1810 — Three Forks
The Big Horn Mountains to the south and the Absaroka looming black against the setting sun became the most attractive hunting grounds for the trappers of Manuel's Fort after Colter had related the treatment he had received at the hands of the Blackfeet. The latter were unable to seize beaver skins in the spring and summer of I809, because no Americans apparently dared to trap that year on the Upper Missouri.
The leather- and blanket-clad men, with their rifles and traps comprising most of their equipment, traveled many miles along both slopes of the Big Horn and the eastern side of the Absaroka Mountains. Their method of exploring was peculiarly that of trappers; the parties ascended one stream as far as beaver were plentiful, then followed down the next adjacent until it joined the main stream. This zigzag survey undoubtedly included the steaming and spouting marvels of Colter's Hell on the Stinking Water. Colter would have been a strange man indeed, if he did not lead at least one party of trappers to the sights at both ends of the Stinking Water canyon. Considerable personal satisfaction would have resulted from his proving to those skeptics, unconvinced despite Drouillard's corroborative testimony, that his tall stories had a solid basis of fact. The relative nearness to Manuel's Fort of Colter's Hell, situated at the gateway of excellent beaver country, makes it virtually a foregone conclusion that many trappers, other than Colter and Drouillard, journeyed there; and this is substantiated by Lisa's statement, as quoted by Brackenridge, that "his men" had seen the sulphur lying on the ground about two hundred miles from the post. 1
When the last bale of skins had been compressed in the wooden press and bound with wet strips of raw hide that shrunk as they dried,