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Friday, December 28, 2012

Left: Gifford Pinchot and his wife, Cornelia, enjoy a morning repast, ca. 1920s.
Right: Acorn Patrollers, Suzanne Simmons and David Wescott recreate the scene
at The Cradle of Forestry re-encampment, 2007.

Doin' It Right
By Steve Watts
The Cradle of Forestry
October 10-12, 2008
Pisgah National Forest, NC

"The tramping trip need not be the longest and most dangerous excursion up to the highest mountain, through the deepest woods or across the wildest torrents, glaciers or deserts, in order to be a happy one; but however short or long, rough or smooth, calm or stormy, it should be one in which the able, fearless camper sees the most, learns the most, loves the most and leaves the cleanest track..."
                                             John Muir, quoted by Dan Beard, 1920


Doin’ It Right
By David Wescott
In Seton’s Tracks Project 5/09
May 30-31, 2009
Big Island on Henry’s Fork of the Snake River
David Wescott and Mike Powell

In the tradition of the Cradle of Forestry, we have again tried to recreate the essence of Camping In The Old Style. We selected 5 classic views – 4 from Warren Miller’s Camping Out, and one from Snake River Echoes. We did not try to duplicate the photos, but only come close to how it might have been. We used only period gear, and modeled the photos after our remembrance of what the original photos looked like, capturing only the essence of Tramping In The Old Style.

In the fashion of the Idaho game warden, we recreated this photo of the
well-supplied tramper ready for a long self-supported stay in the wilds.

Geting the packs ready to load.
The set of two Duluth Packs on the right were actually found in a barn
under a pile of hay by Mike Powell (right) along with a
great old Dietz lantern.

Warren Miller prepares for a day of fishing in front of his sheltered
stretcher bed, 1920.

The envelope-style pack in the Miller photo at left was unusual for the day -
very cutting edge. On the right, Mike chose an eastern-style pack basket to
make a portage to our island camp.

Packin' Camp. Warren Miller is on the right and David Abercrombie -
of Abercrombie and Fitch fame. - is in the center. The recreated photo is a
mosaic of Dave Wescott posing in all three positions.

Kamp Kephart 2013 
Schedule is Released

The publication of David Wescott’s Camping In The Old Style in 2000 marks the beginning of the Classic Camping Revival in the US.  Watts and Wescott then began to offer a series of classic camping skills courses, both in the east (The Acorn Patrol) and west (The Yellowstone Trail Chapter Hut). The “Kamp Kephart” workshop series began in 2005 at the Schiele Museum of Natural History in Gastonia, North Carolina.  Participants trained in those workshops have formed the core of a classic camping demonstration team - a group responsible for pioneering experiential history re-encampment events on the east coast. 

Now you can participate in these same workshops by signing up for the latest schedule of Kamp Kephart workshops. Print out the pages shown below, fill out the application form and return to Steve at the address provided. Do it now, as these workshops fill up FAST!

This year's schedule includes 
such tasty topics as: 
The Camp Lantern
Swagman's Deluxe
Fishing In The Old Style
Classic Candlecraft
The Backwoods Saw
The Camp Spoon
Thumbsticks, Crooks and Crowns
The Leather Axe Sheath
Two Nordic Match Safes

These are hands-on workshops, so you'll come away with a project you make yourself as well as a thorough exposure to the topic and how it relates to the entire field of classic camping. Steve Watts is a master teacher.

What is Classic Camping

Take a minute to listen as Steve Watts discusses how we define Classic Camping.

“The goal of camping is camping itself. 
 The practice and the payoff are one and the same.”
Steve Watts

For anyone interested in getting started, a sound philosophical reason for why we do it is essential. The art of the re-encampment can be undertaken for lots of reasons, but the whole basis of it is to hearken back to when camping was the reason for going camping. It wasn't just a stopping point for a tramping trip or the place where one spent time while waiting for the daylight to get better for the hunt. Camping was an end it itself. Sitting by the campfire's glow with a bunch of well-fed friends who know the finer arts of the sylvan life can never be beat. So come join us as we celebrate camping in the old style. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Register For Woodsmoke Now!

