Rabbitstick 29; Sept 13 – 19

Mike says, "Sign up today!"

Mike says, “Sign up today!”

Rabbitstick is the Granddaddy of them all when it comes to primitive skills gatherings, so make your plans now to attend. I hope to be there for a few days myself after a visit to the far north, so let me know if you are coming.

Not familiar with the event? Let me fill you in on a little bit of its history and where it is today. Larry Dean Olsen started the original event under the name Rabbit Stick Rendezvous in 1978. After some time, the event was taken over by Dick and Linda Jamison and eventually discontinued.

In 1988, David Wescott went to Larry asking to revive Rabbit Stick through Wescott’s company, the Boulder Outdoor Survival School (BOSS). That first year they had 48 instructors and 2 paying students. Today, Wescott’s current company, Backtracks, LLC hosts Rabbitstick (now one word) with over 400 attendees, 90 of which are instructors. This will be their 28th year!

Here’s a great video from 2014.

David Wescott (right) giving a lesson on Blanket Tech with Steve Watts. Rabbitstick 2011.

David Wescott (right) giving a lesson on Blanket Tech with Steve Watts. Rabbitstick 2011.

More history and info about the event and Wescott can be found in a great interview by Cody Lundin on his blog here. Wescott is a friend, and we are proud to post his outline of Master Woodsman Training on this site. One of his most endearing qualities is bringing folks together from all walks and outdoor living skill disciplines. A most recent example being the Woodsmoke Classic Camping and Bushcraft Symposium where he reached out to the bushcraft community. Nonetheless, Dave’s current passion is Classic Camping. As such, new folks now coming into the bushcraft movement only know Wescott from that capacity and his newly released book, Camping in the Old Style. Just in case you don’t go to the Lundin interview, I wanted to share this one excerpt with you — there are very few out there that have the dirt time of David Wescott…

Cody Lundin: When you go into the wilderness what do you take out with you? Besides the modern stuff?

David Wescott:  You’ve got to realize, I’m nearly 65 now, and I started guiding full time when I was 21 years old. That was sleeping on hard ground with a blanket on a good night, and eating things you’d never tell your mother about. I did that off and on full time for a living for over three decades. The first year I owned BOSS I did three 30-day courses back to back, and two 14-day courses with only a day off in between courses. I owned BOSS for 12 years. Before that, I ran courses that had been started by Larry Olsen. I did those for 4 years while I was going to school. I’d be happy to compare trail time under primitive conditions with anyone.

I did the modern thing too. I have started outdoor programs at 4 universities. I know how to hit the trail with all the essentials. But, I’ve done that too. I still like to do short trips with a backpack, but today, woods-loafing is what I pine for.

Give me a canvas wall tent with an air-tight woodstove, some cast iron cook-wear, the soft glow of an oil lamp, good food and great company, and I’ll stay out for as long as my wife will let me. With that scene in mind, let me remind you about what I said about technology – when you accept the axemaker’s gift, you give up knowledge. With all the umbilical impedimenta of the backpacker, you don’t need to know anything about the outdoors. In fact with today’s ethic, you are merely a tourist who is welcome to look, but don’t you dare touch. On the other hand, to manage a cherry-red stove under a covering of flammable plant fiber fabric, you need to know a few things. To cook a meal fit for a king over unpredictable coals in a cast iron pot, compared to pouring hot water into a foil pack of glop, a thorough working knowledge of hearth management helps.

Now some would say how do you get all that heavy stuff into the wilderness? How did camping ever become a “wilderness” activity? I can camp in my backyard and have a great time. Backpacking and it’s association with wilderness is not the only way to camp. I’ve tried them all, and the sylvan retreat of yesteryear is what I consider the best way to learn about the outdoors and about yourself, and you can be comfortable doing it. Remember, Aldo Leopold said, “woodcraft is a working knowledge of the land.” How can you beat that for an endorsement?

