The Countdown is ON!

LodgeExteriorKash and Margie Johnson began their rendezvous adventure in the early 1980s when they took on management roles at the rugged Spirit Lake Lodge near Flaming Gorge.  It was here that they met Two Eagles, who made his living selling bead work at nationwide rendezvous gatherings.


Kash attended his first rendezvous in 1982 and it did not take long before he caught the fever and mountain man blood pulsed through his veins. kashRendezvous quickly became a tradition that extended to Kash and Margie’s children, extended family and grandchildren and has been a huge part of their lives for over three decades.

If you ask Kash about his attitude toward learning history in school, he will tell you that he did not much care for it. At a museum, you find static history, with placards and displays. There is nothing to explain why or how something happened. Now, you could say he is some sort of fanatic, particularly about the fur trade era. school

The Bear Lake Rendezvous is LIVING HISTORY. It’s helping people learn about the rich and colorful moments of the fur trade era on the hallowed ground of 2 rendezvous past.


blr.2015.camplayoutThe 2015 Bear Lake Rendezvous is Aug. 21-23. Gates open at 8 a.m. and the event remains open until sundown.

Guests and visitors to the Bear Lake Rendezvous DO NOT have to be dressed in period correct clothing. Flip flops and shorts are fine. However, anyone wishing to enter free needs to be dressed accordingly and traders and primitive campers must maintain pre-1840 attire.

For a one time $40.00 fee, self contained trailer camping (tin tipi) is available for the week August 19-24th. Campers are free to come and go. This is the BEST value on the lake. Rendezvous Beach  is only 3 miles from our campsite.


raffleDAILY ACTIVITIES

  • 8:00 a.m. Flag Ceremony
  • 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. –  Fun shoots/Bring a blanket prize
  • 10:00 a.m. – runs all day –  Archery Fun Shoot
  • Archery Carp Shoot – all day/all weekend
  • Knife and Hawk – all day/all weekend
  • Women of the Fur Trade Demonstrations
  • Parfleche/Rawhide
  • Brain tanning
  • Quill work
  • Bead work
  • Trader’s Row – 8:00 a.m. to sundown

In addition to daily activities, specific event days and times are noted below:

shootFriday

  • 1:00 p.m. Pilgrim Shoot (public welcome)

Saturday

  • 10:00 to 12:00 p.m. –  Children’s games
  • 1:00 p.m. – Pilgrim Shoot (public welcome)
  • 11:00 a.m./1:00 p.m./3:00 p.m. – Native American Dance Demonstrations
  • 7:00 p.m. – Council Fire (Shooting awards)

Sunday

  • 11:00 a.m./1:00 p.m./3:00 p.m. Native American Dance Demonstrations
  • 12:00 Noon – Raffle

There will be information available under the canvas fly.  If you have any questions, give Kash a call at 801-451-1518 or email info@bearlakerendezvous.comIndians

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Lewis and Clark

Lewis-and-ClarkWilliam Clark, and nearly four dozen men that made up the Corps of Discovery, started upstream on the Missouri River to meet up with Meriwether Lewis on May 20, 1804.  They had been commission by Thomas Jefferson, the year before, to find a water route to the Pacific and explore the uncharted West. Jefferson believed the team would find mammoths, volcanoes and salt mountains.  What their eyes actually beheld, during their journey, was no less boggling.  They interacted with nearly 50 Indian tribes, observed 300 species unknown, at the time, to science and then there were the Rocky Mountains!

keelboat_rapid_harveywjohnson1017x641Aboard a 55 foot long keelboat and two smaller pirogues, they charted, mapped, studied nature, and kept copious notes and journals of their experiences. By the end of that July, they had traveled more than six-hundred miles, all while not once crossing path with an Indian.  But things changed come August.

riverislandAs a precaution, the Corps camped on river islands when possible and had guards posted at night.  On the eve of August 2nd, Oto and Missouri Indians arrived at their camp.  This first encounter actually went well.  But, they had been warned, by President Jefferson, that the Sioux Indians would be another story.

The first and only death of a member of the Corps occurred on August 20th.  Sargeant Charles Floyd became the first soldier to die west of the Mississippi, most likely, from appendicitis.

At month’s end, the group had reached the Great Plains, which was well stocked with beautiful elk, deer, buffalo and beaver.  They were now headed into Sioux territory.  The first encounter was with Yankton Sioux, who were fairly peaceful, more so than the Teton Sioux a bit farther up the river.

tetonsiouxThe Corps were prepared to exchange gifts, but the Teton Sioux showed ill-disguised hostility. A Teton chief demanded a boat as exchange for passage. The Indians became further threatening until Clark pulled his sword and Lewis aimed the keelboat’s swivel gun on the tribe. As quickly as tensions mounted, they subsided, but the Corps never did achieve a friendly rapport with the Sioux.

As winter approached, they left their enemy behind them and headed further up the river. They continued to travel until the Missouri River began to freeze. Four days after the first snowfall, they reached the villages of the Mandan tribes. They wintered there, immediately building a fort to protect them from the fierce winter and potential attack by the Sioux. The expedition kept occupied by repairing equipment, trading with the Indians, and hunting for buffalo as their food supply began to dwindle. Lewis and Clark learned much from the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes.

sacagaweaIt was here that the expedition hired Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian fur trapper living among the Hidatsa who would serve as their interpreter. Charbonneau, his Shoshone wife, Sacagawea, and their baby son, Jean Baptiste, traveled with the expedition when it left Fort Mandan.

