Wonders of the Yellowstone – Part 1.

In anticipation of possible trouble from this source, we organized our company, and elected Gen. H. D. Washburn, Surveyor-General of Montana, commander. It was understood that we should make but one march each day—starting at 8 A.M., and camping at 3 P.M. This obviated the necessity of unpacking and cooking a dinner.  At night the horses were to be carefully picketed, a fire built beyond them, and two of the company to keep guard until one o’clock; then to be relieved by two others, who were to watch until daylight. This divided the labor among fourteen, who were to serve as picket-men twice each week.

These precautionary measures being fully understood, we left Boteler’s, plunging at once into the vast unknown which lay before us. Following the slight Indian trail, we traveled near the bank of the river, amid the wildest imaginable scenery of river, rock, and mountain. The foot-hills were covered with verdure, which an autumnal sun had sprinkled with maroon-colored tints, very delicate and beautiful. The path was narrow, rocky, and uneven, frequently leading over high hills, in ascent and descent more or less abrupt and’ difficult. The increasing altitude of the route was more perceptible than any over which we had ever traveled, and the river, whenever visible, was a perfect mountain torrent.

While descending a hill into one of the broad openings of the valley, our attention was suddenly arrested by half a dozen or more mounted Indians, who were riding down the foot-hills on the opposite side of the river. Two of our company, who had lingered behind, came up with the information that they had seen several more making observations from behind a small butte, from which they fled in great haste on being discovered. They soon rode down on the plateau to a point where their horses were hobbled, and for a long time watched our party as it continued its course of travel up the river. Our camp was guarded that night with more than ordinary vigilance. A hard rain-storm, which set in early in the afternoon and continued through the night, may have saved us from an attack by these prowlers.

When we started the next morning, Gen. Washburn detailed four of our company to guard the pack train,- while he, with four others, rode in advance to make the most practicable selection of routes. Six miles above our camp we ascended the .spur of a mountain, which came down boldly to the river’s edge. From its summit we had a beautiful view of the valley stretched out before us—the river fringed with cottonwood trees—the foot-hills covered with luxuriant, many-tinted herbage, and over all the snow-crowned summits of the mountains, many miles away, but seemingly rising from the midst of the plateau at our feet. Looking up the river, the valley opened widely, and from the rock on which we stood was visible the train of pack-horses, slowly winding their way along the sinuous trail, which followed the inequalities of the mountain-side. The whole formed a scene of great interest. Pursuing our course a few miles farther, we camped just below the lower cañon of the river. Our hunters provided us with a sumptuous meal of antelope, rabbit, duck, grouse, and trout.

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