"...I trusted in the Almighty… I knew I could only be killed once,
and I had to die sometime."
-Anne Bailey, 1823

Wednesday, April 4

The Pursuit of Happiness

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"

Indeed, we hold these truths to be self evident, yet for one exception; the exclusion and omission of women in this congressional declaration. For certainly, women are equally endowed by our Creator with these self same Rights. It was the sole intention of a small group of like-minded and unconventional women to take delight in Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness in the manner of a short scout in the wilds of Kentucky. 

Months were spent quietly planning and preparing. Letters were exchanged, concerns raised, fears addressed, and a few of the women who initially planned to join the adventure found themselves unfortunately unable to make the journey.  The remaining six of us gathered blankets,dried foods, smoked meat, made moccasins, and counted the days.

March 23
Finally, unburdened by men or children, we six hearty souls came together on the edge of the civilized world and swiftly departed for savage lands. Our small party was comprised of two Metis women; Ete deLavonde (Summer Chriswell) and Christina Langstein, three Daughters of Liberty; Beth Ehlert, Jill Frost and Lisa Jo Crews, and myself.

The Metis women had traveled far from the furthest western reaches of any civilization from places with the strange and foreign sounding names of "Colorado" and "Utah." I cannot begin to imagine such places, but if these women are examples of what one might expect, I feel certain they are fine places indeed. For these women, excusing the curse of their Indian influences, seemed quite civilized and capable in the woods.

Ah dear me! How could I possibly leave out our best and finest companion, dear little Rowdy who was brought by Lisa Jo. A mere pup of eight weeks, she was a sweet and entertaining darling dear we all  took great pleasure in! Her constant antics were a source of great amusement for us, particularly in the morning hours when she tempted fate and jumped unbidden upon covered heads!

Together, our party of adventurers set off along a trail I had traveled a time or two before and knew to be strenuous but well within our means. Carrying our  possessions upon our backs we carefully made our way through the wooded land, with ever a watchful eye upon the clifftops, the game trails, and of course our back trail to be certain no man nor beast should take us unawares. 

A cursed rain dampened belongings, wool cloaks, Metis matchcoats and even my beloved Lucky, our primary source of protection against molestation from any four or two legged kind. Though we found ourselves quite soaked, our spirits never dampened for a moment and the sound of laughter surely protected our small company from any four legged creatures. Indeed, there were no creatures but ourselves to be seen in this downpour, the rest of the forest's many inhabitants surely stayed hidden well nested in their homes. 
Yet, still we slogged on through the rain, knowing a fire, some warm food and a bit of Mistress Crew's famous blackberry bounce and my rum punch were in our future. 

Though the trail had begun quite easily, soon we found ourselves making a steep ascent causing each of us to take a necessary rest. As we ascended the highest clifftops, I made the decision to cache a few of our belongings in a well covered outcropping, allowing us the use of both hands as we climbed the treacherous rocks. Knowing there were two paths ahead, I asked if the ladies if they wished to take the shorter but much more strenuous climb or the longer but easier path. To no one's surprise, the group unanimously agreed upon the shorter climb. Ahhh, now that was a choice only made once! 

The climb along the clifftops was steep, slick with rain, and far more difficult than perhaps the ladies had anticipated, yet without fail, each of us managed unassisted, well satisfied with ourselves.

Our skills had been much tested! The rhythmic pounding within our hearts matched the quaking of our winter softened muscles and each of us were grateful beyond compare when the last rock ledge was summited and we arrived safely but out of breath at our destination. I believe it is fair to say each of these fine women had their breath quite taken away as they surveyed our temporary housing, fine as it was. The collective "Ooooh's" and "Ahhhs" were greatly satisfying to me as the leader of this little expedition. All were well satisfied and perhaps even impressed with the living conditions I'd prepared for our small group.

