My persona is that of an American trapper of the 1830's now employed by the American Fur Company's Rocky Mountain Outfit. I have been out in the far west for many years and have been on my own hook as well. I have travelled far and wide and know my way about in this far west, from mountains to desert country. All of my gear is based on my research from historical documents, fur trade ledgers, journals from the day, and artwork by artists of the 1800's. What I learned from others in the field and what works and fit my needs. It is a mix of the many cultures and trade centers that my persona would have come across in his travels. It also shows of honest wear of many miles and good times. The following is my complete kit and at no time do I use or bring every item on the trail. It is always kept to a minimum and dictated by my mode of travel, the distance of ground to cover and weather.
Head Coverings: A low crown wide brimmed wool felt hat with a narrow harness leather band, a Canadian cap made of wool coat material trimmed with buffalo fur of my own making, and a wolf eared blanket cap also made of the same wool material.
Footwear: Brain tanned pucker toe moccasins and side seams are my standard footwear. Side seam style used for winter moc’s with heavy blanket material for liners, well-greased with buffalo fur sole inserts.
Clothing: Heavy cotton knee breeches with fringed brain tan leggings, a pair of broad fall pantaloons of satinette material. A brain tan coat of an ill fitted pattern with whangs for ties and a green wool collar. A tailored Canadian style capote made of blue boiled Canadian wool. My linen caped hunting shirt is my favorite shirt / coat for all seasons. It is large enough to layer other shirts under it for colder weather and light enough to wear by itself during hot weather. All of my shirts are patterned after the common workmen's shirt of the early 1830's and are hand sewn by my wife. One of red wool flannel of a long cut, one of cotton pillow ticking, and one of white & brown checkered linen. Red and blue silk neck scarfs for 101 uses. A 1" wide harness leather belt with a brass buckle to tie my leggings to and 2" wide harness leather belt with a square brass buckle, which my Sheffield butcher knife sheath is tied to using rawhide, and bright oval fire steel hangs from.
Firearms: My rifle is a fine 30 balls to the pound steel mounted J.J.Henry & Sons with a 38" barrel. I also have a common fur trade era Lancaster pattern trade rifle of 30 balls to the pound with a 39" barrel. My North West gun is one which I built. It has a 30" barrel and is of 20 gauge. All are flintlocks. My bullet bag is small in size, made of pillow ticking waxed with oil tanned strap & inner flap liner. Attached to the flap is a buffalo horn of plain design for powder taken from one of the buffaloes I have hunted with my flintlocks. Inside I carry just enough gear in order to shoot & maintain my firearms in the field, of course all of which is period correct. A lead ladle, lead bars and bullet molds to run balls.
Traps: I own two original double spring beaver traps, one of which has a full length of hand forged chain still attached. I also have two newly made hand forged single spring beaver traps to use.
Camp Equipage: This consists of a point blanket, or two if needed, and an oil cloth of red pillow ticking for a bedroll. One of the blankets has a slit in the center so it can be used as a poncho. A buffalo robe from a buffalo I harvested provides comfort during cold weather. A small hand axe. A bee waxed lined gourd canteen. For cooking I carry a small sheet tin kettle in which a small tin cup fits in along with a very small hand forged Spanish spoon. I also use a small sheet steel frying pan. For party camps my large sheet tin kettle is brought out and a 6' length of trap chain used to hang the kettle from. Many cotton & linen bags for coffee beans, atole flour, rice, jerked meat, and other dry goods. A cake of soap and a bore bristled bone tooth brush. A fishing kit, sewing kit, compass, small file and small spy glass which can be carried in a large waxed hemp possible bag, which also can be combined as a shot bag. A German silver tobacco tin with a burning glass in the lid which is used as another fire starting kit with flint, char and C striker inside.
Tack: A skeleton rig saddle built by Oliver McClosky. Dragoon style harness. A fustian material envelope type saddle bag. I have since passed along the saddle to a Brother that would get more use from it.
I have now been in the AMM for over 10 years and during that time been out on the ground as much as I could. Some years more than just the minimum of once each season. Sometimes solo camps, which I truly enjoy. Those are a great way to test your skills since there is no one to lean on. The following are a just a sample from each of the seasons.
