Daydreaming about cabins in the hills

February 19, 2019

With spring about a month away, this time of year can be tricky for outdoorsmen and women.

The weather is simply unpredictable to the point that some days are warm and sunny enough to make you want to go fishing. Other days, when it is cold and wet, it is hard to muster any momentum to do much in the great outdoors.

These days can be risky for daydreamers like me. These days, with plenty of time to gaze out the front window, are the days that an elk hunt gets booked, a new rifle gets purchased or a crazy life-long scheme is devised.

Perhaps a real-life example is in order to clarify. Say, you have this friend who has always dreamed of a remote cabin in the mountains. Not a house or a camp, but a real mountain man cabin like the ones “Bear Claw” Chris Lapp or Grizzly Adams built way up in the mountains. A real trapper’s cabin.

I have stumbled across a few trapper’s cabins in my hunting career and I always am curious of the stories, the game, the food and the elements these old structures have been a part of.

Back in the day, trappers built these remote little cabins along their traplines. The shelters would give the trapper a warm and dry place to crash with supplies and dry firewood stockpiled. Could you imagine deep in the Rockies or deep in Fayette County on a dark, snowy, cold night stumbling along an old trapline hoping the supplies and firewood you hid last summer are still there in the small cabin you built?

The isolation. The basic needs of survival — food, water, shelter. These little trapper cabins allowed humans to stay in the wilderness not only to survive, but to thrive in the hills and harsh conditions.

In my travels, I once stopped in Cody, Wyoming, at Old Trail Town — a collection of historic western buildings and artifacts dating from 1879 to 1901. I fell in love with the old cabins that were in display there and I thought of the way of life those tiny shelters provided for those who dared to wander way back in the mountains and how they used the simplest of tools to build a perfect little home in the hills.

One of the coolest things at Old Trail Town is Jeremiah Johnson’s grave. On June 8, 1974, the grave of the noted mountain man was relocated there. Johnson’s legendary exploits were brought to film with Robert Redford in the movie “Jeremiah Johnson.” Originally “Johnston.“John Johnson was a trapper, hunter, United States Army scout, marshal, and Union veteran of the Civil War.

I grew up watching and daydreaming to the movie and it is still part of my life today — as a tradition at our annual buck camp every fall.

This time of year is tricky for some outdoorsmen and women and you have to be careful with your dreams and plans. I have this “friend” who spent all winter drawing up the craziest idea — to build his own trappers cabin way up in the West Virginia hills.

Chris Ellis of Fayetteville, West Virginia, an outdoorsman and Marshall University graduate, is owner of Ellis Communications, a public relations agency serving the outdoor industry. Contact him at chris@elliscom.net.