A Painful Journey

Source: Wikimedia. Photographer: Nicogag.

Snippets 178. We have previously looked at a few snippets from Forest Scenes and Incidents in the Wilds of North America, by George Head, published in 1829.  Head was the assistant commissary-general of the commissariat of the 3rd division of the Spanish army, and in 1815 he undertook a journey across North America.

Today’s quote finds Head nearing the end of the first major leg of his journey, the grueling part that he had to complete on foot, in hazardous and bitter weather conditions.  With just nine miles left to travel, Head found himself almost unable to complete the journey:

I arrived, in a state of extreme pain and fatigue, at the place where we were to pass the night. We crossed several ravines, and had to climb steep acclivities. Both my feet were now swollen to a great size, attended with inflammation so acute as to resemble exactly determined gout. The Canadians told me I had certainly got the mal à raquette; whatever it might have been, I lay awake all night in the miserable log house where we had put up, thinking how unlucky I was to have arrived within nine miles of the end of my journey on foot, without being able to accomplish the little that remained.

January 18th.— Nine miles were now before me, and if I could complete that distance the journey was done. The usual preparations for departure had no sooner commenced, than I felt it quite impossible to remain where I was, although I could scarcely stand upon my feet; but as my servant was still strong and able, I relied on his assistance and set forward. I never was put to so severe a trial in all my life. The exertion of walking, and the twists I met within the holes made in the hard snow by the feet of former travellers, were absolute torture; so that now and then I was obliged to lie down for a few seconds in the snow to recover myself. The cold was so intense, that almost as soon as I was down I was obliged to get up again, and a piece of bread in my coat pocket was frozen nearly as hard as wood. My servant staid by me whenever I lay down on the snow, and helped me to rise, and to him I am indebted for performing the short distance of that day’s journey. I was eight hours on the way; but at last reached the village of Rivière de Loup, where I entered a small public house in the true spirit of thankfulness at having accomplished an undertaking of which I had several times despaired.

The following are some links to previous snippets and quick quotes from the diary of George Head:

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About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on junkyard.blog. Author of windowsintohistory.wordpress.com. Editor of frontiersmenhistorian.info
This entry was posted in 19th Century, Books, History, Inspiration, Nature, Snippets, Travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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