For decades he’s existed only in myth. A man of indeterminate age, wearing battered animal skins, wanders the mountains and forests of the northwest, coming to aid those most in need. Word of the man filtered from the most wild places. Hunters, loggers, and hikers, here-and-there, spoke of meeting a man who would come to be known only as The Old Trapper.
One man, John James, met the Trapper during a hunting trip some twenty years ago. Tracking a herd of Elk near the base of Mt. Adams, Mr. James shattered his ankle after stumbling in a rock field. Stranded and alone, he feared never seeing his children again. Suddenly a bearded man, bearing only a slung rifle and leather satchel, appeared from the woods. In a single motion he hauled the injured man over his shoulders and carried him seven miles to a Forest Service station. As Mr. James tells it, the man, whom he knew could only be The Old Trapper, left him at the edge of the station’s clearing and vanished back into the woods without saying a word. “I owe that man my life,” Mr James says.
Another woman, tormented by a life crisis, hiked deep into the Columbia River Gorge searching for answers in nature. Lost in her thoughts she wandered away from the trail and became lost. As night fell, she huddled alone in the cold against a dead tree. Sometime after midnight, as her fear was greatest, the Trapper emerged from the dark. The woman knew by instinct the man was no threat and watched as he gathered wood and brush for a warming fire. As night wore on, he stayed at the makeshift camp’s perimeter, always peering out into the dark. When dawn broke, he guided the woman back to the trail and pointed in the direction home. Just as she turned to leave, the Trapper placed a gentle hand on her shoulder and whispered the answer to her most troubling question.
Can these people be believed? Are the stories of The Old Trapper true or is he nothing more than wilderness lore? The civilized world may never know but if you find yourself in the northwest’s most remote places, keep your eyes open and your intentions pure. The Trapper may be near.