Women of
             the
             Fur Trade
5-Day Travel Down the Snake   

5-days full of Bull

 

    We were the Hunt Party, consisting of Rick and
   Sandy Hunt, Jill and Crazy. We were following the 
   footsteps of the original Hunt Party when they left
   from the site of Fort Henry (near present day, St.
   Anthony, Idaho) in dugouts, in the year of 1811,
   October 16th they set out. With them was Marie
   Dorian, the second woman to make the journey
   from St. Louis to the Pacific Coast. They lost two
   men on the treacherous Snake River. We say this
   Hunt Party wasn't near as fortunate, cause our
   men came home.

 

    Our floatilla consisted of two Bullboats and two
   canoes. The men were to man the canoes as support
   vessels to the Bullboats, we not knowing how well
   they would hold up on a 5-day trip.

           HENCE: FIVE DAYS FULL OF BULL.

 

   Sandy and Jill had made their Bullboats from
   Green Buffalo Hides stretched over a Willow
   frame. 
            
          HENCE: "THE HUNT PARTY."

    

    Jill and Sandy carried their own bedrolls and
   gear in their Bullboats. The Wool Blankets were
   wrapped in oilcloth, tied in a tight roll, then tied
   to the Willow frame in the center of the Bullboats.
   This made for a comfortable seat, kind of like
   straddling a horse. Extra gear was carried in the 
   back for ballast. Even though the Bullboats
   took on water at times, the bedding stayed dry
   for the course of the trip. The men loaded all of
   their gear in the very front of the canoes and
   moved their paddling position forward; this
   made the canoes easy to control by one person. 

 

Rick loading the front of the canoe

 

   DAY 1:

    September 25th,2006

   We started our Journey at about 11a.m., Four
   miles below Fort henry, on the henry's fork of
   the Snake River. This was to be a 5 day expedition
   to the Mennan Buttes, just past the confluence of
   the Henry's Fork with the Snake River.

    
 Starting down the River on Day 1

 

   It was a fair day, Sunshine and no wind, a gentle
   current. It made for a fine first day, learning to
   manage our Bullboats on this River. We had traveled
   about 6 hours and arrived to the site where
   Rabbitstick had just been held. There were still a
   few people there so we stopped to visit and take a
   break from the River. Then we headed down River
   once more.

 

   On this stretch there are two Elk Farms nearby and
   this time of year they are in Rut and Bugling, which
   made for some nice serenades in the night. So Elk
   country was our goal for the first nights camp. At
   this point and time the bottoms of the Bullboats were
   getting soggy, so we started looking for campsites
   along the way. The first stop was already occupied by
   a Bull Moose and we opted not to disturb his rest so
   we traveled on. It started to get dusk and we could hear
   Elk singing to us, which pushed us onward. We came
   to shore on a fine Beach across the River from the Elk
   Herd. We carried our Bedrolls into the Cottonwoods.
   We made our beds in the two-foot tall, soft grass. We
   had been on the River another 2 hours, which gave us
   a total of 8 hours on the River the first day. Better
   than we expected for the endurance of the Bullboats. 
   We pulled our Bullboats onto the grass and tied ropes
   tightly, back and forth across the frames of the boats
   so they would hold their shapes while they dried. Then
   they were propped up on end with the paddles, they
   need that drying time before getting back in the River.
   This ritual was done every night.


Drying Bullboats

 

   Dinner was Rice and meat on a stick. Good for all
   but Jill, who was stricken with a case of the stomach
   flu. Sandy didn't care a bit, just said "You're coming.
   I've got a 5 day requirement to fill, so Buck up and
   don't give me any Bull".

 

 

   DAY 2:

   September 26th, 2006

   A leisurely breakfast, there was no hurry cause we
   wanted to give the bullboats some drying time and
   Jill some dieing time. The drier the boats are the
   longer they can stay in the water. We spent the
   morning scouting the area around camp and watching
   the Elk across the River. We leisurely tore down
   camp and packed our gear down to the River. We
   started down the River around 11a.m. again. The
   Bullboats are definately slower than the canoes. The
   women had to keep paddling to stay in the fastest
   current to make any time. The day was cloudy and
   cold. Then the wind started picking up. In some
   places it gave us a headwind to fight and at times
   it felt as if we were in a standstill, no matter how
   hard we paddled.

 

   Along this stretch of the River we passed the graves
   of Jenny Lee, the wife of Beaver Dick Lee, One of the
   early trappers of the area. He was a guide for the early
   surveyors of the Yellowsrone Park. He led one party
   and Jim Bridger led the other. Jenny's Lake and Lee
   Lake, in Teton Park, are named after the couple.

 

   Because of the headwinds, the bullboats were not
   making any time, even with hard, hard paddling.
   After hours of fighting the headwinds and paddling
   hard, Jill had had enough, still sick with the stomache
   flu, she beached her bullboat and crawled out,
   collapsed on the sand. Being such a good and
   concerned friend, Sandy pulled into the shore but
   didn't quite beach her bullboat before trying to get
   out. Not paying any attention to the instability of the
   bullboat, she put one foot out and the bullboat rolled
   out from under her, catching her other foot and
   throwing her into the River.

