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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Unicorn Tracks

Yesterday I got up early enough to go out with the Tracking Club on their monthly adventure. It's a public program at Wilderness Awareness School, in which volunteer station guides get up really early in order to go find interesting animal tracks so that we will have something fun to show to whomever shows up at the office at 9...I missed the September session, and haven't had much opportunity to track anything except the house cats in my neighborhood for way too long. I was ready for a morning of tracking - and a little afraid that I wouldn't recognize a track when I saw one.
We found lots of domestic dog tracks along the river right away, and then black-tailed deer tracks, coyote tracks and interesting bird tracks. The sandbar where we decided to hold the morning's session was covered with beaver tracks, drag marks and chewed sticks. We also found river otter tracks, heron tracks and scat, the parallel tracks of a momma and baby raccoon, an interesting trail of a coyote with several gait changes, and the tracks of a yellowleg, a migratory shore bird that isn't usually present in our area. We thought we had a pretty good assortment of track and sign to talk.
But the best tracks (and story) came from 4-year old Rosemary, who came out with her Mom to learn a bit about tracking. She had mentioned that she like unicorns, which turned out not to be a good thing to tell adults. We kept asking her if the tracks we were looking at could be those of a unicorn. She had to keep explaining to the silly adults that unicorns are not real...a lesson that we kept forgetting.
Rosemary finally got annoyed with us and went to an area where we had not found any tracks of interest. There, she made her own tracks, explaining to me that "No one will know what made these!" She giggled as she created some really unique "tracks", which looked to me like a series of upside down Us with a single small dot in the center which she made with her index finger. Then she circled the line of "tracks" just like we'd circled the tracks we found earlier, and waited until a tracker came close enough to be lured over to discuss her station.
Trackers like to play tracking games, and she led some pretty advanced trackers through her series of tracks, denying that they were unicorn, Pegasus or centaur tracks...Her delight a having fooled them was real and quite adorable. And watching her explain to the adults how she made the tracks while they pretended to be puzzled was fun for me. At 4, she's a better station guide than I am, and my tracker friends are so much more open to the possibilities of what we might find out there than I am.

I probably learned more yesterday about tracking than I have in many hours of intense "study", thanks to a 4 year old and some really cool adults who were willing to be taught by her.

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My Favorite Fiction Authors and Books

  • Suzanne Arruda- the Jade del Cameron mysteries: "The Mark of the Lion" "Stalking Ivory", "The Serpent's Daughter", "The Leopard's Prey" and "The Golden Cheetah"
  • Ken Goddard - "Balefire" and others
  • Stephen White - the Dr. Alan Gregory books are all great. "Kill Me" is my favorite.
  • Harlan Coben - anything he writes is great
  • Elizabeth Peters - Amelia Peabody mysteries

My Favorite Nonfiction Authors and Books

  • "Coyote's Guide to Connecting With Nature" by Jon Young, Ellen Haas and Evan McGown- 2nd edition coming soon!
  • Gavin De Becker - "The Gift of Fear"
  • "Deep Survival" by Laurence Gonzales- the best survival book I've ever read! Not a how-to, its more of a who does,and why.
  • Candice Millard - "The River of Doubt -Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey"
  • Anything that starts with "Peterson's Field Guide To..."
  • Tom Brown, Jr. - "The Tracker" and others
  • Mark Elbroch - "Mammal Tracks and Sign" and "Animal Skulls"