Lewis and Clark dispatched a dozen expedition members, 108 botanical specimens, 68 mineral specimens, and Clark’s map of the United States aboard a keelboat bound for St. Louis.  The items would eventually be presented to President Jefferson.

Using six dugout canoes and two larger pirogues, the remaining team loaded supplies and equipment and ventured where no American had ever gone. For the first time since the journey began, Lewis and Clark were headed due west and into grizzly country. Although warned by the Indians about the powerful grizzly, Lewis felt a bear would be no match for a man with a rifle.  But an encounter on April 29th changed his mind.Grizzly It was on that day that Lewis and several other party members spotted a pair of grizzlies. They wounded one of the bears, which managed to escape. But the other charged at Lewis, causing him to flee 80 yards before he and one of his colleagues were able to reload and kill the bear.

In early May a surprise gust of wind caught the sail of one of the pirogues, tipping the vessel over on its side. The quick reflexes of Sacagawea, who was riding in the vessel, preserved precious journals and supplies that otherwise would have been lost.

rocky_mountains1During the last week of May, Lewis caught sight of the Rockies for the very first time.  He was filled with awe – which was immediately tempered at the realization of what lay ahead – to traverse the amazing mountain range would be no small feat. Progress became slow as the group made its way along a bending and shallow river filled with sharp, jutting rocks.

On June 3, 1805, the Corps came upon a fork in the river. The branches of the fork were of equal size.  It was believed by the captains that the southern branch was a continuation of the Missouri.  They hoped this would lead them to be able to cross the Rockies before the first autumn snow. The rest of the Corps, however, disagreed, believing that the north fork was the way to go. The Mandan Indians had spoke of Great Falls.  Scouting parties went along each branch in search of the landmark that would guide their way.

Great_falls_of_missouri_riverOn June 13 Lewis became the first white man to see the Great Falls of the Missouri River. But to his dismay there were five separate falls, not one and they went on for a 12-mile stretch. Making their way around the  falls was going to take some time – more than they had planned. On June 22, the hardest physical task of the trip thus far began. More than a month would pass before the party made their way around Great Falls as the Rocky Mountains loomed larger on the horizon.

Once across the Continental Divide, they could ride the westward-flowing Columbia River. But the trek from the Missouri River to the Columbia River would require horses. To secure horses, the Corps would have to find the Shoshone tribe. On August 11, Lewis spotted an Indian on horseback that turned out to be, at long last, a Shoshone, and the first Indian they had encountered since Mandan.

shoshoneThe Shoshone led the expedition to his chief, who, as the best of luck would have it, turned out to be Sacagawea’s brother. With Sacagawea translating, the bargaining began with Chief Cameahwait for horses. Without these horses, their chances of reaching the Pacific were nil.

So, what was the price of a horse?  At first, a knife and an old shirt.  But the price went up every day until Clark had to offer his knife, his pistol, and a hundred rounds of ammunition for a single animal. And even then most of the horses were in terrible health.

Continental-Divide-signInformation was also secured from the Shoshone.  An old member of the tribe described a trail that led across the Continental Divide which was paramount to find a way over the mountains.

Snow was already falling as the expedition set off for the Continental Divide. Game was scarce and food supplies were low. After passing over the divide into the Bitterroot Valley, the team came upon a band of Flathead Indians from whom they were able to secure more horses.  bitterootCrossing the Bitterroot Mountains tested their endurance.  After 11 days the horses were near starvation, and the men were too, resorted to eating three colts.   Upon emerging from the mountains, contact was made with the Nez Perce, where the expedition procured dried fish and roots for their sustenance.

Camp was set up on the banks of a branch of the Snake River called the Clearwater.  The Snake is also a branch of the Columbia River.  It was here that they hollowed out five dugouts.  With the Rockies behind them, the Pacific was soon to be on the horizon.  They also finally had the river current flowing in their favor.  columbia riverThe Corps reach the Snake on October 10 and the Columbia on October 16th.  They took a break to rest and meet with Indians, who had gather along the shore and had, what Clark estimated, 10,000 pounds of dried salmon. The explorers continued down the Columbia into the Cacades, the last mountain range between them and the ocean. On November 7, Clark wrote, “Ocean in View! Oh! The joy.”  But they were actually still 20 miles away as he mistook a wide band in the river for the Pacific. They were required to hunker down for three weeks due to high winds and rolling water.  Clark called this period of time, “the most disagreeable time I have experienced.”

In the middle of November, the men eagerly scanned the rolling waves of the ocean for the masts of ships that might carry them home.  Spying none, they realized they would be spending the winter on the coast.  One trade ship stopped to barter with the Indians while the expedition was present on the coast, but the Corps was never informed.  The team was anxious to go home, but timing of the journey back was critical.  They could only go once the snow had melted.  If they waited too long, the Missouri would be frozen and they would be required to endure a winter on the plains.  They spent their time at Fort Clatsop in monotony, making moccasins, buckskin clothing, working on maps, writing in journals and eating elk meat and roots.  The rain was constant.

The day that began their return occurred on March 23, 1806. Chinookan Indians were a constant concern via their continual attempts to steal supplies.  Getting around the falls was a great a challenge.  The expedition abandoned their boats and headed over the mountain with horses acquired from the Walla Walla tribe.

nezpercThe expedition arrived in Nez Perce Indian territory almost out of food.  They had to wait for the weather to improve before trying to cross the snow-covered Bitterroots. The men lived on a diet of dried fish and roots, with occasional meat in the form of deer, elk, horse and dog.

