Our noon-day meal was at Tunnel Portage, which is a long one of three miles. By walking for two miles a team is secured for carrying the packs and canoes, three being carried over very easily in one load. While a guide has gone over for this (in our case the General did it, for which we had cause later to be very glad), an opportunity is given to visit the Falls and inspect an old mining camp, with the mill, etc. Then the walk across the portage is started. Members of the party may, of course, ride if they prefer it, but the road is really better for walking than driving.
Half way across a break is made to the left, taking a path down, down, down to a view of the tunnel or gorge, where the river races, plunges, and races on again, between great solid walls of rock, not more than twenty-five feet apart. Two miles over the portage we came to a spring belonging to the farmer who owns the team. The spring was the springing of a surprise upon us in the shape of a bag of flour, two blueberry pies and a coffee pot full of milk put there by the thoughtful General. Right here let me give a piece of advice ; and that is, if ever any one drinks from the side of a coffee pot let him first make sure that the spout is turned up, as while one member was drinking it was suddenly discovered that the milk was going to waist through a blue flannel pocket.
We camped but a short way below the tunnel, although we had hoped to reach Slate Falls two miles beyond. Seeing a storm preparing to break over our heads, we thought it better to take the bull by the horns and make camp as soon as possible. We were in an open field, with nothing but burnt stumps around us. A farmer lived nearby and he soon came to investigate his neighbors and see if he could be of any service. Great was our joy when he brought us a large pail of milk and one of cream, really, truly cream.
Supper over, we saw that everything was secure for the night, the tents having guy ropes put on them and everything in camp put under shelter. The precious cream and milk was covered and put into the river well weighted down with stones.
One member of the party proved that he had still some "tender-foot" in him. He thought he had found a beautiful spot for his tent in rather a protected little holow, and was snug when he and the two other men turned in. About two o'clock his mind was changed, for everything in the tent was floating in seven or eight inches of water ; the storm having finally arrived in all its fury, and the water pouring down from the field into this same "snug little harbor." "Quit wetting me, that's a mean trick" were the words in his mouth with which one of the party awakened, but he soon realized the trouble, and there was a great scramble for the guides' tent, where Joe was busily engaged holding on to his tent pole. We women were not so badly off, as Joe had placed our tent on higher ground, so that as the wind abated we were all right and only wet on one side of the tent, where the rain first came in under the flap. Again everybody was good-natured and laughing, and all were looking forward to drying time in the morning. Some of our cameras floated around in that tent, spoiling some exposed films, and that was a saddening incident, because we had views that we thought a great deal of. Slate Falls was our next point of interest, and there we arrived at noon on Thursday, the 25th.
The scenery on the river had greatly changed before reaching this grand feature. There were a few farms scattered along the banks; the high mountains had disappeared in the distance and instead of deer and bear we saw just every day cows and sheep. At Slate Falls we had another glorious bit, however.
Our first portage, from a quarter to half a mile long, was very stony, and shoes with a firm sole are most acceptable, unless our feet have become thoroughly hardened. I noticed that the guides changed from their moccasins to boots. Slate Falls has been well named, and the portage should have the same prefix— the whole thing is slated.
To see the Falls one has to leave the regular trail and bear off to the left, going toward the river, where the tourist is well paid in seeing the water rush over the rocks into a large pool below, and away to the left he gets a glimpse of noble Waquekobing Lake (Big Basswood Lake). Here at our feet in the falls the logs are jammed into crevices of the rock by the awful power which has brought them thus far downstream, there to be left to be worn out and fall to pieces by the constant wear of the water, or hung up high and dry, until one wonders how they could have gotten so far above the river.
A short paddle (200 yards) brought us to Red Rock Falls, lower and much more broken than Slate Falls, but just as grand in a different way. At the foot of these we had to bid farewell to the Mississaga River, one of the grandest and most interesting rivers I ever expect or can hope to see, for the infinite variety of its scenery, and the swiftness of the water, which is as ever changing as its scenery.
Luncheon over, we took our packs for the last time and started over the portage to Lake Waquekobing (original name of Basswood Lake), one short mile away. Here we took possession of a cabin, which has been built for a club-house, as the fishing and hunting in this section is most excellent.
There was a stiff wind blowing, causing a big sea on the lake and blowing down trees in the forest, three of which we saw fall. The lake was too rough for us to attempt crossing with our laden canoes so the men stayed overnight in the cabin, but we girls, as usual, sojourned in our tent.