 

   Rick and Crazy had already beached their canoes
   and was walking toward Sandy when performed her
   graceful disembarking from the bullboat. The look
   she gave them would turn any ordinary man into
   stone, or at least whimpering cowards, but not Rick
   and Crazy! They did stop laughing though, that was
   until they saw her flask of Brandy floating down the
   River. When Sandy started after them yelling, "Go get
   it", they retreated like any  good survivalist, back into
   their canoes.

 

   After a short rest we continued but found the
   headwinds to be too strong to make the distance to
   our intended camp. We opted to be towed by the
   canoes for the last bit.

 

   Sandy was wet and cold, her wool dress had stayed
   fairly warm but the cotton drawers she was wearing
   were freezing cold. She could not get warm until we
   reached camp and those wet drawers came off.
   Another good learning experience, no cotton,
   only wool on River trips.

 

   Beaver Dick Lee park was where we set up camp on
   night two. A warm fire, dry clothes, Rice, Sausage
   and hot coffee. All was well and warm again. This
   night coyotes did the serenading. It had been another
   8 hours on the River.


Camp at Beaver Dick Lee Park

 

 

   DAY 3:

   September 27th,2006

   We left early, that wind blowing helped dry the
   Bullboats making it easier to get an early start and
   Jill was feeling better today. It was a much warmer
   day. The women wore their strap dresses without the
   sleeves. No more cotton drawers. The women always
   went barefoot in their Bullboats, Moccasins tied
   together and slung over their necks. At this point
   the women were getting quite comfortable with their
   Bullboats. They were spinning them in circles, seeing
   how fast they could turn them, and sharing another
   flask of Brandy (Now tied to the frame of the Bullboat).


Sharing some spirits

 

   We saw HUGE Trout below us. Swimming back and
   fourth under our vessels, taunting us. We tried
   fishing, our hand tied flies with horse hair leader now
   in the water, trolling behind our boats. No fish. They
   weren't interested in our bait. We saw a large River
   turtle in the shallows. Lots of Beaver sign and on
   occasion the Beaver would pop out of the water. Lots
   of Canadian Geese flying above us, then Sandhill
   Cranes would take their turn in flight. The water was
   taking its toll on the Bullboats, they were getting
   soggy and taking on an odor of their own. Rick and
   Crazy couldn't help but notice the occupants wore
   the same odor themselves. Those darn evening
   headwinds came up again. Sandy's boat with taller
   sides than Jill's more shallow was slower in the winds.
   The headwinds seemed to buck the front of the boat
   making hard to get any headway on the water. When
   there was a break in the winds is when you took
   advantage and paddled like crazy. Jill's boat seemed
   to glide across the water with the winds. Started
   looking for a camp. It was a shorter day, only 6
   hours on the water today. As we beached, Sandy
   again demonstrated her graceful roll out of the
   Bullboat and into the water. She swears those
   Bullboats are alive and playing with her, that one
   seems to like to grab her foot as she disembarks.
   Lucky for Rick and Crazy, they didn't get to witness
   that one! They were packing their gear into camp.


  
Rick and Crazy at camp that evening

 

    We made our camp in a meadow of Sweet sage and
   grass. Just about dusk we soon found that we were
   intruding on anothers campsite, the Sandhill Cranes
   and Canadian Geese kept circling over our heads and
   making quite a racket, letting us know that we were
   camping in their roosting area. The women gathered
   bundles of sweet sage and tied them into a medicine
   bundle and attached them to the back frame of the
   bullboat. Gathering some fallen feathers from the
   Geese and Cranes and placing into the tied ropes on
   the medicine bundles. This was done for good
   medicine.
  By the fire that evening Rick and Crazy
   couldn't help but sing a chorus of "Buffalo Gals
   won't you come out tonight, cause you sure are
   smelling ripe".

 

  
Rick eating breakfast

 

                          
Crazy eating breakfast

 

   DAY 4:

   September 28th,2006

   We were back in the water about 10 a.m., letting
   the bullboats dry in the sun a bit. The Mennan Buttes
   are in sight. The sun was shining down on us.
   Another nice warm day. After about 3 hours on the
   river we seen an Island and pulled off for a rest. We
   discovered some Mussel shells, so Sandy and Jill
   began digging for Mussels. We found several by
   digging deep into the sand with our paddles. We saved
   them with plans of using them in our evening meal.
   We gathered some of the pretty shells and placed them
   in our medicine bundles. We could hear another herd
   of Elk close by, bugling adding nature's sounds to the
   day.

 


Note the medicine bundle at the
back of the boat

 

    The River had a few shallow spots that bogged down
   the Canoes and bullboats. We had to get out and pull
   them! The Mennan Buttes seem to be getting farther
   away when they should be closer. In fact they seem to
   disappear for awhile and then reappear in a different
   area. Crazy laughed at us, he said it is just how the
   river winds, makes it seem that way. We then saw five
   Deer on shore, they jumped into the water and started
   playing with each other, bouncing around and
   splashing like we weren't even there.