WOODSMOKE JULY 14-29, 2013

Sign-up now at
$300 early registration price now available. 
(Click the "Register On-Line" button to go directly to a shopping cart.)

For more information go to Woodsmoke Symposium at Facebook 
to learn what the Woodsmoke event is all about.

Join us for a chance to go camping in the old style as well as 
master new and exciting bushcraft and classic camping skills. 

Don't Wait. Enrollment is limited to 100 participants.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Interview With Warren Miller Jr.

Warren Hastings Miller Jr. Interview
By David Wescott, © 2012

Written as a follow-up to Brent Payne's post at on 
the writings of Warren Miller. Check it out.

One great thing about the Internet is that it is an unbelievable source for getting to know historic figures. A good number of the authors with books on classic camping have been written about for their literary contributions (White, Hough, Wallace, Seton, Kephart). Unfortunately, Warren Miller is not among them. It’s time to correct this so his influence on the outdoor genre and the field of classic American camping in general is not overlooked (we need to do this for people like Mason, Jaeger, and Buzzacott as well) .

 Warren Hastings Miller
Publicity shot for his book jackets. Courtesy of Warren Miller Jr.

This is a first attempt at a biographical sketch of Warren Hastings Miller (1876-1960) editor of Field and Stream and prolific author of outdoor skills books for boys. It’s interesting to note that Millers books, Camping Out (1912) and Camp Craft (1915) were two of the seminal works that stimulated my interest in assembling Camping In The Old Style in 2000. There were a few photos in his books that used some people as regular subjects. One I assumed was Warren himself. I was mistaken, but I didn’t know it until a few months after the book’s release. While eating dinner one evening, a phone call came. It was a gentleman from Florida. The conversation went like this:

Wescott: Hello?
Miller: You have no idea what my father looks like do you?
Wescott: Excuse me?
Miller: I said, “You have no idea what my father looks like do you”?
Wescott: I’m not sure. Who is this?
Miller: This is Warren Miller Jr. and you have incorrectly identified my father in a number of photos in your book.

Well, he good-naturedly directed me to a photo that was indeed his father, and set me straight. I had barely done enough research to complete my book, and had nowhere near mastered the subject. I asked Warren for his phone number and if I could call him back when I got around to improving my knowledge about his father.

 Warren Miller in what Warren Jr. called his typical casual camping attire next to a covered stretcher bed.  Photo taken during the years many of his books were being published.
From Camping Out, 1912.

The man in the center of this photo was in so many pictures, I mistakenly identified him as Warren Miller in my book Camping In The Old Style. He is actually David Abercrombie, and the man on the left is probably Frank Stick. Miller is actually rolling the stick bed on the right.

Photo from a Campfire Club encampment. Dan Beard on the left and Abercrombie on the right. Others unidentified as yet (possibly S.E. White and Frank Stick).
Both photos above from Camp Craft, 1915.

I finally got around to calling him yesterday (12/2/12- ten years later). He said wryly, “I was wondering when you were going to call back.” The following are a few notes I was able to collect from our conversation.

Conversation Notes
Via phone with David Wescott - December 2, 20012

Warren Hastings Miller Sr.
Born: 1875 in Honesdale, PA
Died: 1960 Melbourne, FL
Buried: Gloucester, MA

Looking at photos of him in the field, often accompanied by David Abercrombie, I assumed he was a tall thin man. Warren Jr. corrected me again by telling me that he was thin (his weight averaged about 120 pounds, but was regularly around 106 pounds), but he was not tall. He was only 5’6” tall.

Miller was a very patriotic citizen and always ready to volunteer in times of crisis. He is listed in the New Jersey census as an able seaman in the N.J. Naval Reserve attached to the USS Portsmouth from 1896-1898. He served in active duty on the USS Glacier during the Spanish-American War (1898).

