A Trek Out West - Part 9

Continued from A Trek Out West - Part 8.


[Dr. Ferber] In the evening and in the morning of the 11th, we had concerts performed by a large band of coyotes, but as they mixed all the time, flat and minor, we did not appreciate it much. The morning was bright, promising fair weather. We had traveled about fifteen miles when we struck the Bad Water Creek; a band of elk driven by an old buck came in sight, and Frank, having a fast, horse, cut them off so that he got within twenty-five yards of the buck, He fired ten en twelve shots at him and at last killed him in the Bad Water Creek, which the elk had tried to cross, but stuck fast in the mud. The finest and most regular pair of elk horns were saved. We were close to the Wind River, and after an hour's ride, we put our camp up on the bank of the stream at last, having crossed the dreaded Bad Lands. Now, being in a country where the Indians, both peaceable and hostile, roam around, we had to be careful and on the lookout; still, we slept through the night quietly.


Badwater Creek

[Otto Franc] Wednesday Sept 11 - The day breaks clear & cold but gets warmer towards noon enter a line of rocky hills 2 miles in with L then come out after 15 miles travel we strike bad water creek 2-3 miles from its entrance into the Wind River & 5-6 miles from the base of the Big Horn Mountains more indian tracks We left camp quite thirsty but during the march find a little pool of rain water which we almost entirely drain up; Bad Water creek is lined with a beautiful growth of Cotton Wood trees which is quite a relief to the eye after having passed through the barren bad lands; nearing the creek we notice a band of E1k traveling parallel with the creek, they are not a great distance off & have not noticed us, they disappear behind a hill & put spurs to my horse to meet them on the other side of the hill, I arrive there first jump off the horse & find shelter for him & myself behind a wall of rocks, in a few seconds the Elk come along giving a good oppurtunity to shoot there are 10-12 Does & one magnificant specimen of a buck, I aim at the buck & give him a bullet behind the shoulder & before he can recover from his surprise I give him another in almost the same spot, he now runs into the timber which lines the creek, but before he reaches it I give him another bullet which hits his left thigh & knock him down, when I see him fall I think he is dead I turn around & go to my horse to take him up to secure the horns & some meat, when I arrive at the spot where I had seen him fall I find plenty of blood but no Elk, Lanckin who is now coming up shouts to me to run to the creek as he has seen the Elk going towards it, I run following the broad trail of blood & when arriving at the creek which here has very steep bank I hear great splashing in the water but can see nothing on account of the thick bushes which line the bank. Lankin who is as intent as myself to prevent the Elks escape forces his horse through the bushes & leaps down the 10-foot perpendicular high bank into the water, shouting the Elk is 50 yds. farther up the creek in the water trying to climb the bank but cannot do it on account of his broken leg, it does not take me long now to penetrate the bushes & in a minute or two I am abreast of the Elk who is trying in vain to escape up the bank, I give him 2 more bullets but not in vital parts as he keeps moving on & I cannot take good aim on account of the bushes, finally I get quite close to him & give him a bullet in the head which knocks him down & he drowns in the creek ; the water is sufficiently deep to cover him almost entirely with only one or two prongs of the horns above the water; as we intend to camp close by at the Wind River we let lay until after we have made camp & eaten dinner; in the afternoon we return with ropes & an axe & commence the task of pulling him out on the dry ground; we soon give that up as his weight is greater than we expected, we can only move his body close to the bank & then fasten a rope to his horns & after great exertions pull his head above water & make the rope fast to a tree where we cut off his head with the axe; meat we cannot secure as the body is entirely submerged under & we reluctanly leave the whole of the noble animal to the waters. The antlers are without exception the finest & largest I have ever seen & old Elk hunters have assured me that even in their experience they have seen very few to equal or excel them; The Winchester Rifle with which I am armed now, having lost my Sharp through Tip's death, is not heavy enough for large animals like Elk & in this instance, I came near losing a fine buck also I (hit) him twice in a vita1 part, during the remainder of the trip I had occasion several times to mourn the loss of my Sharp & I am certain I would have brought home more trophies if I had had a proper rifle. We camped at Wind River near the mouth of Bad Water Creek; Wind River is here 100 yards wide, the water is thick with mud from - the recent rains & the fishing which is usually quite good here results in a blank for us. The weather gets hot in the afternoon & mosquitoes make their appearance, the thermometer which was yesterday 28 rose to 68. elevation 4400


[Dr. Ferber] 12th - Moved camp ten miles to the head of the Big Horn Canyon, where the stream ceases to carry the name Wind River. Here the Cheyennes killed, sixteen months ago, eight trappers. After dinner, we had a rest and then walked down the canyon one and a half miles.


