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
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
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
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.
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".
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
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
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
Rick eating breakfast
Crazy eating breakfast
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
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
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 Hunt Party:
Rick and Sandy Hunt
Crazy and Jill
Quote from the book "Madame Dorian", by Jerome
"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."