WY Not? Live Like the Mountain Man
Wyoming may not be home to The Revenant’s Leonardo DiCaprio, but it doesn’t lack historic value in the 1800s fur trade. With more rendezvous than any other area, the Pinedale valley hosted a minimum of six. With vast opportunity for trapping and a location near South Pass and Union Pass, this area served as a cross roads and a meeting place. Angie Thomas, Executive Director of the Museum of the Mountain Man, explains “After its ending in the 1840s, the fur trade didn’t just stop. The Mountain Men found other things to do. They became guides and resources for settlers traveling west.” Who knows, your next wilderness guide could be the descendant of a real mountain man.
The museum isn’t the only way this living history is brought into modern times. Hosted every 2nd full weekend in July is the Green River Rendezvous where you can experience live lectures and demonstrations.
Angie went on to say “We work in partnership with the American Mountain Men. They’re a group of reenactors who come here and do living history programs and then they come back in July for our Green River Rendezvous days. Setting up on the museum grounds and staying over the weekend, they do talks and demonstrations, interact with the people, and answer questions in cooperation with the museum.”
Smelling of brain tanned leather; rendezvous participants can often be spotted wearing the traditional garments of the mountain man. “As they came west they needed to replace what they had on so they used the materials that were available here.” Angie said. Their new clothing made of animal skins or hides went through a process called tanning; where they are soaked in emulsified oils from the brain of the animal. This process transforms a wet mass of skin to a utilizable piece of soft leather.
Sitting around a smoky camp fire and sleeping in make-shift shelters gives you a taste of the mountain man life, but there is still so much to learn. Living off-the-grid in the mountains, you learn to survive off the land. Gaining knowledge about firearms, beaver trapping, fire making, horse tack, and tools will have you feeling like a real mountain man.
With the mission of preservation of historic sites of the fur trade and rendezvous, the Sublette County Historical Society was established in 1935. Later, The Museum of the Mountain man was built in Pinedale, Wyoming as a facility focused on a visual and interpretive experience of the era of the Mountain Man. Thomas embraces this impressive history every day saying:
“This is my home, this is where I’m from, It’s where I was raised so all my roots are here and this is my history.” This Pinedale Native has been with the museum for 8 years and strives “To tell people the real story of the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade and the mountain man and how important that was.”
Want to experience the life of the Mountain Man for yourself? Visit the Museum of the Mountain Man or attend the Green River Rendezvous Days. The museum is open May 1- September 30, daily from 9:00am-5:00pm and then 9:00am-4:00pm Monday - Friday in October, closing for the off season November 1- April 30th.
Then, tell us: What’s your WY? And share your story with the hashtag #ThatsWY.