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. For Rick and Sandy, this trip would fullfill the 5-day travel requirements for the W.F.T and A.M.M., 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 bback 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 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.
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 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
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
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
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: 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.