To call this a rock house is a severe disservice, perhaps rock castle or rock palace would better describe the  magnificence of our shelter. Further, knowing full well our paleolithic sisters had once inhabited this very space was nearly overpowering. The sleeping areas were well defined, shelves and niches perfect for our small accouterments were abundant, as were seats carved out of the soft sand stone. 
But perhaps the most stunning remnant left for our discovery by our ancient sisters was the existence of a "hominy hole" burrowed into the large table rock. I imagined a woman from ancient times, grinding corn day in and day out, deepening the hole with each time she crushed the corn to feed her family. T'was almost a mystical connection to our past and I daresay t'was felt by all of us. 

Once we'd established our "rooms," divested and stowed the majority of our belongings it was time to begin exploring the glory of our surroundings. We left Mistress Crews and Rowdy well ensconced within the palace to keep watch over our small accouterments while we made the journey down to retrieve our cache of items left behind on our initial ascent. Of course it nearly goes without saying the rain had not let up, yet we were neither perturbed nor deterred.
Our explorations led us to many natural beauties. The most magnificent of which was the unexpected appearance of a stunning double rainbow. The rain and clouds cleared off and the remainder of the afternoon was lovely. We encountered any number of odd and unusual flora we could not identify but found most intriguing.  Not knowing the possible dangers of such bounty we did not collect any to eat, but it surely was time to eat! We returned to Lisa Jo, Rowdy and our lovely rock palace just before the sun set. 

Christina easily laid a hasty fire in the fire ring and t'was not long before we had plenty of coals to heat our fine meal. We had provisioned well and had plenty to share amongst ourselves. Later, beside the crackling fire we looked out over the tree tops and admired a million twinkling stars. The entire night sky looked for all the world as if God had flung a million diamonds into the sky simply for our pleasure. Many stories were told and laughter rang out late into the night whilst the bottles of wine, rum punch and bounce were freely passed from one to the other.
Comfortable in our home we relaxed, but remained ever watchful aware danger could come upon us at any time. 
Night wore on and the peals of laughter seemed to subtly fade away as the stories turned from school girl humor to tales of ghosts past and present. Each of us pulled her wool blankets to her chin and flatly refused to admit the tiny hints of fear which crept upon us. 
But all were deeply frightened as the first and completely unexpected flash of lightning filled the entire rock palace with its blinding light. The clap of thunder which followed was mind numbingly loud as it filled the furthest recesses of our shelter and bounced back out over the canyon, echoing the sound over and over and reverberating with such intensity we felt it within our very bones!! 

Grateful were we of the tiny light of our candles and the fire to bring us some small comfort as the storm raged just outside our magnificent palace. Nary a drop landed upon us as we snuggled closer to one another or under our blankets. Flashes of lightning seemed to strike mere feet from our perch over the trees and there is no doubt our heads were filled with dire possibilities: hurricane force winds pulling all of us out into the night; complete cave collapse flattening us all, or any number of other nightmares.  I worried the next strike of lightening would be the last we'd ever see! But I can honestly assure you one and all; not once did I or my fearless sisters give voice to our thoughts. Not one peep escaped tight lips, and not one scream escaped through the long storm. Sleep came and went like a forbidden lover throughout the long night leaving each of us wishing for more. 

TO BE CONTINUED in an upcoming edition of On the Trail Magazine...
The author would like to thank each of these fine women for being fearless in their pursuit of happiness! 


  1. Excellent, wish I could encourage more women here to do the same.
    Regards, Keith.

  2. Wonderful! And you even met a box turtle. It's already surprisingly warm. And lightening! :) I look forward to your OTT article.

  3. Well Done!!!..mylady and i lived the life of long hunter for 25 yrs she often spoke of a ladies event..i will pass you post along to her..mayhaps she will hear the call again..safe journeys

  4. great story, great pictures, great experiences, thank you for sharing this and other stories with poor fellows. ladies, my hat is off for you all, especially the lady from colorada! i would not mid a year of indenture service in that company!!
    jean baptiste darko

  5. I wish to do this with you sometime, would love it!
    Beth Stewart