On May 11, having learned that the Athabaska was open, we left
Edmonton in a livery rig, and drove 94 miles northward though a most
promising, half-settled country, and late the next day arrived at
Athabaska Landing, on the great east tributary of the Mackenzie,
whose waters were to bear us onward for so many weeks.
Athabaska Landing is a typical frontier town. These are hard words,
but justified. We put up at the principal hotel; the other lodgers
told me it was considered the worst hotel in the world. I thought
I knew of two worse, but next morning accepted the prevailing view.
Our canoe and provisions arrived, but the great convoy of scows
that were to take the annual supplies of trade stuff for the far
north was not ready, and we needed the help and guidance of its
men, so must needs wait for four days.
This gave us the opportunity to study the local natural history
and do a little collecting, the results of which appear later.
The great size of the timber here impressed me. I measured a typical
black poplar (P. balsamifera), 100 feet to the top, 8 feet 2 inches
in circumference, at 18 inches from the ground, and I saw many
thicker, but none taller.