a wet or swampy place, while an
entire Russian beard of moss can be seen anywhere on beech, maple or
birch trees. Indeed, at the place where we thus marked our trail, one
could, without moving a step, count twenty or more similar bunches of
whiskers on as many hardwood trees within his range of vision.
However, the picnickers never got by.

  [Illustration: Whiskers On A Spruce]

The struggle for existence, the elbowing, pushing and crowding of
individuals, and the final survival of the stronger, the more
fortunately placed, or the one who arrived and got established first,
is nowhere in nature more marked or more conspicuous than among
forest trees. The weaker ones die before they mature, because there
is not "room in the sun" for the branches of all; and because, as the
roots develop and increase in size, there is not enough room in the
ground for the roots of all. Also, there is not enough plant food in
the soil to sustain life in all the trees that get a start in the
forest. Hence, it is, that in the older woods one can always find,
still standing but dead and dry, half grown trees of all kinds. Of
these, the hardwoods make the very best fuel for campfires. And a
dead spruce six to ten inches in diameter makes excellent logs for
building an open camp or a cabin. The smaller dry spruces, three to
four inches in diameter, make better roof timbers than do green ones.
But they must be taken while standing. A tree lying on the ground in
the shade, absorbs and retains moisture and it soon decays and is
unfit for use for any purpose. Thus, while conserving live forest
trees, one may obtain material better suited to his purpose than if
he had used green timber having a market value.

The State owns more than two million acres of forest land in the
northern mountains. A few years ago, it was permissible to build log
camps on State lands. Recent laws forbid this, and now camping on
forest land owned by the State is limited to the use of tents.

Now, when Bige and I decide to build a shack we select a spot on some
lumber companies' property and then try to get from the owners,
permission to build. Such a permit is usually not difficult to get,
but one must always furnish evidence of his knowledge of woodcraft,
especially of his ability to so construct a camp fireplace as to
prevent the fire spreading to the woods and thus destroying a lot of
property.

"The Trout Hatchery Camp" is of this class, the owners only reserving
the right to use the camp for their own employees in case of need. I
believe that in a period of five years they have so used it only
twice. On one occasion a party of surveyors, who were correcting and
reblazing the boundary line of the companies' property, spent a night
in the camp. On another occasion some men were sent over the mountain
from headquarters to put out a fire about a half mile from The
Hatchery. This fire had been started by a careless cigarette smoking
hunter who threw a burning cigarette butt down in the dry leaves.

The Hatchery camp was built by Bige and Bill at a time when I was
carrying about with me a rather complicated harness in which was a
broken arm; so, I had no _hand_ in its construction, but I
contributed a lot of advice. I have found it a very comfortable
living place.

It has for many years been our practice, on occasions when we
happened to have a good supply of game in the cooler, to go back to
the cottage by the lake, collect our women folks and lead them over
the trail to camp, where we would give them an exhibition of real
camp cookery; while we roasted a saddle of venison before the
campfire, serving it to our distinguished guests while they sit upon
logs around our rustic camp table in the shade of the towering forest
trees. Thus do we square ourselves, justify long absences and gain
new indulgences.

There is a wonderful spring at The Hatchery. The water is very cold
and there is a large volume of it boiling out of fissures in the
rocks on the mountain side. Indeed it is the beginning of a fair
sized brook which tumbles over the boulders and swiftly rushes along
its gravelly bed just back of the cabin. By its music we are lulled
to sleep at night and it is the first sound to greet us at day break.

  [Illustration: Basting a Venison Roast]

Bige allowed that it was a great pity that there were no holes in
that brook with water deep enough for trout to live in as the water
was ideal for that purpose. Trout are fond of cold spring water. They
flourish best in it. Besides, the nearest trout brook was two miles
away, and sometimes, during the open season, we need fish. So, said
we, "let's _make_ some holes."

Immediately, we got busy building a dam across the stream near the
shack. We employed some of the methods of Brother Beaver, which,
though primitive, are none the less effective, and we soon had a pool
of water from three to four feet deep, seventy feet long and twenty
feet wide at the dam. Then selecting our smallest hooks, we filed off
the barbs and went down to Pickwacket Brook where we caught some
trout which we kept alive and brought back in a bait pail. Many and
frequent changes of the water were necessary to keep our fish alive,
but they were safely deposited in the pool.

  [Illustration: A Dinner Party at Camp Hatchery]

Then, a more pretentious plan was devised and in carrying it into
effect, we built other dams, five in all, with stretches of swift
water between. Gravelly and sandy spawning beds were provided in the
shallow water. Overflow or spillway places were made on one end of
each dam, so that the fish might freely pass up or down from one pool
to another. Stones and overhanging banks made suitable hiding places
for the shyest and most wary fish known to anglers. In short, we
reproduced as nearly as possible the most favorable conditions for
the natural propagation of brook trout.

Many fishing trips were made before we considered our hatching ponds
sufficiently stocked. At first we fed our fish daily, but we soon
learned that they had natural food in abundance and that they
preferred it to what our catering provided.

During three summers that our experiment in pisciculture has been in
progress, not the least of the pleasures of life at Camp Hatchery, is
found in watching the spawning beds, observing the play of schools of
fingerlings, or lying on the shore of one of the pools in the evening
twilight, to see the larger trout jump clear above the surface and
grab a passing fly or moth.

Enemies of the brook trout, neither those of the two-legged nor those
of the four-legged varieties have yet seriously raided our fish farm.
Individuals of the original planting have now developed into the most
desirable sizes for table use. And it is now possible for me, in the
morning while Bige is lighting the camp fire, to take a fly rod, go
twenty yards back of the cabin to one of the pools and by the time
Bige has the coffee made and the bacon cooked, have my breakfast
trout caught, dressed, and in the frying pan before they have
finished flopping.



END OF CAMPS AND TRAILS





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