Addison M. Powell was an adventurer, prospector, hunter, and a guide for Captain William R. Abercrombie’s 1898 Copper River Exploring Expedition, one of three military expeditions organized to explore the interior of the new territory of Alaska. His book Trailing and Camping in Alaska, subtitled Ten Years Spent Exploring, Hunting and Prospecting in Alaska – 1898 to 1909, was republished in its entirety by Northern Light Media in September, 2018. An edited excerpt, photos from the book:
We landed, May 29, 1898, in the little tent town of Valdez, which is about three thousand miles north and west of San Francisco. At this time my only possessions were a year’s supply of provisions and twenty-five cents in money. The great Valdez glacier appeared to be at the edge of the little tent town, but really it was five miles away. The mountains appeared scarcely a mile from us, and from twelve to fifteen hundred feet high, yet they were from three to five miles distant and from three to five thousand feet in altitude.
About four thousand people had landed there, three thousand or more of them had crossed the glacier, and many had recrossed during the last month to return home disgusted. The hungry glacier had been the death of some of them and its cracks were gaping for more. We felt that we were up against the toughest proposition of our lives and those who had been there a month knew that we were.
Those soldiers had been detailed to explore the route from Valdez to the Yukon. They were conspicuous in their efforts, and of- ten returned from exploring trips without food and with very little clothing. Every out-going steamer was loaded down with the quitters, who, as prospectors, were helpless incompetents. To avoid being ridiculed, they pretended to be returning for horses, larger outfits or more assistance from home.
Hundreds daily trailed into town, so foot-sore, after traveling over that twenty-eight miles of solid ice, that their crippling walk caused them to be referred to as “The Glacier Striders.” Those who came over during the melting of the snow had lost their outfits, either while boating the Klutena rapids, or before they had arrived at Klutena Lake. The snow that covered the crevasses had become too rotten to be safe, and those who crossed told of jumping cracks with spring-poles. If they had slipped they would have been put in cold storage forever, hundreds of feet below.
The glacier was a succession of sharp ridges, with deeply washed erosions on each side, which made them nearly impassable. Men who crossed over claimed that all of Alaska’s gold would not tempt them to do so again. They had felt secure while crossing in winter, but had not suspected the dangers that are presented in summer.
While some people were camped beside the trail on the glacier, near the foot of the mountain, they heard the approach of an avalanche. Most of them escaped, but eight were dug out from beneath that snow-slide and two were dead.
There was a little Llewellyn puppy dug from that snowslide. He came out with his head and tail up, and has had them up most of the time since. He lived to acknowledge me as his friend and master, for he became my trail companion for years. He is retired now on a life pension in California, and when we meet he acts as if he thought we were the two best dogs that ever ascended the Copper River.
Trailing and Camping in Alaska, Ten Years Spent Exploring, Hunting and Prospecting in Alaska – 1898 to 1909, by Addison M. Powell.
Originally published in 1909 by Newold Publishing Company, New York, New York. Republished September, 2018 by Northern Light Media. 300 pages, 30 b/w photos, edited by Helen Hegener, $24.95 (plus $5.00 shipping). Click here to order via PayPal.