Upon his return from the war, he was married and his first child was born to him and his wife Susan Barse in 1901. He was named Barse Miller and became a well-known artist and muralist in California. He lived in the Monterey area (* I wonder if he was buddies with another of my heroes, Joe Mora?). Warren and Susan had 3 more children between 1901 and 1911 and moved to Gloucester, MA as she was an active artist and Gloucester was an artist’s colony at the time. He spent most of his life in the Hudson River area, living on one side of the river or the other at times. Susan tragically died of an upper respiratory infection at the age of 50.

Miller was trained as a mechanical engineer and worked for the Eastern Standard Oil Company (now Exxon) and was responsible for three new patents. Starting in 1909 he took on work at nights to help out at the offices of Field and Stream. He was an avid tinkerer and was interested in improving gear for hunter, fisherman and outer alike.

During WWI (1917-18) Miller served as an Assistant Gunnery Officer on the USS Utah and was ready to volunteer to go into battle when the Armistice was signed. He retired as a Navy Lieutenant and later acquired the nickname Cap.

In 1910 Miller became the managing editor of Field and Stream magazine and served in the position until 1918. While he was the editor, he oversaw the serialization of works by well-known authors such as Zane Grey. He also saw to it that the magazine was the official publication of the Campfire Club of America, working with the likes of Seton, Pinchot and Roosevelt. (From The Best of Field and Stream: 100 Years of Great Writing)

From the time of his first publications (starting in 1911 with Canoeing, Sailing and Motor Boating), Miller wrote in a conversational style that was familiar to his way of storytelling. He titled them “Boys Books,” the big “B” possibly honoring his eldest son Barse. As he noted in one of his introductions, if you were reading his book, you were either 12 years old or the father of a 12 year old. I read once that much of the outdoor how-to genre was disguised as if it was for boys, but really written for men.

Miller shared a common love of the outdoors with David Abercrombie and Frank Stick, an illustrator for Field and Stream. The three of them camped regularly during Miller’s tenure at the magazine, making 6-week expeditions throughout the country. They traveled west by train to Montana’s Continental Divide country. There they hired a local named Montana John (the source for Miller’s protagonist Big John). He was such a unique character, full of Montana-isms, that Miller followed him around with notebook and pencil, jotting down everything that came out of his mouth. This was an epoch winter expedition that resulted in many good stories and photos.

The results of the trip became:
1924    The Ring-Necked Grizzly
1926    The White Buffalo

Warren Miller photos.

Warren Jr. told me a favorite story about a mouse in the woodpile. Miller was proud of his lightweight gear, but in Montana they slept in what he called “a classic rag house” – that’s a traditional outfitter’s wall tent with tent stove. There was a woodpile in the tent to fuel the stove. One night Miller kept hearing a mouse running around and proceeded to shoot it with his pistol. The shot woke everyone up, and since the mouse came back, clearly he had missed his target, so everyone else wanted to give it a try. The result was 10-12 dead mice and probably a well-ventilated tent.

They also traveled by train to Flagstaff, Arizona where they hired a packing guide and rode north crossing the Colorado River at Lee’s Ferry, and onto the Kaibab Plateau where they spent over a month hunting and fishing.

The results of the trip became:
1923    Red Mesa
1924    The Black Panther of the Navajo

Shortly after leaving Field and Stream, he was approached by a well-known publisher who liked his writing style. He agreed to a contract with Harper & Brothers to produce 5 novels for youth. When he  asked what they wanted the books to be about, their response was “anything but Penrod” (a series of kids books by Booth Tarkington about the adventures of a Tom Sawyer-like character growing up in the pre-WWI Midwest). He decided on a series of adventure and travel novels featuring “boy explorers.” To acquire information for the books, he set sail in 1921 on a 15,000 mile voyage to New Guinea, Java, Borneo, and Sumatra. There he chartered a “Proa”, a lateen-rigged junk with a crew of six natives that cost him about $15 a month, and was able to sail to obscure locations gathering stories not commonly written about (New York Times Nov. 27, 1921).

