The 2005 Rocky Mountain National Rendezvous was held on a private ranch in southwestern Wyoming. As with any of my vacations, getting there is half the adventure. I managed to get through Indian Nations, Texas, and into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on my first day of travel. A two–mile hike up to a lake at over 11,000 feet in elevation near Taos made for a nice workout before driving through Durango, Ouray, and the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.
Just after I entered Wyoming on my third day of travel, I passed two buckskinners on horses leading two pack horses. This was near Burntfork, the site of the first Rocky Mountain rendezvous in 1825. A little further north, a Golden Eagle seemed to be another sign pointing me to rendezvous.
I arrived two days before the event officially opened. Unlike most of those in attendance, I headed strait to the parking lot and walked a mile to find a camping site. I had a choice of chopping out an area of sage and camping in the sun or laying my bed roll down on soft wildflowers under a canopy of quaking aspens. I opted for the latter. So did most of those who arrived early.
Settling near some buddies from Montana and Idaho, my first order of business was to set up my diamond fly. Tent pegs and a pole were fashioned from materials supplied by nature on site. Due to an altitude of over 8,000 feet, not much work was done for a few days.
My purpose for attending this event was to get away from schedules, electronics, and tourists. With no time piece to worry about, I slept, awoke, and ate when those moods struck. Each morning I awoke at dawn to the sound of birds. Occasionally, I shopped along trader’s row. Some nights I listened to music, unfortunately none of it was period. The Budget Cut Band would be popular there. Some nights I visited other camps for different conversations. Some nights I just stayed near my camp. Mormon neighbors would sometimes visit after supper to make smores at our campfire. I now call them the Smormons.
Night skies were cool, clear, calm, and filled with stars. I did not know what time sunset was but twilight seemed to last for hours. It was great sleeping weather. We received no rain for the duration of my stay.
One morning a lot of whooping and shooting announced the arrival of a brigade of buckskinners (including the two men I saw near Burntfork) after their six day ride. They were wild and wooly and in desperate need of whisky.
Mark Baker, a regular writer for Muzzleloader Magazine, was there to peddle his book A Pilgrim’s Journey. I already have a copy of it and finished reading it the day before I left on this vacation. The book is a compilation of the first ten years of his magazine articles. It contains many of his trekking adventures and tips on trekking. Mark was a consultant for The Last of the Mohicans and The Patriot. During this rendezvous, he and two of his trekking buddies gave a talk about trekking and a speed shooting demonstration. I learned a lot from them. One morning I packed my trekking gear and asked them for constructive criticism. Following their advice, my equipment was reduced a great deal, making my treks more rewarding. I also learned a lot about shooting. Using this new knowledge, I will be hosting a speed shooting competition during the Highpoint Rendezvous.
One afternoon, five of us headed out for an overnight trek away from the main encampment. Unfortunately, I was the most experienced of the bunch and the others were looking to me for advice. We traveled about three miles. An antelope presented a tempting target but we held our fire. We camped under a huge spruce tree near a clear, cold, rushing tributary to the Bear River. An osprey and a kingfisher said there were fish there but we saw none. The stream washed a weeks worth of dust and sweat. We boiled water to refill our canteens and cook a mixture of rice and jerky.
At sunrise we took our time preparing breakfast and packing. Just three feet above one man’s bed a hummingbird hen was discovered on her nest. She refused to leave; therefore we called this Hummingbird Creek.
We topped a ridge and looked down upon most of the encampment. There were only 350 lodges (other RMNRs had over 1,000) but it was still impressive. We fired a salute to announce our return but nobody noticed.
Not everything was perfect at this rendezvous. During the hottest part of the day we were plagued by biting flies. There was no stream nearby for bathing. But there was also a lot of discussion about the low attendance. It seems that the types of people attending this event has shifted from the more serious living historians and experiment archeologists to families who bring way to much stuff, kids, and ankle biters. There is a time and place for both groups. But for some reason, the organizers of this event did not set aside areas for rowdy camps. In fact they tried to set a curfew. That did not set well with many folks. At any big event there are bound to be differences of opinions. Make the most of what you can and stay away from that which you don’t like.
Some of my friends told me about the American Mountain Man association. Their website indicates that in order to become a full fledged member one must be invited and complete a list of tasks and skills. Sounds like a very serious group.
Sleeping on the ground for ten nights under an open fly might not appeal to many folks but it sure was a nice way to get away from this computer. I wish more of our Arkansaw folks would attend Rocky Mountain events to get a taste of how they do it out there.
The 2006 RMNR will be held near Creed not far from the headwaters of the Rio Grande in south central Colorado. The elevation will be at 9,000 feet so winter clothing might be needed at night. A trout stream runs through the site. Sound like a good site. Go to www.rmnr.org for more information.