"These splendid limbs—
Life lent you them; you
did not make nor choose them;
but yours the right to use them right royally for a span.
When the light dims,
When their day wanes, and all the stars are beckoning,
see you return them proudly for the reckoning,
to prove you lived a man.”
Geoffrey Wixthrop Young
And so we come to the
End of the Trail. What, after all, has it amounted to—this riding in the
wilderness, this mad scrambling on inaccessible crags? If you ask us,
“Of what use?” perhaps we shall only smile and remain silent, answering
not at all. If your curiosity be aroused, perhaps you will go and see
for yourself—and find the answer we might have given. That for a little
moment we have transcended ourselves; and, upon a mountain top, looking
off across the vastness of a glorious earth, have felt ourselves apart
from the sham and pettiness of daily life, and have come a little nearer
to the Unfathomable Presence.
It seems to me as if
the Striving for a Goal were the outstanding virtue of mountaineering.
Life, and Youth in particular, are uncertain in their offerings of
success. Most of us have ideals, of course, but the opportunity for
attaining them is often remote, and the desired ends float away into the
realm of impossibility. How different it is with the climber! He has a
peak to scale, and with it the enjoyment of all the splendour of the
mountain world—and in a day, usually in less time, he sets foot on the
desired height with all the joy that comes from the completion of a
One should visit the
Canadian Northland with eye and mind alert to the beauty of Nature’s
handicraft: the artistry in all of it; from the broad sculpturing of
crag and chasm to the delicate perfection of a tiny flower.
The things we
treasure—the memories of peak and sunlit icefield; of forgotten trails;
of haunting melodies of the homeland, piped on a harmonica, in the glow
of northern campfires—where indeed can one discover these in the musty
pages of a Geography? No map of a river valley can visualize a Canadian
forest, with laden horses swinging along in line; no plaster relief can
ever make one understand the moods of mountains, half-hidden in cloud or
towering in the many-hued glory of early morning. What Atlas can picture
Singing Youth, on horseback, crossing a sparkling ford to flower-decked
meadows, with distant mountain spires dim blue in the noon haze? These
trails are not for everyone, but for those who go there will result such
memories “as dreams are. made on,” and the reward is great enough.
yesterday: “Slim,” the horse that always had to be packed twice;
“Fanny,” who carried the dishpan and the ice-axes; “Gunboat,” who
carried me; “Beauty,” the white, belled steed that Conrad rode and who
bucked on occasion; “Hammerhead,” “Briden,” and all the rest—I wonder if
they remember the boys who rode them so gaily, cinched them so tightly
after a night’s feeding of green grass, and drove them with such strange
language? I think it unlikely; their minds—and with all their
eccentricities, I still believe those cayuses have minds—are doubtless
more attuned to the present and the future than to any thoughts of the
past. Their dreams, quite likely, are of lush-pastures where the grass
is never bitter, and of shady paths where flies and the diamond-hitch
are things unknown. We, remembering, are ourselves forgotten.
tomorrow—God willing, there will be some who come after us, finding in
the light of new campfires, built on hearth-stones that were once ours,
that Peace we know. We who have travelled the long, lone trails of the
Northland, know that Peace-of-the-hills is an Angel whose blessing is
only obtained by wrestling.
“What if I live no more
those kingly days? their night sleeps with me still.
I dream my feet upon the starry ways; my heart rests in the hill.
I may not grudge the little left undone;
I hold the heights, I keep the dreams I won”