we spent labor day weekend up at fort bridger, wyoming for the annual “mountain man rendezvous.” i have blogged about fort bridger before (see HERE and HERE and HERE) but the rendezvous is a re-enactment and celebration of the annual gathering of mountain men, fur traders and native americans which took place between 1825 and 1840. my family has gone and participated in the rendezvous at fort bridger each year since i was a little girl. it’s become a big family tradition for us. josh and i have attended a few times over our years back east together, but aren’t able to make it every year. we hadn’t been back since eleanor was a tiny baby, so this year was especially fun for us since we were able to introduce eleanor and samson to so many new traditions and cultures and experiences.
we learned that the fort expanded on the location for these gatherings and was fully established back in 1843 by jim bridger. it became the biggest trading post in the west for mountain men and indians and eventually helped pioneers, settlers, the US army, the pony express, union pacific railroad, and others travel and live in the west. this rendezvous is known as one of the largest mountain man gatherings in the nation, with over 40,000 visitors during the year!
there is a lot that goes on during the rendezvous like presentations and reenactments by national historians, cooking competitions and frying pan tosses (ha!). there are a lot of archery, black powder rifle and pistol shooting competitions and games for the little ones. and there is incredible music and dancing that goes on as well. there are over 100 traders who set up small shops in white canvas tents around the fort to sell and trade things from that time period like pottery, blankets, furs, leather, tools, clothing, moccasins, jewelry and even antique rifles. it’s a party!
everyone is welcome to come shop and visit during the rendezvous each day, but my family stays inside the grounds of fort bridger each year. (we’re crazy like that.) you can stay inside the grounds if you have a tipi or old-fashioned canvas tent and if all of your dress or items brought for the weekend are pre 1840’s and in the style of the people who would have attended the rendezvous back in the day. it’s honestly so much fun! i think it’s one of those things you would either love or hate, and maybe we all just love it so much because we grew up doing it, but the experience is pretty incredible. it always gives me such an appreciation for our history and what those who came before us went through. we are pretty lucky in this day and age. modern conveniences like bathrooms and running water are such luxuries and then there i am getting caught up in silly stuff like wanting some new fancy gadget or item that i seriously do not need. anyway, it was so great to get to go again this year and we had a good time. if you’re interested in reading more about fort bridger, you can check out this website HERE.
also, i feel it necessary to share that i am sensitive to and respect others cultures which are different from my own. this has been a great opportunity for me and my family growing up to learn first hand about the many peoples and cultures that gathered and gather together at these rendezvous’ by spending time along side them, learning about and honoring and preserving their histories and heritages together. it is a celebration and i’m thankful for the experiences it has given me.
a few photos if you’d like to see….
^^^one of eleanor’s favorite parts was watching all the dancing and drumming performed by native american dancers, singers, and drummers. they performed several times each day and were fantastic. we got to perform the friendship dance with them which was a lot of fun, too!^^^
^^^the sky was a real treat every evening when the sun set. it was so beautiful.^^^
^^^here are some “mountain men” dressed the way fur trappers and traders did from the 1830s.^^^
^^^i’m not the only one whose eyes disappear when i smile. ;) i love these guys.^^^
^^^so happy to spend time with their aunts! although we missed you lots, rachel.^^^
^^^getting all ready for the children’s blanket trade. (all the little ones staying in the fort bring something they made to trade, if they’d like. once they agree on a trade with another child, they must shake hands. it’s very very cute.) eleanor and samson made little sailboats and E traded hers for a little wicker basket and samson traded his for a blue beaded necklace.^^^
^^^here’s samson and his little sailboat, all ready for the trade!^^^
^^^i could eat dutch oven cooking every day for the rest of my life and be so very happy.^^^
^^^this is what fort bridger looked like back in the 1840’s around the time the rendezvous gatherings occurred.^^^
^^^many vendors sell and trade leather materials and a lot of people make their own clothing in the proper traditional handmade fashion. my mom actually makes all of our clothing every year, and is sure to keep within the correct guidelines so everything is period-correct as we stay in the fort each year and it is one of the requirements for those who stay.^^^
^^^stealing kisses before the children’s games begin!^^^
^^^samson spotted a grasshopper hopping around our camp and was completely enamored by the little guy! we caught him and enjoyed a few minutes of peering at him up close in a jar so we could get a good look at him before letting him go again.^^^
^^^the hoop dance is incredible!^^^
^^^my dad snapped this photo of samson and me crashing outside on the grass one afternoon during his nap time (and i steal naps any chance i can get these days, ha!) josh and i actually cheated this year when it comes to rendezvous and stayed in a tiny nearby hotel with the kids each night. the last time we were at fort bridger, eleanor was just six months old and it would get so cold at night that i was really nervous this year about keeping the kiddos warm. between that and trying to find a comfortable way to sleep each night with my own growing baby bump, we figured a hotel might make the most sense over a long weekend of sleeping bags on the floor. this arrangement worked out really well for our family this year, although hopefully someday we’ll be able to sleep at the fort again, because so much goes on at night and i’m always sad to miss out.^^^
^^^a few of the beautiful things for sale or trade in the fort. ^^^
^^^we are bringing a few of these beautiful blankets back to new york city with us. we couldn’t pass them up, even if it means we are buying another suitcase this week.^^^
^^^there is endless music down each little pathway at fort bridger. between bagpipes and guitars and drums, it just really makes the experience.^^^
^^^my stress levels were a bit high all weekend with the open camp fires and hot coals everywhere with the kids. all they wanted to do was help with everything (which is so great, i know, but also so scary.) my dad let them help move the coals on top of the dutch ovens around each night before dinner and it was the biggest deal for them! they were so happy to be contributing!^^^
^^^i’m not normally into sausage (bacon all the way) but this pregnancy has got me craving sausage all the time! i cannot get enough of it!^^^
^^^the tastiest raspberry crumble made in the dutch oven by my mama.^^^
^^^not just rock candy, but BLUE rock candy. someone was happy.^^^
^^^running to give aunt bekah hugs!^^^
^^^this tiny dog did not forget his buckskin!^^^
^^^so my favorite meal at bridger is this chicken and rice dish my mom makes with scones on top. josh made it with her and says it should be easy to recreate at home in the oven, so i’m holding him to it. if it works out, i’ll share the recipe here because it’s so good.^^^
^^^s’mores with chocolate graham crackers!^^^
^^^taking off in the burlap sack race!^^^
^^^this little lady knows how to chuck a piece of corn and get it into the basket! do you see it flying mid air? i was very very proud. ;) ^^^
^^^trying his hand at carrying a spoonful of water several feet and pouring it into a cup before passing the spoon onto another child. it’s so funny how simple these games are, but how much fun they can be! who needs an iPad!^^^
^^^his proud face!^^^
^^^tug of war with the rope!^^^
^^^samson spent most of his time at bridger near the little creek, where he’d sail boats or throw rocks. thankful to all my family members who spent a lot of time with him down there over the weekend. it was really hard to pull him away for much else.^^^
^^^well, don’t tell anyone, but we might have snuck in a few trains and cars for play. not quite period-correct, but you can’t take his taxi cab away. it’s just not worth it.^^^
^^^making scones early one morning. pair these guys with honey butter and…BEST STUFF EVER.^^^
^^^my dad makes the best popcorn over the stove at our house. he made some pretty great popcorn over the fire at bridger, too. we enjoyed big bowls each evening after dinner.^^^
fort bridger in years past, HERE and HERE and HERE.