Tuesday, November 2, 2010

First Influences-Tom Brown the Tracker

I can remember growing up reading Tom Brown's The Tracker.
His influence is still felt today when I'm breaking new trail, trying to retrace my steps, or watching for trail sign. I take deep breaths and recognize the human smells of feces before I even near the trail head. A human camped here a day or two ago. The smell would dissipate in this dry air quickly.
I remember reading how he would get into the mind of the creature he was tracking, would watch for variations in depth or spacing of tracks. When I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail we could tell by the tracks how heavy the load must be of the person ahead of us. A small deep footprint would indicate a heavy load. A long stride would indicate in a hurry. Long thin lines would indicate they are letting the poles drag and drinking water, or perhaps, reading their guide book.
Sometimes, at trail intersections, the meandering prints would indicate the same bewilderment I was feeling when the guide book was nebulous in its description of the way forward.
I loved reading about Tom Browns early adventures with his boyhood friend who also learned not to fear the elements. It is important to adapt with alertness to our invironment, avoiding fear and panic.
Tom wrote about stalking deer, moving only when they were feeding. This is a long painstaking adventure. One must never be in a hurry to achieve such skills. Its easy to give up when things don't go well. Our society teaches immediate gratification and one must look at the big picture often to avoid discouragement.
Tom Brown has written other books and has an outdoor skills school. I've met folks who attended his schools and find that fascinating.
This last week I have been bushwacking and connecting two favorite spots in this corner of my neck of the forest. Its interesting because of all the ridges and "hallars", abandoned logging roads, creeks and blowdowns. At one point I came upon a rock duct I'd built weeks ago which showed I'd emerged from the gully much further east than I'd expected to. I pulled out my pensil and paper, made notes, drew references on the map, then continued. The trail made a horseshoe, mission accomplished. I now have a loop trail which connects the points I love to visit.
Each day I walk this brand new loop trail, I see slight impressions from my bushwacking, and think again of Tom Brown, the Tracker. It would take a dedicated survivalist to see my trail signs, which is my goal as well. Never walk over the same place too many times unless you want to be easy to follow.

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