A group camping out in the Catskill foothills this weekend will offer a rare depiction of the adventurous people who left the comfort of the East in the 1800s to brave the wilderness to the west on horseback.
If you go …
WHAT: American Mountain Man encampment
WHERE: NYPA Visitor Center, state Route 30, North Blenheim
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday
MORE INFO: www.mtmen.org/amm/
A small group of members of the American Mountain Men will camp out Saturday and Sunday beneath Brown Mountain at the New York Power Authority’s visitor center to demonstrate how some people survived off the land when they braved cold and hunger trekking hundreds of miles for their piece of the lucrative fur trade.
They will share secrets of fire craft, basket making, cooking in the wild and other skills developed by those who headed west for beaver pelts between 1800 and 1840.
“We don’t do a lot of public events,” said AMM spokesman Frank Galea of Coeymans Hollow, near Ravena.
Being a member isn’t easy. Galea said successful candidates have to demonstrate the ability to live off the land not just in the warm summer, but in all four seasons.
They all complete a three-day stay in the wilderness with minimal supplies including a knife and a flintlock rifle. Tents, sleeping bags and hand warmers aren’t allowed.
“A lot of times they’d live on the ground. They used blankets for shelter overhead, sometimes a canvas, or make a primitive lean-to with spruce boughs,” Galea said.
Members have to show the ability to trap game, skin it and prepare meals with it. They have to learn to track both animals and people in the wild and make their own fire from primitive materials.
They also will teach others how to do it.
Galea said the group teaches visitors how to make fire with the bow and drill technique, using local, natural material, and also with flint and steel.
“We always are open to questions about anything we’re doing,” he said.
Some members will show what local plants can be used for food, and how to make baskets out of native materials.
The American Mountain Men hold an annual program at the Adirondack Museum in Hamilton County, and they agreed to come to the visitor center in Schoharie County for the first time last year.
NYPA spokesman Steve Ramsey said the program drew 500 guests.
“It’s a lot of hands-on stuff, which is really nice. The kids learn about just living off the land. It’s very unique,” he said.
Categories: Schenectady County