I really enjoy reading historical books and especially those about the Old West. Journal of a Trapper is one of my favorite such books. As the title suggests, this book is the journal of fur trapper Osborne Russell which documents the 9 years he spent in the Rocky Mountains trapping and hunting. I am envious of those who got to see this region in it’s nearly pristine state and Russell does an excellent job describing the experience. One amazing passage describes how he had to wait on the trail for a couple of hours while a massive herd of bison migrates in front of him. Sadly towards the end of his writings he notes the absence of these great herds and how it is less and less common to even see a bison. I also enjoyed his entries about winter in what is now Ogden, UT and how, when he needed me, he would just hike up to the foothills of the Wasatch mountains and shoot a big horn sheep. It sounds that they were plentiful in his day and of course now, I doubt there are even any transplanted sheep in the hills above Ogden. Interestingly, at the time I read this book, I happened to travel to Yellowstone and fished at the site of one of his encampments at the confluence of the Lewis Fork of the Snake River and the Snake River (it was full of whitefish by the way). It was cool to be standing right where he did some 170 years earlier.
I marvel that hearty souls like Osborne Russel could make a living in the rugged and wild terrain that is the Rocky Mountains. Reading this text is close to being there.
Journal of a Trapper by Osborne Russell, 1921
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Osborne Russell’s Journal of a Trapper and maps of his travels in the Rocky Mountains