To Preserve the Heritage of the Fur Trade Era

New Mexico Mountain Men

Summer Trek 2005

The trek has always been a little intimidating – all gear and food period correct, generally a long ways from any modern comforts, and being open to scrutiny from your compatriots under a variety of conditions. Doesn’t really matter whether you’re on foot, horseback, or in a canoe; what you carry is what you have. A trek is unlike any primitive event you’ve ever attended. Ask those that have made one. Their eyes get a little unfocused and they tend to ramble some when asked to explain it all. The point is, find out for yourself. Start thinking trek (now where have I heard that before) and before you know it, you’ll have a horse’s tail in your lodge. Well, maybe not, but you will be on your way towards good fun and an education.

Storm Dancer shares a look at the hiking trek her company made into the San Pedro Wilderness. Nine experienced and not-too-experienced souls worked their way into the high country of northwest New Mexico in search of new beaver country. That was the 1820 setting – unexplored country being seen on foot by a mixed party. See San Pedro Parks Grand Scout.

When asked to write an article for the newsletter, Long Tongue suggested a slight deviation from the norm in the form of an interview. So we did one – over dinner at Gone Again’s camp. What we put together is hopefully a little more than just another view of a primitive event. Hopefully, the hours spent will provide some illumination and guidance for more new folks making that next journey, and feeling prepared to do so. See Long Tongue's Account.

The youngest person ever to attend a NMMM trek was a member of that good company. Meca shared that time with fellow buckskinners and now shares it with all of you. See A Trek as Seen Through Younger Eyes.


Announcement

A 3 day trek is being organized to scout the San Pedro Parks wilderness just east of Cuba, NM. A walking trek, beginning on July 1st (get to the start area June 30th). Return to the start area the night of July 3rd. Plan on 5 +/- miles a day hiking every day. Rivers, lakes, maybe fishing. Plan on traveling thru hostile territory, bad weather possible, many riches waiting to be found at 9000-10,000 feet altitude. Period correct (1780-1840) clothing, gear, attitude/mindset, required (or at least a very serious attempt at it). All gear subject to evaluation before leaving on the trek. No plastic allowed. Modern items allowed are water filter/treatment system, camera, toilet paper, first aid kit, but these must be kept to a minimum. This trek will meet the requirements of the NMMM Patron/Patrona standing for the NW section of the state. Historically correct attitude/mindset will be the major focus of the trek along with an opportunity to practice period skills. Exact starting location TBD. Email me if you have questions or are planning to attend.

Storm Dancer.


San Pedro Parks Grand Scout

Coming

The San Pedro Parks Grand Scout is now in the books. Three mountaineers and six pilgrims faced the unknown and trekked into the mountains for three days. Dave LeMond, Robert Pluss, Julie Jacobs, Sue West, Meca West, Charles Phelan, Joel Herrell, Lynn Canterbury, and Doug Casteel set out to see the elephant. Starting at 9000’ elevation, the scout topped out at 10,500’, with perfect weather all the way. Camp was made above a green, grass-filled creek valley (that frosted over the first night), in the aspens and firs. Signs of old beaver ponds were everywhere, including an area behind camp that had 18 inch diameter aspens felled by busy beavers. Wild strawberries, current/gooseberries, black berries, yarrow, osha, were all plentiful.

Fire at camp was made by the youngest person to ever attend a trek, Meca West. Folks broke out the bacon, cornmeal, jerky, dried pumpkin, beans, rice, and soon a fine meal was being enjoyed by all. Robert roasted green coffee beans, pounded them well, and boiled them to perfection. Better than anything the settlements have to offer.

On the second day, all but two of the group headed out to scout farther west of camp and were ambushed on the way back by two traitors within the group. All were killed by the traitors, and their plunder stolen. Back at camp, the camp keepers tested their rifles, but were not on guard when the traitors returned. The traitors put the sneak on them and killed them too. Only the two traitors survived in camp that night.

Day three, the traitors and the rest of the camp packed up and headed back to the settlements. The party was attacked and killed again, by another traitor in the group. Lessons learned, never trust anyone, and never give your gun away, take your weapon everywhere!