By early June the expedition was equipped with fresh horses and ready to continue east. Against the advice of the Nez Perce, Lewis and Clark left Camp Choppunish. Spring had begun on the plain, but it was still winter in the mountains where they encountered snow ten feet deep and packed so hard even the horses did not sink. They returned to the Nez Perce Indians for help. The Indian guides helped them to traverse the mountain range.

On June 30, after reaching Traveler’s Rest, Lewis and Clark split up. Lewis took nine men to explore the Marias River.  Clark and the remaining members of the Corps headed to the Yellowstone River.

A skirmish, with Blackfeet Indians, resulted in the death of two Indians. Lewis and his men covered 120 miles, not knowing if the Indians were giving chase.

horsethiefMeanwhile, Clark and his group descended into Crow territory. The Crow were known as the great horse thieves of the Plains. On July 21, the party arose to find half of their horses gone, although they never saw a single Indian.

On August 11, Clark, mistaken for an elk, was shot clean through his left thigh.  The wound was painful and took a while to heal, but not fatal.

Lewis and Clark reunited and traveled the swift current of the Missouri River back to the Mandan Village, where they bade farewell to Sacagawea.

In Teton Sioux territory, the expedition encountered threats and taunts. As they ran into traders, they were told that the expedition had been given up for dead. Two years, four months and ten days after they first left, the Corps of Discovery entered the Mississippi River on their way to St, Louis.  One-thousand people lined the shore to greet the returning team with gunfire, salutes and an enthusiastic WELCOME HOME!.

Isabel Gunn, the FIRST Woman of the Fur Trade

Orkney_Islands_in_Scotland.svgIsabel (Isobel, Isabella) Gunn, 1 of 6 siblings, was born on the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland in 1780 or 1781. She was the daughter of John Gunn and Isobel Leaske.

Life in Orkney, at the time, consisted of intense labor, hardship and poverty. The women looked after the farm. The men either joined the British Army to help defeat Napoleon, fished to survive, or they joined the fur trade.

Hudson's Bay logo 2013Not much is known about Isabel until the summer of 1806, when John Fubbister came to be. Guised as a man, Isabel/John entered the male dominated world of The Fur Trade by agreeing to a three year contract with The Hudson Bay Company for a whopping annual salary of 8 pounds. This salary, however meager by today’s standard, was far more than Gunn, or any woman, could hope to make during that time and in that place.

Ruperts LandHudson Bay Company policy did not allow European women to be in their employ. First Nation aboriginal women were barely allowed to serve as cooks or domestic servants, and only at company outposts. Gunn’s story holds many rumors. Was she enticed by the stories of adventure, via her brother George, who was already a member of The Company?  Was the thought of being away from a faithless lover, John Scarth, whom she might have met while he was on leave from HBC in 1805, so unbearable that she acted in such a manner to remain close to him? Was she taken advantage of by this same John Scarth, who threatened to uncover her ruse as a man, while they were both employed by HBC?  No matter. Cloaked as a male, and by way of her boarding The Prince Of Wales ship in June of 1806, Isabel subsequently and unwittingly became a pioneer of feminism as she became the first European woman to travel to Rupert’s Land, a part of Western Canada. She also became the first woman, of European descent, to give birth in the North West.

hudson 2As a laborer for the Hudson Bay Company, Isabel Gunn – aka John Fubbister, was assigned to provision outposts.  She was posted, alongside John Scarth, at Fort Albany in what is now Northern Ontario. They worked the boats running a route up the Albany River, but at the end of June, in 1807, their life paths separated. canoeScarth went to East Main on the eastern coasts of Hudson and James Bays, while Isabel was sent with a crew on an 1,800 mile canoe trek that traveled to Martin Falls, Red River and ended at the post in Pembina, which is now a part of North Dakota. Her pretense put 2,900 kilometers of travel under her belt for the HBC until the morning of December 29, 1807, when she gave birth to a boy, whom she named James Scarth. The birth took place at the home of Alexander Henry The Younger, who was chief of the North West Company’s Pembina post.  This, from his journal:

220px-Alexander_Henry_(1739-1824)“I returned to my room, where I had not been long before he sent one of my own people, requesting the favour of speaking with me. Accordingly, I stepped down to him, and was much surprised to find him extended out upon the hearth, uttering most dreadful lamentations; he stretched out his hand towards me and in a piteful tone of voice begg’d my assistance, and requested I would take pity upon a poor helpless abandoned wretch, who was not of the sex I had every reason to suppose. But was an unfortunate Orkney girl pregnant and actually in childbirth, in saying this she opened her jacket and display’d to my view a pair of beautiful round white breasts.”

