A Ride to the Rocky Mountain National Rendezvous – July 2010

by Kraig Fallwell  #1659 Hiveranno

A short while ago, Dick Pieper and I were talking about wanting to go on a  horse ride somewhere. He and Oliver McCloskey had been talking about it too, and had decided to take a trip through Colorado and ride to the Rocky Mountain National Rendezvous.

So then it was planned. Dick made the arrangements. It would be just after the fourth of July holiday.

I met Dick at his ranch on the 5th and got some sleep before leaving the next morning.

About 3:00AM, Mike Hancock arrived and we had a great breakfast by Mrs. Pieper and we set off toward Colorado. We were met by Oliver McCloskey and at the ranch of some really nice folks that were friends with Dick and were treated to a fine supper and drinks. Morning finds us arriving on the 6th at the trail head near Durango, Colorado. The place was called Vallecito Trail.

After we unloaded our horses and gear, we spent the night there to get a fresh start the next day. We are heading to the rendezvous that is near Creede, Colorado, some 80 to 100 miles away. We are a small party consisting of four men and seven head of stock.

Oliver McCloskey is our booshway, and Dick Pieper, myself, Kraig Fallwell, and a guest, a man named Mike Hancock.

7 July, Wednesday

Finally we start on the trail. It is good to be going and we’re just getting the feel of how our animals will work for us. We got a late start today and only make about seven or eight miles, but find a suitable camp and stop for the night. I slept well.

8 July, Thursday

We’re up and have breakfast of bacon , dried fruit and biscuits, with coffee.

We saddle up and get ready to leave. Oliver figures that we will travel about twenty miles or so before reaching the Continental Divide. We will make camp there.  Started out and along a narrow mountain trail, two riders go through and I see the trail starting to give away. My horse looses her footing and we go over the side! It was not really high or real steep but we fell about thirty feet and got banged up and scratched. I broke the stock on my rifle during the fall.

Lucky for the both of us, we weren’t hurt and I was able to get back on my horse and head  in the direction that the others went. Oliver found a way down to where I was and we rode back to where the others were waiting.  We all continue on down the trail. Rain begins to fall, we keep going, and cross many small streams and rivers. Finally, we reach the Great Divide. Beautiful scenery, everywhere I look. We stop and make a few sketches of the area and then, push on, we need to make a few more miles. We come to a nice spot and decide to make camp. It’s getting dark, we unpack the mules and unsaddle our ponies. Got a fire going to dry out. Oliver says he thinks we made about forty miles today. The other men sit around the fire for awhile, I’m banged up and sore from my horse wreck, so I just go to sleep.

9 July  Friday.

Morning sun wakes me, and I’m up and feeling pretty good! I check on the stock and get a fire started.

Get some hot coffee and food in my stomach and I’m all set. We start out and have a pretty good day, we make about fifteen or so miles, the going is pretty tough and we took a wrong turn at one spot and had to find another trail. Still on the Divide. Made camp about two hours before sundown. Dicks’ horse got stuck in some loose rocks in a creek and had to have help freeing it.

10 July, Saturday.

Woke up to a fine morning. Coffee on and bacon cooking. We hope to make some miles today. We hit the trail and rode some pretty rough country. After a while, we run into some weather. First it’s rain, then hail is pelting us and our stock. Nowhere to take cover, so we push on. After a while, we find a spot to hunker down and wait out the storm. We get a fire going, it feels good, and pass around a flask of rum.

Waugh! Good times! The rain stops and we get back on the trail. It’s really slow going,

Much timber and rock on the trail. Finally, we come to a most beautiful view, we make sketches and take in natures beauty. We move on along over more rugged trails. Finally, we make it to a place called Trout Lake and make camp there. After our work is done, we sit by our fire and enjoy the night. We are just coming off the Divide today. Weather is clear and chilly, stars overhead. Tomorrow we hope to make it to rendezvous. We figure we made about twenty five miles today. I slept well.

11 July Sunday

Woke up and noticed that one of the mules that I thought I had tied good, was loose.

It was Ol’ Doc, one of  Dick’s critters. Doc has a reputation for being an escape artist!

After coffee, we get moving and see much game. I am in front and jump a big deer. On this trip, we also saw many elk, and a moose and her calf. Move on down Trout Creek Trail and it is very slow going. There is much timber and rock blocking the trail, we have to get around it as best that we can. We are planning on about seventeen to twenty miles today. Our progress is slow. We have to cross the stream many times today. Along the way, one of the packs on the mule works itself loose and we have to stop and tighten it. After about ten miles, the trail gets better. We finally arrive at rendezvous about eight thirty in the evening. Many people come out to greet us as we ride in. We are offered refreshments and are welcomed into camp. We met with the booshway and were given directions to the horse camp. After we put our stock out to grass, we put together a small camp for a couple of days stay. We were tired from our journey. We estimate that we have traveled about a hundred and twenty miles or so on the trail. Although it was some rough country, it was beautiful.