Everyone had something special to offer to the group, Julie offered herself up as bear bait after getting her cornmeal spilled in her lap. Sue offered the group dry pitch pine slivers to start fires. Joel was up before the birds getting the fire going. Charles was wise in reading animal tracks; and Dave kept the group moving, especially on the last day when he headed downhill (and off the trail) only to find himself back at camp before everyone else. Lynn and Doug made a great camp admired by all. A good time was had by all, lessons were learned, and we truly did see the elephant!
Storm Dancer

Going

Long Tongue’s Account

What’s a trek? Why, basically, it has become a part of the process of developing a buckskinner’s skills. For us, the trek is a journey periodically held in one of the 4 quadrants of NM, usually for 3 - 4 days at a time. It might be made on foot, horseback, or by canoe and revolves around having a mindset of existing in this part of the country in the early 1800’s. The booshway sets the story and nudges it along from time to time. In the NMMM, the trek is an integral part of the transition from Trapper to Patron.

Storm Dancer’s put together this year’s summer foot trek into the San Pedro Wilderness, north and west of Cuba, NM. Storm Dancer spun her tale of a company of buckskinners of the early 1800’s making their way on foot into new territory, not unknown to contain hostiles. Food and gear for 4 days was required and all volunteers needed to be of sound body and mind (a keen eye and ear would be useful, too).

Preparations began weeks earlier. For me, my personal gear consisted of the following: a bedroll/shelter, one heavy horse blanket, rope, stakes, a haversack containing a coffee cup (no handle), a corn boiler, and food stuffs; and a second haversack containing extra moccasins, 2 pair of socks (something extra to fill out those moccasins), bandanas, a strip of cotton for bandages, a primitive canteen, and a water filter. I brought along a short pony bow and a few arrows instead of a heavy rifle. A hand ax and good knife are a must, along with something like a sheet metal skillet for cooking and digging. Would like to have brought along a pair of long handles, a wool sock hat, and the capote I left behind, cuz the nights were cold.

For food, everything revolved around preparation in my cornboiler. I brought along Chinese black tea (or English breakfast tea), lentil soup, white rice, cornmeal, jerky sprinkled with a little chili sauce, and trailmix consisting of dried berries and nuts. For breakfast, add cornmeal and trailmix to a couple inches of water in the cornboiler and wash it down with a little hot tea; for supper, cornmeal mixed with jerky and black beans - jerky and trailmix along the trail. Total weight of my possibles – somewhere around 40 pounds.

A point to stress here is be self-sufficient. Something could happen and leave you on your own. Rely on yourself.

Our company assembled at a known rendezvous site and that Thursday night was spent preparing for the trail. Gear was checked and discussed. It’s always useful to see what your fellows are carrying and why.

Friday morning, after having cached our horses, we struck the trail for what was to be our main camp site. Two of our company would catch up later in the day. About 3-1/2 miles up the trail, we came upon a pretty little meadow complete with spring-fed stream, two beaver ponds, and a grove of aspens. Camp was pitched here. Everyone except Pathfinder dug in around the edge of the aspens. The ground was pretty hard and required some serious preparation. Pathfinder worked his way back under the aspens and stretched out on a bed of decaying leaves. The next morning it seemed like everyone but Pathfinder complained of having spent a cold night on hard ground. Pathfinder could only report having spent a comfortable, warm night under the stars. It seems that not only did the leaves provide cushion, but the decaying vegetation was perhaps generating some heat and certainly some insulation. Didn’t take long for everyone to claim a better bed.

GoingAfter a hearty breakfast Saturday morning, all but two made a day hike up to San Pedro Peak. On the way back, one of the more important ingredients of any trek came into play. You have to have a little fun. It had been a long day and firearms do get heavy. Being the gentleman that he is, Redwing graciously offered to carry the booshway’s smoothbore. Graciously offered and kindly accepted. Uphill walking can be a little taxing, but my long legs can really stretch out headed downhill, and it wasn’t long before Redwing and I were quite a ways ahead of the others. Redwing thought it might just be the right time to stage an ambush on the unsuspecting party coming along behind. No scouts were out and the group was partially unarmed. Redwing took up position behind a downed log with me behind some roots a little ways further down the trail. Soon the West girls appeared and walked unknowingly into the middle of the trap. As Pathfinder entered the trap, I sprang it and counted coup on Pathfinder and the girls with my bow. Stands on a Rope turned to retreat, but Redwing took his hair. Storm Dancer fussed a little over having given up her long gun and soon acknowledged to have been taught a lesson. Don’t give up your possibles!

Having discussed the ambush, we made our way toward camp. What do you suppose was the status of that camp? Would a sentry be posted or would everyone be off guard? The returning party split up and attacked the camp from several sides. Redwing, Tatonka Sue, Meca, and Pathfinder charged the camp and counted coup on Lynn and Doug. Storm Dancer and Stands on a Rope, however, had hung back with plans of their own. Quickly the two of them sprang their own trap and counted coup on Pathfinder. Redwing pointed out that someone was missing and as Stands on a Rope turned to head back out, I placed an arrow where it would do the most good. Lots of fun and lessons to be learned. Most likely, any traveling party would have made a serious effort to be prepared for an ambush and no camp would be without a lookout. Maybe such a group would stop to have the evening meal and then move on for some distance before making camp for the night. Lanyard holes have been found in Hudson Bay knives. Perhaps the owner kept that knife handy during the night. Always watchful and as prepared as possible.

