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Mountain men rendezvous at Rowdy Creek

Jed Smith Mountain Men shoot old rifles, many that use black powder, during Tall Trees Rendezvous.

Some may see the nation’s birthday as a time to look to the future, but for others the week leading up to Independence Day is a time to return to the country’s roots.

New and experienced mountaineers and their families bring their muzzle-loading rifles, tomahawks and bows and arrows at the 36th annual Jed Smith Mountain Men Tall Trees Rendezvous, which starts on Saturday and ends on July 5. 

The Mountain Men and their families will also dress in 1840s garb, wearing either cotton or buckskin clothing and real coonskin caps, said Joyce Lockhart, whose husband was an original member of the Jed Smith Mountain Men.

“We’re not Bambi lovers,” she said, adding that many of the mountain men come from out of state. “In that day and era people utilized the whole animal.”

The week-long rendezvous features competitions in shooting, with both pistols and rifles, tomahawking and archery. There are competitions for men, women, teens from age 13 to 17 and children from age 5 to 12, Lockhart said. Members of the public are invited to watch the contests.

A lot of women participate in the festivities, Lockhart said, sewing their families’ clothing and bringing beading looms. But many enjoy shooting as much as the men do. Last year 140 shooters fired off their “front stuffers,” Lockhart said.

The mountaineers will also show off their Dutch oven skills. There will be both a contest and a Dutch oven demonstration. Most will cook a main meal and a dessert, Lockhart said.

The rendezvous will also feature “apple pie” contests, though, according to Lockhart, the pies have less to do with fruit-filled flaky crusts and more to do with Everclear laced with apple juice and spices.

The public is also invited to browse through Trader’s Row. According to Lockhart, gunsmiths, bead crafters and bowyers will ply their wares. Trader’s Row will call to mind a time when the fur trappers came down out of the hills to trade their pelts for salt, sugar, cornmeal and bacon.

“There will be no plastic,” she said. “The rendezvous is a good place for supplies. (Folks) sell guns, hawks, knives, bows and arrows.”

The Jed Smith Mountain Men Tall Trees Rendezvous is held at the Del Norte Rod & Gun Club on Rowdy Creek Road east of U.S. Highway 101 in Smith River. 

Folks wanting to register now will have to pay an extra $5 late fee. Primitive tent camping is available for $15. Tepee or trailer camping space is available for $30. Shooters’ fees are $10 for individuals and $20 for families. Traders’ fees are $20, which includes camping. Dogs are permitted for $2 each.

The gates open at 8 a.m. on Thursday and registration begins at 8:30 a.m. on Friday. Shooting takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday through July 3.

Participants are also invited to march in the Fourth of July parade. For more information, call “Wet Dog” at 707-464-5119, “Trapper John” at 707-4259 or “Bear Paw” at 707-839-3967.

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