12 July Monday

Woke up late this morning, weather is cool. I feel well rested. The other men and myself go in search of some breakfast and hot coffee. Oliver put out a trade blanket and Dick and Mike went to take care of some business. I went out to visit the other camps and see old friends and make new ones too. I stop and listed to music being played at several of the camps and am offered drink for my empty cup. My horse is in good grass and I am enjoying visiting everyone. I stop and trade for some items that I had lost along the trail. As afternoon turns to evening, I just rest and have a good time.

13 July Tuesday

I awoke a few hours after daylight. We go to a camp and have a good breakfast and some coffee. We are planning to leave the rendezvous in a few hours. Anxious to be on the trail again. We pack the mules and saddle our horses. As we are riding out, many people again come out and bid us farewell and a safe trip. We have had a really good ride and met some new friends here. It is a beautiful place. I want to thank all the men that were on this trip for making it what it was, and thank them for inviting me. It was a shining time!

A Dog in Distress-the Legend of the Daring Nighttime Rescue on the Guadalupe

By Paul “Many Rifles” Laster and Gerry “Lucky” Messmer

When Many Rifles and I left civilization behind for our fishing pack-in we had no idea of the danger and adventure that would befall us – a daring, period night time search and rescue operation in snake infested woods and high cliffs along the Guadalupe River.

On the evening of the escapade, we were lying under our oil cloth lean-to enjoying the good conversation and the twinkling of fireflies in the humid summer night.  All the while kept company by my loyal dog Freckles.  Freckles has been my loyal companion of over 15 years.  He is always by my side and even though he is not an overly affectionate dog, he does stop by once a day to make sure I still love him.  He is a dog’s dog, a fierce and loyal dog that has always protected me and my family.  Little did I know that on this particular evening it would be Many Rifles and I who would protect him!

It must have been close to midnight when in the middle of conversation we heard the most horrible whining and yelping of an animal in mortal distress.  A sound so disturbing that it made our blood curdle.  We both slowly turned to the horrid sound – was it a dog?  Another animal?

Sitting up and looking around us took note that Freckles was missing from camp. Being a spaniel, Freckles has always loved the water and no matter how hard you try to stop him, he always finds his way to the water.  He will swim until he is exhausted only to rest up and swim some more.  So, it was not uncharacteristic of Freckles to go on a walk-about in the middle of the night for a mid-night dip to cool off and get a drink of fresh water.  That’s exactly what he had done.  But this time, we were encamped on the cliffs above the water.   What had happened?

My immediate fear was he was hurt and possibly under attack by hungry Indians, a pack of coyotes or worse, a seething band of wild hogs renting him apart!  As I heard him yelp visions of white hair and blood everywhere went through my mind.  My dog!  Oh, no!   The idea that my loyal friend was out there alone, under attack and without protection from his Master in his hour of need was disturbing, a haunting thought indeed!

However, one thought both Many Rifles and I had and voiced aloud was, “what a way to go out”.  To die on the field of battle, outnumbered against a superior force in your twilight years is the thing legends are made of and Freckles was just that caliber of dog for it!  I can just see the action, the biting, and the twisting and turning of the engagement as they fight to the ground, fight to the death.  His jaws bloodied with the flesh of his impossible foe.  We have all read about men fighting grizzlies and surviving and here was Freckles in the fight of his life against an unknown enemy!

What a fitting end to a life of adventure – would he win, could he win?

Many Rifles and I leapt from our place of rest and sprung into action right away.  There was a quiet understanding in those woods.  A silent passing between fellow brothers of the buckskin – if this dog was in danger – a loyal member of our merry band of scoundrels– what could we do but spring to his rescue?

Not knowing what dangers lay in wait we armed ourselves with our rifles, shooting bags and a candle lantern to make our way through the woods.  Our response was fearless, knowing our loyal companion was in need we did not hesitate to put our lives into the fray to assist.  I took the lead with the candle lantern studying the trail for sign of Freckles and doing my best in the weak, yellow light to lookout for copperheads, water moccasins, rattlesnakes, and other undesirables.  We were in prime snake territory walking at night through tall grass where the strike of a snake would come fast and furious and out of view, we would never know what kind had bitten us.  We would be bit before we could even respond with rifle-shot or fusil ball, but no sacrifice is too great when a brother is in need, even a brother of the canine variety!