Often a trek is the perfect time to hone those mountain man skills. Case in point is Meca. Not only was this Meca’s first trek, but she was also the youngest person to have ever gone on one. (We’ll perhaps hear something from this young voyageur in the future.) At the start of our journey, Meca was having a devil of a time using flint and steel to start a fire. Steel to flint and the sparks flew upward. Couldn’t quite get a spark to catch and burn. It wasn’t long, however, before flints were being worn out striking steel. At Redwing’s insistence, I surrendered char and nest material to the young buckskinner; and lo and behold, fire in fifteen seconds! That child will never go cold again!

Pathfinder, Meca, and I dropped a line into those two beaver ponds in hope of catching a trout or two. We made up our poles from line and sticks. Uglier fishing gear I have never seen. Might have frightened the fish, too, because we never had a bite. Oh well.

Sunday morning arrived as it always does; and it was soon time to head back down the trail to where we had cached our horses. One last look around and the company concluded that round of exploration. Greybeards, and pilgrims alike, had learned from each other. Each party member had his/her own reason for being there, and as they contemplated their inner thoughts, one more surprise was sprung. Pathfinder caught the company unawares, snapped a photo, and captured their souls. Gone under again!

It was a good trek made with good companions. Not impossible for anyone with a little preparation ahead of time. My thanks to booshway Storm Dancer for setting up a great primitive event; and my thanks to the following good folks for making the journey most enjoyable – Pathfinder (1st time), Redwing ( “old” greybeard), Tatonka Sue (1st time) and Meca (1st time), Stands on a Rope (1st trek), Lynn (1st trek), and Doug (also 1st time).
Somewhat as told by Long Tongue to Long Shot

Getting the Bark On

Meca“Grueling!” That was Meca’s single-word, pre-trek expectation of the walking trek she undertook this last summer. Crying and agony was looming on the horizon. Too much stuff to carry, no lodge, no creature comforts (girl stuff). Looking pretty grim.

Was it? No way! It was an adventure that went something like this.

“We arrived at the trailhead on a Thursday and spent the night still modern. The next morning I got into my primitive self and prepared for the trail. Across each shoulder hung a haversack, one carrying food such as trailmix, oatmeal, corn nuts, tea and such; and the other carried a water purifier (allowed), cornboiler and cup, longjohns, extra shirts, and pants. My single-blanket bedroll was tied at each end and slung over my shoulder. I really didn’t bring along anything I didn’t need or use. After a quick breakfast of oatmeal and tea, with a hat on my head and a canteen of water by my side, we hit the trail. I felt bad for my Mom because she was carrying a lot more.

At first my feet hurt a lot walking in moccasins, but Long Tongue showed us how to “walk better” and soon it wasn’t so bad.

Group ShotIt took all of that first day to get to an old hunting camp which was to be our main camp. We stayed there for the next three days making day hikes out along the trails. On those walks we talked about different plants and their value; and looked at the rocks and the trees. I always carried along my bedroll in case I needed a warm coat.

In the evenings, we prepared our meal in cornboilers over a campfire. Beans and rice was very good. After eating, everyone would sit around the fire and tell stories or discuss the day’s events. I mostly watched and listened.

The first night out I got pretty cold sleeping alone under my blanket. After that, Mom and I slept together and stayed a lot warmer.

MecaWhile on the trek, I learned the art of making a fire with flint and steel. While walking, I would pick up pieces of quartz, strike them against my steel, and see which ones made good sparks. Those I kept. Then I learned how to put together a bird’s nest and char, how to make more sparks, and how to blow into the nest. Feel pretty confident in my ability to make a fire now.

I also learned the value of being prepared, like being able to make a fire. You need to be aware and prepare for the possibility of getting lost. Of course, I felt extra safe because Mom was there. Traveling with a group is a big help, too, because everyone looks out after each other.

I had a lot of fun, even though walking is not exactly wonderful. Would I go again? Yes, if Stormdancer would be there, and if I had some chapstick or bear oil for my lips. They sure got dry.”

Meca



This site designed, maintained and provided as a service to the buckskinning community by Arco Iris Web Designs, LLC. Copyright 2005.