Working on the boats, collecting furs, and running supplies was dangerous and physically demanding work. Isabel would have been required to hoist as much as ninety pounds on her back. She would have experienced harsh weather and the scarcity of food and less than sanitary conditions in a mosquito infested wilderness. Life was hard for the men. Imagine the difficulties for a woman who was also hiding a pregnancy. Yet no one suspected she was not a man. She dressed as a man, acted and worked as one. No one questioned her.

the-laundry-woman-1879The jig, however, was up. After the birth of her son, James, she became known as Mary Fubbister in The Company and was ordered to return to Albany.  She was no longer allowed to work among the men and was offered the menial position of a washerwoman, a position at which she did not excel. Once her son was baptized by Schoolmaster William Harper, in October, an unmarried and considered “ruined” Isabel/Mary was forcibly returned to Scotland on September 20, 1809 on the very same ship that she had first departed. Although John Hodgson, the chief factor at Albany, seemed sympathetic toward Isabel, The Hudson Bay Company upper echelon had concern about supporting a woman of “bad character.” Isabel never again returned to Canada. She lived in Stromness, working as a seamstress, and was likely an outcast even to her own Scottish family. John Scarth, returned to The Orkneys just once in 1812.  He went on to marry a Cree widow in 1822.  He passed away in 1833. Isabel died many years later on November 6, 1861.

bookcoverIsabel’s known and imagined adventures became a work of historical fiction by Audrey Thomas. A documentary poem titled The Ballad of Isabel Gunn was penned by Stephen Scobie. She became the subject of a documentary film, The Orkney Lad: The Story of Isabel Gunn, directed by filmmaker, Anne Wheeler.  Canadian folk singer Eileen McGann also paid homage with her moving ballad called Isabella Gunn.  A link of this ballad is included below.


SHRUB, SWITCHEL OR HAYMAKER’S DRINK

shrub2The word “shrub” is derived from the Arabic sharbah, which means “a drink.” “Sherbet” and “syrup” also come from this Arabic root. switchel2Also called switchels or haymaker’s drink (make hay while the sun shines!), shrub has some origin in 17th century England where vinegar was used as an alternative to citrus juices in the preservation of berries and other fruits for the off-season.

haymaker2The use of vinegar over fruit has a long history stretching back even to the Babylonians, who added the vinegar of a date to water in an attempt to make it safe to drink, and the Romans, for a beverage called Posca, which is a sour wine or vinegar with water and flavoring herbs.posca Shrub was first a drink for the lower class and was preserved with grain alcohol and mixed with berries or, if available, lemons, cherries or plums. This concentrate would keep indefinitely, due to the alcohol, and would be diluted with water when ultimately served. The acetic acid in vinegar alone, which does not support bacteria growth, also acts as a preserving agent. Shrubs were – and still are – a delicious way to enjoy seasonal fruit juices year-round. The process for making shrub was known as “a superior efficacy against putrefaction.”sailor

The practice of preserving fruit with vinegar carried over into colonial America. Colonial-era sailors carried shrubs, rich with Vitamin C, aboard their boats to prevent scurvy.scurvy It also kept the sailors away from the ardent spirits, because the beverage would “cheer,” but not inebriate.ginger Adding ginger reduced the potential for bloating and indigestion if one partook of it in excess. Just as it is advocated to sip ginger ale when suffering from nausea, so, too, did our ancestors see ginger as having a calming effect on upset stomachs. lauraingallswilderThose who drank a switchel with ginger could, as Laura Ingalls Wilder explained in The Long Winter, “drink until they were not thirsty. Ginger-water would not make them sick.”vinegar4

It was the vinegar that made it so popular in America. Credited with being able to bring down fevers, vinegar was traditionally viewed as having cooling attributes. temperancemovement2

Shrubs also gained popularity during the Temperance Movement and many 19th and early 20th century housekeeping manuals contain recipes for them. Nineteenth-century Americans frequently pointed to the Bible, citing passages that indicated that the ancient Israelites had used vinegar-based drinks to cool off. Ruth, for example, was credited with sharing a vinegar-based drink while working in the fields of Boaz. jamesdacreCaptain James Dacre, a British captain, who battled with the USS Constitution during the War of 1812, jokingly called for the drink to be prepared for the Americans whom he hoped to capture. But Dacre’s fantasy of serving the Americans their own drink as they surrendered went down when his ship, not the Constitution, was sunk.

By the 19th century, American recipes for shrubs used vinegar poured over berries, which was left to infuse anywhere from overnight up to several days. The fruit would then be strained and the liquid would be sweetened with sugar, honey or even molasses, and then reduced to make a syrup. The sweet-and-sour syrup could be mixed with either water or soda water and served as a soft drink, or it could be used as a mixer in alcoholic cocktails. Shrub eventually fell out of popularity with the advent of home refrigeration and the rise of industrially produced soft drinks.

drinkingvinegarDrinking vinegars, however, have recently come back into vogue.  Apple cider vinegar, commonly mixed with lemon and/or honey, is used medicinally as a tonic for weight loss and to dissolve gall and kidney stones. The serving of vinegar-based shrub drinks became popular again beginning in 2011 in American restaurants and bars and then went on to Canada and London. The acidity of the shrub makes it well suited as a before dinner drink, or as an alternative to bitters, because unlike cocktails acidulated with citrus, vinegar-based drinks remain clear when shaken.

white vinegarThe basic formula for shrub is 2 cups fruit to one pint of at least 5% acidic vinegar. The best fruits for shrub making are rarely perfect.  Farmer’s Market “seconds,” or any fruit that is abundantly in season and verging over-ripeness, are often used. After thoroughly washing and pealing, if necessary (apples and pears), the fruit is then chopped, or lightly crushed to shorten the infusing process.