[Otto Franc] Thursday Sept 12 - Break camp cross Bad Water creek near its mouth follow Wind River to its entrance into the Big Horn Mountains where it forms a grand canyon. We camp in a beautiful grove of Cotton Wood trees in the same place where just a year ago 2 trappers were killed by the Cheyennes, they killed at the same time 5 more in the immediate vicinity; beginning from today two of us always stay in camp while the others are out hunting in order to prevent a surprise by Indians; we have a fine view of the Wind River mountains & Snowy range with their snow-capped giants; the Big Horn Mountains are a very large range & attain their greatest height 50-75 miles north from where we are; they form a large basin, the big Horn basin which is not yet explored & which is said to contain a good deal of game.


Wind River Canyon

[Dr. Ferber] 13th - Started at 8 o'clock a.m.; tried to follow the river, but when we had made about five miles we had to stop; there were on both sides almost perpendicular rocks 800 or 900 feet high. The stream was narrowed by them to about fifty feet and had a considerable fall. Here we found an old camp and two flatboats in good condition, left here, very likely, by an exploring party from Camp Brown. We had to turn to the right and eastward, following a deep canyon, which was about the roughest part of our trip. When we had reached the summit we followed a game trail leading northwest. At three o'clock in the afternoon we stopped for this day near a nice little stream, but without any kind of fish in it. We saw today two herds of buffalo—one band of about sixty elk and two sheep; we tried to kill one or the other, being short of meat but did not get a shot. After dinner, every one of us went on his own hook to bring some game home, but without, any result, except that Frank reported to have killed a buffalo, but did not save any meat or trophies. I saw a large band of sixty-tour elk, but could not get near enough to kill.


[Otto Franc] Friday Sept 13 - clear warm We enter the canyon & try to go through it with our pack train, after going 3-4 miles we come to a place where the river squeezes through perpendicular rocks 1000 feet high & we have to turn off into the mountains, we follow a game trail & after 2 hours hard climb reach the top, we then travel over a high plain where we (see) several herds of Buffalo & a large band of Elk & finally on a little creek. Toward evening I go out hunting & as I see nothing better I kill a large buffalo bull.


Bison near the Wind River Range

[Dr. Ferber] 14th - Had a foggy morning; wind easterly; moved at eight, and riding 12 miles, we arrived at the Big Horn Basin at the foot of the Big Horn Canyon. This canyon, from 16 to 18 miles long, runs from south to north. On both sides, it is lined by rocks from 500 to 1,000 feet high, in some places almost perpendicular. This was the first great canyon I saw, and I must confess that I was astonished at its grandeur. To describe it is an impossibility for me; one must go and see. The fall of the river is only 300 feet from head to foot, therefore I believe it is navigable for small boats. On account of possible Indians, we agreed that only one party would hunt while the others had to remain at camp. Jack and I stayed at home, while Frank and Lancken went out hunting, without killing anything; but they discovered a hot sulfur spring four miles north of our camp. When they saw the smoke they took it for an Indian campfire, but coming near they smelled the sulfur-hydrogenous gas and found the spring. The basin, which appeared to boil, was estimated to be 25 feet in diameter and from 50 to 60 feet deep. The water was so hot that they could not hold their hand in it for over a second. The spring was so powerful that it formed a stream of six feet wide and two feet deep. During their absence, l tried fishing and landed two three-pound catfish, which were delicious.


