Missouri River Expedition

In 2019 Scott participated in a Missouri River expedition spanning 2,341 miles in 5 months and 2 days.

Scott signed up for this life-changing canoe trip padding the entire Missouri River.  The expedition was led by Tom Elpel and partially re-traced Lewis and Clark’s journey on the Missouri River from the 1800’s.  They called themselves “The Corp of Rediscovery”.  An almost magical window opened up and Scott chose to say yes to the trip.  To participate in the 5-month trip, Scott resigned from his job of 14 years and he actually felt free!   Scott discovered Tom Elpel via his year long apprenticeship course under Doug Hill’s Gone Feral: School of Primitive & Traditional Skills which was held in the Front Range of Colorado.  Tom’s books form a substantial part of Scott’s outdoor skills library. The expedition offered Scott a perfect window of opportunity to test his own kit, identify weaknesses, and evolve to another level of competence under Tom’s leadership.

Expedition Objectives:

  • 2,341 miles descending the Missouri River from its origins at Three Forks, Montana to St. Louis, Missouri.
  • A conduit for exploring the land and its inhabitants.
  • A wilderness skills immersion experience and nature awareness exercising botany, foraging and fishing; seeking a deeper connection with nature.
  • A media-centric fundraiser to purchase land along the Jefferson River for a public campground; local media will be invited out to interview the group.

The expedition lasted 5 months and 2 days. The crew was supported along the way through various Lewis and Clark enthusiasts, the Missouri River Paddlers Association; i.e. “river angels”, earth skills community, as well as strangers.

We posted over 1,000 photos on our Prepped and Frosty Facebook page and updates were also posted by Tom Elpel.  Scott put together a presentation for public speaking and can be found below.  Tom is writing a book about the expedition and it will be available in March 2020.

Click here to order
Missouri River Presentation

Overnight Hike-Ward, Colorado

We had another nice overnight hike to the Gone Feral field site just out of Ward, CO.  The temperature dipped below freezing and winds gusted to 40 mph at night. We are working up to full winter conditions when we will need a fire in our shelter. We experimented this weekend with a fire in the wikiup.

~Go, Do, Share, Enable

Hide Tanning Workshop-Lafayette, CO

Scott had a fun and physically challenging hide tanning workshop with Doug Hill from Gone Feral.  Making full use of animals was obviously very important to our not so distant ancestors.  The hide has several uses, including tanning it to use as material for clothing and other purposes.  It would take approximately three hides to make a pair of pants and each hide takes an expert approximately 8 hours to complete.  Doug’s course was 3 days long for one hide per student.  There are many methods for tanning a hide, we roughly followed this process:

  • Pronghorn Hides were provided by Doug:  Most hunters do not want the hide and often leave it in the field.
  • Bucking was also done by Doug:  An alkaline solution is created and the hide is soaked for a few days in it.  Bucking artificially decomposes the hide, swelling the grain and membrane layers making them easier to scrape.
  • Scraping:  We wet scraped the hair, grain and membrane layers leaving the densely fibered inner layer accessible for tanning and softening.  The grain and membrane layers are less dense and mucusy.  The mucus prevents the dressing solution from penetrating to the inner fibers and therefore needs to be removed.
  • Sewing:  Artificial sinew was used to sew holes that were in the hides.  Ideally there would be no holes, however pronghorn hide is thinner than most hides and the initial hide removal from the animal must be done with care.  Holes make the process much more difficult.
  • Brain dressing:  We opened up skulls of the pronghorn to access the brains.  The brains were mixed with water and smashed up into a solution.  A general rule of thumb is that the the brain of any animal is enough to tan its hide.
  • Wringing:  The hide was twisted tightly draining off the dressing from the hide.
  • Softening and stretching:  As the hide  begins to dry, it shrinks and hardens.  Stretching the hide while it is drying softens it so that it becomes more like a fabric rather than stiff rawhide.  This is very labor intensive.
  • Smoking:  Once dried and soft it is ready to be smoked.  Smoking the hide provides a degree of weather proofing.  Buckskin is not waterproof, but the smoking increases the resilience to moisture and retards the hide from become stiff when it gets wet. The hide is folded in half and and the sides secured to each other forming a “bag” of sorts.  This can be done by sewing, glue, or clothes pins.   The hide bag is then sewed to a denim pant leg which will go over the stove pipe.  The denim provides a channel for the smoke and provides a buffer area to prevent sparks from burning the hide.  Coals are covered with punk wood to generate smoke.  Fifteen minutes for the first side, reverse the bag making it inside out, and fifteen minutes of smoking on the other side completes the hide.