vinegardrinkThe type of vinegar used should be carefully considered as well in order to complement, instead of overwhelm, the fruit. That old rule about cooking with wine — don’t cook with anything you’d refuse to drink — comes in handy here, as shrubs aren’t the place for bargain brands or distilled white vinegar, which is too sharp and acidic. That said, distilled white vinegar provides for a clear, sharp flavor; apple cider vinegar tends to be milder with a fruity flavor; wine vinegars, while more expensive, often provide a superior smooth flavor and a balsamic vinegar is often used, and most delicious, when paired with cherries and strawberries. honey

The fruit/vinegar mix is then sweetened with 1 ½ – 2 cups sugar. Sugar can be granulated, brown or raw. Honey or Agave may also be used. Ginger, Citrus peel, and even peppercorns have also been known to be added for flavor.

peppercorns

The final ingredient in a well-made shrub is an aromatic, usually an herb or spice. This addition is optional, but it’s the key to creating a distinctive shrub with multiple layers of flavor. Think back to memorable flavor combinations, both familiar and unusual, that you’ve enjoyed in your food. If you are intrigued with making your own shrub, consider the following flavor combinations:

Blackberries:
White wine, apple or champagne vinegar
Lemon verbena
or
Apple cider vinegar
Peppercorns

Blueberries:
White-wine vinegar
Bay leaves or lemon verbena or lavender

Carrots:
Rice vinegar
Ginger or toasted coriander seed

Citrus (Meyer lemon, grapefruit or blood orange):
White-wine vinegar
Rosemary

Cranberries:
Red-wine vinegar
Orange zest
or
Apple-cider vinegar
Cloves
Cinnamon sticks

Peaches:
Red-wine vinegar
Cinnamon or basil or lavender

Pineapple:
Coconut or rice vinegar
Sag or long pepper

Raspberries:
Red-wine vinegar
Pink peppercorns
or
Champagne vinegar
Rose geranium

Rhubarb:
Champagne or white-wine vinegar
Lavender
or
Apple-cider vinegar
Cardamom

Strawberries:
White-wine vinegar
Tarragon
or
Balsamic vinegar
Black peppercorns

Tomatoes:
White-wine vinegar
Basil
or
Red-wine vinegar
Peppercorns

Watermelon:
White-wine vinegar
Basil or mint

reducingThe tonic that results from the combination of fruit juice, sugar, vinegar and spices is a delicious miracle. The two methods for processing are reducing or cold brewing. The syrup resulting from reducing is immediately available for use. It is recommended that the cold brewing method have a minimum of ten days to infuse. When properly prepared, shrub syrups can be stored up to six months.


raspberriesThe Bear Lake Rendezvous is held at, of course, Bear Lake! What is synonomous with Bear Lake? Raspberries! For that reason, it just makes sense to include a recipe for a basic Raspberry Shrub with this blog, courtesy of blogger, Tammy Kimbler (One Tomato, Two Tomato). Here you go!

Ingredients

  • 3 cups raspberries, fresh or frozen
  • 3 cups red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar

Instructions

  • Sterilize a quart jar in boiling water for 10 minutes.
  • In a saucepan, heat the vinegar and sugar until the sugar dissolves.
  • Cool. When room temperature, add the raspberries to the jar and pour the vinegar/sugar liquid over top. Top with a lid and let sit for a week or two to infuse.
  • When ready, strain out the raspberries and return to the jar or bottle
  • To serve, pour 1 shot of shrub in a champagne glass and top with chilled champagne, sparkling water or ginger ale

Bear Lake Rendezvous intends to be present at The Annual Raspberry Days Festival held in Garden City.  This year, the event takes place on August 6th-8th. You may also register to camp in primitive or tin tipi for the Bear Lake Rendezvous scheduled a mere two weeks later, on August 21st – 23rd. Come on up and see us, and while enjoying the festivities of the Bear Lake Valley, enjoy a thirst quenching raspberry shrub or lemonade!

The modern day CACHE

topogrpahy

The topography of Canada and the United States, west of Lake Superior and North of the forty-second parallel, was determined between 1793 and 1812.  With the exception of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, fur traders from the American and Canadian fur trading companies did all of the early exploration. sacagaweaThese fur traders were either accompanied by Native Americans, or Native Americans told them about the major passes and routes through the Rocky Mountains.

surveyorThe French explorers who mapped the shores of America’s Great Lakes were not trained in surveying. When we look at the maps they drew, in the 1600s and 1700s, there are many mistakes.  Modern surveying had to wait, in any case, until the invention of a reliable chronometer watch that could be used to observe astronomical objects and precisely fix longitudes.  The inventor who assembled the first longitudinal chronometer was an Englishman, a Mr. John Harrison, and he and his successors sold chronometers to the “sea dogs” of the Royal Navy.  chronometerStarting in the late 1700s, the Royal Navy calibrated its chronometers by the longitude of its headquarters in Greenwich, a suburb of London, and the longitudinal numbers that flash on our GPS devices are based upon Greenwich to this day.  Determining one’s precise location, which now can be done with the push of a button or two on a smart phone, then required tedious observations of several known angles – such as the elevation of the North Star – and then complex arithmetical calculations by the light of a grimy window, a candle, or an oil lamp.

cacheThe word CACHE stirs up visions of pioneers, gold miners, pirates and FUR TRADERS. Fur traders and early explorers often “cached” their goods. When Lewis and Clark were hiring men in and around Mackinac Island’s great rival, St. Louis, in 1803; they hired many trained fur traders. Two years later in 1805, pushing up the Missouri River into what is now western Montana, these men saw the Rocky Mountains rising in front of them. They knew they would be coming back, so they carefully memorized certain sections of the riverbank, dug at least two separate holes, deposited some of the goods that they did not want to portage over the mountains, and called the holes “caches.”

lewisdiaryIn 1806 the successful explorers, who had reached and wintered on the Pacific coast, re-crossed the mountains and retrieved their hoards. Lewis was sad, however, he admitted in his journal, that at least one of the caches, containing valuable bearskins, had gotten wet and the furs were ruined. Later fur traders learned how to dig and line relatively waterproof caches by searching for patches of well-drained sandy high ground and using grease, tallow, wax, or some other waterproofing agent to try to seal valuable goods.

