After a long mountain climb while leading horses and corralling three needy, rambunctious kids, I can’t imagine facing the work it must have taken to make camp. But camps must be made and dinners must be cooked.
Heavy tarps and blankets were pulled off the horses, then heavy wooden boxes packed with skillets and canned foods were hoisted off the pack saddles. Before anything else the horses had to be tended to, so Dad got busy with that. We kids were put to work gathering wood for a fire and blowing up our air mattresses. Now that I think of it, the mattresses were always flat by the time we got to bed — were they brought along just to keep us busy?
These days, with light mountaineering equipment and scores of Sawtooth hikers, I don’t know if there is wood for camp fires or not. But in 1954 there was abundant dry wood laying on the ground and hanging as snags from the trees. It wasn’t long before we kids were through with chores and were entertaining ourselves by bareback riding the horses around camp.
Meanwhile Mom arranged what rocks she could find so they would hold the Coleman white-gas camp stove and spent rest of the day cooking, feeding, washing dishes, and reading aloud by fire light as we snuggled under blankets watching the stars come out.
The next morning, after breakfast was cooked and the dishes were cleaned, the hard work of unpacking was reversed. But everything had to go back on the horses, so camp was broken.
One camp ritual I had forgotten until looking at my Dad’s slides was our daily bath.
We did not have a tub to heat water in, so Sawtooth Mountain “bathing” always consisted of a washcloth in the creek. What with the sweat and dust of the trail, I remember the concept of a bath being most welcome. I also remember these being extremely quick approaches to hygiene. Even in August, those mountain streams were snow just hours earlier. They were cold!
Those washcloths never approached my body with enough water to run, I’ll tell you that. I soon learned to get them just damp enough to wipe off the grit and get the bath done.