Back to Rabbitstick… It is one of the oldest Primitive skills gatherings in the US, and for a host, they don’t come better than Wescott. There are so many classes offered in this one week, you will have to pick and choose. A few examples are friction fire, felting, flint knapping, netting, pottery, trapping, moccasin making, fingerweaving, basketry, herbalism, plant ID, and more. Also, the event has evolved to include other self-reliance related skills such as blacksmithing, classic camping, modern survival, and even permaculture. It’s not just primitive skills.

Many of the instructors are full-time in their field and/or experts in a particular discipline. For the money, gatherings such as this are hard to beat. $300 for a week at Rabbitstick will give access to 90+/- instructors, an opportunity to take over a dozen different classes, plus two great meals a day — the food is excellent by the way.

More Rabbitstick…

This is the board where the week of classes are posted. Lots of choices!

This is the board where the week of classes are posted. Lots of choices!

View from above. The Tetons are within view from the site which is has a large pond as well as a river going around the perimeter. Coyotes will sing you to sleep and Elk bugle you in the morning.

View from above. The Tetons are within view from the site which has a large pond as well as a river going around the perimeter offering fishing opportunities. Coyotes will sing you to sleep and Elk will bugle you up in the morning. (Photo: Backtracks, LLC)

While the event started out as a primitive skills symposium, over the years it has evolved to include other aspects of traditional skills and modern self-reliance.

While the event started out as a primitive skills symposium, over the years it has evolved to include other aspects of traditional skills and modern self-reliance.  You can learn everything from flint knapping to blacksmithing to classes on modern survival.

Firing pottery, one of many classes.

Firing pottery, one of many classes.

Pottery

Amazing work, some of which comes from the kids classes.

The Kids Program at Rabbit Stick is excellent!

The Kids Program at Rabbitstick is excellent!

Most classes are a half day in length. However, some may last several day such as tanning a hide or making a bow while slipping in some of the half-day classes in-between.

Most classes are a half day in length. However, some may last several days such as tanning a hide or making a bow while slipping in some of the half-day classes in-between.

Rabbit Stick is knot your average primitive skills gathering!

Rabbitstick is “knot” your average primitive skills gathering!  Cordage is a huge component of outdoor skills, one of many classes is learning knots held under a parachute everyone refers to as the “Knot Jellyfish.”

Learning modern survival techniques at Rabbit Stick, the signal mirror.

Learning modern survival techniques at Rabbitstick: the signal mirror.  Note one of the “jellyfish” in the background.

Hawks and Rabbitsticks at Rabbitstick. I learned how to throw a hawk sidearm like a rabbitstick. That was a hoot!

Hawks and rabbitsticks at Rabbitstick. I learned how to throw a hawk sidearm like a rabbitstick. That was a hoot!

Pictures of just in the instructors, many make their livelihood in what they teach and are published. And you will most of them taking classes too, there are NO egos at Rabbit Stick.

Picture of just the instructors, many make their livelihood in what they teach and are published. And you will see most of them taking classes, too.  There are NO egos at Rabbitstick. EVERYONE is there to learn and share.

No explanation needed here.

No explanation needed here.

I made this video from pictures I took at Rabbitstick 2010. It is the first video I ever used editing software. Not too bad… and it will give you a better idea of what you can expect. I hope to see you there!

More pictures from Rabbitstick and other events can be found HERE and HERE.

Early registration (before Sept. 1st) is $300 and can be found at Backtracks.

 

About Christian Noble

Chris Noble is the founder of MasterWoodsman.com and Woodsmoke Camping Company. A Master Naturalist, he holds a Bachelor of Science in Forestry and has worked as a Registered Forester and Certified Burn Manager in several states. Chris is also a Wilderness First Responder and since the late 90’s has been “practicing primitive” skills and taking lessons from numerous Master Woodsmen throughout North America. An advocate for Conservation, teacher of Wilderness Living Skills, and happily married, he enjoys passing what he has learned thus far to others, especially his 2 children, Emerson and Duncan.

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