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The Thompson Cabin

A few summers ago,  my cabin’s original owners’ son, T___, came visiting from West Virginia.  He is a surveyor and had some maps of the Clark’s Fork Canyon.Clarks Fork's Canyon with Sunlight Falls

“There’s a box canyon over here”  he pointed out, “with an old cabin sitting by the river.  They call it ‘the Thompson Cabin’ cause old man Thompson lived there in the 1880’s.  Well, that’s the story I heard.  They say he trapped and made moonshine.  That once a year he took his furs on his mules, and went over Dead Indian pass into Cody.  He’d take them to the trading post and while they decided on what to give him, he’d go drink his money away.”

T___ didn’t have time to hike to the cabin, but he gave me a good idea where it might be.  Following his map, the box canyon was easy to find.  The cabin sat on the other side of the river, which was low enough to cross by way of deadfall.  Thompson Cabin

The cabin itself was awfully small.  The windows were gone of course, but the frames were nailed with square nails.  The locals and kids had camped and left bottles there over the years, but a depression still marked the old root cellar.  It was just hard for me to imagine living in such a small little box.  It gave me great respect for those old-timers.Square nails in the window frameDepression at the back is the cellar

Thompson had situated his cabin on the south side of Dead Indian Creek which made sense, because in winter and spring the creek would be hard to cross.  I’m not exactly sure the path he took his horses or mules, but I could scramble up the hillside and be close to the main road.  Of course, there wasn’t a road then, but the road that’s there now follows fairly closely old Indian trails over the pass to Cody or up towards the Park.

I told my friend JB about it.  He’s the old man who grew up in the valley.

“Thompson, I remember him from when I was a kid.  My grandfather used to go visit him.  Thompson would invite him for dinner.  One day he was helping wash the dishes, when Thompson took the dishrag and blew his nose in it. ‘Time to leave’ my grandpa said.”

“Thompson had a big garden there.  He grew potatoes, and carrots, watermelons and lettuce.  Then he’d take his fare up to Cooke City to sell.  Took him two days by horseback.”

Sometimes I run into old cabins.  Once I ran into one in the Beartooths at Stockade Lake, probably an old forest service cabin.  There’s some at the end of my valley that were old mining cabins in the early 20th century.  I know the old ones in Yellowstone are usually destroyed when they’re found.  But the Thompson cabin held an interesting history for me, and at least one that I heard some yarns about.Old miners cabin from early 20th century

I like the area the cabin is in and hike there frequently. Nearby, I found a rose quartz vein and an eagle feather.

On the other side of the river, there’s a small flat open plateau, and that’s where the magic resides.  Its sunny and peaceful.  I like to go over there and explore the cliffs and look under the trees.  Then I heard from another local that the plateau is an old Indian winter campground and he’d found arrowheads there. I supposed I like it for the same reason the Sheepeaters liked it and old man Thompson liked it.  Besides being protected from the wind and snow, having year round water, safety from enemies,  good trapping and fishing, easy trail access– it just has a good feeling.

2 Responses

  1. Leslie, I’m going to be looking around here for DAYS.
    I love this. Can you believe that tiny cabin, someone lived in there.
    We are so spoiled.


  2. Thanks Mary, You’ll definitely be wanting to visit this raw and magical place called the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Enjoy, Leslie


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