CANTON — You may think its strange to see men dressed in era-appropriate clothing using the outdoors to test their survival skills, but the men of the American Mountain Man Association do it out of honor and tradition.

The mountain men will be at Maxwell Wildlife Refuge on May 26 for their annual spring camp, which will open to the public at 9 a.m. Tours will last until noon and the gate entry is free. 

“This is an organization of men that are sanctioned and they pick certain areas within the state for their spring camp. They teach each other survival tactics. Maybe one has an expertise in trapping beavers and another has one in how to pack a mule or what to pack on a mule. It’s really neat to watch,” said Betty Schmidt, director of the refuge.

The group will be at Maxwell Thursday through Sunday. However, Schmidt said they don’t open their camp to the public until Saturday.

“The public can come through their camp and walk through it while the men give them a history and explain what each one is trying to accomplish,” she said.

The Mountain Men are coming back for a second time to the wildlife refuge, because they are right in the heart of nature.

“We’re (Maxwell) about as native as what they can find — unless they go into the woods,” Schmidt said.

The group takes their era-appropriate clothing rather seriously, down to the tiniest details.

“What’s really neat about this is...they have to dress period appropriate. When it’s a sanctioned group, they have to have even the proper beading on their outfits. They won’t have cell phones and you certainly won’t find them with a gum wrapper or anything that has to do with the common world. They really go back in time,” she said.

Schmidt said that larger groups should RSVP if they are wishing to go on a tour. For more information, call the park at 620-628-4455 or email them at friendsofmaxwell@yahoo.com 

Contact Brooke Haas by email at bhaas@mcphersonsentinel.com