Each cache was buried secretly and the extra dirt was piled on a blanket or hide and taken to a stream where it could be washed away.  Other tricks to hiding a cache include digging up the floor within the walls of a tent, burying the cache and then camping over it for a period of days to tamp down the dirt and remove any sign of the hole.  Many trappers would build a campfire over the cache as well.  Sometimes, it was over a year before the trapper returned to their cache treasure mapand to find it they made rough maps, identifying a large mound of dirt over here…a unique tree over there…a big boulder…They would then note the location of the cache by pacing the distance to the cache from each identified landmark.


Let’s fast forward to the current century. Although modern technology has given ease to what was once tedious, man’s desire to seek and discover has not waned.  We experience a Bill Murray type of “Groundhog Day” each day we live by getting up, going to work, doing the sleep thing and starting all over again most days of our lives.  It’s no wonder our desire for diversity and adventure is often achieved during our “down-time” by getting ourselves lost in the great outdoors.

satelliteOn May 2, 2000, at approximately midnight, eastern savings time, twenty-four satellites around the globe simultaneously processed new orders and instantly the accuracy of GPS technology improved tenfold.

An announcement, the day before, came as a welcome surprise to everyone who worked with GPS technology. The government planned to remove selective availability of GPS completely by 2006.

Sierra Exif JPEG

Dave Ulmer, the first geocache stasher

On May 3, 2000, Dave Ulmer, a computer consultant, wanted to test the accuracy of the now publically available GPS tracking by hiding a navigational target in the woods. He called the idea the “Great American GPS Stash Hunt” and posted it on an internet GPS users’ group.  Dave placed his own container, a black bucket, in the woods by Beavercreek, Oregon, which is near to Portland. Along with a logbook and pencil, he left various prize items including videos, books, software, and a slingshot. He shared the waypoint of his “stash” with the online community on sci.geo.satellite-nav:

N 45° 17.460 W 122° 24.800

Within three days, two different readers read about his stash on the Internet, used their own GPS receivers to find the container, and shared their experiences online. Throughout the next week, others excited by the prospect of hiding and finding stashes, began hiding their own containers and posting coordinates. Like many new and innovative ideas on the Internet, the concept spread quickly.

mikeWithin the first month, Mike Teague, the first person to find Ulmer’s stash, began gathering the online posts of coordinates around the world and documenting them on his personal home page. The “GPS Stash Hunt” mailing list was created to discuss the emerging activity. Names were even tossed about to replace the name “stash” due to the negative connotations of that name.  And Geocaching was born.

GEO: for Earth, was used to describe the global nature of the activity, but also for its use in familiar topics in gps such as geography.

CACHE:  The French word invented in 1797, referred to a hiding place someone would use to temporarily store items.

For the first few months, geocaching was confined to existing experienced GPS users who already used the technology for outdoor activities such as backpacking and boating. Those users had an existing knowledge of GPS and a firm grasp of the obscure lingo used. New players had a steep learning curve before going out on their first cache hunt and tools were initially scarce for this new game.

miketeaguejeremyirish

Brian Roth, Jeremy Irish and Elias Alvord

Jeremy Irish, a web developer for a Seattle company, stumbled upon Mike Teague’s website in July 2000 while doing research on GPS technology. The idea of treasure hunting and using tech-gadgets represented the marriage of two of his biggest interests. Discovering one was hidden nearby; Jeremy purchased his first GPS unit and went on his first hunt the following weekend.

After experiencing the thrill of finding his first cache, Irish decided to start a hobby site for the activity. Adopting the term geocaching, he created Geocaching.com and applied his professional web skills to create tools to improve the cache-hunting experience. The cache listings were still added by hand, but a database helped to standardize the listings. Additional features, like searching for caches around zip codes, made it easier for new players to find listings for nearby caches.

With Mike Teague’s valuable input, the new site was completed and announced to the stash-hunting community on September 2, 2000. At the time the site was launched there were a mere 75 known caches in the world.

slashdotSlashdot, a popular online magazine for techies, reported the new activity on September 25, 2000, introducing a larger group of technology professionals to the activity. The New York Times picked up the story and featured it in its “Circuits” section in October, starting a domino effect of articles written in magazines, newspapers, and other media outlets around the world. CNN even did a segment in December 2000 to profile the new hobby.

The growing community chanted the mantra “If you hide it, they will find it” to the newer players. After some reassurances, pioneers of the hobby started placing caches just to see whether people would go find them. They did.

Through word of mouth, press articles, and even accidental cache discoveries, more and more people have become involved in geocaching. First started by technology and GPS enthusiasts, the ranks of geocachers now include couples, families, and groups from all walks of life. The excitement of the hunt appeals to both the inner (and outer) child. Today you can do a search on just about anywhere in the world and be able to walk, bike, or drive to a nearby hidden cache.

geocachelogoGeocaching is a real-world treasure hunt that’s happening right now; all around you using GPS enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache hidden at that location.  There are now 2,590,242 active geocaches and over 6 million geocachers worldwide.