The results of this trip became:
1921    The Boy Explorers in Darkest New Guinea
1922    The Boy Explorers Across Borneo
1923    The Boy Explorers and the Ape-man of Sumatra
1923    The Boy Explorers on Tiger Trails in Burma
1926    The Boy Explorers in The Pirate Archipelago

It’s not commonly known that Miller also lived in North Africa among the Berber people of Tunisia where he gathered information for his 1927 book Sahara Sands, which is another of the "Boy Explorers" books.

About 1937, while living in White Plains, NY, Miller remarried. His new wife, Elizabeth White was the chorister at the church where he was the organist, and they subsequently had 2 more children – his second family – one of which is Warren Jr.
Warren Jr. remembers his father as a gifted storyteller – that was why he was such a good writer, he wrote as he spoke. His favorite story subjects were – Naval history, his boyhood in Perth Amboy, NJ where he learned to hunt, fish and sail, as well as stories that came from his novels. Warren Jr. said he rarely spoke of his first family as they were all grown by the time he was born. Presumably relations were amicable but not close. 

SO the big question – What happened to all his gear?

In 1945 Miller was struck with Prostate Cancer. He was successfully treated, but told that spending winters in MA would kill him. He moved his family to Melbourne, Florida for the winters and back to the Gloucester home for the summers. In 1954, age and finances required that he sell the MA home. Warren Jr. and 2 of his brothers were dispatched to the home with a list of exactly what to bring back. At the time, all of the gear was just a bunch of  “obsolete camp stuff” – too old to be any good, but not old enough to be of any value. It was all thrown out with the exception of a few of Miller’s favorite guns.

By this time, Warren Jr. says, “Dad was over it. The old days had past. We did a little camping, but not like he used to. Dad was always active, and it wasn’t until he was about 80 that he started to look his age.” About 1953 Miller and Jr. (age 14) did build a sail boat together in Florida. Warren Jr. mentioned that this was a powerful lesson on how people can make things from scratch, learning that you could actually produce something of value.

While living in MA Jr. managed to convince his parents to buy a 16’ Snipe class sail boat. This was part of the load brought back to Florida when the house was sold. He mentioned that he was taught to sail mostly by his mother, from what she had been taught by his father.

In closing I mentioned our classic camping symposium held last year here in Idaho. I also told him that there was a general renaissance in the field of traditional skills and classic style, and that Miller is being re-read by a whole new generation. His words are still teaching “boys” 100 years after they were written, and they’re still valid. He mentioned a client of his engineering firm brought a recent copy of Field and Stream into the office to show him that an article on rifles had quoted his father’s book Rifles and Shotguns (1917).

We talked about the idea of heritage and tradition, whereupon Warren said his father knew the old skills but was proud of his development of new equipment and enjoyed the latest gear – his paraffinned/muslin tent and his nesting aluminum cook set. This is a discussion that Steve Watts and I have been having for a while – the blending of old skills and new technology. This has been a common dichotomy throughout many generations of campers. The contemporary Classic-style has simply chosen a specific time period and deals with the skills and gear common to the Golden Age of Camping.

Warren asked me if I had heard of the book The Lone Woodsman (1943) or sometimes titled Two Hands and A Knife (the title was changed by the copyright holder after one of the 11 editions. There is a current book by the same title by another author) (“Dad always sold the rights outright ... he never made any money on his books.”). It was his most popular book by far. It was about a boy (like Dad) who was interested in Indian Lore and haunted the halls of the New York Museum of Natural History to learn everything he could about how to live as they did. (“Dad always favored the Indians in his writing. He thought they got a raw deal, and that they deserved better than they got. They deserved credit for what they knew.”) The boy took a train north to live with the Canadian Cree for a summer. The train put him off at Lac Suel with his gear, canoe and his dog. While crossing the lake, the canoe swamped in a storm. The boy managed to save himself with only his shorts, a leather belt, his dog and collar and a knife. The idea was to teach youth how to think when simple questions like “What am I going to eat” need to be answered. It’s a different way of thinking.

