Document 18: Letters Home from R. Hunter Fitzhugh
Robert Hunter Fitzhugh Collection, Box 2, Archives, University of Alaska Fairbanks.
September 18, 1897
Here I am in Wrangle, Alaska, at last....About 75 people are here from the States making boats to go in by the Stickine Trail this winter, and a better lot of fellows I never saw...My trip up on the City of Topeka was the most pleasant experience of my life, and even if I should come back ragged and busted, I'll be glad I came. We left Seattle Sunday at 9:30 P.M. and struck down the sound to Tacoma, then turned and went north. We reached Port Townsend about 10 o'clock Monday A.M. and lay there two or three hours....After leaving Port we sailed north again through the most beautiful scenery. The mountains rise right out of the water on both sides—the sound is from one to twenty miles wide—and they are often covered with snow, which gives them a look like chocolate drops with the chocolate broken off the top, showing the white sugar. We reached Victoria...and stopped two hours. I went up in the bloody blooming British town and nearly went to sleep from the drowsiness of things in that out of date burg. It is quite a city but as slow as a snail.
September 25, 1897
Here we are back in Wrangle again after a four day boating and camping trip, and such another I hope never to see again. We left here last Tuesday noon, with three men, two boats and about two tons of outfit....Then began the work. The current around the bluffs—the shore is bluffs—was awful cold and we could make no headway against it, so I got out and pulled for a mile against the worst rapids I ever saw. I'm used to hard work but that pull was a hundred per cent worse than anything I ever saw...Well, we tried all sorts of schemes for getting on. Three hundred feet more would have brought us to the mouth of the Stickine and safety, but it might as well have been three hundred miles...To sum up, we worked harder for four days than many men work in a life-time and were never dry for one second, but I would not have missed it for anything and I am going up that river if it takes all winter. Our plans are now to take the river steamer if possible. Failing that we will hire Indians to take us up in canoes. If that doesn't work, we will pull our stuff up in sleds over the ice when winter sets in. But we will go some way if all these things fail....You ought to see me now. I am a beauty. My hair is long and flowing, and I haven't had a bath in two weeks.
Your loving son,