See!  Everyone, at heart, wants to be a Mountain Man!

laketown01There are also no less than 54 caches hidden in or around Laketown, UT. All you need is a smart phone and the coordinates to the cache, which may be found here:

https://www.geocaching.com/play/search/@41.82549,-111.32243?origin=Laketown+utah

meritbadgeIf you are bringing your family up to camp and visit the Rendezvous, consider giving geocaching a go. If you have a boy scout in your family, they can earn a merit badge for participating.  This is a FUN, FUN activity for the entire family!

cache3

A much younger Dana finding her first cache! July 2001

Dana is a member of Groundspeak and Geocaching.com.  If you have any initial questions about this activity, please feel free to leave a comment below and she will reply.  Or, you may contact her by email with your questions:

dana@bearlakerendezvous.com

The 1828 Sweet Lake (Bear Lake) Rendezvous

“None of the mountain rendezvous has (sic) been more obscure than the gathering of 1828.”
~Dale Morganmural14-large

Phillip Covington was born in North Carolina on December 1803. He moved to Kentucky, where he became a school teacher.  Then, at the age of 23, he left his Kentucky home for the far western edge of Missouri.

Fast forward to 1879: Covington wrote a manuscript about his adventures in the mountains for the Greeley Colorado Sun. His lively account is quite informative and provides a lot of “new” information about the Rocky Mountain fur trade, fills in gaps, corrects assumptions and tells us more than we ever knew about the 1828 Sweetwater Rendezvous.

william subletteCovington relates that William Sublette arrived in Lexington on September 15, 1827 with a train of pack mules, laden with beaver, to meet William Ashley’s party from St. Louis, who had several wagon loads of goods and groceries ready for transport. Sublette advertised for new recruits and Covington, along with several of his bachelor friends, answered the call.  In exchange for $250.00, the men agreed to dedicate 12-14 months to pack goods and trap beaver. The men purchased from the company, at what Covington called “very low” prices, two blankets, a capote, two heavy red flannel shirts, and as much extra clothing as each thought proper to lay in. Most also purchased two pounds of tobacco and a pound of salt.  On or around October 1, 1827, Jackson and Sublette took charge of the pack train and, with 45 men – Covington included – and 80 mules heavily loaded with good and groceries, they headed to the mountains with goods and supplies valued at $20,000.00.

packtrain2It was a brutally cold winter that year and by the time they reached the mountains the mules were starving and freezing.  Every night one or more mule died until every man was on foot. There was no place to cache goods, so the men were forced to carry the merchandise. Just before Christmas, in the Black Hills near where Fort Laramie is now located, they stopped in a cottonwood grove and made camp.  On Christmas morning Sublette distributed pure brandy which was well received by the company after such hard traveling.

When March arrived and the snow began to disappear, the party found a suitable spot on a bluff along the Platte to cache the supplies. After that, the men started trapping beaver along the many streams that flowed from the foothills.

beaver_slowCovington reports that during this time, the principal food of these trappers was beaver meat. This contradicts long-held beliefs of many historians who claim the mountain men seldom ate the meat of the beaver they trapped.

fabric boltDuring the spring, blowing snow and rain caused considerable damage to one of the caches. Several bales of calico, red and blue cloths, tobacco, sugar, coffee and raisins became wet and damaged. Entire bolts of cloth had to be opened and spread out to dry.

muleBlackfoot Indians killed Joseph Coté at Birch Creek, which later became known as Cote’s defile.  Dale Morgan stated that Cote’s death was “almost the only clue that Jackson and Sublette’s were present in the mountains in the spring of 1828.” The Indian that killed Cote’ slipped in among the mules, cutting several loose.  Coté was on guard duty and  although he crawled close to the Indian, with gun cocked, the Indian fired first. Cote’ was the only man of Sublette’s company lost that year.

Bodmer_--_Blackfoot_Indian,_1840-1843

Approximately two or three hundred Blackfoot warriors attacked Robert Campbell’s party as it was just a few miles from the rendezvous site. Things might have gone poorly for Campbell’s group if it had not been so close to rendezvous. 60-70 trappers and several hundred friendly Indians quickly arrived from rendezvous to reinforce Campbell’s group. skirmish

Depending on who is telling the story, the Blackfoot Indians are believed to have retired from the field before the reinforcements arrived. Lewis Bolduc was killed during this skirmish. Corroborated by Campbell as well as Daniel Pott and Jim Beckworth, Covington’s articles relate that a war party left, then returned after a week or so, with several enemy scalps. A scalp dance was held upon the party’s return and Covington provides many details of this celebration in his writing.

Covington provides the most detailed description known of the location of the 1828 rendezvous site. He wrote:

meadowville01We camped at the south end of the lake. It had a most beautiful shore, sloping gradually to the water’s edge, sandy and gravelly, with a considerable quantity of cottonwood trees growing without any underbrush. South of the lake was a beautiful a valley as eyes ever beheld, about two or three miles each way, all covered with the most luxuriant grass, which furnished excellent pasturage for our animals. About half a mile from the lake, a large spring came up out of the prairie, which made a stream about two feet deep and fifteen or twenty feet wide, with plenty of the finest quality of fish. This was on the east, and on the west, not more than half a mile, came out another spring of nearly the same description, both boiling up on the prairie, and dry ground all round. Both of these streams ran down a gradual slope into the lake.”