Our meager trail was along the edge of a cliff with at least a 75 to 100 foot drop down to the river.   Dirt and rocks slid off the edge as we worked our way closer to the sound of Freckles – each step a balancing act between the earth and the tricky shadows of the wary candlelight.   Our moccasin clad feet just mere inches from the edge as we used our woodsman skills to navigate the terrain and close in on our distressed fellow.

After about 300 yards along the cliff the yelping stopped.  Had Freckles been killed?  Did he fall from the cliff or had hogs or coyotes devoured him in a feeding frenzy after what would have been an incredible fight?  We did not know, yet we kept moving forward relentless in our search.

Determined to rescue him or exact revenge on the nameless foe, we continued down the path until we slowly descended down to the inky black water.  Along the river an encounter with a poisonous snake became just as likely as a hog or coyote.

If he had he been bitten it would explain the horrible yelping followed by the subdued muffled sounds and finally the silence as the poison over took his body for a grotesque demise in the dark of night along the Guadalupe River.  As we reached the water we looked up and down stream under the light of the moon and did not see any movement or the sodden lump of a lifeless carcass floating in the water.  Were we too late? Would the Guadalupe be forever haunted by Freckles the fearless companion that died in a brutal engagement or was he still out there?  Was there still time?

Then, hope.   After several minutes of searching the waterline we heard another yelp to the west and looking up the shadowy, rising wall of the cliff we could see his white outline silhouetted in the dark half way up – held fast upon a ledge. Miraculously, Freckles looked to be uninjured.  He was secured into a very precarious and dangerous position above the river.  It looked as though he took a wrong turn in the dark of the night and had perhaps fallen down the side of the cliff.

Being of higher intelligence than most dogs and an experienced woods dog, his yelp was the canine equivalent of firing three shots in the air, a call for aid by his loyal companions, Lucky and Many Rifles, who responded with lightning speed and deft skills in the dark of night to rescue their friend and companion.

The end of the journey to get to Freckles was every bit as dangerous as its introduction.  He was stranded on a very small game trail 50 feet above the river in thick perilous grass with unknown dangers. At that point Many Rifles held the lantern for as much light as he could give me as I inched my way down the trail to meet Freckles.  It was a dangerous climb down to his location on the ravine.

Eventually I was out of the reach of the faint candle light and moving by feeling the ground with my feet and hands.  As I closed in on Freckles he moved slowly and carefully towards me allowing me to grab a tight hold on him to keep him from falling off the edge.  As I did so, I realized that any moment, with one wrong step we would both plunge to the bottom, split open on the rocks and far from Many Rifles.  Worse yet, the potential strike of a snake could come rapidly in the darkness – the fear of a quick bite to my neck or extremities tempered my movement as I crawled down.

Upon retrieval, I checked him over and to my very great relief, he was without sign of injury.  He was, of course, soaking wet from his swim in the river and looked very frightened as he himself knew the dangers of the woods and what an ugly end he might have met!  I was able to secure him under one arm and crawling back toward the faint glow of the candle lantern I worked my way back up until I could I hand him to Many Rifles while I hoisted myself to the top of the cliff.

Once secured at the cliff top trail, Freckles gave himself the once-over to ensure he was not injured.   With the pride and loyalty of a faithful friend, he took the lead on the trail and led us back to camp with his keen nose and sure footed ability.   To show his appreciation at his nocturnal rescue, getting us safely back to camp was his way of thanking us for what we had done and risked.

At camp all three of us sat, rested and enjoyed some jalapeño jerky and a drink of cool water.   We were comforted with the peace of mind knowing that we all had returned safely and victorious, and that Many Rifles and I had come to the rescue of our faithful friend, who now in his twilight years, had earned his camp name, “Cliff Dweller”.

AMM Summer pack-in Fishing Trip Review

By Gerry “Lucky” Messmer and Paul “Many Rifles” Laster

Over the June 21-23 weekend, Paul and I hosted a great summer fishing pack-in in Boerne, Texas on the property of the Marquardt Ranch.  I was able to pack-in early Friday morning and find a suitable location above the river overlooking the Guadalupe River.   Paul came in after work several hours before dark. The pack-in was about half of a mile or so across some fields and a ravine. A fairly enjoyable hike and snake free as far as we know, though our eyes were always to the ground while we made our way through the knee-deep grass.

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Being along the high banks of the Guadalupe, our campsite had extensive views of some fields and surrounding areas.  This gave us a short walk down to the river’s edge, but with the ability to blend into the brush whenever the occasional Indian patrol would meander down the water in one of their “kai-ack” canoes.

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Since both of us have limited experience with coarse fishing, we decided a fishing weekend was a great challenge to add to our mountain man kit bag.  Many thanks go out to Brother Paul Jones for supplying great fishing kits!  I received mine in the mail and was overwhelmed with the supplies in the kit, directions for tying the hooks on and the unexpected period correct fly!