Mennan Buttes in the Background

 

   Fourth night camp was hard to find! We had to get
   out cause those bullboats were really getting soggy.
   We had just passed the first Butte, but never found a
   spot till the 2nd Butte was in sight. We beached at a
   muddy outlet. Sandy didn't fall in this time when she
   got out. Instead when she stepped out, she sunk!
   Right down into that mud!

 

   Camp was located. Camp was straight up the side
   of a hill. We had to relay our gear up the bank. Once
   up though, there was a small, pretty clearing in the
   Pines, just right for camp. Sandy and Jill then
   returned to their boats to secure them for the night,
   only this time they were tied to a tree to keep them
   from rolling into the water.

 

   The campsite was littered with alot of fresh Beaver
   cuttings. In fact, the Beavers slapping their tails on
   the water sporadically interrupted the stillness of the
   night. Seemed like we were on their favorite feeding
   grounds and they were letting us know they
   disapproved of our choices. The night was cool, but
   nice enough there was no need for a shelter. Bedrolls
   were thrown onto the ground.

 

   It was pretty early in the evening when we camped.
   We had actually been on the river about 5 hours with
   all the stops figured in. We had actually got more
   hours on the river when we let the bullboats dry longer.

 

   We boiled up our Mussels in a pot. The water in the
   bottom of the pot turned a real muddy, thick brown.
   On opening the shells we found them to be full of mud
   and sand. All but one, and that one Rick got and ate.
   He couldn't differentiate the taste of the mussel from
   the mud. It wouldn't chew either, kind of rubbery, he
   had to just swallow it hole and let it slide down. So
   much for having mussels for dinner.

Camp on the 4th night

 

   DAY 5:

   September 29th,2006

   We didn't leave till about noon because of the
   bullboats drying time and not much distance to
   cover. We noticed the river was running real slow
   because of the convergence. Of course this caused
   more paddling for the bullboaters.

 

   The sheer Rock Cliffs with the Eagles perching at
   the top and then flying down to fish the river made
   for a pleasant afternoon. The River was getting
   noticeably deeper due to the backwater from the
   convergence. These Lava Rock Cliffs and the mennan
   Buttes are mentioned by Ferris in his journal and here
   we are traveling the same spots. Can it get any better?

 

 

   We were quite apprehensive about how the
   bullboats were going to handle the convergence.
   When we arrived at the convergence we decided to
   take a break on the far side of the Snake River. This
   was quite a challenge for those bullbboats. The
   current was stronger and we had to fight against it.
   Hard paddling to get to shore. Rick and Crazy came
   to the shore and was trying to swat at us with their
   paddles, but we fooled them, we grabbed ahold of
   them paddles and pulled ourselves to shore. After
   resting about 30 minutes we continued. On the main
   Snake River we found that current to be a whole lot
   faster. This River had areas of fast current and areas
   that hardly moved. In the calm areas the bullboats
   could hardly move and in the fast currents our
   bullboats were at the mercy of the River. Jill was
   paddling as hard as she could to get out of the
   current and she couldn't do it, until she started to
   spin her bullboat and was able to spin herself out.
   Sandy just rode the current giving herself to the
   trust of the River. She came to the point of an Island
   where the current divided and was able to paddle
   out. The women made it to shore safely. Rick and
   Crazy having beached before the women.

 

   After 5 hours on the River we had completed our
   5-day travel without the loss of a single man and
   only the near loss of one female bullboater. Our only
   sacrifice was the loss of one flask of Brandy.

                                                 THE END

 

 

    The Hunt Party:

   September25th-29th,2006

    Rick and Sandy Hunt

   Crazy and Jill

 

 

   Quote from the book "Madame Dorian", by Jerome
   Peltier

  "On December 6th,1811 they saw members of
   Ramsey Crooks party on the opposite banks of
   the River. Much shouting over the sounds of the
   stream elicited the fact that the South shore people
   were starving. A bullboat was made and some
   horsemeat was sent across the rampaging stream in
   care of a voyageur by the name of Delaunay. The
   Crooks party was even worse physical condition
   than Hunt's. One of the Canadian Frenchmen, named
   Prevost, urged Hunt to take him back across the
   river with him. Delaunay said "stay where you are,
   you see there is now meat on your side also." "It is
   not cooked, I will die before it is ready" Prevost
   replied as he stepped into the boat. He saw meat
   roasting over the embers of a fire as they neared the
   opposite shore and did a dance of joyous anticipation
   which capsized the fragile craft throwing Delaunay
   and himself into the roiling water. Once again
   Madame Dorian saw a fellow traveler disappear
   beneath the treacherous waters of the Snake River.
   Prevost was lost, but Delaunay was rescued, not
   without great difficulty and heroism on the part
   of his rescuers."

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