Thermopolis Hot Springs

[Otto Franc] Saturday, Sept 14 - It is foggy & cold travel 12 (miles) & we descend into the basin & camp at the Big horn river, from the entrance of Wind River into the canyon it is called Big Horn river, the canyon is 18 miles long; in the afternoon L & I go hunting but find no game; in the distance we see what we suppose to be the smoke of a camp fire, we conclude to reconnoiter & find out what (it) is whether the camp of Indians or white men; we approach carefully taking good care not to be seen by those in the supposed & get within a 1/2 mile from it when the wind brings us a strong smell of sulfur & the smoke turns out to be steam, on arriving at the place we find it to be a mammoth hot sulfur spring; it comes out at the foot of a hill where it forms a basin 25 feet wide & of great depth; the water is darkened & very clear, the outlet is a swift running stream 6 feet wide & 2 feet deep. It runs 250 yards & falls over a bank 75 feet high into the Wind River, in falling it forms several sulfur pillars of fantastic design, for a great distance around the ground is formed of sulfur sediments showing that the outflow changes its course very often; the water is very hot, so that we could not hold our hands in it, the spring throws out a thousand or more gallons in a minute; on the opposite of the river are the remains of another now-extinct mineral spring it is in the shape of a dome of transparent matter & of yellow & crystal clear icicles. Dr. caught some catfish in the river. We saw several recently deserted Indian camps with arrangements for drying meat & the Bannock Indians have been in here shortly before us securing enough meat to enable them to go on the warpath, that accounts for the remarkable absence of game. Elevation 4100 feet.


Thermopolis Hot Springs emptying into the Wind River.

[Dr. Ferber] 15th - This was my day, so Jack and I went out together, but soon separated, and I killed two buck antelopes, wounded another, and Jack killed another one. Coming back, we found that the other party had also shot a buck antelope. In the afternoon I fished with grasshoppers and caught several fish that looked like large saltwater herring, but with sharp teeth.


[Otto Franc] Sunday, Sept 15 - Dr. goes hunting kills 2 Antelope Bucks Jack one. L & I stay in camp, I catch some fish & see several Antelope come to the River close to camp I crawl up to see a buck among them & kill him


[Dr. Ferber] 16th - At ten o'clock left this place, where we had such poor shooting, bound homeward. A heavy rain shower of half an hour made our traveling unpleasant. A 16-miles ride was enough for today, and, looking out for a good camping ground, we saw some buck elks at a distance. I shot one of them and Jack wounded another. The horns were not large, but the meat was fine. We saved both tender and sirloins and a good deal of tallow. Frank killed on this day's trip an antelope fawn and buck.


[Otto Franc] Monday, Sept 16 - As we see no Elk & deer in the basin we move camp again into the mountains, before getting there are overtaken by a severe rainstorm which wets us through, I kill 2 Antelope during the march just as we are going into camp we notice 3 Elk bucks close to camp, Dr. Jack & I go after them, they are 2 large ones & a small one, they notice us and make off. Dr. gets a shot at the smallest one & kills him; there are plenty of buffalo around Elevation 7050 feet.


[Dr. Ferber] 17th - F. and L. left camp early. F. shot two antelope bucks. In the afternoon I succeeded in bagging two pairs of antelope horns, and toward evening I jumped a large mule deer buck. I got off my pony and advanced, the buck standing 60 or 70 yards away, broadside toward me. I thought he was mine, but, trying to cock my rifle, it would not go off. I tried it again and again and found that there was something broken inside. The old buck did not move, always looking at the pony. I rested the rifle on my left knee, took sight, pulled the cock, and let go; buck ran only about 50 yards; the same experiment with the same result; never saw him again. When I had climbed the hill I saw a large antelope buck just below me within 80 yards; fixed my rifle between rocks and killed him without the trigger. It was nearly dark when I arrived in camp.


[Otto Franc] Tuesday Sept 17 - L & I go hunting, we have a long ride, ascend a mountain from which we have a beautiful view of the Wind River Mountains, the Snowy Range, the Big Horn basin & the northerly group of the Big Horn Mountains which are covered with snow, we see no game, just before entering camp we start an Antelope buck, he makes off at a trot around a hill, when he is out of sight we clap the spurs to our horses & meet him as he comes out on the other side & I jump off my horse & kill him before he can go far. In the afternoon I go out on foot & kill another Antelope Buck. Dr. & Jack go out on horseback & kill 2 Antelope.


[This story will continue, following the summer trek of Texas Jack, Otto Franc, and Dr. Ferber in Part 10.]


Big Horn Mountains