~Go, Do, Share, Enable

Recommended Resources: Deerskins into Buckskins: How to Tan with Brains, Soap or Eggs; 2nd Edition


Weekend Overnight Hike-Ward, CO

We love our weekend overnight hikes!  We got out again to do yet another 1 night backpack hike/camp at the Gone Feral field site near Ward, CO. It’s one of our favorite hikes in any weather (about 5 miles). We prepared for rain and we got lots of it, and hail too! We found some interesting fungus growing on and in some aspen trees…it’s always fun looking and finding new things as we hike.  We read that the fungus can be used to help start fires!  Scott made a fire to help keep us warm during the rain and to heat our dinner and we enjoyed sleeping in the wikiup listening to the rain all night.  Our “to do” list this time was to harvest grass so we could weave a new mat to sleep on and Scott practiced his fire making skills.

~Go, Do, Share, Enable

Colorado Parks & Wildlife-Outdoor Adventure Expo-Cherry Creek State Park

Colorado Parks & Wildlife held their first annual ‘Outdoor Adventure Expo’ at Cherry Creek State Park this weekend.  They personally invited the Gone Feral School of Primitive and Traditional Skills and founder, Doug Hill, to be there along with approximately 20 other much larger organizations.  This was a great testament to the Gone Feral school!  The weekend was all about showcasing what outdoor recreation opportunities Colorado has to offer.  Doug asked Scott to come along to participate and help educate and share with people what the Gone Feral school is all about. Doug & Scott set-up in a campsite.  They did lots of fire-making demo’s using a bow drill, and even cooked over the fire using a primitive cooking structure just like the one used at the Gone Feral field site.  They showcased hand-made bows, natural cordage and baskets weaved out of willow bark.  They also had some hide tanning pieces on display.  Scott had a great time and was excited to be able share his experience and skills with lots of people, including many young adults and kids!

~Go, Do, Share, Enable

Overnight Hike-Gone Feral Field Site-Ward, CO

This overnight hike had several objectives.  The first priority was to take down a dead standing tree next to the wikiup which had become increasingly unstable.  Last year it seemed solid, not moving in the wind like the other trees.  This year, you could make it move easily by pushing on it.  A frightening number of healthy trees had snapped off in the winter high winds.  Action was needed once the risk was recognized.    We hope to utilize the tree in the future by splitting it and making some furniture for our day camp / cooking area.  We were able to improvise a flat space using an already downed tree in the cooking area to get us by short term.  Additionally we did a short day hike on a trail that we had not previously explored.

~Go, Do, Share, Enable


Crater Lakes Hike-Rollingsville, CO

Gorgeous 6 mile hike in the James Peak Wilderness near Rollingsville, CO to Crater Lakes…we were above 10,000 feet in these amazingly beautiful mountains with moss covered trees, wild flowers, mushrooms, and brook trout!

~Go, Do, Share, Enable


Day Hike-South St. Vrain Trail

We got out hiking today and took our dog Kaycie on her first adventure hike! About 4 miles (round trip) on the South St. Vrain trail near Ward, CO. We saw lots of wild mushrooms and gorgeous wild flowers!  Check out our FB post here.

~Go, Do, Share, Enable

Two Nights at Gone Feral Field Site-Ward, CO

Margie wanted to spend some time in the wikiup so we hiked in 2 miles to the Gone Feral Field Site where we enjoyed two nights in the Indian Peaks near Ward, Co…so much fun! We slept in our wikiup, scouted around, and cooked each night over the fire! Rain was in the forecast, but never came until we were on the road home.   Check out our FB post here.

~Go, Do, Share, Enable