We spent Friday afternoon and evening catching up on our lives, events we have been to and new gear we both have and of course, what gear we really need to eliminate to travel lighter.  It seems that I can never cut enough gear out each time I pack in, but was inspired by Paul’s lack of “extras”.  Paul has a habit of writing down all of the gear he brings on a pack-in – and then after the event goes back through and marks out whatever gear he doesn’t use.  Many of my cuts need to come in the form of excess food I carry.  I swear I can cook enough for the whole Red River Brigade when I pack in.  It is time to lighten the load. Paul had bought a new pack from Bague Harold, who advertises in Muzzleloader Magazine, similar to mine and said he loves the way it fits and packs when out trekking.   This was its second trip – and worked out great.

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Friday night we enjoyed apples, dried fruit and nuts for dinner and drank heavily from the spring to keep hydrated in the heat.  Also, along came Freckles, my Brittany spaniel, whom some of you know.  He is my loyal and faithful steed of many a trip and getting quite old.  He is 15 years old now and struggled with the hills and had to be carried from time to time.  This may have been his last event, but we will see.  I will keep bringing him as long as he will come! We are sure he had a great time and he did manage to venture out once at night on his own, but that is another story to be told.

Saturday morning, after a king’s breakfast of smoke cured bacon and eggs Paul and I headed down to the river to try our hand at fishing.  We took along some cheddar cheese and supplemented with grasshoppers as we could catch them.  We were able to catch some small crappie right away with the cheese and I had many strikes on the grasshoppers.  I used a fishing pole cut from a small sapling and Paul wanted to try his luck with the ramrod of his fowler.   The fishing kits from Paul Jones worked out great.    With Paul’s simple directions I found that tying a hook to the line was actually quite simple and effective.

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We caught quite a few small fish, but it seems the larger fish were either not fans of cheddar cheese or maybe just lactose intolerant.   After several hours of fishing we went into the water for a swim to cool down and discovered the area we were fishing was only about 3-4 feet deep and not many deep holes for larger fish.    We relaxed to the occasional sound of larger fish jumping out of the river and slapping back into the water.

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We stayed in the water for about an hour or so and that made a huge difference to beat the heat.  I can imagine that in the heat of summer many mountain men in this region spent time in the water cooling off.  Along the Chisholm Trail in Salado, TX there is a great natural spring where the water comes out around 65 degrees.  I have spent many days in the summer in that pool cooling off and it makes a huge difference just getting a break.

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Saturday afternoon we spent at camp relaxing from a stressful morning of swimming and fishing.  We had to slow down a bit and take a nap to recover from the excitement.  Around 2 or 3, we made our way back down to the river for another swim to beat the afternoon heat.  Another short 5 minute walk and we were back in the water.  Before we went down to the water we pooled our food resources and put together a great stew of potatoes, rice, onion, bacon and some banana peppers all seasoned with some salt, pepper and garlic.  We set that a little ways from the coals and let it simmer for about 90 minutes before we returned.  It was a fine meal that even Freckles loved!

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Sunday morning we broke camp after first light munching on dried fruit and the last of the apples before we packed out.  Freckles was forced to eat the last 6 eggs to kick start his morning.  Regrettably, Paul and I packed out only to return to the hustle and bustle of the steel ponies, honey do lists and electronic leashes!

The Red River Brigade

The Red River Brigade of the AMM is made up of brothers from the four states that share the banks of the Red River – Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

There are many different parties within the Red River Brigade, including Bear Lodge Party, Bear Claw Party, M.O.S. (Majority of Scoundrels) Party, Cross Timbers Party and the Tejas Party.

More about the AMM

The American Mountain Men is an association of individuals dedicated to the preservation of the traditions and ways of our nation’s greatest, most daring explorers and pioneers, the Mountain Men; to the actual conservation of our nation’s remaining natural wilderness and wildlife; and to the ability of our members to survive alone, under any circumstances, using only what nature has to offer. Although we are now world-wide, we are not a large group. We are not interested in the quantity of members; we are interested in the quality of members. Our members are best and proud of it.

The American Mountain Men’s primary characteristic is, first and foremost, to be a Brotherhood of Men. In this fraternal concept is embedded the desire of all its members to teach, share, and learn the arts and skills of the original American mountain men, but deeper still, is the desire to be upon the trail, on lake or river, in mountains, plains or woods, as brothers, sharing this great experience. The sense of camaraderie and the shared endeavor are more important, always, than individual gain. These are the goals and the founding wisdom of A.M.M. To keep alive the skills of the freest men our great nation ever birthed; to preserve his abilities and emulate his way of life as historically accurately as possible.

For more details, see Mountain Men and the Fur Trade

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