Only Josephine could accompany her this time. Josephine was now collecting insects for the Academy of Natural Sciences.
The faithful big horse Chum was her mount, and the wrangler Smoky of her former visit was on hand as before. They covered four hundred and sixty miles on horseback, and climbed seven mountains on foot – another hundred miles, – in five weeks.
1933 was a very wet summer, making rivers higher and muskegs deeper. A few days after starting, while rafting a raging river on logs lashed together with ropes, they lost four hundred and fifty pounds of food. They lived on slim rations through four snowstorms — one at nightfall, and one on a high mountain pass. But although she conceded that this trip had some rough spots, she found many reasons to pronounce it “successful and a perfectly wonderful time.”
Mary Henry’s collection from the season of 1933 was not available until the text of the original catalogue had been set up in type but it was examined hurriedly, and most of the species which made additions to the flora were included. Subsequently this collection was examined more carefully, and was found to contain a few more new records which began the list of additions given to this paper. A brief itinerary of Mrs. Henry’s journey of 1933 is as follows: June 28, reached Peace River from Edmonton. July 5, forded Graham River. July 11, camped in Laurier Pass for a few days. July 14, reached Caribou Pass. July 18, Axie Pass. July 19, camped on Axie River for several days. July 22, started return journey. July 25, Caribou Pass. July 31, Laurier Pass. August 2, Cypress Pass. August 7, Hudson’s Hope. One hundred eighty-nine samples of flowering plants and ferns were collected on this trip.
Mary Henry’s friends were dismayed to find that she was quietly planning her fourth trip into those same regions and farther — much farther. She intended to go on to Alaska and the sea. McCusker was interested and the Indians she had questioned in 1933 had said it could be done. Besides, she and her husband had planned it in 1931 and although he could not come she was determined to do it alone. Just possibly, the much-publicized Bedeaux fiasco made her more determined. The devoted Josephine, a veteran mountaineer, again accompanied her mother.
The Northern Alberta Railway was still having difficulties, but no track could have held up to the incredibly wet spring of 1935. In the fall of 1934 it had rained and then snowed to record heights. The country was already saturated when heavy and continuous rain swamped everything in May and June of 1935. For miles along Lesser Slave Lake the tracks were under water. Men walked ahead with poles to see if the rails were still there. Late June and July are normal times for high run-off, but this heavy downpour of June 29th and 30th was the drop that broke the bridges’ backs.
The biweekly train left Edmonton on Monday nights. One went to bed in the sleeping cars expecting, if one could sleep in spite of the rough roadbed, to awaken well on the way to McLennan. The car was miraculously stable when the ladies awoke. The bridges had washed out! “Would they go back?” They would not – and got off.
A man with an open truck offered to take them north. For two days they sat on the floor in the back of the truck. After crossing a river in a little open boat that nearly swamped, that mode of transportation gave out. It must have been at the Smoky River Crossing at Watino, for landslides there kept the southeast-bound trains from getting further towards Edmonton. However a freight train from Pouce Coupe ” came down and picked (them) up”. Pleased to get a lift, they were not dismayed when told that they must sit up all night and could get nothing to eat. The crew, however, invited them to the discomforts and novelty of a ride in the caboose.
We are not told how she managed the twelve carrier pigeons she was taking so that she could send messages to her husband. She had discovered the previous year that radio messages could come in to her receiving set but not get out through the intervening mountains.
Before a night’s sleep in Pouce Coupe, they ran into another spot of trouble there. Oldtimer Ted Bartsch remembers it very well. The party was encamped on the Bissette Creek. With typical hospitality, George and Mrs. Hart invited them in to the hotel for the evening. A new Police Sergeant had recently been assigned to the area, an officious officer who took his duties very seriously.
In the course of the evening, he learned that the little expedition’s head always carried a small revolver as protection in the rugged mountain climbing explorations she was always undertaking alone. She was a crack shot, but obviously this was no big-game hunting safari like her first trip with husband and family. Canadian law must be upheld! He seized the Americans’ weapon, and no amount of argument or cajoling would pry a permit out of him. In Pouce Coupe the little explorer’s only personal self-defense stayed. However, she records that she and Josephine shot all the bear, sheep, deer, goat and grouse they used for food. In passing, she notes that she once faced a pack of wolves while hunting.
Many more crises occurred on this trip. For one thing, she did not have her horse, Chum. “Sunny” was not as sure-footed, and therefore a poor choice for this kind of trip. Besides, he was “terrified of mud, muskeg and slippery places”. He threw her five times. On this trip McCusker was outfitter, Glen Minaker was guide, and there was a new topographer, Jack (?). With these two, Mrs. Henry took a three-day backpacking trip on foot for thirteen hours a day over high mountain passes to get close to her beloved namesake Mount Mary Henry. They took no tent and “it was fun sleeping under the stars” in a snowstorm. Here the topographer became ill and had to stay behind while she and Glen Minaker, the guide, went on.
From this camp on Tuchodi River, the party pushed on past Muncho Lake. The diary shows that on September 5 they had to hunt over mountains at eight thousand feet for ten hours near Gundahoo Pass, and again on September 14 they hunted all day in the rain.
From September 18 to 21 “Jack” was very ill, and from then until September (?) he had to be carried on a stretcher in a severe blizzard until they reached the womanless mining camp at McDame of Klondyke Trail fame. She recalls that “the men looked at us (women) as if we had fallen out of the clouds.”
The next eight days they spent in a little open Hudson’s Bay boat, tying up at night, sleeping on snow covered ground, and finding the water kettle in the tent frozen nearly solid in the morning.
They reached Telegraph Creek, BC on September 30 and Wrangell, Alaska on October 2, having covered twelve hundred miles in ninety days “in the wildest and most beautiful section of the North American continent.”
McCusker was able to take over the topographer’s work now that a large part of the pack train was gone. He completed an absolutely invaluable record of hitherto unmapped terrain as well as amassing first hand and correct information about the physical features of the area.
All the while the party had been sending out passenger pigeons to keep the “folks at home” advised of their progress. She also carried a radio, a receiving set only, since they had found on the previous trip that lacking power, they could not transmit. Arrangements with the Edmonton station had been made to be called at the “most favorable time, 12:55 am”. The man in charge said that her signal, “Calling Mrs. Henry somewhere in the Northwest Territory”, has beamed to the “most remote party of any on the North American continent” at the time. “The most exciting address I ever had and thrilled me to the core,” she wrote.
Her arrival at Vancouver on October 6 was thus heralded. She was able to record that “Major Aitken, Chief Geographer of British Columbia, came from Victoria to see me. At his request and with pleasure and pride, I drew a map of the vicinity of Mt. Mary Henry, the part the topographer missed when he became ill.”
On this trip she collected an additional two hundred and thirty-one specimens and in a report by DR. K. Raup of the Harvard Arboretum it is said that she reported finding plants that “are not native to this wild region.”