The book has drawings by his brother Barse as well as Kurt Weise a comic artist who had a strip similar to Mark Trail. Warren Sr. said that he once got a letter from a man who was coming to visit who had used the book to live like the main character Dan Pickett. Upon seeing the man, Warren said “He looked pretty pale to me.”

* Note: These are two posts from Warren Jr. and myself that added another interesting touch to the story - at least for me.

I took the liberty of making a few corrections to your write-up (in red), but on the whole, it is very good.  But you surprised me with your comment about Joe Mora.  Let me tell you about Joe (truly Jose).  When Dad was growing up, he ran around (and sailed and camped and hunted) with a group of boys.  One of them was Eber Hubbard, whose father was a battlefield surgeon in the Civil War.  It's too bad that Dr. Hubbard was a true hero, who didn't tell war stories, or I would have heard stories about the Civil War straight from the source!  Another was Ray Roberts (known as "Rabbits" from his name and big feet, and when they were perhaps 12 years old, a new boy joined the group, Joe (Jose) Mora, whose father (from Mexico) came to Perth Amboy to run the local ceramics business.  He and Dad were great friends, and whenever Joe published a new book (Trail Dust and Saddle Leather, Californios), he sent Dad a copy.  He was a superb artist.  I have no idea how he got from Perth Amboy to New Mexico, but I assume that his family lived there. - Warren

It's a small world. I have always been a huge Mora fan ever since I was a kid. I used to have his illustrated park maps and cowboy and indian posters hung up in my room. I have copies of the 2 cowboy/indian posters hanging in my office right now. I taught at NAU in Flagstaff for 3 years and had a chance to go through his complete collections in the library there. His Dad was a Catalonian sculptor (Spanish - wife was French) and brought the boys to New Jersey from Montivedeo, Uruguay where they were born. Mora made several trips west at the turn of the century, traveling through Texas and Mexico to learn the skills of the Vaquero, but headed west for good about 1903, to record the California and Native American traditional ways. From 1904-1906 he lived at Oraibi, AZ documenting pueblo life and amassing an amazing catalog of Kachina paintings. He spent time near where I grew up, and eventually settled in the Monterey area. He was highly influenced by the California mission style. My folks were bay area brats and were way into Arts and Crafts and Mission style, so Mora was always in our house. Pretty cool.  Thanks again, David

Thanks to Warren Miller Jr. for assisting me in completing my bibliography of his father’s works. According to Warren Jr., Warren Miller Sr. wrote over 30 books. This is the first published compilation that I’m aware of. Warren Jr. said he had a complete collection of all of his works on the shelf of his home in Florida.           

1911    Canoeing, Sailing and Motor Boating
1912    Camping Out
1915    Camp Craft
1916    The Boy’s Book of Hunting and Fishing
1916    Medicine Man in the Woods   (not on Warren Jr’s list)
1916    The Angler’s Guide – later The Outdoorsman’s Handbook
1917    Rifles and Shotguns
1917    The Boy’s Book of Canoeing and Sailing
1919    The American Hunting Dog
1919    The Ring-Necked Grizzly
1920    Sea Fighters
1921    The Sportsman’s Workshop
1921    The Black Panther of the Navajo
1921    Castaways of Banda Sea
1921    The Boy Explorers in Darkest New Guinea
1922    The Boy Explorers Across Borneo
1923    The Boy Explorers on Tiger Trails in Burma
1923    The Boy Explorers and the Ape-man of Sumatra
1923    Red Mesa
1924    Medicine Gold
1926    The Boy Explorers in The Pirate Archipelago
1926    The White Buffalo
1926    All Around the Mediterranean
1927    Sahara Sands
1928    Ensign Wally Radnor, U.S.N.
1929    Under The Admiral’s Stars
1937    Tiger Bridge
1939    Boys of 1917
1943    The Lone Woodsman
1946    The Home-Builders                                              ©2012