April 29 – May 1, 2011
RMO Spring turkey camp. The location of this camp was in the same Devil's Hole as the previous year. This time the weather was unsettled and colder and we had one very sick member on the journey. Once the river crossing was made and a short distance covered by foot, we had the sick member sit and wait as the 3 of us went ahead with our gear. Finding a camp site, two of the men dropped their gear and returned to pack in the poor fellows' gear, while I started a fire and gathered wood to make him comfortable. The ground was too dry this year, with no feed for the birds, there was not a sign of turkey. A storm rolled in on Saturday night with snow and we woke up to a few inches of snow to move out in. Members present were Bill Gantic, Steve Chin, Nathan Blanchard, and Tom Karnuta.
August 14 – 16, 2009
RMO Shooting camp, Porphyry Park, near the summit of Monarch Pass. A good short jaunt by foot brought us into a large open meadow surrounded by tall pines with a fresh spring in the center. The focus of this camp was to work on our shooting skills before hunting season. I was working up a load for my new steel J.J.Henry rifle. Tom Karmuta put on a great woods shoot and we all put up blanket gifts. Tom & Scott played us some period music, with fiddle and banjo. Members present were Bradley C Bailey, Steve Chin, Bill Gantic, Tom Karnuta, Darko, Dave McGlochlin, Ken Smith, and Scott Walker.
September 11 – 18, 2009
Seven day elk hunting camp. Members present were Bill Gantic, Bradley C Bailey, Steve Chin, and Dave McGlochlin. Camp was a 6 mile ride with Steve's stock into Kannah Creek Basin on the western side of the Grand Mesa. Brad had to leave early so walked out with his gear. Elk, deer, bears, beaver and grouse were encountered. Trout were caught in nearby Slide Lake. We tracked a bear that was shot by Steve. It was tracked a good distance down into the thick creek bottom where there was very little sign. It sadden us to give up the trail after much searching. No meat was made.
January 18 – 20 2008
Winter camp near Ute Trail, Salida, Colorado. Plenty of snow and temps down to -12 below. Tom & Brad had dragged in a tipi during the week and set up a fine winters quarters. Snowshoeing into and around camp was great fun even in the bitter cold. Cards, yarns, drink and buffalo tongue helped pass the long dark nights. Members present were Bradley C Bailey, Vic Barkin, Bill Gantic, and Tom Karnuta.
January 20 – 22 2012
Winter camp up Kannah Creek drainage. The weekend started put with nice weather with a trek up the trail in about 4" of snow. We used Steve's stock to carry in our camp. Saturday afternoon a storm moved in on us with fog, freezing rain and a few more inches snow. I slept out in the open rolled up in my blanket and buffaloes robes, glad we brought the robes to cover the pack loads. Helped Steve with the chore of packing the animals.
I have made several camps over my years in the AMM with only one other member. This is a great way to get to know some of the newer members, learn to work together better over time, and to share minimum trail gear. Also I have done many solo camps.
I have attended 3 AMM Nationals with Brothers of the RMO, July 2008 Skinner Meadows, MT, July 2009 Moose Creek, WY, and June 2011 Beaver Creek, UT.
My approach to this requirement is more than knowing which berries are edible during early autumn. There is much more to this. I think along the lines of what a mountaineer did with the equipment he might have had with him, his knowledge of the far west Rockies, how to read the weather, how to read the land, patterns of birds and animals, and knowledge of the plants.
I am comfortable with my clothing, equipment, and food of the period in any type of weather and terrain. I carry several means to start a fire like a bright oval steel, tombstone steel, burning glass and the lock on my rifle. With these I don't need to have to use fire bows or the like, but have done so. Having the knowledge of the rocks around you and know how to knap them into useful tools, gives you flints & cherts to make fire with, and to use in your locks.
When put afoot, I use the equipment that one may have been left with. A saddle cinch for my tumpline to carry my blanket, my envelope saddle bag to use as a pack, and the stirrup straps to bind the pack and carry it. I have found this set up to work great.
Knowing now to read the weather is very important. With this you know when to stop travel and seek shelter. You can tell which direction to make camp so to be out of the winds or to catch the warmth of the sun. Reading the land tells you where not to set up a camp and where to find water. Using boughs and grasses makes for a comfortable bed as well.
