Colorado Mountain Man

Colorado Mountain Man

Dec 20,2014

Mountain men were trappers and explorers who roamed the North American Rocky Mountains from about 1810 to the early 1840s.Mountain men were ethnically, socially, and religiously diverse. Most were born in Canada, the United States, or in Spanish-governed Mexican territories, although some European immigrants moved west in search of financial opportunity. Mountain men were primarily motivated by profit, trapping beaver and selling the skins, although some were more interested in exploring the West.Historical reenactment of the dress and lifestyle of a mountain man, sometimes known as buckskinning, allows people to recreate aspects of this historical period. Rendezvous and other reenacted events are both history-oriented and social occasions. Some modern men choose a lifestyle similar to that of historic mountain men. They may live and roam in the mountains of the west or the swamps in the southern United States.The stereotypical mountain man has been depicted as dressed in buckskin and a coonskin cap, sporting bushy facial hair and carrying a Hawken rifle and Bowie knife, commonly referred to as a "scalpin' knife." They have been romanticized as honorable men with their own chivalrous code, loners who would help those in need but who had found their home in the wild.Most trappers traveled and worked in companies. Their typical dress combined woolen hats and cloaks with serviceable Indian-style leather breeches and shirts. Mountain men often wore moccasins, but generally carried a pair of heavy boots for rough terrain. Each mountain man also carried basic gear, which could include arms, powder horns and a shot pouch, knives and hatchets, canteens, cooking utensils, and supplies of tobacco, coffee, salt and pemmican. Items (other than shooting supplies) that needed to be "at hand" were carried in a "possibles" bag. Horses or mules were essential, in sufficient number for a riding horse for each man and at least one for carrying supplies and furs.In summer, mountain men searched for fur animals, but they waited until autumn to set their traplines. They sometimes worked in groups. Several men would trap, others would hunt for game, and one would remain in camp to guard the camp and be a cook. Since there were always Indians in the areas where they trapped, trappers had to deal with each tribe or band separately. Some tribes were friendly, while others were hostile. Mountain men traded with friendly tribes and exchanged information. Hostile tribes were avoided when possible.

Life as a Mountain Man

The life of a mountain man was rugged. They explored unmapped areas. Bears and hostile tribes presented constant physical dangers. Mountain men had to use their senses of hearing, sight, and smell to keep themselves alive. When they were sick, they would use whatever herbs they had to try to get well. If game was scarce, they would go hungry. In summer they could catch fish, build a log cabin and roam in search of fur. Cabins were built near friendly Indians. But in other areas, most camps were just temporary. Most winters were brutal. Heavy snow storms or extremely low temperatures keep men in their cabins. But no matter what the season, there was always danger. Many men did not last more than several years in the wilderness.

With the exception of coffee, their food supplies generally duplicated the diet of native tribes in the areas where they trapped. Fresh red meat, fowl, and fish were generally available. Some plant foods, such as fruit and berries, were easy for the men to harvest. They traded with the tribes for prepared foods, such as processed roots, dried meat and pemmican. In times of crisis and bad weather, mountain men were known to slaughter and eat their horses and mules.

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Colorado Mountain Man