The valley Covington mentions is most likely modern day Meadowville Valley. The spring to the east could be Falula Spring and the spring on the west is probably what is now known as Big Spring.

cabinCovington stated that a small cabin was built up about eight feet high with poles laid across, then covered by cottonwood limbs with the leaves still on, forming a good shaded covering. They split poles for shelving for the dry goods and two or three poles formed a counter on which more goods were laid. The only other mention of a log building at a rendezvous comes from the 1838 event.

campRendezvous this year would last through the early part of July. Covington describes a lively time at rendezvous.  “Plenty of fine horses; plenty of fine brandy and whiskey at $2.00 a pint or tin cup full; plenty of goods and groceries of almost every description. Horse racing and shooting was carried on to a considerable degree, while card playing and drinking was not neglected.” Like so many rendezvous yet to come, the men let their hair down and celebrated another successful year in the Rocky Mountains.

hughglassMany of the most famous of mountaineers were present. Hugh Glass retold the famous story of his encounter with a grizzly and even pulled off his shirt to show the scars on his back and body as proof. Covington mentions becoming acquainted with Jim Bridger, Ezekiel Abels, Jim Beckwourth and Black Harris. Harris is believed to have gone west with Sublette in 1827. His whereabouts were unknown up until 1829, but it is now apparent that Harris was at Bear Lake in the summer of 1828.

joshuapilcherSupplied by John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company and to add a little competition, Joshua Pilcher’s fur company was also present at the 1828 rendezvous.  Most of their supplies, which had been cached, were destroyed by water seepage. They were, however, successful in trading for 17 packs of beaver with the meager supplies that they were able to salvage. Many historians link Johnson Gardner to Pilcher, claiming Gardner acted as Pilcher’s clerk, but he did not hire on with Pilcher until after the end of the rendezvous. Covington’s dialogue indicated Gardner was a free trapper, who had the best rifle in the company short of Captain Sublette.  Gardner must have accompanied the furs east, then hired on with Sublette’s supply train.

packtrainThe partners of Smith, Jackson and Sublette were responsible for the task of returning furs themselves to St. Louis.  The company made their departure from rendezvous for St. Louis around the fifteenth of August, with 45 to 50 men and about 80 or 90 mules heavily laden with fur valued at nearly $36,000.00, consisting of 7710 pounds of Beaver pelts, 59 otter skins, 73 muskrat skins and 27 pounds of castoreum.  Antoine_JanisThe “big Bushaway” (probably Sublette) lead the way and the “little Bushaway” (most likely Antoine Janis) brought up the rear. Some of Pilcher’s men, also carrying their proceeds from trading at the rendezvous, accompanied Sublette back to St. Louis.  Although Sublette and Pilcher were competitors and rivals, it was not unusual for them to travel together, for the greater safety provided by their numbers.scouting

Camp fare was pretty rough. There was no bread, but Sublette brought along two or three mules loaded with side bacon and five or six fat steers to butcher.  That meat was gone well before the caravan got to buffalo country.

buffalo-herdOn the Platte River Plains the company was surprised to spot several hundred Indians riding toward them at full speed. The men halted, formed a circle, unpacked the goods and piled them up for breast works.  The mules were then picketed within the perimeter and the men hunkered down behind the packs, rifles aimed and ready, but the Indians proved to be Pawnee merely looking for buffalo.  A few tobacco plugs earned the company passage.

mtn-men-sleeping2a1Jackson and Sublette arrived in St Louis on October 13, 1828, netting a surplus of $16,000.00.  Upon their arrival, the men of the party all stood in front of Ashley’s fine home and unpacked the mules. General Ashley, his wife, and his sister-in-law hosted the company for a breakfast of coffee, tea, white biscuits, and good butter. Nearly all of the men were still attired in suits of leather, hunting shirts, and blanket coats – just as they came off the plains. Says Covington, they had not washed with soap for months!

50With breakfast over, Ashley gave each man $50 to go to town and purchase new clothes. Covington went to the barbershop for a shave and a haircut, got himself a new suit, then went to a hotel and called for a tub of hot water with PLENTY of soap. He returned to Ashley and settled accounts, receiving $210. He was only docked $40 for clothing and expenses for his year in the mountains.

“So you see I did not gamble nor spend much on alcohol, as some others did.”
~Phillip Covington

Mountain Men – Myths and Legends

As a small and unique cultural subset of the U.S. population in the early 1800’s, Mountain men distinguished themselves by forging into the wilderness between St. Louis and California. They mapped the rivers and mountains, established relations with Indian populations, saw unimaginable sights, survived uncivilized conditions and experienced incredible adventures.

When the energy of the nation was focused on westward expansion, the Mountain Man was at the forefront of that expansion and consciousness.  Subsequently, who and what they were become distorted until today popular knowledge holds, as truth, multiple misconceptions. It did not help matters that Mountain Men were also masters of spinning tales.  Many an experience was embellished into a larger than life story that made it into the books of American history.

Some of these misconceptions include:

  1. Mountain men always have beards
  2. Mountain men were solitary and loners
  3. Mountain men softened their leather by first chewing it
  4. Mountain men cheated the Indians by trading worthless trinkets for valuable furs
  5. Mountain men were illiterate

What are some myths/legends  you may have heard? Post them on our face book page.