Articles / Spring Hunt 2020
Category: Camps, Treks & Adventures
Spring hunt, or should it be Corona camp? Well, actually it was supposed to be a winter trek. Toboggans and snowshoes had been prepared. Three different potential winter weekends had been marked in the calendars to match busy schedules and unpredictable winter conditions. As it turned out, there were no wintery weekends. No winter at all in fact. It rained, rained and rained. Instead of moaning about it, snowshoes were put back on the wall, and SMM prepared for spring hunt. Then corona came and swept across the globe. Boarders were closed and social distancing became the new standard, making it impossible for SMM to gather. Cancel or not? Moaning…
As we closed in on the dates set, David and Char were the only ones left in the game. After some discussion it was decided that a two-man camp was way better than no camp at all, and Spring Camp 2020 was on!
As David was advertising his part of Sweden by sharing photos of fresh beaver sign and beautiful landscapes it wasn’t hard to decide where we would go. Focus was to get as much time scouting for tree felling rodents as possible. With this in mind, David selected a perfect camp site that was close enough for an easy walk but far enough from our automobiles to make a primitive camp without visual reminders of civilization.
Friday March 27
As Char arrived at the GPS-coordinates decided upon, David was already sitting there puffing his pipe. Unsuitable from a corona perspective perhaps, but seeing SMM brothers or sisters without hugging them after long time no see is simply out of question. So we hugged, shared a zip of “fur trader’s finest”* and jumped into our 1830’s attire. It always feels good to be back in buckskins patinated and full of smell reminding of past adventures. Perfume to some, smell of dirty trapper to others.
By the time I got the gear on my back, the sun was already heading into the far west to hide. We still had beaver to scout and camp to build, so we hurried to get a lean-to erected and collected enough firewood for the cold night anticipated.
With camp in order we picked up our traps and headed towards the creek where local natives talked of beaver aplenty. To abide Swedish hunting laws, no actual trapping was planned or performed. But it must be admitted we were dam close! (pun intended) To experience this as close to the original mountaineer version as possible we prepared everything except the tiny but cruzial detail of loading the traps. There were enough trails, slides and other suitable places to try a few different sets. When the last bait stick dipped in medicine was placed over closed jaws, we were once again reminded how cold and wet this part of history is.
As usual, SMM’s master hunter a.k.a David provided all the wild meat needed for camp. With a fire going we watched some of it simmer in a kettle while trying to bring warmth back into our feet. With warm stew in our bellies and dry moccasins on our feet we enjoyed what was left of the evening talking and smoking. All while sharing what remained of the fire water from last years rendezvous.
Saturday March 28
Coffee!* Loads of what we call coffee. Nothing like that warm black brownish brew full of crunchy remains of half charred coffee beans after a night on the ground in freezing temps. Some breakfast on top and we were soon back on the trail towards our traps set the previous evening. Not that we were expecting to earn plews, but rather to see if we could detect any sort of disturbance around our sets. Any sign of activity at all that in theory could have resulted in a trapped beaver. Hard to tell if we read too much into it, but we were darn certain we could find enough sign of activity to count as a beaver or two caught if the traps would have been loaded. We made a few adjustments to the sets and left for camp.
Back by the fire we realized it was still morning, so we decided to view some of that landscape David had advertised. With a slab of bacon brought along for provisions we headed out for a few hours walk, scouting the surrounding area. The last ice age sure left it’s marks around this place. Naked bedrock hills and huge boulders intermixed with conifer forests and small lakes. Beautiful!
At midday we made lunch by skewering thick slices of the bacon on sticks and grilling it over a small fire. With a few gulps of water we were soon good to go again.
As we were closing in on camp again, we started looking for a pine. A dead straight growing pitch pine to be more specific. As there had been talk of a bullboat adventure in the near future, we thought we would get that project started by at least making paddle. We soon found a suitable candidate and the log was carried back to camp. It might sound like a pretty neat little project, but it takes some elbow grease to split and chop out a paddle from a log with an axe. Enough so that the few hours remaining before dark wasn’t enough. We could blame this set back on the fact a local native woman with children i.e. Johanna and the kids came for a visit. But we were simply too tired and hungry to get it done according plan. The finishing touches were therefore postponed until further notice.
As Johanna and the boys left camp, dinner preparations commenced. Grouse were plucked and a rabbit was skinned and put on a skewer across the fire. Darkness soon shrunk our visual world to campfire size and we both fell asleep as soon as we hit the blankets.
Sunday March 29
Slept in. Can’t claim I do that very often in primitive camp. As always Sunday meant it was time to head back to civilization. We made another visit to the creek to fetch our traps. This time no sign of activity at all. We also made a few adjustments to the paddle now actually looking like a paddle. But time soon ran out and it was time to break camp, pack out and drive back home to wife and kids.
What a weekend. A perfect blend of doin’ stuff and hanging around the fire in beautiful spring weather. We missed our brothers and sisters that couldn’t attend like hell, but we were sure this crisis would blow over by summer rendezvous when we would all gather again. Ha!
Fur Traders Finest: In the Rocky Mountain fur trade, alcohol was sold straight from 10-gallon barrels as standard. Whether it be rum, whiskey or watered-down raw alcohol. According to the myth; unscrupulous mountain traders added more and more water to the mix as his costumers got more and more drunk. Color and flavor were adjusted by adding tobacco twists, chili, snake rattles etc. to the mix making his personal blend.
Picking up on this myth we once created a whiskey bottle label for “fur traders finest whiskey”. At first it was thought as a humorous element for rendezvous. But after a few years still in use it has become a famous brand within the S.M.M. You never know what it will taste.
As a side note to the side note the use of bottles by mountain trappers was a rare occurrence at best. A fact of which we are fully aware.
Coffee: For those of you that haven’t tried coffee in the manner of the original mountaineers, a short description is in place. Coffee sold during the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade was in fact green dried coffee beans. These had to be roasted and ground before making the brew. In our case that means roasting the beans in a small frying pan or possibly on a hot rock over the fire. The roasted beans are then poured on to a piece of cloth or leather that is wrapped around the beans like a makeshift bag to keep them in place. With the back of an axe or a rock the bag full of roasted beans is then pounded until you get the coarse- or fine-grained result you want.
In reality the beans are easily burnt (adding a strong flavor of char coal) and the pounding normally results in a mixture of very fine powder to full size beans that you have to either filter away when pouring it in you cup, or leave them be and simply spit you don’t like the crunchy bites. That’s how we make mountaineer coffee!
Cast iron roasters and wooden coffee grinders were not a part of a working trapper’s equipment.