Foods of all types abound. In the spring one can find camas, cattail roots, wild onion, left over rose hips, pine needles for tea and others. During this time one can find birds eggs. There are trout, frogs and snakes to dine on too. Knowing the plants here in the Rockies is a wealth year round. You can make a stem for your pipe then harvest barks and leaves to smoke with a fresh cup of chicory while you wait for them berries to come. Cordage from plants fills the needs to make snares and other useful items.
I sum this up by having the right mind set and good physical condition will help you to be at ease and make it through anything. Along with having AMM Brothers that you can count on.
From an early age growing up back east I learned the art of trapping from my father. We trapped beaver, otter, mink, and coons. I remember my first ermine I trapped. He taught me how to skin and prepare the furs for market. He also taught me how to make snares and dead falls.
I make my own beaver medicine which I carry in a choke cherry bottle of my own making. I have two hand forged single spring beaver traps of period design. I have tuned them up to work fast. Due to the game laws here in Colorado we are unable to trap beaver with leg holds. I have done colleges at camps to show how to read beaver sign and what their daily movements are. Also showed how to make different types of sets for them.
Being an experienced hunter and outdoorsman this skill is always being used by me. I can just about identify any type of animal track and their scat. I have followed many blood trails of animals that have been shot. I helped Steve Chin track a bear he shot in very thick brush during one of our camps. Tracking man can sometimes be easier for they tend to be sloppy and leave behind many signs. I have been able to track which of my RMO Brothers by their moccasin footprints they leave behind.
This I do each and every time I go into the field. Most of my jaunts are done on foot for some distance over varied ground. So it is important that my gear is packed right and rides comfortable on me. I carry only what I need to use and just enough food stores. I carry my blanket across my shoulder with my cinch for a tumpline and my envelope saddle bag as a pack.
I have learned from Steve Chin the art of packing animals and have helped him on several trips to load our gear and that of other party members. In January of 2012 on our Kannah Creek camp, I was able to help him filter out unneeded gear brought by some for the trip in. Packing on the morning out was during cold wet snowy weather. All the gear was frozen stiff. I also helped pack our gear for spring canoe crossings of the Arkansas River to then walk in a mile or so to camp.
I have dressed out several types of animals of all sizes since a young boy. In AMM camps I have dressed out ducks, geese, fish, rabbits, and buffalo. I have fleshed out deer, elk, buffalo, and beaver hides in camp.
This is another skill which is always done to a point that is second nature to me. I have done so in rain and snow storms. I always have several ways to make fire with me and these kits are in different bags on me. Different type of steels are carried, one oval is tied to my belt so that and my knife are always with me. My burning glass and of course the lock on my rifle. Last summer on a solo trip it was wet and green in the high country and it was very hard to find dry tinder. Soon I found myself with one small piece of char. I removed my lock, with powder and many tries, I had a fire. The next thing I did was punch a hole in my fishing kit tin and cut up a shirt to make a load of char. I have started fires with a fire drill but it is not a normal method I use.
Though I am not the best of brain tanners out there, I have and can do it. I have tanned deer and elk. My jacket is made of deer hides I have done as with my leggings. I have an elk hide to finish up at this time. I have made rawhide which I use to make containers for storage. We have worked on hides in some of our RMO camps.
This I decided to do all on foot and alone, except for my dog Molly. We read so much about how for one reason or another mountaineers were put afoot and covered great distances, it has always been a challenge for me to do it. So over time I worked on trimming my down my kit to what I thought would had been at hand to a trapper who was put afoot. Here are some high lights from my jaunt in which I covered about 20 miles.
August 17 – 21, 2012, Middle fork of the Cimarron Creek, in the Uncompahgre Wilderness. My plan was to walk up the Middle Fork over a pass and down the east Fork of the Cimarron Creek for a round trip of 30 miles.
Started with a late afternoon arrival to the trail head which starts at a little over 10,000 ft. I got myself ready and did another shake down of my gear, which I had spread all out on the ground. Left what little more I thought I could do without. Went to one blanket. A day hiker came up and said rudely that I was not allowed to camp here and he wasn't going to tell the forest service. He never did listen to what I was telling him, oh well. Made a short 1 mile this evening to edge of a small meadow. Cooked up one of my fresh Cajun boudins and tea.
