Sunday, October 17, 2010

Lillian Alling: The Real Lillian (part 5)

Excerpted with permission from:

Wild West Women: Travellers, Adventurers and Rebels
Written by Rosemary Neering
Published by Whitecap Books Ltd.

Part 5

The knowledge that death came easily in the north had no more impact on Alling than all the warnings of those who had tried to dissuade her. She was walking to Russia. She would continue unless her own death intervened. Her determination – and her refusal to understand the possible problems – so impressed one of the linesmen that he gave her his black and white husky dog, Bruno, to provide company and to carry her pack. But, insisted the linesman, she must not let Bruno run free near the Iskut River, where poison traps were set for wolverine. It is thought that the dog must have eluded her, for another linesman saw it die near the river.

Alling continued on from Iskut, arriving in Atlin in August, where she bought a pair of shoes so she could walk ever farther northward. At Tagish, in the Yukon, a local resident took her across the river in a boat. At Carcross, she had a meal in a hotel. North of Carcross, a local couple overtook her on the road, and offered her a ride in their car. She rode with them as far as they were going, then resumed her lonely travels. On the last day of August, the Whitehorse Star announced that "a woman giving the name of Lillian Alling walked into town Monday evening and registered at the Regina Hotel. Lillian was not given much to speaking but as near as can be gathered from information she gave at different places she had walked from Hazelton to Whitehorse."

The newspaper named her the Mystery Woman, and tracked her further progress. She had, said one of the stories, left Whitehorse carrying a loaf of bread as her only food. As she journeyed on, various locals ferried her across the rivers that barred her way. On one occasion, she stayed through a bad storm with a survey party, then continued on down the Yukon River in a small boat. On October 5, she reached Dawson City, some 5,000 miles (8000 kilometres) from her starting point a year and a half earlier in New York. She stayed there for the winter, working as a waitress and repairing the boat she had bought for her continued journey down the Yukon. When the ice broke up in the spring, she followed the river towards the Bering Sea, steering her small craft through the last remaining floating ice.

Photo: Lillian Alling with Bruno, 1928. Courtesy of the Atlin Historical Society