First-hand account of the “romance of the Klondike” – by Karen Bachmann (Timmins Daily Press – July 16, 2016)

Ah, the romance of the Klondike. Or perhaps more appropriately – ah, the romance of the Porcupine Gold Rush; venturing into the wilderness, armed with a canoe, a pick, and a dream! Well, as a good friend of mine reminded me, “it’s always romantic for those who were not there,” and he certainly was right.

Waltzing into the Porcupine back in 1908-1909 was no great picnic; the railway did not venture this way which meant walking and portaging with little stops along the way at halfway houses, a.k.a. “tents with airs above their station.” But why listen to me? Here is an excerpt from the diaries of Charles Auer, one of the early prospectors to the Porcupine – and I’ll wager big bucks he didn’t find the whole affair “romantic:”

– Friday, June 14th, 1 p.m. –

For the past two hours, we have been wind-bound about two miles north of the mouth of the Abitibi with a heavy sea driving directly on shore so that we will have to stay here until it lets up as we cannot weather the seas to get around a point about half a mile to the south. Thought I’d improve the time by getting caught up a little in this. Our reason for turning back on the 12th was because of a forest fire, which if the wind holds its present direction will burn clear through to Lake Abitibi.

We had continued up the river until about 3 PM of the 12th when it became almost impossible to paddle against the current owing to the extreme swiftness and narrowness, often the stream would not exceed 25 ft in width. We had just landed for a rest when a Mr. Mosher, who has mines here on Lake Abitibi, appeared and advised instant turning back as he was afraid the fire might run up to us if there was a shift of wind.

I climbed a jack pine and was amazed to see how close we were to it but as the wind on that date was toward the fire we had not smelled it and had only caught a glimpse of the smoke, as the river is too narrow and crooked to allow any view.

Yesterday the wind shifted and is bringing the fire S.E. and will only be stopped by heavy rains on Abitibi Lake. Some idea of the terrific speed of the Low Bush River can be gathered from our run yesterday. We did easily in less than 10 hours what were nearly 3 days of the hardest work I ever did in covering the land, including 9 portages ranging from 50 yds to over a quarter of a mile and when you consider that each portage means loading and unloading the canoe and carrying it and about 600 lbs of baggage over a very bad trail you can appreciate that some help from the current was necessary to allow us to make nearly 50 miles.

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