A little damp but good weather as the day wore on. Slept in, it felt good. I didn't need to hurry. Ate my last real fresh boudin and some tea. From here on, it was jerked meat, some cured meat, atole, dried fruit and nuts. Coffee or tea for drink. Easy walking on trail through dark timber pines winding along the creek. Gradual climb with a few steep inclines. Two riders (husband & wife) with a pack horse rode ahead of me while I was taking a break. Further up the trail I heard some noise in a blow down area. The riders were trying to clear a log from the trail; I dropped my gear to lent a hand. Took some doin' but we got it cut & moved. They were grateful and asked questions about me & I about them. Nice folks on a day ride. Upper reaches of the trail brought us out into the basin, grassy meadows, groups of pines and the creek running through it. Made a good five miles and made a camp on fork above to creeks (about 11,500 ft). Met my rider friends on their way out, asked if I needed anything & gave me a report of the steep pass trail ahead, said no but thanks for the offer. Seen bighorn sheep today in the high meadows. Lots of Mountain Currents along the trail ripe and good eating.
Molly wakes me by licking my face. She got plenty of sleep and ready to go. I decided to stay here today to get used to the altitude and explore this beautiful alpine basin around me. My map shows water falls on the rim above my camp. Each step up through the trees was hard on the legs, along with the slipping of my moc’s in the grass. Once out of the trees it was wide open alpine rolling meadows with small creeks running down from the rocky peaks all around me. Wow, it is clear today & you can see for miles. Made my way up the narrow ridge to the small falls. To the right of them in the shade of the ridge wall was the last pile of snow. Molly & I sat and enjoyed the vista, I gave a yell, it felt so good. (12,000 ft in mocs) Hiked around this rim over to the shelf below Coxcomb peak, which is a 13'er. My exploring today must have added up 2.5 of high country miles. Seen pika's today. In camp, wrote in journal and mended my oil cloth. Big rips in it, ten yrs old, time to make a new one. A clear star filled sky! Molly was plum worn out too. Lost my pipe somewhere.
Jerky, dried fruit and atole for breakfast with good ol coffee to wash it down. Packed up my gear as coffee boiled. Today it's the big climb up over the middle fork pass to the East Fork drainage. Left no trace. A good 1/4 mile to the trail from the camp site, it's getting steeper. Met up with a young couple coming down the trail. They stopped me asking about my outfit and what it was all about. We sat on the trail and palavered for near an hour. They were very interested, asked to see things & took photos. They reported they came up the east fork and said there were lots of cattle and a large outfitter camp was being set up. I decided not to go all the way down the east fork due to that report, but still pushing on to the upper drainage. Tough climb up the rocky face to the pass, lots of stops. About a 1000ft climb, very steep (12,400ft pass) slow going. Well worth the effort, the views are awesome! This is the Alps of Colorado, with the Matterhorn & Wetterhorn Peaks to my south & the Uncompahgre Peak looming far ahead of me. More little creeks heading down into the east fork. Open alpine tundra terrain, made my way down the trail to fine some cover for camp, not much for trees up here. About only three miles today to camp, what a place. Did some exploring of the area, added a couple of more miles. Molly sacked out while I gathered wood for a fire. Good meal and a good night, cooler up here with a breeze. Molly kept me warm at night.
Slept in, well needed. Breakfast same again, but it's pretty good out here. Coffee always is good on the trail first thing. In fact nibbling all day keeps you going and not feeling so hungry. Legs are a little stiff but all in all feeling good. Pack up for a long day on foot ahead of us. The first part of it will be up hill over the pass back to the Middle fork, not quite as steep but still up and over. The rocky trail down into the Middle Fork basin looked worse from here today than it did looking up it! But what views, sat here for a while to enjoy before moving on and to catch a breath. Slow carful going back down the face. Once back in the middle basin we nooned for a spell down at the creek up against a log. Drank and ate and rested, it felt good. While sitting there it dawned on me that for the last two days I could feel the presents of no one else up here. We had it all to ourself! Molly was sacked out again. She just gave me this look when I told her it was time to move on for the forced march. Seen deer on the hill sides today, Molly enjoying jumping in the creek as we went. Kept stopping to eat more currants. As we worked our way down, it was getting warmer the shade of the dark timber helped. Then Molly stopped with her nose in the air giving short woofs. Usually this means bear with her, stopped and looked, listened about, nothing. About 50 yds on the trail, near the blow down are was a large fresh pile of berry filled scat. I talked aloud as we moved through the area, never to see the bear. One last stop where the creek came close to the trail enjoyed the warm sun and fresh cool water. Molly sacked out again. Sun going down over high canyon wall. We did it! Back at the trail head at 7:15 pm covered near nine miles today. This was a great adventure.
