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On The Trail

Photos from some of our camps Horsin Around  Winter Camps   Hunting  Winter Rendezvous in Pierre's Hole
Some folks call it Trekking, But I find that too modern of a term and it does not fit well in the vocabulary of a Rocky Mountain trapper. Others call it getting on the ground and I have used that term my self. But as a mounted Mountain  Man ( one who uses a horse as much as posable) this term does not set very well, for ya see getting throwed on the ground is something we try to avoid.
To be on the trail makes more sense to me, for what are we actually doing?  We are on the trail of those that have came before us and  trying to read and learn from the sign they left be hind. When we set out to learn about and duplicate their gear and use it, and try to do things the way  they did; aren't we trying to follow their trail.  A trail is a path that one follows to arrive at a destination. I believe that I will never fully arrive at the destination of this trail I have chosen to follow. But that's part of the joy of the trail, never knowing what you will find around the next bend or over the next ridge. Heck some folks never even leave the trail head and if that is where they are happy so be it. But they will never know the joy of the trail until they get out on it and grow with it.  

 Take a look at these pictures from some of your doins out On The Trail. Horsin Around, picture from some of our horse outing. Winter Camping, pictures from of winter doins. Hunting, got some pictures of some of the meat we've made and some trapping too.

Horsin Around

Using horses on the trail has added to the whole experience. One has to think of the horses first at all times. Do not overload them.  Make sure that something your doing or part of your load is not going to cause any soring or gauling, and check for this regularly. It don't take long to sore a horse up to where you've got a problem.
  Always take care of the horses needs first before you even think of your own. I like picketting hores out on a cuff and a line when putting them out on feed when on the trail. Ya will need to keep an eye on them,  they can get them selves in some wrecks with the rope.  But  I still feel this is a better way then useing hobbles. I've had to go looking for horses on hobbles to many times and when your ridding with a group of horses that don't know one another you'll have problems with them getting after each other on hobbles. Always high line your horse at night or when you aren't going to be able to keep an eye on them. It's better to count ribs then tracks.
Sleep with one ear open and your moccasins on. In case ya need to get up quick in the middle of the night for what ever reason, like to fix a wreck or to chase down runaways. Ya just never know what's going to happen and ya need to be ready. It can be an awful long walk home if ya don't take my advice.

Winter Camping

When the snow gets to deep and all the feed is gone it's time to leave the horses home. Strap on the snow shoes, load up the toboggans, and head out. As for snow shoes and toboggans being used in the fur trade, there are several accounts of them being used. Charles Larpentur talks of using sleds to haul goods on in Forty Years a Fur Trader on the Upper Missouri. Toboggans were used by Native Americans back east up north into Canada and Alaska and even out west long before the first whites came here. Same for snow shoes. There are a number of accounts of trappers making and using them. They were not a big trade Item that was brought out to Rendezvous but were made in the field, rather crudely made out of what native woods could be found that was rawhide together and webbed with what was at hand. This is Zenis Leonard's own acount from the time when he and his party were trapped in deep snow and faceing starvation, "action alone could save us". We had not even leather to make snow shoes, but as good fortune would have it, some of the men had the front part of their pantaloons lined with deer skin, and others had great coats of different kinds of skin, which we collected together to make snow shoes of. This appeared to present to us the only means of escape from starvation and death. After gathering up every thing of leather kind that could be found, we got to making snow shoes, and by morning each man was furnished with a pair.
Robert Campbells acount :  It was one of the most severe winters ever known. I cached my goods there and went back to our camp in Willow or Cache valley. I then disposed of my goods there to the trappers and started back on snow shoes, with four dogs and a train which I got from our hunters. The train he's talking about is a sled or toboggan pulled by the dogs. On this outing he spent some time on them snow shoes for he said. I had been forty-four days on snow-shoes and my ankles became lame when I took them off.  

I have found that a toboggan is the best way to haul in our camp come winter. A seven foot toboggan can haul as much weight as a horse. In fact my friend Yaro hauled out a whole elk on a seven footer, and I would not do that to a horse. A lot folks say a toboggan is no good, it won't go side hill or up hill and coming down hill it will run you over. That be a fact if ya don't know how to use one. To go side hill you need to make a trail for it, stomp out a trail up and back making the trail  twice as wide as your normal snow shoe tracks. As for going up hill ya don't want to pick a hill that is too steep if ya can help it. I find if ya use a walking stick or two  to help hold you from sliding back you can go up a pretty good hill on snow shoes and pull a toboggan. For coming down hill there are two ways to handle this. One is to use a drag line and have a buddy help hold it back, the other way if your load is not too heavy, is to let it slide up on the tails of your snow shoes and shuffle down the hill. Ho, there is one more way- if its wide open and no trees get on it and ride it down.


To get out and hunt from a primitive camp, wearing your buckskins and using a muzzleloader is about as good as it gets.  Turn back the clock of time, to a time when one skills as a hunter meant eating or going hungry and when one's senses was what helped one stay a live. What was that noise? What's that smell? Is the wind in my favor? Can ya read sign, what are them tracks telling ya about that critter ya be a followin? There he is! Make that one shot count, hold steady, squeeze that trigger! After the smoke clears if your skill and aim was true ya made meat. If not your going to be a kicking your self all the way back to camp.
It was my love of hunting that first got me started shooting muzzle loaders. I liked the challenge of only having one shot and having to use my hunting ability to get up close and in range. It seemed more sporting and made me a better hunter. Then there was the romance of that time era when everything was new and the mountain men were out living with and being a part of nature. What can I say! I was hooked and here I am today, still at it and loving it thirty one years later.

Hope to be seeing you
On The Trail Crazy Cyot