Lost only two buttons and my clay pipe. Wearing the pipe in the hat looks cool, but I lose them a lot that way. Luckily no rain, looked like it a couple of times, but I really wasn't prepared if it did. Need an oil cloth shirt.
I modified my braintan side seam mocs with southwest type hard soles for this trip. Worked great for the rocky trails but they were slick in the grass. Should have brought my soft sole pucker toes with me for around camp and walking in grass.
Met some nice folks out on the trail, got just looks from others.
My pack and blanket roll rode well and comfortable, this was the ticket. Just will have to double up on shoulder straps so they don't roll up. Pack weighed in at a little over 16lbs, bedroll 12lbs.
There are other ways to cook meat than just on a stick. I have dried meat on a rack with a light smudge fire, cooked on hot flat rocks or just on the hot coals. Cooked whole birds (squash as well) encased in mud near the fire or in a covered pit in the ground. Made ovens with rocks and mud.
While at the AMM Nationals in July 2008, I spent time taking the sign language college from Gene Hickman. After taking the college I successfully passed the sign requirement test that Gene gave me. Since then myself and others of the RMO party enjoy talking sign around camps. Tom Karnuta & I have used sign while elk hunting together to help us be silent in the forest.
I have taken 3 buffaloes with my flintlock Lancaster rifle while in AMM camps, all were fair chase hunts. The first one was on my first invitation camp with the Baker Party in Kansas. The other two were in South Dakota. I used the meat, robes, fat and horns of these. I also have shot small game using my North West trade gun. A duck was jump shot and shared in camp. All within the limits of local game laws.
I have been a Bossloper in good standing since 2003. I got my start with the Jim Baker Party of Colorado. My sponsors were Ken Smith & Mark Loader. My number is #1880.
Another skill I learned as a young boy, I ran a trap line and earned spending money that way. I have shown this skill at several historical demonstration's to the public as well as in camps using the ways of the mountaineers. The use of willow hoops for stretching and drying beaver plews.
Upon my return to Colorado after having to live in MT and WY (due to work) I was asked by the Western Segundo if I would try my hand at starting a new party here to see if I could get some friendly rivalry going. So with help from a couple of new prospects, Bradley C Bailey & Tom Karnuta, the Rocky Mountain Outfit was born. I served as its Booshway for 4 years. I have also Booshwayed a few camps like Winter Quarters at Happy Canyon in January of 2010 and Winter Quarters on the AMM Land in January 2011.
I have done this a few times and find this a great test to one's self being, equipment and skills. Time spent alone and hungry keeps one busy. This can be difficult with today's game laws so it limits you to when a good time to do it is.
August 22 – 24, 2008, Big Creek on the Uncompahgre Plateau. My trek took me into a remote area which has Pinion, Juniper and Ponderosa pines. Along the open slopes there were Gambles Oak, Chokecherries, Service Berries, Currants and others coming into ripening. It was a pretty good year for them and my time was right. After making camp it was then down to the creek for water. In a nearby beaver pond I noticed small trout, so that would be my next day's work. That evening I gathered Rose Hips for tea, and some assorted berries. This not filling my need for something more gratifying. Down by the beaver pond I found some cattails, so in the muck I went to dig out the roots. I knew that these would not be as tender as in the spring. These were then boiled back in camp and was somewhat filling.
On the next day with a good hunger it was off to the creek in hopes of some trout. My destination was down stream when there was a large pool and waterfall. This tale was told to me by natives in these parts. At the bottom of the canyon I then made my way up the thick brush in the creek bottom. With bear sign about I stayed alert. I made it to the pool which was surrounded by walls of granite. Out came my fishing kit with an old beat up fly. Well the stories were true. I landed five nice trout. Climbing out, though slippery in moc's was the shorter way back to camp. Dinner of trout, cat tails, and some roasted pine nuts was good fare. Washed down with a cool drink of rose hips and berries. A breakfast of the same in the morning. How I wished it was hunting season!
My paper is on Dr. William Beaumont — a fur trade physician from my home town of Lebanon, CT. Read it here.